More TV Memories – Stay Tooned.

Stay Tooned (BBC1, 1990-1996)

Now one thing that I really do like to watch on TV are cartoons, as I’m sure you’ve realised by now. I’m fairly sure that this show wasn’t ever shown as part of CBBC, as it was usually on weekend afternoons, but it definitely contained plenty that was enjoyable for younger viewers. Stay Tooned was a show that was all about the history of cartoons from all over the world.

There would be a look back at various characters, along with the stories about how they were created, and the people who worked behind the scenes to do this. The host was Tony Robinson, who had just finished the final series of Blackadder, and he was becoming known to CBBC viewers for his great sitcom Maid Marian And Her Merry Men.

A lot of cartoons from the archive would be shown, and these included what was produced by Warner Brothers, who were behind a huge amount of very successful and enduring characters, Bugs Bunny being one of them. The world of animation has definitely changed a lot over the years, and there was a look at the early days, right up to the present of computer-generated films.

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And of course the people who provided the voices of the characters were profiled, as they played an important part in the whole process as well. There was also a look at less famous characters, trying to work out why some simply failed. But whether it was Woody Woodpecker, or Betty Boop, or anyone like that, there was a interesting story behind all of them.

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Thinking about Stay Tooned again reminded me of when there would be some rather old cartoons shown on the TV, usually in the afternoon, to fill a small gap in the schedule. This almost always seemed to be Tom And Jerry, and they must’ve all be shown eventually, right into the 90s. I also remember Popeye being shown a lot, along with many others.

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It really does go to show you what you can do with some pens, a few tins of paint, and your imagination. Stay Tooned ran for about six years, I’m not sure why this came to an end, maybe it was time for Tony to go off and rehearse for My Wonderful Life, but his enthusiasm for these cartoons was clear. There was also a repeat run in a morning slot on BBC2 in 1997.

More TV Memories – The Paul Daniels Magic Show.

The Paul Daniels Magic Show (BBC1, 1979-1994)

Although as you should know by now I have always preferred the game show work of Paul Daniels, I thought that I might as well review his magic show too, because this formed a major part of BBC1’s entertainment line-up for an impressive 15 years, and I did watch occasionally. This was the show where Paul would perform various spectacular tricks.

It was no surprise that viewers were soon calling him “the terrific trickster” or “the super sorcerer” (or maybe not). They definitely did call him “the man who excels” though. Some tricks were rather basic and traditional, and some were rather daring and ambitious, and really did make viewers think “how did he do that!”. Well it was magic.

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He couldn’t do it all by himself though, and people from around the world also featured to perform their act, including jugglers, mimes, ventriloquists, and much more, anything from the straightforward to bizarre. Now they really have got talent. And of course we mustn’t forget his terrific assistant (and eventually wife) Debbie McGee.

One of the most famous moments was on a live Halloween special where he did a trick that appeared to go rather badly wrong, and he had to assure worried viewers by returning later in the evening to prove that he was still all in one piece. Along with this, there were also Paul-endorsed magic kits released where people could attempt a few things at home.

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The long-running Saturday Night show was also accompanied by various Christmas specials and compilations of highlights. However, after such a long run, the format began to be a little tired, and TV was changing, meaning that after several other old-school variety shows had already ended, this one had become outdated too and was just about hanging on.

The Paul Daniels Magic Show finally came to an end in 1994, but a year later, he was given another chance with Secrets, a similar show combining magic and variety in a more modern nightclub setting, but this ended after only one series, and as his third and final game show Wipeout ended around the same time, he wasn’t seen on TV that much after this.

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The only time that he was really on the screen in the years after this was mildly embarrassing himself on sub-Big Brother-type shows which was disappointing, although he clearly knew his stuff about the history of magic, and he continued to tour the country and perform his show, producing coins from behind people’s ears and the like I’m sure. At least it wasn’t Wizbit!

More TV Memories – Transmission Impossible.

Transmission Impossible (BBC2, 1996-1997)

The comedy double-act Trevor And Simon first found fame when they appeared on the first series of CBBC Saturday Morning show Going Live! in 1987, where they created and played a rather bizarre group of characters that earned plenty of laughs. Among their most popular characters were the folk musicians The Singing Corner, who in 1990 even got as far as releasing a single that was a minor hit, and appearing on the cover of NME (yes, really).

They left Going Live! after the fourth series in 1991, to be replaced by another double-act. It was around this point that they went on tour across the country, and some tapes were released that featured highlights of their silliest sketches. I never had these myself, but those that did seemed to be really fond of them, watching them so frequently, that they could practically recite them word for word (and probably still can to this day).

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They returned for the sixth and final series of Going Live! in 1992, and stayed on for the launch of the successor Live & Kicking in 1993. This gave them an opportunity to introduce even more characters. In 1995, they were given their own summer special on BBC1. And a year after this, Transmission Impossible was launched, in an evening slot on BBC2.

