The Slammer is a Children's Talent show that has been broadcasting on BBC One's CBBC since 22 September 2006.
Set in a fictional prison called HM Slammer, this programme follows a variety show format where “prisoners” (who have been arrested for “showbiz” related crimes) compete, by performing to an audience, who decide which act should be released.
The show is produced by Steve Ryde, who also produced CBBC's Dick and Dom in da Bungalow and Harry Batt. It was based on an item from Dick and Dom called 'The Strangely Talented': a game in which contestants performed their specialised acts in front of the Bungalow Heads to try and win the title of Strangely Talented Champion.
The supporting cast of Dick and Dom in da Bungalow all appear in The Slammer. They are Dave Chapman, Ian Kirkby, Lee Barnett and Melvin Odoom.
The Slammer is a fictitious prison for entertainers who have "committed crimes against showbusiness"; the inmates are given the chance to earn their freedom by performing to a jury of children in the "Freedom Show".
The opening titles introduce the show's format, showing entertainers' acts going wrong (e.g. a ventriloquist who accidentally throws his puppet off his arm, and tap-dancers who all trip over one another), their incarceration (including synchronised rock-breaking by the pick-axe-armed sequinned tap-dancers), "polishing up their act" and performing to an audience of 8-12 year olds. The lyrics describe this process and the titles conclude with the line of released tap-dancers shimmying out of the prison gate.
The Slammer is headed by "The Governor" played by comedian Ted Robbins. The Governor always wears a white suit with a golden bow tie, and fulfils his duties by hosting the Freedom Show and occasionally quizzing audience members about their views on the "Performing Prisoners".
Supporting the Governor are prison wardens Mr. Burgess, played by Ian Kirkby, and the Governor's nephew, Jeremy Gimbert played by Lee Barnett. The characters are complete opposites to one another: Mr. Burgess is intelligent, trustworthy and follows procedure and instructions carefully, accompanied by the physical mannerisms of Porridge's Mr Mackay. Gimbert is not the sharpest tool in the box and Mr. Burgess's frustration with his colleague's stupidity is often obvious.
Dave Chapman returns from da Bungalow to play new character Peter Nokio, a long term resident of The Slammer. He is a poor ventriloquist (his mouth moves when the puppet is speaking), having several puppets (including Titch, Alistair and Cheeky Charlie) which he keeps personified at all times, allowing the puppets to make rude comments and often tell the truth when Peter is telling a lie.
Peter's cell-mate Melvin Odoom (played by Melvin Odoom) is a former dancer whose act once went badly wrong in front of "none other than the Queen" at the Royal Variety Performance, resulting in him suffering from seemingly incurable stage-fright.
The show begins with 5–10 minutes of storyline with these characters, often introducing celebrity guests who may play themselves or assume characters. Keith Harris and Orville once starred in a story where a performance had gone so badly that they froze and were taken to the Slammer; the supporting cast managed to revive them and they performed later in the show.
After this, the performances begin. In-between each performance, the Governor and Mr. Burgess ask a few children on their thoughts. Traditionally Mr. Burgess asks a child to sum up the act with one word, before shouting it back to the Governor, addressing him as 'Sah!' ('sir' in a military fashion). This is often found amusing and has let to children frequently combining adjectives such as 'brilliant' and 'fantastic' to make words like 'brillitastic', to which Mr. Burgess would then shout "Brillitastic, Sah!"
Sometimes the stories are continued into the performance section. Between acts the television audience cut away to very short segments of the stories. This usually is done to create tension on stories where one of the prisoners is being devious (a prisoner is trying to escape while the guards are distracted by the Freedom Show for example).
Four acts perform each episode, and the act who gets the most support through applause and cheering (measured by a clap-o-meter when a vote is taken at the end of the show) is released.
The Slammer is recorded at the Three Mills Studios in East London, by the CBBC in high definition. Series 3 was recorded at the Elstree Studios in Borehamwood.
A computer generated image of the outside of the Slammer is used, which features London's Wormwood Scrubs Prison.
Like Dick and Dom in da Bungalow, Andy Blythe & Marten Joustra were commissioned to write the theme. The tune itself (in E-flat) is built around the blues scale, presumably chosen because prisoners are meant to feel unhappy and blue. But a fast tempo, staccato notes and the use of modulation into B major ensures a fun, fast and lively piece. Its chord progression is not typical of a blues’ piece neither, so it doesn’t sound too much like a blues song. It is sung in the same style as da Bungalow’s piece using at least two voices more so shouting the lyrics.
On November 25, 2007 The Slammer won the Children's BAFTA for Best Entertainment Programme, an award that Steve Ryde won back in 2004 for his highly acclaimed and controversial Saturday morning children’s show Dick and Dom in da Bungalow.
The Slammer has featured many celebrity guests (usually entertainers) who either play themselves or characters in the storyline, perform or do both.
- Ruth Bratt
- Alex Lowe
- Uri Geller
- Keith Harris and Orville
- Stephen Mulhern (two appearances)
- Syd Little
- Alesha Dixon
- Betty Curse
- Brian Murphy
- Rhys Darby
- Lionel Blair
- John Thomson
- Shaun Williamson
- Tony Blackburn
- Jon Culshaw
- Roy Barraclough
- Sam & Mark
- Ross Lee
- Mark Benton
- 3 Pin Socket
- Lesley Joseph
- Flaming Fun - Johnathan Reynolds
- Justin M. Monehen
- James Freedman (magician)
- The Zaporozhian Cossack dancers
Contestants in the Slammer
|Series||Start date||End date||Episodes|
|1||22 September 2006||29 December 2006||15|
|2||28 March 2008||20 June 2008||13|
|3||10 September 2010||17 December 2010||15|