Game Show Memories – Winning Lines.

Winning Lines (BBC1, 1999-2004)

When it was time for yet another game show tied-in with the National Lottery draw to launch on Saturday night BBC1, Celador seemingly stitched together two of their previous productions Everybody’s Equal and Talking Telephone Numbers (plus maybe a tiny bit of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire too) to create Winning Lines. It was originally hosted by Simon Mayo, better known for his radio work, but then Phillip Schofield took over which made the show resemble Talking Telephone Numbers even more. vlcsnap-00964

49 contestants, one for each ball that was used in the National Lottery draw, took part after qualifying to play by having matching numbers. A question with a numerical answer would be asked. If you think you know the answer then you enter it in, and if you are right in the quickest time you go through to the next round, but if you are wrong you are eliminated, although anyone else who answered correctly stays in, and this is done six times. vlcsnap-00968

In the second round, the six remaining contestants are asked questions where the answers are their assigned numbers. If they get it right they stay in the game, if they get the answer right that contained the number of an opponent they get knocked out. This continues until there is one contestant remaining who not only goes through to the final, but they also have the opportunity of pressing the button that starts the National Lottery draw. The runner-up also takes away a consolation prize of a holiday. vlcsnap-00965

The show didn’t really become known for these rounds though, the most memorable part which has been described by some critics at the time as one of the best endgames in a game show, was when the one remaining contestant had to face the Wonderwall. There are 49 answers on the screen and three minutes on the clock. A question is read out and the contestant has the give both the answer and its number after finding it on the wall. vlcsnap-00967

Contestants also had two pit stops where they could stop the clock and scan the wall for 15 seconds as a quick attempt to try and memorise some numbers and answers. Contestants would win a holiday, and with every answer they gave, the location became ever more distant, beginning at Spaghetti Junction for one correct answer, with anyone who got the maximum of 20 right answers in time winning a round-the-world trip. vlcsnap-00969

I do remember watching Winning Lines a little at the time and it is regarded by many people as the best of the National Lottery tie-ins, partly because of the well-designed final, and it could have easily run for more than five years. There was also an American version made, a couple of quiz books were published, and in more recent years repeats (with all the Lottery references snipped out) have been shown on Challenge.

Game Show Memories – Trivial Pursuit.

Trivial Pursuit (The Family Channel, 1993-1994)

Over the years I’ve enjoyed playing a lot of board games, including Trivial Pursuit, seen by many as the ultimate general knowledge game to play. This meant that it seemed a fairly obvious choice to convert into a TV game show. There was one attempt on BBC1 in the early-90s, but this piece will concentrate on the second version which was another Action Time production, it was shown on The Family Channel which would evolve into Challenge TV by 1997, and it was hosted by Tony Slattery who was appearing on TV very regularly at the time. vlcsnap-00940

Three contestants took part and the idea was that they had to fill their all 12 slices of their pie by answering the questions on the six categories available, essentially getting two correct answers for every colour available. In the first round the six traditional categories from the board game were used with one question per category. Contestants picked a category, and then they were given the question, but if they got it wrong, it went on offer for the other two to steal. vlcsnap-00945

In the second round, the six categories were changed so that they were all related to entertainment in some way. There was also a bonus on offer where a news clip from the archive would be shown and the question would be based on it. If they got it right they would win the slice, and then they would be asked a second question where if they got that right they could remove an opponent’s slice. vlcsnap-00946

In third round the categories changed again. This time a contestant could play for a category, and then nominate who faces the next question. The final round was against the clock reverting to the traditional six categories. Whoever buzzed in could choose the next category and carried on until they got one wrong. If a contestant completed all 12 slices of their pie they went into the final, and the two remaining contestants played until time ran out for the runner-up prize of a glass bowl. However, if no-one had completed their pie by the end, the contestant who had the most slices when time was up was the winner, with the other two receiving consolation prizes of a The Family Channel T-shirt and a deluxe edition of the board game. vlcsnap-00961

In the final, the remaining contestant also won an extra prize of a VHS looking back at the news in the year that they were born, and they played for the star prize. They simply had to get six questions right, one in each category, in 60 seconds to win a holiday. I get the feeling that they could’ve been a little more imaginative with the rules for this final but either way there were a lot of winners. vlcsnap-00944

One curious thing about Trivial Pursuit was that it seemed to have some mistakes left in such as contestants picking categories that had already gone and Tony fluffing some questions. Also, The Family Channel must have had a very small audience in those days so it should be commended for making some original shows along with the repeats of classics, and Trivial Pursuit itself was repeated well into the Challenge years.

