Game Show Memories – Catchphrase.

Catchphrase (ITV, 1986-2002)

The game show where it was always advisable to “say what you see” because that was how you won. Catchphrase was based on an American format, but although it didn’t run for very long in that country it was certainly a much bigger success here. The original host was Roy Walker who was also appearing regularly on TV as a comedian at the time.

Every week two contestants took part and all they had to do was identify the everyday well-known phrases and sayings that were being portrayed on the screen. The show also had a popular mascot called Mr Chips (in the American version he was called Herbie) and he would often appear in the animations. vlcsnap-01063

In the first round the animation would appear and contestants would have to wait for the bell before they buzzed in. If they got it right they then had a chance to have a go at the bonus. They removed one of the nine squares and then had to have a guess. If they got it right they would win lots of money. In later series the money amount decreased with every square removed so it was worth guessing early. vlcsnap-01064

But later on in the show the bell was removed as it became fast and furious for the Ready Money Round. Contestants could now buzz in as many times as they liked to guess and there was a lot more money on offer, at which point Roy would say “keep pressing and keep guessing!”. Whoever had the highest score when time was up went on to play the Super Catchphrase. vlcsnap-01065

There was a 5×5 board and all the contestants had to do was solve five catchphrases correctly in 60 seconds to win the star prize which was usually a holiday. If they failed though they would win some consolation prizes for every clue that was solved correctly. vlcsnap-01066

When Roy Walker hosted Catchphrase it was popular with viewers including myself for many years, and pleasingly the show spawned a lot of now-famous catchphrases itself, such as Roy’s reassuring “it’s good but it’s not right” every time a contestant gave a wrong answer, however absurd it was, and rather unnervingly shouting “right!” every time someone solved the bonus. Roy was a great host, apart from that time when he forgot what was doing and insisted that every catchphrase was “Columbo”. There were also some impressive computer graphics for the time and these improved on the show as the years advanced. It mustn’t be forgotten just how good the music and sound effects were too. vlcsnap-01068

As well as all this, there were a couple of celebrity specials and a family special too which gained a spin-off which was hosted by Andrew O’Connor. There was also some merchandise released including a board game that I used to have and an interactive DVD. However, by the end of Roy’s run in 1999 the show was started to look a little old fashioned as it was still using its none-more-80s pink and blue neon lights set and ratings were beginning to fall, so like with a lot of things in that year someone took the decision to relaunch the show to bring it into the new millennium.

This meant the show was given a complete overhaul, right down to Roy being pensioned off and a young newcomer host taking over who was Nick Weir, but he wasn’t a huge success with viewers, and he was replaced by Mark Curry, by which point the show just like those other ITV long-runners Wheel Of Fortune and Family Fortunes had been relegated to daytime as it was no longer the talk of viewers in the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire era, and there were much smaller cash prizes on offer, and the show was no longer made in front of a studio audience. However, the Walker era of the show remains the most repeated on Challenge, although they now only repeat the later episodes due to the TVS paperwork nightmare situation.

The show finally ended in 2002, but was revived in 2013 with Stephen Mulhern as host. Again, the rules were changed around with three contestants now taking part. Although there are a few good things about this version such as up-to-date graphics, big cash prizes and Stephen trying to create his own catchphrase by constantly saying “it’s on the screen, but what does it mean?”, the Walker era is still the most fondly thought of.


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