Fifteen-To-One (Channel 4, 1988-2003)
Here’s a review of one of my favourite game shows, of course this one is not that obscure so instead of explaining the rules I’ll write about why I enjoyed the show and what I think makes a good quiz contestant.
The show is essentially 15 people are asked general questions until they are knocked out and only one remains. The show was hosted by William G Stewart who had previously worked behind the scenes as a producer on various shows, but this was the first one that he presented. Looking back at his episodes now I am struck by his authoritativeness and professionalism, he was definitely a good choice to host the show.
The show itself was about as pure as quizzing can get – there are no specialist subjects or predetermined categories, the questions really could be about anything so not knowing what was coming next meant that the contestants had to have a wide range of knowledge to succeed.
However there are only so many things in the world and revising various lists for what gets asked time and time again on game shows comes in very useful. If you can remember all the names of things like presidents, monarchs, countries, chemical elements and prime ministers I feel you’re halfway there to being a success, and also having the ability to recall these facts within a few seconds when you are under the spotlight comes in very handy too.
Every daily winner had a chance to make the finals board, with the top 15 scorers coming back for the grand final. The top scorer and overall series winner both won a trophy, and it was always enjoyable to watch the tactical battle of the final. Remarkably, one grand final ended in a tie and as the show has no tie breaker rule two contestants won a trophy in that series.
There were many notable contestants on the show. One was the mighty Bill McKaig, the only person to score the maximum 433 in the entire run of the show, which I really do think is one of the all-time greatest game show achievements. There was also Nick Terry who won four series. The only disadvantage of these contestants appearing regularly was that when you saw them introduced you knew the other 14 that day stood little chance, but you couldn’t help but admire their superb performances as they won by such huge margins.
Fifteen-To-One eventually ran for just short of 16 years and it served Channel 4’s daytime schedule so well. However, in later years it was treated a little shoddily and it was moved from the timeslot 4:30 to 4pm, with the final series eventually being aired at 2:45. And also with the advent of game shows such as The Weakest Link that were beginning to grab the headlines the format began to look a little tired, but it really was one of the best examples of the game show genre in this country. It was also fascinating seeing the recent repeat run of the first series on Challenge.
I never thought that the show would be revived, but incredibly it was in 2013, I’ll review the new version of the show in a separate piece to determine how well it has evolved and fits within with a modern-day schedule.