Game Show Memories – Spellbound.

Spellbound (Sky One, 1994-1996)

A game show hosted by Paul Coia which featured three contestants trying to make words? No, it wasn’t Catchword which was nearing the end of its run on BBC2 when this show launched, it was Spellbound, it was shown live on Sky One, and it was just about that channel’s first attempt at an original game show following on from making revivals of The Price Is Right, Sale Of The Century and Blockbusters. This isn’t really a show that I remember watching much at the time but after finding a couple of editions on YouTube I thought that it was interesting enough to be reviewed. vlcsnap-00931

Spellbound was another Action Time production, a company that made a lot of 90s game shows, and it was a combination of bingo and words. There was a board with 15 randomly-generated numbers on it, and behind each number was a letter. There was a category given and the board contained two hidden words. If contestants picked a number that contained one of the letters in a word they score its value. This means that they could be tempted to pick the higher-value numbers, but if they uncover a letter that isn’t in one of the two words, it’s a “lousy letter” and they score nothing and lose their turn. vlcsnap-00932

There were also bonus points on offer if contestants found a starter letter, and if they managed to complete the one of the words by finding all of its letters. Questions would also be asked on the buzzer to gain control of the board (I couldn’t help but notice that the buzzer noise is the same as on Timekeepers, another 90s Action Time production). This would be done three times, and the highest-scoring contestant would then go through to the final to play for the star prize. vlcsnap-00936

In the final, the contestant had to find six vowels that would fit into three words. These were hidden by 15 various playing card symbols. I’ve not seen it myself but apparently at the end of the first series instead of using the usual joker symbol, a picture of Paul making a silly face appeared and it seemed that he was very embarrassed. The contestant could make up to eight guesses and if they completed all the words they would win a holiday or a cash prize, usually around £1,000. vlcsnap-00939

Viewers watching at home should have been paying close attention to what was happening too, because game cards were given out, and if anyone managed to cross off all of their letters then Paul would phone them at the end of the show, and if they got a simple question right they would win a cash prize too. Paul would also be occasionally assisted by his wife and fellow TV presenter Debbie Greenwood (no relation) for this part. Although I’ve only seen a couple of editions it seems that Spellbound was one of the better attempts at an original interactive game show from the early days of satellite TV. vlcsnap-00938

Noel’s House Party – first and final series comparison.

Noel’s House Party was a show which ran on BBC1 for 169 editions in eight series from November 1991 to March 1999. It changed a lot over the years and although once it was very popular by the time it ended it had fallen out of favour with viewers. How did the show go from being professional and entertaining to a past-it directionless mess? After tracking down the first and final editions on YouTube I decided to do a comparison of the main elements of the show to try and determine what exactly changed.

Opening sequence. First series. Noel’s House Party was the third part of Noel’s Saturday night trilogy, following from The Late Late Breakfast Show (1982-1986) and The Saturday Roadshow (1988-1990). It was fairly similar to The Saturday Roadshow, but instead of coming from a different location every week, it always came from the great house in the village of Crinkley Bottom, and it was also shown live. Noel was also very fond of wearing loud shirts. Final series. The opening theme was remixed after a few series and then changed altogether, and by this point only consisted of a short burst of “House Of Fun” by Madness. Noel also wore rather drab shirts by his standard, and it was starting to become clear that Noel’s 30-year career with the BBC was coming to an end, and he wouldn’t be seen regularly on TV again until 2005. One positive though was that this series was one of the earliest shows made in widescreen. The shrieking studio audience was something that remained constant throughout however. nhp1

