Richard Bacon opens up on Blue Peter cocaine sacking and getting Brits to streak on TV

HE’S enjoying a second act as one of Hollywood’s most in-demand producers, but Richard Bacon pines for those cold and damp mornings in East London where he’d challenge Brits to streak on breakfast TV.

Speaking to The Sun from his £4.3million LA mansion, he issued a plea to Channel 4 bosses to let him back in to The Big Breakfast house for its 30th anniversary next year.

Richard, 45, who hosted the chaotic show from 2001 until its final episode the following year, said: “I’d love to be a part of it. I have a huge amount of affection for The Big Breakfast. It was definitely a revolutionary show.

“I used to do a feature called Streaky Bacon. I’d knock on your door at 7.10am and say, ‘Do you want to win your weight in bacon? You just need to streak down your street’ — and they’d almost always say yes.

“That person had a plastic piece of bacon to cover their penis and would streak in front of their neighbours.

“That’s bold and ridiculous and stupid and wonderful. No one’s going to do that on Good Morning Britain. Can you even do that any more?”

It was on The Big Breakfast that Richard, from Mansfield, Notts, discovered a talent for bringing wacky ideas to life.

Decades later that skill has seen him become a success behind the camera in the notoriously-hard-to-break Tinseltown.

Richard moved to LA in 2014 and in May last year, following the success of his US game show The Hustler, he signed a major deal with NBC Universal, the makers of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, to create TV formats.

He said: “The world I’m in now, where I’m fortunate enough to have three different entertainment formats being made as TV series, some in more than one country, comes from working on The Big Breakfast. It taught me I liked having ideas.”

Richard is now facing the biggest test of his producing career after launching his first British TV format This Is My House, which continues on BBC1 at 9pm tonight.

Hosted by Stacey Dooley, 34, the show sees four people give a tour of a house, with each claiming it is theirs.

However, only one genuinely has their name on the deeds, while the other three are actors.

The format was widely mocked on social media when it was announced in October, with trolls comparing it to Alan Partridge’s infamous Monkey Tennis concept.

Asked about the backlash, Richard said: “A lot of game shows get that reaction of, ‘Oh, this is Alan Partridge into his dictaphone’, whereas I know this has taken me two years.

“It’s the antithesis of Monkey Tennis. I know all the different layers it’s got. It’s about prejudice, judgment, class and stereotyping.

“‘Could she really live in that house? Would she really go out with that guy?’ The immediate judgment of someone on their home.

“But we can’t escape the fact it’s a tremendously silly show.”

The doctor told me not to get a critical illness asI’m more likely to die

Richard, a Radio 5 Live DJ from 2007 until 2014, hopes the fun of the format will be “a distraction” from the Covid-19 pandemic, which has weighed heavily on his mind following his near-fatal double lung infection in 2018.

He became ill on a flight from the US and was put in an induced coma after he failed to respond to treatment for pneumonia.

Richard recalled: “The doctor said to me after I recovered, ‘If you get a critical illness in the next five years you’re 20 per cent more likely to die.

“So don’t get a critical illness in the next five years’. A year and a half after that, the pandemic hits.

“LA has been a good place to be during the pandemic.

“The sun is out and in the UK I could have got a text from the NHS saying, ‘You’re vulnerable, you’ve got to shield’, which would have driven me crazy.

“I have already had my first vaccination.”

He certainly has had a better social life across the pond, getting to rub shoulders with A-listers.

Celebrity homes tour goes past my house in LA… but they never mention me

Richard — who has children Arthur, ten, and seven-year-old Ivy with his wife of 13 years Rebecca — said: “You’ll go into a back yard at a party and Harry Styles and Adele will be there. It’s a cartoon world.

“Ariana Grande’s house overlooks my garden.

“She lives about three doors from Keanu Reeves, and he lives about three doors from Leonardo DiCaprio, as well as his mum, who I’ve met a few times.”

For now, Richard’s focus is This Is My House, which he hopes can replicate the success of fellow telly guessing game The Masked Singer, which attracted 10.6million viewers for its finale on ITV last month.

He said: “There’s just one question hanging over This Is My House and The Masked Singer, which is, ‘Who is it?’

“In both shows the audience are the contestants, and the dad disagrees with the son who disagrees with the wife. I think that’s why they’re appealing.”

Like in The Masked Singer, This Is My House tasks a celebrity panel — this time made up of Inbetweeners actress Emily Atack, comic and reigning Strictly champ Bill Bailey, Loose Women’s Judi Love, Taskmaster’s Jamali Maddix and a guest judge — to work out the real owner. They win £1,000 if they are more convincing than the imposters.

Despite presenting iconic shows including Top Of The Pops and This Morning, Richard opted not to front This Is My House, instead giving the job to Stacey.

He said: “I enjoy hosting but Stacey just floats in. She is probably the most natural TV presenter I’ve ever seen.”

He has also been developing memory quiz show I Literally Just Told You for Channel 4 and NBC.

His Stateside success is all the more remarkable given his career was almost left in tatters in 1998 after he was fired from kids’ show Blue Peter after taking drugs.

He said: “I don’t mind talking about Blue Peter or the cocaine. It’s all such a prominent part of my past.

“But I’m very comfortable making jokes about it. I just don’t care. It doesn’t make any difference to anything.”

Although Twitter didn’t arrive until eight years after the Blue Peter controversy, it could be said that Richard was one of the first victims of cancel culture, after the BBC bowed to pressure to sack him.

But what was one of the darkest moments of Richard’s career could soon inspire his next money- spinning project.

He said: “I want to make a show where we pick a handful of people who were cancelled and debate whether it was right or wrong. Cancel culture is about rushing to judgment.

I don’t mind talking about Blue Peter or the cocaine. It’s all such a prominent part of my past

“I’d love us all to slow down, go, ‘Stop, let’s think about this. Does this person really deserve never to have a career?’

“My experience on Blue Peter would have been very different if social media had been around.

“The intensity of the storm is even more fierce and more frightening now.

“If you’re caught up in a massive scandal there are probably tens of thousands of tweets about you.”

Although it seems he will never be able to shake the scandal in Britain, Richard is “feeling the pull of home”.

He said: “Most days I love it here. But I do have the odd day where I think, ‘Why am I living in LA?’ I wouldn’t pretend it has the richness of London.

“Also, me and my wife’s parents are getting older. You do think, ‘Is it fair to take the grandkids away from them?’ Probably not.”

But with a big singing competition also in the works that could make him the next Simon Cowell, Richard still has the opportunity to leave his mark on La La Land.

He said: “A celebrity tour runs where I live and I’ve never heard a guide say my name.

"I’m still waiting to get the mention on the bus but I don’t think it’s coming soon.”

Perhaps Richard shouldn’t count himself out yet.

  • The first episode of This Is My House is available on BBC iPlayer

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