The YouTube Files – All Clued Up USA.

The $1,000,000 Chance Of A Lifetime (1986-1987)

One game show that I remember watching regularly was All Clued Up, which was shown on ITV in a daytime slot for a few years in the late-80s/early-90s and was rather good. I recently discovered the original American version on YouTube which was an interesting experience, as it has just about the same rules, but the prize on offer was on a much larger scale. vlcsnap-01189

The $1,000,000 Chance Of A Lifetime launched in 1986 and was hosted by Jim Lange. Two teams of two take part. Just like in the UK version, contestants had to solve word clues, and then they could go up to the oversized keyboard and select a couple of letters that they thought would be in the main puzzle to win some money. They would have to beware of the dreaded stinger though! vlcsnap-01187

Three rounds are played, and the winning team would then go into the final, where they would have to solve six word clues on the same category in 60 seconds. If they succeeded, then they could return on the next show to play again. If they won for a second time, they could return for a third and final time, and this time if they made the final, they would be playing for a really huge prize. vlcsnap-01193

If they won the final for the third consecutive time, they would win one million dollars! Although technically they wouldn’t become instant millionaires, they would actually win $40,000 a year for 25 years. That’s ever so slightly more money than was on offer in All Clued Up, and during the run of the series, nine couples went all the way, and there were some very exciting finishes. vlcsnap-01188

When I was watching All Clued Up where in most editions teams would win about £1,000, I never realised that it was based on the very first game show on TV in America where the top prize was a million dollars, a full 13 years before Who Wants To Be A Millionaire launched in that country. The $1,000,000 Chance Of A Lifetime was a syndicated show that ran for just short of two years in America, even offering such a huge prize couldn’t make it a long-running show but it is a very important one in TV history.

The Comedy Vault – special bonus edition!

When I was watching the sitcom The Mighty Boosh again recently, I remembered that there was a reference to Bethnal Green in an episode. Now this is the part of London that I live in, and I always find it surprising to hear a reference on the TV. I started to think about how many other comedy shows feature a reference. I don’t know why it seems to turn up so frequently, clearly it must be a big cultural reference point. I thought of six comedy shows that reference Bethnal Green, so here they are, although if anyone out there does know of any others, you are welcome to tell me.

Big Train. This was the odd BBC2 sketch show from the makers of Father Ted. There is a sketch in the second series that is a parody of detective drama shows, where Mark Heap’s character says “Bethnal Green”. Well to hear one of my favourite comic actors say that right in front of everyone, I was very pleased. Fame at last! vlcsnap-01181

The Mighty Boosh. There is a reference to Bethnal Green in this sitcom when Vince (played by Noel Fielding) is trying to track down where someone is by using his Celeb Radar. Also around this time, when the show was popular on TV, there were suddenly a lot of people walking around here who seemingly wanted to be Noel, how great. vlcsnap-01150

Goodnight Sweetheart. I’m fairly sure that there is at least one reference to Bethnal Green in this sitcom, and that’s because the area where Gary Sparrow time travels to is supposed to be around here, you even see him walk past a branded bin in the first episode. One person pointed out recently that Gary was supposed to live in Cricklewood, and the only reason he ever came here was when he was a TV repair man trying to find an address. So to continue his double life he would have to travel from Cricklewood to here every time to access the portal, which is rather a journey in itself, but you’re not supposed to notice that… vlcsnap-01183

Saturday Live. This pioneering 80s comedy show featured some of the earliest TV appearances by Harry Enfield, and his kebab shop owner character Stavros, who would become very popular with viewers, was always talking about “the Bethnal Green Road”, which is good innit. vlcsnap-01185

Only Fools And Horses. This sitcom needs no introduction, and in the 1989 episode “Chain Gang” none other than Del Boy says “Bethnal Green” near the end of the episode. Isn’t that lovely jubbly. And that isn’t the only sitcom created by John Sullivan to feature a reference… vlcsnap-01186

Sitting Pretty. This was a sitcom that launched on BBC1 in 1992 which was written by John Sullivan. Because his other sitcoms had been so popular with viewers, this show was simply sold as “this can’t fail!”. The main character in the show was Annie, a woman who had been successful in the 60s who had now fallen on hard times, and her character was described by Radio Times as “the Jackie Onassis of Bethnal Green”. Within the first few minutes of the first episode, Annie does say “Bethnal Green”, and also her catchphrase “phenomenal”, which they really thought would catch on, but didn’t. Although Sitting Pretty ran for two series, it wasn’t a big hit with viewers, there has been no DVD release, and it is now considered the low point of Sullivan’s career. Also, because of the Bethnal Green connections, I remember seeing Diane Bull (who played Annie) once when she was chosen to turn on the Christmas lights here one year (I don’t remember what year, either 1992 or 1993 as they were the only years that the show was on BBC1), now that really was phenomenal. vlcsnap-01180

BONUS! Now to go on to pop music. I am aware of at least two pop stars who were born in Bethnal Green who have had UK Number One hit singles, who are Helen Shapiro and Cheryl Baker of Bucks Fizz fame. Also, I’m not aware of any UK hit singles featuring Bethnal Green in the lyrics, but again if you know better, you can let me know. And I know I keep going on about this, but I just want to emphasise this again because I still find it unbelievable.

