Game Show Memories – Gambit.

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. vlcsnap-00479

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. vlcsnap-00480

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. vlcsnap-00483

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. vlcsnap-00485

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.


CBBC Memories – Clockwise.

Clockwise (CBBC, 1989-1991)

Nothing to do with a film starring John Cleese, Clockwise was a CBBC game show I remember watching in the afternoon, but the final series was actually shown as part of CBBC’s Saturday Morning show Going Live! when seemingly they had run out of editions of Double Dare. There were two versions of Clockwise that had slightly different formats that packed a lot of gameplay into its 15-minute timeslot.

The first version was hosted by Charlotte Hindle who had also appeared on CITV’s Get Fresh a few years earlier. Three teams of two took part and the show was based around time and numbers. In the first round questions (including some multiple choice ones) were asked on the buzzer, with five points for each correct answer, and the round ended when the first team gave six correct answers to score 30 points. vlcsnap-00461

In the second round each team was shown a grid that contained various numbers that corresponded to an answer. They then had 45 seconds on the clock to match the numbers with the answers, with five points scored for every correct answer. This was followed by a physical challenge-style round where the teams had to complete a task against the clock, with five points on offer for the first to do so. vlcsnap-00463

The next round was similar to an earlier one, but this time it was a free-for-all with one more grid of numbers shown which was open to all teams on the buzzer, with again five points for a correct answer. At the end of this round, the lowest-scoring team was eliminated and they took away the consolation prize of a pen, how exciting. vlcsnap-00468

In the next round the two remaining teams had a scale that had ten notches on it. After they buzzed in and gave a correct answer, they could decide to either move up two notches for ten points, or move their opponents down one notch and have five points deducted. The first team to reach the tenth notch at the top went into the final, with the eliminated team taking away a pen and also a clock. vlcsnap-00469

In the final, there was a clock with twelve lights on it at every five-second interval. There was one minute on the clock, and for every correct answer one of the lights came on, and the more lights that were on when time ran out, the more prizes they won. And the three highest-scoring teams came back at the end of the series to compete for even more prizes and the chance to be the overall series champion. vlcsnap-00472

The second version of Clockwise featured some changes, the biggest being a new host who was TV newcomer Darren Day, and he would go on to host further game shows in the 90s including the final two series of ITV’s You Bet! Although the main gameplay element was the same, other changes included a new set design, the physical challenge round seemed to feature more gunge, and the final round was renamed The Time Tunnel. vlcsnap-00477

In this restyled final, the winning contestants again had to answer questions correctly with one minute on the clock to win as many prizes as they could, but this time whilst doing so they were travelling down a spooky track whilst being sprayed with silly string and the like and just generally being distracted. Clockwise ran for three series and was good fun. vlcsnap-00476

Game Show Memories – The Common Denominator.

The Common Denominator (Channel 4, 2013)

This is a good example of a show that I’m fairly sure I remember watching recently, and then I realise it actually hasn’t been on TV for about five years now. The Common Denominator was a daytime game show that was hosted by Phil Spencer, who after hosting about 1,000 editions of Channel 4’s property show Location Location Location presumably wanted to try something a little different. vlcsnap-00460

Three contestants take part and the idea is that they have to make the link between two seemingly unconnected clues. So for example if the clues were “playground” and “music”, the connecting word would be “swing”. In the first round the contestants are given four questions consisting of two word clues and they have ten seconds to give their answer, being able to make as many guesses as they like. The two highest scorers go into the next round. vlcsnap-00455

In the second round this time the clues are two pictures and again there are ten seconds on the clock, but this time if the contestant doesn’t get it right in time, it is passed over to their opponent who then is given ten seconds themselves to find the connection. The contestant who has given the most correct answers after four questions progresses to the final where they can now play for some money. vlcsnap-00456

In the final, the contestant has to get six questions right, this time the clues consist of one picture and one word. The clues get increasingly difficult as the money increases, going from £100 for getting the first one right, up to the star prize of £10,000 for getting all six. There are 45 seconds on the clock and after every correct answer that is given, the clock is stopped and they can then decide if they want to play on and look at the next clue. vlcsnap-00457

They are helped out slightly by the fact that they are allowed to make one pass on a question, but if they decide to play the next question and run out of time before they can give a correct answer, they will lose all their money. I remember only a small number of contestants did manage to go all the way and win the top prize which was always rather enjoyable. vlcsnap-00458

The Common Denominator ran for only one series and it didn’t make much of an impact with viewers, with one frequent criticism being that it came across as little more than a simplified version of BBC2’s Only Connect, but I definitely found it one of the more interesting non-Countdown/Fifteen-To-One/Deal Or No Deal daytime game shows that has been on Channel 4 in more recent years.

