Children in Need 2019: the best bits – Star Wars goes Top Gear, Doctor Who tearjerker and Dragons Den hosts a car crash dinner party

Michael Hogan
Footballer Harry Kane with children from the England Amputee Football Association - WARNING: Use of this copyright image is subject to the terms of use of BBC Pictures' Digital Picture

Dear old Pudsey Bear and his celebrity pals seized control of the BBC schedules on Friday evening for Children In Need’s 2019 telethon, aiming to raise more than last year’s £50.6m to help disadvantaged children in the UK. 

We watched both the star-studded entertainment exclusives and the eye-dampening appeal VTs (and tolerated the technical glitches) so you didn’t have to. Here are the bandaged bear's ten best bits from five hours of charitable programming…

Doctor Who fan got early Christmas present

An irresistibly feelgood moment saw one young Whovian got her festive treat early. Young Anastasia has suffered with mental health issues but found solace, fun and friendship at East London’s Hackney Shed drama club, an inclusive initiative funded by Children In Need. 

Anastasia’s other big love is Doctor Who, which she watches every day. So she was thrilled when the 13th Doctor, Jodie Whittaker, along with companions Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Ryan (Tosin Cole), appeared on-screen with a special message for her, explaining how they were busy filming in America for the upcoming 12th series. 

With the aid of Timelord technology, though, the timey-wimey trio promptly materialised in the studio and shy Anastasia’s squeal of sheer joy was joyous to behold. When Whittaker hugged her and presented the beaming-but-tearful superfan with her very own sonic screwdriver, it was a magical moment. Not just poignant proof of why the time was right for a female Doctor but a reminder of TV’s ability to comfort, inspire and transport us to other worlds.

Tiff ’n’ Kev were worthy Strictly winners

As ballroom barman Craig Revel Horwood said with scenery-chewing relish: “Get outta my pub, dahlings!” Ahead of this weekend’s Strictly seaside edition from Blackpool Tower Ballroom, we got a pint-sized sparkly special as four EastEnders actors swapped the Queen Vic for the dancefloor to compete for the Pudsey Glitterball Trophy.

Ricky “Stuart” Champ, Louisa “Ruby” Lytton, Maisie “Tiffany” Smith and Rudolph “Patrick” Walker OBE were paired with Strictly pros for a group cha cha cha. Happily, the standard of hoofing was surprisingly high.

Strictly Come Dancing contestants on Children In Need Credit: Guy Levy/BBC

At 80, Walker became the oldest male to ever take to the Strictly ballroom and his hip action belied his years. Cha-cha-Champ got his groove on, while Lytton had a slight head start, having finished fourth in Strictly proper, albeit 13 years ago. 

The deserving winner, though, was 18-year-old Maisie Smith whose moves were fast, flirty and captured the dance’s Cuban flavour. She was paired with pro Kevin Clifton, current holder of the main glitterball with partner Stacey Dooley. Kev from Grimsby now has two Strictly trophies in his cabinet – some small consolation for his early exit in the current series alongside Anneka Rice. Get outta my contest!

Star Wars came over all Top Gear to cute effect

The BBC obviously got limited access to the secretive Disney sci-fi franchise but still concocted a sweet little segment from what little they had. 

It was reminiscent of a Clarkson-era Top Gear stunt as Star Wars stars Daisy Ridley and John Boyega challenged YouTuber Colin Furze to build a working X-34 Landspeeder, helped by young Jedis from Children In Need projects.

Having completed work only this morning, Furze drove the finished vehicle – based on a golf buggy – into the studio. It’s already up for auction on Ebay with all proceeds going to Darth Pudsey. May the fundraising force be with you.

Dragon’s Den dinner party fell flat

“The fun doesn’t stop during the Ten O’Clock News, when over on BBC Two, the Dragons from Dragons’ Den dine out at the I’ll Get This restaurant.” So said the publicity material. Except, well, the fun did stop. 

Peter Jones, Tej Lalvani, Touker Suleyman, Sara Davies and Sarah Willingham gathered for a deeply awkward meal full of stilted chat and dull droning. They played parlour games. They pretended to be human and like each other. Jones and Willingham were the only two you’d remotely countenance spending an evening with in real life.

Most excruciatingly of all, they rounded off proceedings by donating £5,000 apiece (small change for these millionaires) and smugly high-fiving about what great philanthropists they were. A rare misjudged piece of Children In Need programming. 