Now imagine that there is a famous pop group who’ve had a Number One single, say for example, Bananarama, and say that they all visited Bethnal Green one day, and the reason that they would do that was because one member of the group had a house here, say Siobhan, who was also in the awesome Shakespear’s Sister, and here was where they became friends again and decided to reform, that would be a great story, but that’s never going to happen is it… oh wait… b10

Now the fact that Sara from Bananarama said “Bethnal Green” in an interview will probably mean nothing to about 99.8% of the readership of Classic Pop magazine where this article appeared, but when I read this I was practically on the floor. But the fact that she said that her and Keren were here because they were round “Siobhan’s house in Bethnal Green“, you remember Siobhan, the woman whose Shakespear’s Sister song “Stay” was at Number One in the UK for almost two months in 1992, the crazy goth woman who appears in the incredible video that I’m sure any early-90s pop music fan has never forgotten even 25 years on, you know, that woman… b9

…well, I was now in a right old state. Discovering that in more recent years she had probably been walking round here (although presumably not dressed like that), and she had a party in her kitchen with her old pop star friends practically around the corner from me simply blew my mind (there’s even a picture of them all together on Twitter and everything), I just can’t believe it really happened. I told you all the cool people live round here didn’t I, aren’t I lucky.

The YouTube Files – Strike It Rich USA.

Strike It Rich (1986-1987)

Here’s another original American version of a game show that was more successful in the UK. Strike It Rich began in 1986 (featuring a similar diamond symbol to the UK version), and it was hosted by Joe Garagiola. I managed to find some editions on YouTube, and I noticed that there were some differences in the rules, although the basic idea of the game was the same. vlcsnap-01164

Strike It Rich seemed to be played on a slightly smaller scale than the UK version, presumably because it was in a shorter timeslot. Firstly, two teams of two took part instead of three, and there were nine screens used in the game instead of ten. Also, when teams have to answer questions to gain moves, they have five options to choose from instead of six, and they can play for one, two or three moves, instead of two, three or four. vlcsnap-01169

Another difference is that the teams play the game together, there isn’t one answering the questions, and one pressing the screens. Once they press the button, the prize is revealed and they can decide whether to bank it or risk pressing the next screen, because they lose their unbanked prizes if they find a screen featuring a character called “The Bandit”, which was changed in the UK version to a Hot Spot. vlcsnap-01160

At the final screen, the team has to answer a question correctly. If they do, they make the final, which again, was slightly different. Because there were only two rows of screens, they only had to decide whether they wanted to pick the top screen or the bottom one. One contestant stands on the top row, and the other on the bottom, and after making their choice, they press the screen to reveal the randomly selected result. vlcsnap-01175

If they reveal a dollar sign, they win some money and move on to the next screen, but if they reveal a Bandit they don’t win anything. If they can find more dollar signs than Bandits they can win a bonus prize too, and they can also return for the next edition as reigning champions. In this version there was a lot more money on offer, and prizes such as cars were on offer. vlcsnap-01178

Strike It Rich was a syndicated show which was only on TV in America for about a year and it didn’t really catch on, it was much more popular in the UK where as both Strike It Lucky and Strike It Rich it ran for about 13 years, where it was helped along by Michael Barrymore who was always an enthusiastic presenter, along with some entertaining contestants, and the amount of comedy on the show was increased too, and it would go on to become one of my favourite game shows of that era.

The YouTube Files – Catchphrase USA.

Catchphrase (1985-1986)

Here’s a review of another game show was short-lived in America but became popular in the UK. Catchphrase began on American TV in 1985 and it was hosted by Art James. The basic idea of the show was the same, two contestants having to determine what the famous phrases are that are being animated on the screen to win prizes, although there were a few differences to the rules, as I discovered when I watched some editions on YouTube. vlcsnap-01153

The contestants had to solve the computer-generated puzzles, I don’t know whether any of these were recycled for the UK version but it could be possible. They had to wait for the bell and then buzz in (different buzzer noise!) to determine the phrase. There was one flaw in the rules though. When a contestant got a phrase right, they didn’t win any money, it went into the bonus bank, meaning that you only won the money by solving the bonus. This meant that a contestant could get eight out of nine phrases right and not win any money, thankfully this was changed for the UK version. vlcsnap-01154