More TV Memories – Tenball.

Tenball (ITV, 1995)

You will be familiar with snooker of course, but can’t it be dull sometimes? There isn’t much action. BBC1’s Big Break was an attempt at bringing snooker into a game show format, but Tenball would take it one step further with various changes to the rules, along with statements such as this will bring the game into the new millennium and everyone will soon be playing it down the pub instead of pool which will suddenly be rather boring by comparison.

Tenball (a cross between a sport show and a game show) was hosted by Phillip Schofield (yes, he was hosting every other programme on ITV even in the mid-90s) and it was a knockout tournament where eight professional snooker players including Steve Davis, Alex Higgins, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Jimmy White competed against one another in best-of five matches in a futuristic-looking arena to become the first Tenball champion. There was even a VHS released featuring how to play and offering advice for anyone interested in having a go themselves. vlcsnap-00445

Tenball had various different rules to snooker. Firstly, there was no yellow ball. Instead, there was the yellow and black Tenball which had a value of ten points and was placed on what would be the blue spot in snooker, with the 15 reds surrounding it in a diamond shape. The first colour that a player potted after their first red determined the points value of all other colours for that break, followed by potting the colours in sequence for their usual points value. This meant that if they went for the Tenball the maximum break was 200 (the highest score in the series was Peter Ebdon’s 122, although Ronnie O’Sullivan achieved the maximum in a practice match). vlcsnap-00453

Other innovations included players being able to make their opening break in a pool style, there were cameras on the cues and in the pockets, and we were also told things including how fast a ball was hit. Also to try and help speed up the play there were changes including a ball having to hit at least one cushion in every shot and balls wouldn’t be returned to their previous position after a foul. This meant that there was more emphasis on potting and less opportunity for safety play. vlcsnap-00451

The eventual series winner was Jimmy White (who beat Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final) who received the main prizes of a trophy and a cheque for £20,000. Steve Davis (who was among the divisors of the game) also appeared alongside Phillip to offer some analysis, and of course all of the players along with Phillip said that Tenball was a great idea that they were sure would catch on and would soon be played across the country by viewers who found this an exciting watch. vlcsnap-00452

There was just one problem though, this didn’t happen at all. Tenball never returned for a second series on ITV, and some regions didn’t even show it, although mine (LWT) did, but by the end it was relegated to Saturday afternoons. Although it wasn’t a success, I do remember watching and thinking that this was an interesting idea, and there have been some snooker tournaments in more recent years that have tried to do something different, including having timed matches featuring a basketball-style shot clock to speed up play.

CBBC Memories – Radio Roo.

Radio Roo (CBBC, 1991-1993)

I think I have said on here before, but in the early days of digital TV something rather strange happened. Around 2000 the channel BBC Choice launched a strand called CBBC On Choice, but although the links from the presenters were new, there were no new programmes, and everything they showed seemed to be from around the late-80s/early-90s making it a sort CBBC + 10 Years channel, and it was great seeing shows from those days again, so here’s a review of a show that I remember watching first time round, and then again a decade later.

Radio Roo was a sitcom that had a rather odd idea. It starred Dennis who runs a radio station with his mate Clive… who just happens to be a kangaroo puppet! Well of course he is, not that old story again! Radio Roo was written by Wayne Jackman who also starred as Dennis (although he’ll always be Jiffy from CITV’s Allsorts to me), and Clive the kangaroo (who had inherited the station) unsurprisingly had an Australian accent that was provided by Ian Tregonning. vlcsnap-00442

Radio Roo was set in a place called Brigtown and according to the opening sequence it seems that most of their listeners were people with parrots on the shoulders, or roller-skaters, and the set-up seemed to only consist of a microphone and a turntable. Just how legit was this station? Dennis and Clive spent most episodes bumbling around, and when Dennis wasn’t trying to run the station he often tried to attract the attention of Margaret who usually got caught up in their adventures. vlcsnap-00440

It seems that Radio Roo wasn’t the only place that we saw Dennis and Clive. Around 1989/1990 they also hosted Saturday Starts Here, a CBBC strand that was shown on Saturday Mornings where they would introduce the various programmes, which would usually conclude with Going Live! Presumably someone thought that they were funny enough to have their own series. vlcsnap-00439

Radio Roo ran for three series and every episode was 15 minutes long, and although it does seem to be little-remembered now and there has been no DVD release, it was fun enough compared to other CBBC sitcoms around at the time like Bodger And Badger (which I will review here soon too), and watching a couple of episodes again recently brought back memories of when I watched the show in both the 90s and 2000s. G’Day! vlcsnap-00438

Another story about pop music!