Set design. First series. The house was laid out so that Noel could do a lot of running about which he seems to enjoy, with various segments of the show taking place in different parts. Final series. The design of the house was another thing that was totally changed by the end. For example, Noel had to go up a flight of stairs to meet his guests and it seemed less welcoming. nhp2

Celebrities. First series. Famous faces were very eager to take part at first, with Ronnie Corbett appearing regularly in comedy sketches among many others, it was definitely a good place to get yourself seen. Final series. I’m sure that Noel said that he was disappointed that by this point famous people would only appear on the show if they had something to promote such as their new single, and a character was introduced called Father Seamus Plug who would tell us what they were promoting. At least he was much less irritating than the “my brother Liam” character from a while earlier. Noel also famously walked out of an edition revealing his frustration at the lack of big names and good ideas on offer. nhp3

Games. First series. These included The Lyric Game, where contestants had to sing famous songs, What Till I Get You Home!, which made its debut on The Saturday Roadshow and was where parents had to guess what answers their child would give to win prizes, and Grab A Grand, where viewers could phone in and a celebrity could win up to £1,000 for them, and this was also a chance for Noel to indulge in his long-standing fondness for endlessly fiddling around with various telephones. Final series. Games became ever more overblown, with Grab A Grand spin-offs including the ridiculous Grab A Grand Piano. There were other ideas such as The Big Pork Pie, where people had to reveal an embarrassing story about themselves, the Number Cruncher, where you could play for a prize if a phone-box was in your area, Cash For Questions, which consisted of people spinning round on a wheel and then having to find bags of money in a dark room against the clock, and in this series Sofa Soccer, where viewers phoned in to try and direct footballs past a goalkeeper for money. What Til I Get You Home! was also revived for a celebrity special with Paul Ross and his family. nhp5

NTV. First series. This was the segment where the star of the show could be you! Using innovative technology for the time, a camera was secretly placed in a viewer’s house, and then they could cut to it and they would appear live on screen much to their surprise and talk to Noel. Final series. This was another feature that featured ever more complicated setups in the endless failed attempts to make the show bigger and better, trying to surprise people in ever more ambitious ways. I remember Noel in a later edition after one prank saying “that went really well”, as if he was surprised that it actually went to plan.   nhp6

Gunge. First series. Another feature kept on from The Saturday Roadshow, this was where studio audience members would be surprised and end up in the tank, and occasionally two celebrities competed against one another, with a viewer phone vote determining who went in. Final series. Again this became increasingly complicated, with the tank being turned into a car wash, then a train ride, and even this always enjoyable feature began to feel stale. nhp4

Gotchas. First series. Another The Saturday Roadshow feature, Gotcha Oscars as they were called at the time was where a celebrity would be stitched-up. Henry Cooper received the first one. Mr Blobby started out as a parody of a children’s TV character in some setups, but he eventually became popular enough to have a number one single in 1993. Final series. After a name change to simply “Gotcha” and a redesign of the trophy, this was another area like NTV which featured ever more elaborate set-ups, such as trying to prank more than one person at a time. The one with Richard Whiteley was good though. Mr Blobby was also dropped from the show for this series, until his inevitable return at the end, but too many viewers had long-since turned off and that was that. nhp0

Game Show Memories – Fifteen-To-One the revival.

Fifteen-To-One (Channel 4, 2013-present)

I suppose it was something that would happen eventually, that Fifteen-To-One would one day return to the screen. About a decade after it had originally ended, Fifteen-To-One was brought back for a one-off special in prime-time. As it went down rather well, the decision was made to bring back a daytime version, however TV has changed a lot since the original run ended in 2003.