Musical performances were patchy

The night was awash with musical numbers. Some worked OK, others less so. 

The hits? The 1400-strong Children in Need Choir singing “True Colours” live up and down the country; a typically efficient weepy ballad from reformed Irish boy band Westlife;  the cast of Tina Turner The Musical belting out a banging medley of "Proud Mary" and "Nutbush City Limits"; and actor Adrian Lester and beatboxing pals doing an acapella rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish” from Children In Need's Got It Covered album.

The hosts of 2019's Children in Need telethon Credit: BBC

The misses? A weedy song-and-dance number from Big The Musical, which didn’t deserve to open the show; Michael Ball and Alfie Boe singing Labi Siffre’s apartheid anthem “Something Inside So Strong” with occasional lapses into cod-Afro Caribbean accents; and One Direction alumnus Louis Tomlinson, who seemed to have gone all Mockney despite hailing from Doncaster, then thanked the studio audience with that insufferable faux-humble praying hands gesture. It's a no from us, Louis.

Crackerjack made a misty-eyed comeback

“It’s Friday, it’s nearly 8pm… it’s Crackerjack.” So shouted CBBC presenters Sam and Mark (aka the Poundstretcher Ant and Dec), introducing a segment teasing the long-awaited return of Crackerjack! to the BBC in January

We saw a vintage clip of Trevor Basham, who appeared on the show aged 10 (presented by Stu “ooh I could crush a grape” Francis), before he played a chaotic live game in the studio against his son Harry. Naturally, child beat parent, so Trevor wound up covered in custard pie and wearing two tutus (see what they did there?). The pair were then presented with giant Crackerjack pencils.

The raucous gameshow was a children’s TV staple for three decades but last aired 35 years ago. This one-off mini return might have been nostalgic but didn’t quite whet the appetite for its return. Perhaps some shows are best left in the archives. Don't get your knickers in a knot.

Three Lions surprised amputee footballers

One of the night’s early segments saw children from the Amputee Football Association get a sweet surprise when the England strikeforce of Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling joined them for a training session. Along with presenter Mark Wright, the Premier League trio played on crutches, just like the kids. Not easy but possibly a handy skill to have for when they get injured. 

Millionaire professional footballers often get a bad press – something Sterling in particular has suffered – but scenes such as this demonstrate what decent young men and fine role models they are. Well played. 

Tom Allen was pick of presenters but Mel Giedroyc grated

The five-hour epic was helmed by a tag-team of presenters, including Tess Daly (smooth as ever, shortly before heading up the M6 for Saturday’s Strictly Blackpool special), Ade Adepitan (jovial), Graham Norton (wry and whiskery), and Rochelle and Marvin Humes (nice but bland).

However, the main talking points were both members of the extended Bake Off family. The cake-making contest’s former co-host Mel Giedroyc rubbed some viewers up the wrong way by trying too hard to be irreverent and repeatedly interrupting the fundraisers who came on-stage.

More of a hit was Bake Off: The Professionals host and Extra Slice reporter Tom Allen, making his Children In Need debut. Allen was slick but sharp-witted on the post-10.35pm late shift. His risque material and permanently arched eyebrow helped the telethon transition from family extravaganza to late-night entertainment session. 

Young Julio stole show from Graham Norton

Graham Norton gave three young carers, Emma, Iara and Julio, the chance to perch on his chat show sofa - and the power to tip joke-telling celebrities out of his famous big red chair. Sara Cox, Sophie Raworth, Danny Rose, Anneka Rice, Tom Allen and Alex Jones all got the lever pulled as punishment their groan-worthy gags. 

However, the scene-stealer was Julio, who gasped in awe at the celebrities he recognised and giggled at those he didn’t. Much to Julio's surprise, the climactic guest in the chair was his headmaster Mr Ridley - who Julio cannily allowed to walk away. The boy will go far.

The weepy bits did their job

There won’t have been a dry eye on sofas nationwide during the films about Children In Need’s inspiring work with disadvantaged youngsters. Perhaps that’s why Pudsey has a bandaged eye: sore tear ducts from overuse. 

Of course, such segments are necessary because they nudge sniffling viewers to donate to a cause that helps change half a million children’s lives each year. So please dig deep and give what you can. 

To donate £10, text the word DONATE to 70410. To donate £20, text DONATE to 70420, or to donate £30, text DONATE to 70430. You can also call 0345 7 33 22 33 to make a donation over the phone, or donate online at https://www.bbc.co.uk/childreninneed.