CITV Memories – Follow Your Nose.

Follow Your Nose (CITV, 1992)

This is a game show that I don’t really remember too much from the time, but as it was on CITV in the early-90s when I was a regular viewer, it must have something going for it. The format of Follow Your Nose seems to fall somewhere between Mega Mania and Fun House, two other game shows that were on CITV at the time, although this one was a little less crazy than those.

This one was hosted by Amanda Ross, who is related to Jonathan and Paul, and she was also the devisor of the show. Every week, just like Mega Mania, Follow Your Nose came from somewhere different in the country. Four contestants took part, and they had to play various challenges. Some of these would involve sport, and they would all have to work together to complete them in time, which was usually about a minute.

For every challenge that was completed, they received a letter. If they didn’t succeed though, they didn’t get the letter. They were also given a clue to what the word could be based on some of the games that they played. So the more letters they have, the more chance they had of winning. If they can solve what the word is in time, then they win lots of nice prizes, including bum bags, jackets, T-shirts, and lots more I’m sure.

There was also a competition for viewers where they could solve a word and write in with the answer for a prize too. There was only one series of Follow Your Nose, but most importantly, did this pass the Tommy Boyd test, and get the endorsement of the main CITV host at the time? Well of course it did. Although it would be rather unlikely that he thought it was bad, he did seem to have a fondness for the show, even if he could never solve the words himself.

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After this, Ross went on to have some more success behind the scenes in TV, becoming a rather influential figure. She did devise a few more game shows, including XYZ, which was shown in a daytime slot and was very good, if rather short-lived. And she has also done well with with her production company, which among other things was behind Richard And Judy’s show on Channel 4.

More TV Memories – Nine O’Clock News.

Nine O’Clock News (BBC1, 1970-2000)

Having recently looked back at News At Ten, I thought that it would make sense to also take a look at the BBC’s equivalent main evening news. Again, I hope I can avoid making fairly boring observations about the set design and the like, but the way that this show developed over the years whilst always trying to maintain that the viewers were informed is rather interesting.

After News At Ten turned out to be a success for ITV, the BBC realised that it would be a rather sensible idea to also have a main weekday evening news show in a fixed timeslot. Nine O’Clock News originally featured only one host, although this was soon changed to two. By this point, the newsroom was shown behind them using a blue-screen effect.

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This meant oddly that when the shot changed to the other host, the background remained the same. And this would be long before computers and the like, and it’s rather unusual now seeing only typewriters and telephones everywhere. It does make me wonder how TV shows were able to be put together at this point, waiting for technology to catch up, and I feel it’s surprising that anything ever managed to get to air before 1985.

By the late-70s, this had changed back to one host again, in a rather drab-looking studio. The style was definitely professional, but also very straight, there were standards that were expected to be met, there was no “and finally”-type coverage going on here. By the mid-80s, there was another return to two hosts, along with the famous “exploding fish fingers” opening sequence being introduced.

And then in the late-80s, they returned to one host yet again, and they had another new opening sequence, while the other BBC news shows that had their openings introduced in the mid-80s kept them well into the 90s. There was a new transmitter-style symbol, and the music was rather loud, anyone who might’ve been nodding off by this time would probably have fallen out of their chair with the shock.

The next relaunch in the mid-90s featured the famous virtual studio, and hosts at this point included Michael Buerk, Martyn Lewis, and Peter Sissons. They were all respected, but this was at a time when the BBC took their commitment to news very seriously. By the late-90s, the News 24 channel launched. And then, in 1999, News At Ten came to an end on ITV, which provoked a big change.

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It had always seemed a little unusual to me that the BBC had a news show barely two hours after the last one, but suddenly there was a gap at 10pm that it seemed fairly obvious to move their news to, meaning that more shows could be tried out in a 9pm slot. By now there was a brighter look, along with music that I remember was described by one critic at the time as “self-important tom-toms”. In 2000 the move took place, and the news continues at that time to this day.