Firstly, there was the challenge of finding a new host. It was decided that Sandi Toksvig would be the new host, someone who already had about 30 years worth of experience in TV presenting when the revival launched. I don’t mind Sandi’s presenting style and having her as the host is as good as anyone else really, it was always going to be tough following the great William G Stewart whoever was chosen. vlcsnap-00894

Among the other notable things is the set design. Every contestant now stands at an individual podium with three green lights on it, and they wear name badges. It also seems that Sandi’s questions are sent to her though what I will always be inclined to describe as an “ERIC”, gimmicky in the 90s maybe, but a necessity now as I suppose this means that one of several hundred or maybe even thousand questions can be instantly accessed to be asked, and somewhat inevitably, there is also background music all the way through. Sandi will also reveal facts about the contestants, and then reveal the category by saying something like “are you any good at history?”, and then also adding an additional fact after the answer has been given. vlcsnap-00895

The most obvious change is that the show is now an hour long, which is the length of most game shows nowadays. Also, as the influence of newer shows such as The Weakest Link seemed to have an effect on the later years of the original, it does seem that some changes in the revival owe a lot to Pointless, one of the most successful game shows of the last five or six years. vlcsnap-00874

The format of the first round is the same as usual, when contestants get a question right a green light shines on them along with a “ding” noise, but if they get it wrong, one of their lights turns red. Get both wrong, and they are eliminated, with Sandi saying to them what is probably the most obvious try at a new catchphrase for this revival, “it’s lights out”. However, like on Pointless if they don’t make the final at the first attempt they can try again, and people can appear up to three times. vlcsnap-00901

In part two, after a plug for the website, the contestants can now nominate one another. There seems to be a rule that contestants can nominate the same person twice in a row, and the nominator can also choose the person the was asked the previous question. I’m fairly sure that this wasn’t in the rules in the original version. Also, something else that happens a lot is the curiously modest and somewhat British response that when Sandi asks contestants if they are enjoying being in control and nominating they almost always say “no, not really”. vlcsnap-00902

Another feature is that the nominated contestant’s podium lights up when they are in play. When there are four contestants remaining Sandi gives a quick update of the situation and often says something like “three of you will be making it to the final… one of you will not”, which is thankfully as close as she comes in her presenting style to Anne Robinson. When it’s 12 down and there are three contestants remaining, they go through to the final after the break. vlcsnap-00900

The final is again similar to the original version, and again there are exchanges at the start such as Sandi asking a contestant if they thought they’d make the final to which they always say “no, never”. In the on the buzzer stage of the game, I have noticed that logic questions seem to be asked such as “what is 75% of 48?” before when the question or nominate stage begins it reverts back to regular general knowledge questions. vlcsnap-00905

But there can only be one winner, and they receive a small trophy, again like what happens to winners on Pointless. Most finals aren’t that exciting however, lots of contestants have been knocked out with really low scores, most games end with about 20 questions still remaining, and there have been very few scores over 200, when in most series every score to make the final would have to be over 200, although this is partly because series in the revival have been much shorter, with the first being only 20 shows. vlcsnap-00907

There is a lot to play for in the series grand final though. Although there no longer seems to be a top of the leader board prize, the overall series winner receives the star prize of £40,000, one of the biggest prizes currently available on a UK game show which is definitely worth playing for. There also seems to be a rule change for the final were a question answered incorrectly on the buzzer will go on offer to the two other contestants. vlcsnap-00911

Although this version of Fifteen-To-One was arguably never going to make as big an impact as the original, Channel 4 seem to be fairly happy with it as the eighth series of the revival is about to begin, and it has also outlived Deal Or No Deal which is something of a surprise. I’m not sure how much longer it’ll run for but it’s been good to have it back on the afternoon screen.

More TV Memories – Bid Best Bits – Part 6.

I just thought I’d do another one of these. I didn’t set up this blog to do attention-grabbing listicles as they’re called now, but if I really did want to put one together, the only category I would choose would be…


1. When Bid first came to Freeview, there was a feature called Speed Auctions, where Peter had to run around and close the auction quicker than usual, and he was often complaining about how exhausted he was and how he wouldn’t be able to keep the pace up about ten minutes into his shift. One day, when starting an auction, he fell off the podium and fell flat on his face. I don’t know whether he did this deliberately or not, but I couldn’t believe that so long after his Double Dare and Run The Risk days Peter was still at it and I laughed a little too hard at his misfortune.

2. About a week or two later, Peter tripped and fell off the podium again, whilst trying to start a speed auction, and only getting as far as saying “here we go quickly…” before again he took a painful looking tumble. vlcsnap-00893

3. Again around this time during speed auctions, Peter managed to do the double, when as the hooter went and Peter had to go back to the gavel, he decided to grab assistant Jenny’s hand and they both ran back, so when Peter collided with the podium he took her with him which was rather unfortunate.

