Steal (ITV, 1990)
A short-lived game show hosted by Mark Walker, son of Catchphrase‘s Roy “it’s good but it’s not right” Walker. Steal was a game which was a test of memory to try to win money and prizes and two teams of two took part who curiously were sat on top on one another in a Blankety Blank style.
A 4×4 grid appeared on the screen with various things in every square such as money or prizes. All the spaces then went blank, and the contestants had to remember what was where to win what was on offer. But it was tougher than that. The board was then rotated 90 degrees so teams had to pick the correct squares in their new positions so as someone almost once said, “remember what you saw and where you saw it”.
Mark would then give the teams a square that they would have to find, so they would pick one and then stay “steal” to reveal what was behind it, winning it if they had found the correct square, but being penalised if they found the wrong one. There was even a chance to steal an opponent’s prize. The show also featured a cat character mascot called Jules who presumably they hoped would catch on in a Mr Chips-style but it wasn’t to be.
There was also a square where if you landed on it you could play a computer game featuring Jules which was either Buried Booty and Open And Shut Cases to win more money which were rather challenging. The second round was similar to the first only this time the squares were rotated 180 degrees and all the scores were doubled, with the highest scoring team going into the final.
In the final only one of the two team members would play. Again the squares would rotate and they would have 60 seconds to find where the five winning squares are on the 4×4 board, but they could only have eight turns, with a possible maximum £3,000 to be won as the star prize.
Steal was created by Ian Messiter (who was also behind the radio classic Just A Minute) alongside his grandson, and even though it there was only one series there are a few reasons why Steal stayed in my mind. Firstly, when Challenge began to repeat Bullseye a few years back, I remember seeing someone saying they remember watching the show first time round on Sundays at their relatives’ house who still only had a black-and-white TV, so when they saw the repeat run it was the first time that they had seen the show in colour.
And this is how I’m fairly sure I saw Steal. It was shown on Saturday afternoons when I was round my grandparents’ house who still had a black-and-white TV in 1990, so when an episode was uploaded to YouTube recently I’m fairly sure it was the first time that I had seen the show in colour almost 25 years on. Secondly, a while back I bought some old copies of TV Times online to bring back some memories of old TV, and one had a feature on Steal from the week it launched and it was good seeing the show have some publicity.
Finally, rather oddly when someone scored nothing on Steal, Mark always referred to it as “zilch” rather than “zero” which always struck me as odd. And of course, in this era of game shows it’s rather amusing seeing people as late as 1990 becoming overexcited by winning £95, and the tension of discovering what was behind the square predated Deal Or No Deal by 15 years. It seems that Steal hasn’t been completely forgotten though as recently there was a repeat run on local TV channel Big Centre TV.