Game Show Memories – Game Show Stars Part 20.

This is someone who I wanted to feature because although he is another host who might divide opinion, because of his longevity, and the sheer number of game shows that he has hosted (which I think might be just about more than anybody else now), I think that he has earned a place in this series. And once again, I’m fairly sure that he is following me on Twitter, but that hasn’t influenced my decision, no, really, it hasn’t.

Eamonn Holmes started out on TV in the early-80s, as the host of the news in the UTV region, and at the time he was the youngest news host anywhere on ITV. His career beyond this has taken in lots of other things, including being one of the launch hosts of GMTV, but I’ll concentrate on the game shows for now. A lot of them that he has hosted have only been shown in Northern Ireland, so of course I haven’t seen those ones.

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But of the ones that I have seen, I do remember some of them were shown in a daytime slot. He was the second host of Pass The Buck, and TV Scrabble on Challenge. But one of my favourites is Playing For Time. This was partly because in the final round when the contestant looked like they were going to win the star prize, he would get rather excited, and it always amuses me when the host gets more excited than the contestant by a big win.

He then went on to further shows in a primetime slot, including Jet Set and Hard Spell. And there was also Sudo-Q, which might’ve seemed like it was jumping on the bandwagon when there was the first wave of the sudoku craze, but there was actually a decent game here (maybe I should review that one day too). He even hosted comedy panel game It’s Not Me, It’s You rather late at night on Channel 5.

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In more recent years, he got married to Ruth Langsford, who might be a familiar face going back many years, if you were in the TSW region, where she was an in-vision announcer. They have gone on to host several shows together, including This Morning, along with the game Gift Wrapped. He is another one who I imagine will be hosting more game shows for many years to come.

And that’s it. This is planned to be the last entry in this series, as I think that 20 is enough for now. Thanks for all of your comments and memories. Although of course I have enjoyed many more people beyond the ones that I have featured, I feel that all of them have in various ways helped to shape and enhance game shows in this country more than most.

CBBC Memories – Dear Mr Barker.

Dear Mr Barker (CBBC, 1995-1998)

Over the years, there have been several children’s TV shows where viewers have been able to write in and hope to have their questions about various things answered. Lots of fascinating facts were featured in this one. Dear Mr Barker featured a dog puppet (Barker = dog, you see), who looked a little like the one that was in Space Vets and Cartoon Critters, but was probably no relation, who dealt with the questions, and he sounded rather similar to Otis The Aardvark. Miss Chicken would sometimes help out too.

Viewers would ask things like why animals around the world did various things, or how technology was made. As this was the days before the answer to everything would be “go on Wikipedia, you fool”, they would have to explain. If your question was used, you would win a fancy T-shirt! There were also features including Bang The Gong, where quick questions were answered to try and beat Mr Barker, and Weird Or What, taking a look at some more unusual things.

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Mr Barker would be accompanied by various hosts, including John Eccleston and Sally Gray, and also Vince Henderson. He is known for two other things, being one of the hundreds of people who hosted game show Chain Letters, and for being married to Sophie “Ace” Aldred (who was also on children’s TV around this time). Later series were hosted by Paul Hendy, who has had a rather curious career, taking in lots of children’s TV and game shows.

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As well as this show, he also hosted CITV’s The Disney Club. And he hosted the final series of Wheel Of Fortune, Stash (where he kept smiling through even though it was awful and only ever shown at about 3am), and I’m sure I read once that Denis Norden said that he featured in his favourite ever “cock-up” on It’ll Be Alright On The Right, when he had an embarrassing moment on Don’t Try This At Home! What an honour.

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I also read an unusual story about this show once, I don’t know if it’s true or not, but it was rather amusing. In the early series, questions had to be sent in by post. But some viewers were only putting “Dear Mr Barker” on the envelope instead of the full address, and with puzzled postmen not being sure who they were intended for, they were all sent to Ronnie Barker, who by this point had retired from TV and ran an antiques shop.