This was essentially all of their sketches from the previous week’s Live & Kicking put into one 15-minute show (the features Electric Circus and Hit, Miss Or Maybe were also shown as standalone shows on BBC2 around this time). The characters who featured included the art critics, Picklin’ Jeff who would try to pickle anything, a look at various things in How It Works, and an investigation into the paranormal.

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And any celebrities who happened to be around in the studio would be encouraged to take part in a sketch with them, and it was always good seeing who would be game enough to be mildly embarrassed by their antics. After the second series of Transmission Impossible ended in 1997, Trevor And Simon left Live & Kicking (having done this for almost a decade by this point).

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In the years since, although they haven’t appeared on TV a huge amount, they have contributed to a few other CBBC shows as writers, along with working on various other comedy projects (and they seem to be rather good at Pointless too which is terrific). A lot of people who are around my age still think fondly of them, and it’s rather clear to see why.

The Comedy Vault – Porridge.

Porridge (BBC2, 1973, BBC1, 1974-1977)

As I have said before, I have never really been a huge fan of 70s sitcoms, mostly because I wasn’t there to watch them at the time, although I am definitely familiar with this one because it is one of the successful sitcoms that this country has produced, and it is also one of the few from this era that is still in the repeats loop, and is probably on Gold right now.

Porridge started out as a pilot episode called Prisoner And Escort. The writers had hoped to develop this into a series, but when the BBC were unsure, they took the idea to ITV, which became the sitcom Thick As Thieves. But this only lasted for one series, by which time the BBC had finally decided to give this one a full series, which turned out to be a very good idea.

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The thing that really made Porridge stand out for many was that this was set in a prison, which didn’t seem like it was a suitable place for a sitcom at first. But mostly, it’s because the main character was played by Ronnie Barker. Now I personally have always preferred Open All Hours, as this is a sitcom with a much harder edge than that one.

But it really is remarkable to think that the smart-talking Fletcher and stingy shopkeeper Arkwright were played by the same person (or indeed the same person who was in The Two Ronnies), and that really is a tribute to Barker’s ability to portray his characters. Fletcher is a criminal who is in prison once again, although he insists that this will be the final time.

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Over the years, he has certainly learned how to hold his own and deal with things, always hoping to talk his way out of situations and get one up on his fellow inmates and wardens. But then he is joined by the younger Godber, who is in prison for the first time, and Fletcher soon realises that he has to somewhat steer him through this difficult period.

There were also lots of other memorable characters, including an appearance by David Jason as an elderly prisoner, it turned out that there were indeed plenty of laughs to be had, and a Bafta for best comedy was deservedly won. There were three series of Porridge, including two specials, and all of the episodes have been released on DVD.

There was then the spin-off series Going Straight, where Fletcher adjusted to life after prison, although this was less successful with viewers, and I plan to review that one soon too. After this there was a film, and then for some reason, in more recent years the format of Porridge was revived, and it clearly runs in the family as this time Fletcher’s grandson was in prison, but this was a one-series wonder.

Game Show Memories – Scavengers.

Scavengers (ITV, 1994-1995)

This might be the last game show that I’ll review for a while, but this one was something of a flop. I don’t mean to deliberately review shows that didn’t do well, and it might seem that I am scraping the barrel a little now, but there are some reasons why I do remember watching this one (although it seems that there weren’t too many others who did).

Scavengers made its debut on Saturday Night ITV the day after I left junior school, and I just couldn’t believe that it was finally all over. Before I started to think about what my next move would be, I thought that I would watch this new show to try and keep that all out of my mind. And also, this was a rather ambitious idea, sort of like Gladiators meets The Crystal Maze… but in the future!

There had been a lot of money spent on this, and there was a lot of hope that this would end up doing well. The host (I mean “commander”) was John Leslie, who had recently left Blue Peter, and was clearly wanting to try something a little different. Two teams of two took part. Inbetween lots of pointless running around, they had to play various challenges to score points.

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There was also some android-type woman (who was described by one critic as “Random Emotionless Robot #235”) who would explain the challenges, and give the scores, that were known as “salvage points”. Looking back at some of these now, they are a little similar to the “Super Round” that did for The Krypton Factor (although that’s still a year off at this point).

Once they had completed these challenges, they had to run back to their spaceship in time, otherwise they would lose all of their points, and probably be evaporated too. How intense! The highest-scorers went into the next round, and the winners of that would then go into the grand final, where they would win a nice big prize, probably.

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I did think that the whole thing was rather exciting, but only for about the first five minutes. Scavengers ended up doing so badly with viewers though that this was quickly taken off Saturday Nights, and the final ended up being shown on a summer Monday morning over a year after the first edition, of what unsurprisingly turned out to be the only series.

