Gambit (ITV, 1975-1985)
Gambit isn’t a game show that I remember watching first time round, but when I discovered that it was a show based around playing cards in a similar style to Play Your Cards Right which is a classic I was intrigued to find out more. Gambit was based on an American format and was originally hosted by Fred Dinenage (presumably taking a day off from working on How), and where some people would think that this was merely a game show, Fred took the whole thing very seriously and rather grandly described Gambit as “an Olympics of the mind”.
Gambit was a rare Anglia production for ITV, with Sale Of The Century being one of their other famous game shows that was made around the same time. Two married couples took part, and they had to answer questions to earn cards in a game that was based on pontoon. Assisting Fred was Michelle who would deal the cards, and it would be the best of three games.
A general knowledge question would be asked. The team that buzzed in and got it right would then be offered a card which they would take or pass to the other team. The idea is to get a score of 21 or as close as possible, but if you go over 21 you’ll go bust and lose the round. If a team decides to stick, the other team is asked three questions to try and beat their score. Whoever wins the round wins £20. If a team does win a round with a score of exactly 21 they could win a bonus of as much as £500, and Fred would be delighted for them.
The first team to win two games then goes on to play the Gambit Board for prizes. This was a board with 21 numbers on it, with a prize behind each one, things like holidays or cars. A number is picked and then the prize is revealed. They are then shown a card. If they stick they can keep their prizes, and if they score exactly 21 they can choose a bonus star prize. But if they go bust, they lose all their prizes. They then meet their next opponents for another regular game, and teams could have up to two goes on the Gambit Board, so if the cards went their way a lot of money and prizes could be won by them.
Gambit was remembered for featuring some bizarre moments including when Fred would get frustrated by contestants not listening to him and he would say to them “you got a problem there?” (which it seems unintentionally became one of the show’s catchphrases), and he would also be less than impressed when Michelle tried to upstage him by making a daft joke. The look on his face was remarkable.
Gambit ran for almost a decade on ITV, and in 1984 Tom O’Connor became the new host. There was a brief revival though when in the 90s a new series was made but it seems that this was shown only in the Anglia region. Now I have seen a couple of editions for myself I thought that it was rather enjoyable really, and Fred’s struggle with the contestants and his assistant was almost as entertaining as the gameplay.