I was planning to finally begin putting together my piece looking back at the hit singles of pop group Bananarama in the 1980s and 90s, when I got somewhat distracted after I discovered a further twist in the remarkable “Bananarama decided to reform after they met up at Siobhan’s house in Bethnal Green which is where I live in London” story, it seems that they aren’t the only 80s pop stars round here! b8

In recent years the area where I live in London seems to have become one of those places that is suddenly trendy and all those hipster types like to hang around, and my mum often says “when I was out earlier there was some bloke walking along the street who looked as if he might be in a band”. I don’t know how many there really are, but here is another example of one.

I am not a member of the website Instagram, but you might remember when I looked at Siobhan from Bananarama’s page and noticed that she was putting pictures of herself on there in places not too far from where I live. I also noticed that there was another woman who was appearing in a lot of these pictures with her called Brix Smith. Now she was someone who I didn’t know much about so I decided to discover more. brix2

American born-Brix found fame in the 1980s when she became a member of indie band The Fall, and in July 1983 she married their frontman Mark E Smith (who actually died while I was putting this piece together), and around the same time she was in another band called The Adult Net who had a few minor hit singles. She also appeared on the cover of a lot of music magazines in the mid/late-80s including NME, Record Mirror and Sounds. A couple of years ago she published a book about her career. brix1

When I was putting together my piece on The Roxy and was looking for videos of performances from that show on YouTube, I found The Fall’s “Hit The North” from 1987 which features Brix on stage, and it seems that a lot of people thought that it was rather unusual for them to appear on primetime ITV. Then when I was channel hopping one night around the same time there was a documentary on Channel 5 about classic Christmas films which Brix contributed to where she was credited as a “TV presenter”. I thought it was weird that she was suddenly turning up a lot. vlcsnap-00225

As well as her music career, it seems that Brix has also had success in the world of fashion and for a while she owned a clothes shop with her second husband Philip Start in Shoreditch, which again is very close to where I live. So I decided to do a search for “Brix Shoreditch” and sure enough I found a few articles with interviews where she spoke about her career which stated “Brix lives in Shoreditch”. So she didn’t just have the shop there, she actually lived there. This is starting to get interesting… brix6

So I thought I might as well take this to its natural conclusion and searched for “Brix Bethnal Green”. Has she been anywhere that I would know? The results were rather surprising. I found a post from September 2017 saying that Brix was going to perform a gig at a place called The Sun Tavern in Bethnal Green. Now I do actually know where this is and it’s only a couple of minutes walk from where I live. So how did it all go? Did anyone turn up to this? brix3

And well, ooh yes, there’s only a picture of Brix alongside Siobhan at the gig at The Sun Tavern (where she describes Siobhan as “my dear friend”). Well again, I couldn’t believe it. You should know by now that I am into Shakespear’s Sister and I remember their epic run at the top of the singles chart in 1992 with “Stay”, so to think that one of the women who sang on that classic song is often here really has shocked me. It’s something that’s so strange that it reminds me of what Alan Partridge once said: “it’s like The X Files… but a pleasant X Files“. I wonder how they met and how long they have known one another? brix4

Not long after, Siobhan joined Brix onstage during a gig to perform the old The Fall song “Totally Wired” with her, at a venue called Oslo in Hackney, which again isn’t too far away. So if you saw the Bananarama tour recently, as much as I’m sure Siobhan enjoyed performing such classics as “Cruel Summer” and “Venus” across the UK, it seems that she’d sooner be down the pub performing The Fall songs round the corner from me. Sorry everyone! brix5