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By the final series, an email address had been introduced, which solved all of that hassle. And there was even a competition to enter which had a ridiculously easy question for a nice prize. There were four series of Dear Mr Barker, and repeat runs in a morning slot continued until 2000. Curiously, this show is another one that doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry itself.

Game Show Memories – Game Show Stars Part 19.

This is someone whose long career has included a few game shows, that are at the more highbrow end of the genre, although one long-running show overshadows the others. Gordon Burns started out as a host of the news in the UTV region. By the late-70s, he had become the host of ITV’s The Krypton Factor, which would run for almost two decades.

This was of course the quest to find the United Kingdom Superperson in a variety of physical and mental tests. What was interesting about the show was that it always moved with the times, and it was always made sure that everything was kept up to date, from the opening theme and set design, to the technology used in the various rounds.

This meant that various rounds evolved, including the flight simulator being introduced in the Response round, and keypads being used to answer multiple-choice questions against the clock in the Observation round, long before Who Wants To Be A Millionaire came along. The Krypton Factor was always seen as a serious show, which really did challenge its contestants.

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Some people considered that this could be a little dull, but looking back, this definitely wasn’t the case, as he would often provide a breathless commentary on the Physical Ability round, especially when the contestants began to fall off the obstacles, and he was also involved in devising some of the tests used in various rounds, always making sure that things remained up to standard.

By the mid-90s, the format of The Krypton Factor was beginning to be a little tired, and this is another example of a show that had a total overhaul, which just hastened the end, it was felt that they were trying to fix something that wasn’t broken, and if viewers wanted to watch people carrying on as if they were on Gladiators, they would watch Gladiators.

After this, he went on to host a few other shows that had a similar idea. A Word In Ear featured celebrity teams who were challenged to show off how well they could communicate with each other in various games, which often had amusing results, and there was also Relatively Speaking, which was essentially a high-tech attempt at a team version of The Krypton Factor, but this lasted only one series.

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After this, he went back to regional news hosting, this time on the BBC in the north west of England. I had wondered what he was up to after the late-90s, not realising that if I had been up north, I still could’ve seem him on TV regularly. The Krypton Factor is still great to watch in repeat runs, and he also approved of the short-lived revival.

More TV Memories – News At Ten.

News At Ten (ITV, 1967-1999, 2001-2004, 2008-present)

I have been thinking for a while about whether to do another piece about TV news. This is because it could either go on about set design or host rotas, which would be rather boring, or it could go on about the editorial policy, which might just cause arguments with people. But I have decided to review this one as I do think that there is an interesting history, and this helped to establish the way that news is presented in this country to this day.

ITN has been the provider of news for ITV ever since the launch in 1955. By the mid-60s, it was decided that there should be a 30-minute news show in the evening at a fixed time, something that hadn’t been attempted before. This would be News At Ten, and although there was a quiet start, this would end up turning out to be a success for several reasons.

Firstly, there was the famous theme that featured the chimes of Big Ben (and hearing those was a real indication that it was past your bedtime). There would be two hosts, often including Sir Alistair Burnet, who become as well-known as anyone else on TV. And there were features including “and finally…”, a more amusing report that would finish things off.

By the early-90s it was felt that the format was beginning to be a little old-fashioned, and Burnet retired around this time. There were some major changes, including a new version of the theme, more features, and there was now only one host, which was usually Trevor McDonald. By the mid-90s though, it was clear that there was a problem.

ITV liked to show high-profile films at 9pm. But they had to be interrupted for the news. Along with the regional news that followed, there would often be a 40-minute gap before the film resumed, and this meant that they would often end not long before midnight. They decided that it would be better to show films without a news break, and they squabbled with the regulator about being able to do this for a rather long time.

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When Channel 5 launched and boasted that they would show evening films without the long breaks, this started to become a fairly big talking debate with viewers. In 1999, News At Ten was finally pushed out of the way. You can now watch those James Bond films interrupted at last! There was a relaunch as ITV Nightly News, usually shown around 11pm, but the scheduling was rather inconsistent.

