Play Your Cards Right (ITV, 1980-1987, 1994-1999, 2002-2003)
Here’s a look at one of the great game shows hosted by Bruce Forsyth in his long career which always dealt a winning hand. Play Your Cards Right was a long-running show based on an American format called Card Sharks which was produced by LWT and usually shown on Friday evenings to start off the weekend in great style.
Bruce would come on stage a big round of applause which he always welcomed, telling the studio audience “you’re so much better than last week” and then having a stilted exchange with his co-hosts who dealt the cards. Every week two teams of two took part who were usually newlywed couples (although it was two teams of one in the first series) and they had to guess whether the value of the comedy oversized playing cards would be higher or lower than the previous one to win prizes.
First of all they would be asked a question that 100 people were surveyed on and they had to guess how many people would agree with the statement. Whoever was closest to the correct number would then play the main game, with a bonus on offer for any team who got the exact number. When the first card was revealed they had a chance to change it. After that they then guessed if the next card was higher or lower and if they got to the end they would win a “Brucie bonus” as they were called.
If they got it wrong though they would lose control of the game and their opponents would then have a go. If they missed out as well more questions would be asked until a team did succeed. The first team to win two games would then go through to the final to play for the big prizes and money, although the losers did get some nice consolation prizes. Wow!
In the final the remaining couple had the chance to become very rich people indeed. They would be given £200 to start off and if they got a question right they would win some more. The first card would then be revealed and they would bet some of their money on if they thought the next card was higher or lower. If they got it right, they won more money, but if they were wrong they lost it.
If they had managed to reach £4,000 by the time they got to the top row they could answer another question and then gamble. If they guess the final card correctly they win the money that they had amassed and the star prize of a car too which would be very exciting. “Didn’t they do well!”. In one amusing outtake however Bruce couldn’t open the car door for the winning couple which was rather awkward.
Play Your Cards Right was a very enjoyable show that was always made exciting by Bruce’s presenting style. Although I don’t remember the first era of the show in the 80s I have enjoyed watching some old episodes on YouTube, and I do remember the second era which began on ITV in 1994, some episodes from this era still turn up on Challenge occasionally and are fun to watch. The third era was rather different though.
After Bruce complained that ITV weren’t giving him enough work, the decision was made to revive the show again in 2002, with the promise of even more money on offer for contestants. However, they also introduced a qualifying round, with four teams picking a card at random, with the two teams picking the highest value cards going through to play the main game.
This meant that two teams who turned up didn’t take part, which meant that the show had added an unnecessarily cruel rule, a sort-of cross between voting people off The Weakest Link and Fluke‘s A Bit Of A Wasted Journey Pointer. Bruce did try and put a brave face on it by being kind to the contestants who were knocked out by saying things like “how unlucky, the cards were against you there”, but the show would’ve been better off without this, and unfortunately the show ended with something of a whimper after over 20 years, but at its best it was great entertainment for everybody.