4. At the start of his shift one Christmas, Peter went into the podium once again, and the present that he was holding went flying. What a way to start. Thankfully the only thing that was bruised was his pride. vlcsnap-00874

5. Not long after, Peter went to the other side of the studio to preview an item, and promptly disappeared behind the bed. Having to walk about five paces was still clearly proving too difficult for him.

6. Around the World Cup, Peter was selling some towels, when again he fell over. I don’t know if he collided with the podium once again or he tripped over the towel. He then tried to tell us that some jumpers were next whilst complaining “I’ve just sliced my head open”, and then he tried to get into the football spirit by trying to sing the England anthem “Three Lions” and just ended up shouting “England’s coming home!”. He then pointed at Sophie who was laughing so much he insisted that she had wet herself, but he couldn’t laugh because when he took the towel off he noticed that he had ripped his trousers. And it wasn’t the first time that he’d done that live on Bid either. vlcsnap-00877

7. Another one, where as Peter was closing an auction, again he went into the podium, but then he slumped to the floor and started rolling around in a rather fake manner, before he then got up and oddly looked like he was about to sob. Why does he do it to himself? vlcsnap-00890

8. In more recent years, when Peter decided to begin his shift with the showbizzy “it’s live from London” routine, when he came on he fell once again, this time blaming a piece of carpet he went into. He really will do anything to get a laugh.

9. Finally, when Peter was on with Marina once late one night, again as he got rather overexcited by her fancy outfit he slid and went on his bottom. And yet it was sill so funny. vlcsnap-00892

More TV Memories – Doug.

Doug (Nickelodeon, 1991-1994, Disney, 1996-1999)

Another 90s cartoon that I remember, Doug was all about the adventures of an 11½-year-old schoolboy. At the beginning of the show, Doug Funnie, along with his parents and sister, move to the fictional town of Bluffington after his dad gets a job promotion, and Doug who has something of a dreamy outlook documents his life. Also joining him is his pet dog Porkchop who he is very fond of and follows him everywhere. vlcsnap-00869

There were many other characters in the show including Skeeter who becomes Doug’s best friend, and we also meet various pupils and teachers that Doug encounters at his new school including Roger the bully and Patti who he has a crush on. One thing that I remember being distinctive about the animation of Doug was that beyond the main character all the people’s skin colour were ones that you wouldn’t get in real life, and his interaction with orange people, green people and purple people and so on definitely made the show stand out. vlcsnap-00864

One thing about Doug that I didn’t realise at the time was that in the early series he was voiced by Billy West, a voice actor who has contributed to many other cartoons over the years including The Ren And Stimpy Show, where his rather crazed performance voicing both those characters was something of a contrast to his portrayal of Doug, and he later went on to voice Fry in Futurama. When Doug was revived though, West had moved on to other projects so he was replaced by Tom McHugh. vlcsnap-00862

As far as I’m aware, Doug was never shown on CBBC or CITV, I remember it being shown on the final year or so of TV-am, and it was also shown on weekend mornings on Channel 4, and I remember recording a few episodes to watch which I enjoyed in the mid-90s. Beyond this, Doug has also been shown regularly on Nickelodeon and The Disney Channel. vlcsnap-00868

It seems that there were two eras of Doug, in the early-90s episodes were made for the children’s channel Nickelodeon, and after a short break the show moved to The Disney Channel. I must admit I’ve never liked Disney cartoons that much, preferring the ones made by Warner Brothers, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and the like, but I did like this one, and the show was popular enough for there to be a film version made in 1999 called Doug’s 1st Movie, although despite that rather optimistic title, I’m fairly sure that no more films were made. vlcsnap-00870

Over 100 episodes of Doug were made throughout the 90s, and having a look back at some episodes recently, the show reminded me a little of another cartoon I liked which was Hey Arnold! which features a boy going through school and trying to help people out. I don’t think that Doug has been released on DVD in this country, but I hope that there are still plenty of fans out there.