This turned out to not work that well, and the ratings fell. Soon there was a compromise of showing the news at 10pm three nights a week (there was also the launch of the ITN Channel to deal with around this time). Then, there was a full relaunch of News At Ten, right down to the familiar theme, and the return of McDonald as host, making it seem like the previous decade had never happened.

Game Show Memories – Game Show Stars Part 18.

This is someone else who could be another one considered by some to be on the B-list of the history of great game show hosts, but for the sheer number of shows that he’s hosted, I wanted to include him, because well someone’s got to host of all those games on regional ITV in the afternoon or on little-watched satellite channels.

And I do think that he is rather quick-witted and is knowledgeable about pop culture (a friendship with Danny Baker might not be a coincidence here). He is also into his music, being a big fan of Elvis Presley, and he also owns all of Frank Sinatra’s records. He wants them back. I think he was also following me on Twitter, although he doesn’t seem to have said anything for a while, but that hasn’t influenced my decision to include him here at all, honest.

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Paul Ross had worked behind the scenes in TV for many years, but by the mid-90s, he seemed to be here, there and everywhere on game shows, as both a host and panellist. Well he has got five children who need feeding, and he didn’t deny that his answerphone message was “yes, I’ll do it”. Oh, and he’s the older brother of Jonathan as well, but you probably knew that.

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Highlights included Jeopardy! on Sky One, the third channel to attempt a version of this format that has been much more successful in America. And there was also Tellystack, UK Gold’s game about classic TV. All Over The Shop was BBC1’s daytime game featuring celebrity panellists. A Slice Of The Action was Carlton Food Network’s game all about cookery.

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And don’t forget Mind The Gap, a game based around the London Underground tube map. Throw in The Big Breakfast too, and much more besides, and would you believe that he packed all of that into barely three or four years. Going into the 2000s, he hosted It’s Anybody’s Guess, an enjoyable ITV game where the answers had to be estimated.

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Also interesting was No Win No Fee, the daytime BBC1 game where the prize money on offer was his fee for hosting the show, meaning that he could be the one leaving empty-handed. After overdoing it for a while, he finally seemed to ease up a little in the mid-2000s, and he then had some success in other areas away from TV game shows.

This has included going on to the shopping TV circuit, he did some time on Bid TV and Ideal World, and he just about lived to tell the tale. In more recent years, he has done some radio work, including BBC London and LBC, and at the moment he seemingly thinks nothing of doing the 1am shift five days a week on TalkSport, it’s good to know that he’s still out there.

More TV Memories – Good Morning.

Good Morning (BBC1, 1992-1996)

There was once a time when BBC1 used to have some trouble creating a popular daytime schedule. Indeed, there wasn’t really one at all until as late as 1986. Before that, Pages From Ceefax filled most of the gaps, before someone realised that it might be a better idea to put some actual shows there. Going into the 90s, there were several strands tried, including the little-remembered Daytime UK.

But then it was decided to launch a show that had a rather familiar idea. This Morning launched on ITV in 1988, which was live, was hosted by married couple Richard and Judy, and this had done well. Anne Diamond and Nick Owen were a double-act who helped to restore TV-am’s reputation after the original “mission to explain” rather spectacularly collapsed. They were not married, but clearly had some chemistry. After this, they had gone on to various other things, including Owen becoming a host for ITV Sport.

They were persuaded to reunite for this daytime show. Good Morning was a live weekday show that had a mix of lifestyle features and interviews. There were experts who appeared regularly, who would offer their advice on cookery, gardening, and so on. And there would also be celebrity guests on the sofa, along with phone-ins and competitions. The slight problem with this idea was that just about everybody noted that this was little more than a clone of This Morning.

Curiously, there were even breaks, but as this was the BBC, they didn’t contain adverts. They were practically PIFs that offered us advice on various things. It seems that This Morning didn’t exactly feel that this was anything of a threat to their ratings. Host Richard Madeley later said in an interview that it was all rather bizarre, as if the people that had moved in next door started to dress like you, and wanted to be the same as you.