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This idea just didn’t catch on, and as for John Leslie trying to adopt a macho personality… probably best to stick to hosting Wheel Of Fortune. ITV wouldn’t really try another big Gladiators-style game until Ice Warriors a few years later, which made just about the same mistakes all over again, and even I didn’t watch that one. Oh dear.

Game Show Memories – The Answer Trap.

The Answer Trap (Channel 4, 2021)

This is yet another daytime game show that came and went recently and almost certainly won’t be returning, but deserves more acclaim. Some people thought that the format of The Answer Trap fell somewhere between Wipeout and Only Connect, and this was done rather well. The host was Anita Rani, and three teams of two take part.

In the first round, there are nine answers and two categories. The teams have to put the right answers into the right categories. Doing this earns them £50, but putting an answer into the wrong category will earn nothing. But beware, because if an answer is picked that is wrong and doesn’t go into either category… they have fallen into the trap!

Two game show experts Bobby Seagull and Frank Paul (best-known for their appearances on University Challenge and Only Connect) have placed some wrong answers into the grid. If they are found, lots of alarms go off, and which one set the trap is revealed. They then explain why it is a wrong answer. Finding two traps ends the round for the team.

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In the second round, there are now 12 answers and two categories, and only one of the team plays. Correct answers are now worth £100, and again two traps ends their round. In the third round, there are now 16 answers and three categories, with correct answers being worth £200. Whoever has the most money after this goes into the final.

In this, there is a choice of categories. The question has 16 answers, with ten correct, and six traps. If they find eight correct answers, they win the money that they have made. If they find nine, they double that money. And if they find all ten, they win the star prize of £10,000. But again, they must beware, because finding two traps loses them their money, but they do have the option of being able to stop.

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The things that made The Answer Trap succeed included the rivalry between the Trappers (not a phrase that will catch on like Chasers or Eggheads though), hoping that the teams will fall into their traps, along with all the trivia that is discussed. But just like with Moneybags, this didn’t do that well in the ratings, and Channel 4 could end up with another good format not fulfilling its potential.

Game Show Memories – Rebound.

Rebound (ITV, 2015-2016)

This is another one of those short-lived daytime game shows, which did have an interesting idea that made this stand out more than most, but ultimately not enough to be a long-runner. The host was Sean Fletcher, better known from Good Morning Britain. Rebound was a game that was based around the bar, and thanks to the things that they can do with technology nowadays, this was played all over the studio floor.

Six contestants took part. The first round is Fast Cash. There are three questions asked with four choices, and then the bar on the floor starts to move as the money on offer falls from £1,000, so the quicker you correctly answer, the more you could win. Next is Head To Head. One of the highest-scorers in the previous round picks who their opponent will be.

There are two categories to choose from. They are then given clues, and they have to answer before the bar gets to the end. If they are correct, the bar starts moving back to their opponent, and gets faster with every answer. This was a little like the Bleep Test, which did involve a lot of running, and it was something that I was never any good it, being rather tiring.

The first to lose three categories is eliminated. This is then played twice more, to leave three contestants. Interestingly, the winning contestant takes their defeated opponent’s money, so everything that has been won always remains in the game. Then Fast Cash is played again, this time with five questions, to bring in even more money.

Next is Stop The Bar. The contestant in front has the longest bar, which is the equivalent of 30 seconds. The contestant in second has a three-second penalty, and the one in third has six. A question with three choices appears, and the bars start to move. They don’t stop until an answer is chosen. If it’s right, they stay where they are, but if it’s wrong, there’s a two-second penalty.

When the bar reaches the end, they are eliminated. The one remaining contestant makes the Beat The Bar final, and again, they take their opponents’ money, meaning that they will usually play for around £10,000, which isn’t too bad. In this, they have to give 15 correct answers before the bar beats them. There is a choice of six categories, and they have to give five correct answers for the bar to stop.

If they do, they can choose another category, and then do this again after ten correct answers. If they can do it in time, they win the money. There were some rather exciting finishes where it was close right to the end. Although there were two series of Rebound, like many other shows, it didn’t have much of a chance to grow as viewers again preferred to watch The Chase endlessly.

Game Show Memories – Moneybags.

Moneybags (Channel 4, 2021)

This is a daytime game show that only ended on TV very recently, but as it seems that this might end up being a one-series wonder, I might as well review this because it’s one of the games that have launched in the past year or two that I have enjoyed the most (another one is The Answer Trap, and I plan to review that one soon too).

Moneybags is an hour-long show hosted by Craig Charles, who has appeared in lots of other shows including Coronation Street and Red Dwarf. There are ten contestants who are there all week, and six will be chosen to play in every edition. This does create a problem that some recent game shows seem to have of contestants who have gone through to the next stage or are still having to wait their turn standing around in the background.