There is no Ready Money Round as such, but the money on offer does increase for every round, and there was much more money on offer than the UK version. Another thing that is notable is the host who although he moved the show along well enough doesn’t say anything like “say what you see”, and the contestants seem to be much more excitable. vlcsnap-01158

One more thing that I noticed was that the famous Catchphrase mascot Mr Chips does appear, but in this version he is called Herbie, and hearing the host say “there’s Herbie” is a little odd too. When the main game is over, the contestant with the most money goes into the final. This is just about the same as the UK version, where contestants have to get five clues in a row right on a 5×5 grid in 60 seconds, but the US version had a reigning champion format, meaning that they could return the next day to play for even more money, and they could appear up to five times before having to retire, meaning they could win as much as $75,000 if they did well. vlcsnap-01152

Catchphrase had a very short run in the US, it was syndicated, shown five days a week, and ran for 65 editions, or the equivalent of 13 weeks, and apart from a failed attempt of a revival in 2006, it hasn’t been seen in that country again. About one week after the American version ended, Catchphrase came to the UK where it was much more successful, and indeed it’s still on ITV after over three decades. This was another game show variation that I enjoyed seeing, and I’ll be looking at another one soon.

The Comedy Vault – The Mighty Boosh.

The Mighty Boosh (BBC3, 2003-2007)

I’m fairly sure that this is my 500th blog post, so I’m very pleased to have got this far, and I’m grateful for your interest and your support, there’s now a part of my life online from post one to 500, I have clearly watched far too much TV over the years haven’t I. To celebrate this occasion, I have decided to look back at what is one of my favourite sitcoms of the 2000s decade, The Mighty Boosh, starring the double-act Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt. Here’s how I got into the show.

First of all, I don’t remember seeing the pilot episode in 2003, I remember seeing the first series being promoted and I thought I would give it a try because I always like to discover new sitcoms, yes, even the ones on BBC3. I also didn’t realise at the time that there had been a radio version in 2001 (called The Boosh) which was on BBC London and BBC Radio 4, but I eventually heard it in a repeat run on BBC7/Radio 4 Extra. vlcsnap-01135

I also didn’t realise at the time that Fielding and Barratt had worked together since the late-90s and toured with various comedy shows. Seeing the first TV series was the first time that I had come across their work and I became a fan just because I liked the look of it, I certainly wasn’t influenced by critics from The Guardian or some such newspaper gushing over the show because The Mighty Boosh was suddenly in the latest in-thing that all the trendy people liked, I can assure you that I am just about the least trendiest person that you’ll ever meet, I just enjoy surreal comedy, and I was ready to go on a journey through time and space… vlcsnap-01149

It’s difficult to pick out some highlights from the 21 episodes, but I’ll have a go. In the first series in 2004, Vince and Howard (played by Fielding and Barratt) are working at a place called Zooniverse, a zoo which doesn’t seem to have any animals, which is run by the odd Bob Fossil. Also featuring are Naboo (played by Noel’s brother Michael), a gorilla called Bollo and Dixon Bainbridge, plus Mr Susan, Tommy Nooka, and The HitcherI still remember watching the first series, quickly going from “what on earth is this”, to becoming a big fan. My favourite moments include the episodes where some mutant animals were found at the zoo, when Vince and Howard meet a mysterious hitchhiker, and when Vince joined a terrible electro band. I’d never really seen anything like it. vlcsnap-01139

Eager for more, I was delighted when there was a second series in 2005, featuring another wave of odd characters such as Old Gregg, Tony Harrison, The Betamax Bandit, Chris de Burgh and Milky Joe. Highlights included Vince and Howard being stranded on a desert island which leads to something odd happening with coconuts, and also encountering some problems with an old lady. The moon would also often add his own comments on what was happening. vlcsnap-01142

The third and final series in 2007 was now set in a shop in London called the Nabootique. We met even more crazy characters including The Crack Fox and highlights included something strange about eels, Vince and Howard taking part in a singing competition, and a party that gets rather out of hand. And Vince says “Bethnal Green” in one episode which is always going to be a winner with me. vlcsnap-01150

Another thing about The Mighty Boosh was that several other comic actors turned up who have gone on to bigger things including Rich Fulcher, Matt Berry and Richard Ayoade. While the show was running on BBC3, they went on tour again to big acclaim and a couple of stage shows have been released on DVD. The show was also briefly on BBC2, but it didn’t catch on there, partly because it was shown in various timeslots, the success of the show is mostly down to BBC3, and it suits the word “cult” more than most sitcoms. I also remember being really pleased when the DVD was released, I really looked forward to watching the show again, and there are some great DVD extras too. vlcsnap-01148

Fielding and Barratt also did well enough with younger viewers to appear on the cover of NME several times, and there was also a book released featuring some of the best bits of the TV show. I suppose that the response by viewers to The Mighty Boosh can be best described by that old phrase “a show people either love or hate”, but I know which side I’m on. I can’t believe that it’s now almost been a decade since The Mighty Boosh left the screen, there have been rumours of a film version coming but it never happened. Although they haven’t worked together for a while now, Fielding went off and made a similarly odd sketch show on his own for E4, and Barratt has appeared in a few comedies and films. Almost 15 years on I still think the show has a unique place in British comedy.