It turned out that Good Morning ran for almost four years, which is longer than I thought because there were always reports that this show was struggling in the ratings, indeed, some critics said that they might as well have continued to show Pages From Ceefax, it couldn’t have done any worse. BBC1 then realised that it might be a good idea to try and do something different with the slot, while This Morning continues to run to this day, and in more recent years Anne And Nick have worked in regional TV and radio.

Game Show Memories – Game Show Stars Part 17.

This is someone who has had a rather varied career, which has included plenty of game shows. Matthew Kelly started out as an actor, and he first appeared on TV in the late-70s. By the early-80s, he was part of the Game For A Laugh team, alongside Jeremy Beadle and others. This was a very popular show, and for the next decade or two after this, he would remain a familiar face on TV.

Also in the 80s, he continued his acting work, appearing in some sitcoms, including Relative Strangers. By the mid-80s, he hosted a few other shows, and he also occasionally turned up on CITV. In the late-80s, he hosted short-lived daytime game show Quandaries. But it was going into the early-90s where he had his two biggest successes in game shows.

First of all, he replaced Bruce Forsyth as the host of You Bet! This was the show where if the challenger he backed failed, he would have to do a forfeit, and some of these were rather embarrassing, but he always took it in his stride. One of his biggest successes though came in the mid-90s when he replaced Leslie Crowther as host of Stars In Their Eyes.

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This was the popular musical talent contest, and he quickly realised that this was a show where the contestants were the main focus, and he always encouraged them along the way and made them feel like, well, stars. He seemed to enjoy meeting people from various backgrounds who would perform as singers in various genres. He also wore some rather startling waistcoats.

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He also seemed to relish hosting the specials, and grand finals that were shown live, and he would remain the host for several years. Going into the 2000s, he hosted Never Had It So Good, a daytime game show based around nostalgia that was fun but not exactly a success. By the mid-2000s however, it seemed that he had started to get a little disillusioned with showbusiness.

This meant that he departed from Stars In Their Eyes after over a decade in charge, but by this point the show was on the verge on becoming bogged down in celebrity specials and was never the same again really. He decided to return to acting, more on stage than on TV, but he did play a few straight drama roles where he came across as very different to his cheery game show personality.

Game Show Memories – The Krypton Factor TV Times Special.

The Krypton Factor TV Times Special (1983)

As a fan of The Krypton Factor, I am always on the lookout for any more specials to review in addition to the regular series. And this is a rather interesting one, as it seems that this was never actually shown on TV. This was before I watched The Krypton Factor or read TV Times, but I presume that there was a competition where viewers could take part in a edition.

As always, the host was Gordon Burns, who insisted that thousands of people had entered this competition. But only four could make it to this stage, and one of them was called William Stewart (not that one!). There would be three rounds instead of the usual six, all taking place in the studio, so they wouldn’t have to get their tracksuits on for a go on the obstacle course. This was about 20 minutes long, and also seemingly featured no studio audience.

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The scoring system was the same, and the winner would receive a specially-made trophy that was a replica of the scoreboard, which was still very much analogue in those days. Round one is Mental Agility, and was based around the game of Battleships. At the end of this, there were joint leaders. Round two is Intelligence, with lots of fiddling about with multi-coloured hexagons. Curiously there wasn’t the usual commentary on their progress to accompany this.

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After this, there is now a clear leader, but will they still be out in front at the end? The third and final round is General Knowledge. Each contestant is asked three questions individually for two points each, and then there are questions on the buzzer for 90 seconds, with one point for a correct answer, and one point deduced for an incorrect answer.

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And after time is up, the winner, with a Krypton Factor of 21, from Christchurch in Dorset, is Nick Jenkins! He then receives the trophy, along with some (probably canned) applause, and he says that he would like to enter the regular series too. I don’t know if this actually happened, but who knows, maybe he was a future superperson in the making.