Two contestants are picked to play and come on down! There is a category on the screen, and then an answer on a bag goes along a conveyor belt (is this the only other game show apart from The Generation Game to feature one?). If they think that the answer is correct, they must grab the bag. If they don’t, the second contestant has a chance to play.

Correct answers contain cash amounts, from several worth £1,000, all the way to one being worth £100,000. This means that this must be the first Channel 4 daytime game show to offer a six-figure sum as a prize since the heady days of Deal Or No Deal. If neither contestant plays the bag though, it drops out of the game, and Craig (cue drumroll) reveals the answer.

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As well as the money, other things can happen, including stealing your opponent’s highest-valued bag, or having to give yours away, or being bankrupt. If they do play a wrong answer, they are frozen out of the next question, in the Bob’s Full House style. There are about four or five questions in every category, and two categories for every game. The highest scorer goes into the next round, and then this is done twice more.

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The second round is the same, only there are now three contestants, and all of the money in the game can change positions rather quickly. The highest-scorer then plays the final game. There doesn’t seem to be a studio audience, so all that the finalist gets are a few echoey shouts of encouragement from the others who are now on their side.

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In this, there are four questions, played for increasing amounts of what they banked. The first is worth 10% of their money, all the way up to 100% for their fourth. This time, there are two bags and they have to pick the right one, if they don’t, they are bankrupted. They don’t have to play it if they are unsure though. This has been an anti-climax sometimes because few contestants get past the second question, there is a lot at stake.

I did find Moneybags interesting, Craig is a good choice of host because he is enthusiastic, but stays on the right side of being irritating. However Channel 4 prefer to have property shows like I Want This House, I Want That House, and I Want The Other House or whatever they’re called in this slot as they get more viewers, so this might not be seen again, and like with The Answer Trap they’d be throwing away a good format.

Game Show Memories – House Of Games.

House Of Games (BBC2, 2017-present)

Recently I reviewed Two Tribes, a game show that was hosted by Richard Osman (after his appearances as co-host on Pointless raised his profile, although he had been working behind the scenes in TV since the 90s). That didn’t do too badly, but then he went on to host another game show in the same timeslot that has gone on to do even better.

I must admit that I didn’t see much of the earliest editions of House Of Games, but then I did eventually get into it and realise why this has become popular with viewers. Four celebrities take part, who appear in five editions throughout the week, and they play various rounds that are a little more creative than the usual general knowledge questions.

Five rounds are played in every edition, and Richard presses the button to reveal what they will be. These have included What’s In A Name, The Answer’s In The Question, and there have now been dozens of variations. There are also rounds where the celebrities have to play as a team, or write their answers on a screen. The final round is usually Answer Smash.

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There are lots of points awarded (or deducted), and unusually for a game show with celebrities taking part, there are some prizes on offer, but they are amusingly small, such as maybe an umbrella, or some binoculars, but they really do want to play for them. The maximum score is 24 points, and the highest-scorer at the end of the week also receives a special trophy.

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A lot of people have become fond of House Of Games, and it is rather clear to me why. Even though there is a competitive element to some extent, there is also a warm atmosphere with plenty of amusing moments, viewers can play along, and it is interesting seeing the celebrities showing off some of the more unusual areas of their knowledge thanks to the creative questions and challenges.

This has done well enough for there to be a spin-off series on primetime BBC1 called House Of Games Night, which features more rounds, and a band in the studio and everything! There have also been specials where weekly champions have played against each other, there has been a book released, and there have been lots of repeat runs on Dave.

Radio Memories – The News Quiz.

The News Quiz (BBC Radio 4, 1977-present)

This is another of the longest-running comedy panel games on the radio. The News Quiz very simply features people being asked questions about what has been happening in the world lately. There have been several hosts over the years, and I became a regular listener around the time that Sandi Toksvig was in charge, who laughed rather a lot at everything.

Two teams of two take part, usually consisting of journalists in the early series (and a team captain), but now the mix is more of satirists and comedians. They are given a question, and they have to say what it’s about in the news. Sometimes a musical clue is given. There are points on offer for this, but this is another game show where that isn’t really the main focus.

Between rounds, there are some local newspaper reports that are read out, usually by a news reporter or announcer, that contain mistakes, or are just plain bizarre. They are rather amusing, and this can lead to lots of giggles (and that’s just from the announcer). To finish off, the panellists also offer their own favourites from what have been sent in by listeners.

This format to some extent transferred to TV as Have I Got News For You, which is now a long-runner too, and it is proof that as there is always something happening in the news somewhere, there will always be plenty to talk about. And The News Quiz is another one where lots of highlights are regularly released on cassette and CD.

For about a decade now, on BBC Radio 4 Extra there has been The News Quiz Extra, which is extended to 45 minutes to feature even more of what has been discussed. After almost five decades, they are now up to series 107 (and that is not an exaggeration), and it’ll be there on Friday evenings as the week comes to a stop for a long time to come.