The YouTube Files – Blockbusters USA.

Blockbusters (NBC, 1980-1982, 1987)

Blockbusters is one of my all-time favourite game shows, it wasn’t until long after I first watched the show on ITV that I discovered that it was based on an American format. I always wondered what that was like, and thanks to the magic of YouTube, I have now been able to see some for myself. The American version of Blockbusters launched in 1980 and was shown on NBC on weekday mornings, replacing The David Letterman Show in the schedules. 

Blockbusters was originally hosted by Bill Cullen, who was a TV presenter veteran in America who hosted a wide variety of game shows throughout his long career. The first thing to notice is that although the basic idea of the game is the same, featuring a team of one taking on a team of two and questions with one-word answers, some notable differences to the British version become clear. First of all, the contestants taking part are adults instead of students. vlcsnap-01130

Also, the 5×4 gameboard (which wasn’t computer generated at first) featured the single team playing with red hexagons, and the double team playing with white hexagons, and it took a while for me to stop thinking that the white team were going the wrong way across the board. Also, there was no money on offer for each correct answer, but teams won a bonus amount of money if they did win a game. vlcsnap-01129

The winning team then went on to the Gold Run (originally called the Gold Rush), and just like the UK version, they had to get from one side of the board to the other in 60 seconds, and if they did, they would win a cash prize, usually $5,000. By the end of the series, contestants could play up to 20 Gold Runs, meaning that they could take part on the show for a very long time and win a lot of money. vlcsnap-01119

Blockbusters wasn’t a big success in America, it ended in 1982 after a couple of years, and launched on ITV a year later where it would run for about a decade, and that’s not including the later revivals. There was also a brief revival of Blockbusters on NBC in 1987. This time Bill Rafferty was the host and a computer-generated board was used. One major change was that the show was now one against one which looks rather odd and if they went to a third deciding game the board was redesigned to be 4×4 to make it a little more equal. vlcsnap-01134

Discovering American versions of classic game shows definitely has been an enjoyable experience for me, it’s always interesting seeing how shows started out and how they developed in other countries, and when I decided to look for other American game shows that would become a bigger success in this country, and I found a couple more that I liked the look of, and I’ll review those here soon too.

More TV Memories – Ned’s Newt.

Ned’s Newt (1997-1999)

Another silly cartoon review! This is a show that I remember watching on Cartoon Network in the On Digital days when I wanted to discover more about what they had to offer, although it actually wasn’t made for that channel. Ned’s Newt was a Canadian production that originally aired on a channel called Teletoon, and I am fairly sure that it hasn’t been shown on CBBC or CITV.

Ned Flemkin is a boy who wants to own a pet, but when he gets to the shop all he can afford is a small blue newt. At first, he just sits there quietly in his bowl not doing much which disappoints Ned. But then one day Ned feeds his newt some Zippo food and he magically grows in size and starts to talk! Ned and his newt then go off and have some adventures together. vlcsnap-01104

When the newt starts to talk he is able to do a variety of impressions of famous people and he can also shapeshift, so for example he might tell a joke but in the style of someone such as Groucho Marx or Arnold Schwarzenegger, and he often gets Ned into awkward situations, by which point the food starts to wear off and he returns to his normal size, leaving Ned to get the blame for most of what has happened as no-one believes that his small pet newt could cause such things. vlcsnap-01102

Also throughout the show we meet various other characters including Ned’s parents, plus some of his schoolmates such as his friend Doogle, and his neighbour Linda who he has a crush on, and he is always battling alongside Rusty for Linda’s affections. Also as the episodes went by the Newt turned into a wide variety of characters and some of the impressions were rather bizarre. vlcsnap-01106

The oddest thing about Ned’s Newt though is that thing that I remember most about the show from the time isn’t an actual episode, but the way that it was promoted. In about 1999 I was watching Cartoon Network one day when I was beginning to get into their shows, when during an advert break there was a trail for Ned’s Newt. As well as explaining what the show was all about, it also used a piece of music that I rather liked. vlcsnap-01107

I wasn’t sure what it was or whether it was made for the trail or not, but a while later I discovered that it was the introduction to the 1982 hit single “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash, so every time I hear that now I still think of it as “The Ned’s Newt song”, as odd as that may seem. 39 episodes of the show were made in the late-90s, I haven’t seen them on TV for a while, and it seems that there has been no DVD release, but this is definitely yet another odd cartoon that I remember.