I have said before that I have no real interest in the cult of celebrity, but I wondered if Brix and Siobhan (or indeed any other pop stars) have ever been to other local trendy hotspots including the Working Men’s Club (which hit the headlines recently when Liam Gallagher performed a surprise gig there) or The Star Of Bethnal Green, which really is just about literally across the road from me. It does make me wonder just how many more 80s pop stars could be round here. Is Kim Wilde always in the local supermarket? Does Siouxsie Sioux live next door? Well in the future, if I see a woman walking along the street dressed like this, I’ll know who it is… b9

Coming soon…

Following on from the list that I put on here recently of the TV shows that I have already reviewed, here is another list of all the shows that I haven’t reviewed yet but would like to, if I can find about 500 words to say about them and if people are interested. It’s not a definitive list because I will always think that I have missed at least one obvious thing out, but eventually I hope to get around to telling you all about…

Aaahh!! Real Monsters!
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
Alvin And The Chipmunks
American Dad
Angela Anaconda
Around The World With Willy Fog
Ask The Family
Bargain Hunt
Beavis And Butt-Head
Biker Mice From Mars
Black Books
Blind Date
Blue Peter
The Bob Monkhouse Show
Bodger And Badger
Bucky O’Hare
Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Bug Alert
Busman’s Holiday
Button Moon
Charlie Chalk
Chip ‘N’ Dale
Count Duckula
Defenders Of The Earth
Dennis The Menace
Dexter’s Labratory
Do It
Do The Right Thing
Dogtanian And The Three Muskehounds
Duck Tales
Dumb And Dumber
Earthworm Jim
Ed, Edd And Eddy
Ed Stone Is Dead
The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin
The Family Ness
Fantasy Football League
Fawlty Towers
Fireman Sam
First Class
Fist Of Fun
The Flintstones
The Frank Skinner Show
French And Saunders
Girls On Top
Gordon T Gopher
Grange Hill
Green Claws
Green Wing
Harry And Paul
Harry Enfield And Chums
Harry Enfield’s Brand Spanking New Show
Harry Enfield’s Television Programme
Harry Hill’s Fruit Fancies
Have I Got News For You
Henry’s Cat
Hot Metal
House Of Fools
The Hurricanes
I Am Weasel
In Bed With Medinner
Inspector Gadget
It’s Anybody’s Guess
James Bond Jr.
The Jetsons
Jimbo And The Jet Set
Johnny Ball Reveals All
Johnny Bravo
The Joke Machine
Just For The Record
The Kenny Everett Show
King Of The Hill
Last Chance Lottery
The League Of Gentlemen
Little Britain
Maid Marian And Her Merry Men
The Mask
Melvin And Maureen’s Music-A-Grams
Model Millie
Monster Cafe
Monty Python’s Flying Circus
Mr Don And Mr George
Naked Video
Nathan Barley
Nighty Night
No Win No Fee
The O Zone
The Office
Out Of This World
Palace Hill
Penny Crayon
People Do The Funniest Things
Pigeon Street
The Piglet Files
The Pink Panther Show
Pob’s Programme
Postman Pat
The Powerpuff Girls
Puddle Lane
Radio Roo
The Raggy Dolls
Ready Steady Cook
Red And Blue
Red Dwarf
The Riddlers
Robot Wars
Roger And The Rottentrolls
Roland Rat
The Ronn Lucas Show
Room 101
Rosie And Jim
The Royle Family
Sesame Street
Simon And The Witch
Smith And Jones
The Smurfs
Sonic The Hedgehog
South Park
Spitting Image
The Spooks Of Bottle Bay
Still Game
The Sunday Show
Super Mario Brothers
The Sylvester And Tweety Mysteries
Tarrant On TV
Tell The Truth
That’s Life!
Thomas The Tank Engine
Toast Of London
Tots TV
The Trap Door
Treasure Hunt
Victor And Hugo
Wake Up In The Wild Room
What’s My Line?
Whoops Apocalypse
Whose Line Is It Anyway?
The World Of Lee Evans
The Worst Week Of My Life
Worzel Gummidge
Xena: Warrior Princess
You And Me
Zig And Zag’s Dirty Deeds

As well as this, there will also be more pieces about comics, computer games and pop music, so there is still lots to come. I plan to do at least ten blog pieces a month if I can, and I’m always on the lookout for more interesting things on YouTube that I could review too. Thanks for your continued interest, and if you like the look of what’s planned and think you know some other people who will, why not spread the word because it’d be great to have as many of you know all about my classic TV memories.