Sale Of The Century (ITV, 1971-1983)
Sale Of The Century isn’t a game show that I remember watching, mostly because the final series on ITV ended a few months after I was born, but I know that it is regarded as one of the most popular game shows of the 1970s, it often gained very high ratings, and it was successful enough to run for over a decade, so I decided to watch a few clips on YouTube to discover what the show was all about.
Sale Of The Century was based on an American format and produced by Anglia for ITV, one of the middle-sized regions, and this was one of their biggest successes that was shown on the network to the point that they referred to it proudly as “the quiz of the week”. The show was of course presented by Nicholas Parsons live from Norwich and the idea was that contestants could earn money to bag some bargains.
Three contestants took part and they all began with £15. They would be asked various general knowledge questions on the buzzer to win money, usually at the first stage of the game £3 was on offer. Then there is an “instant sale” where an item is announced as being on offer for a bargain price while an organ plays. If the contestant is tempted by this, they buzz in to buy it, and the money is deducted from their score, although this could harm their chances of making the final.
Then this round would be played again, but this time answers would be worth £5. There were a remarkable number of questions that needed to be asked on the show for contestants to have any chance of taking away the big prizes in the final, and some people have estimated that the show asked more questions in its half-hour slot than any other game show of that length in this country.
When the gong went the contestant with the highest score then goes into the final, where they can have a look at what’s on offer and decide what prize they want to take away, and the prizes for the time were very impressive, a little similar to the Showcase on The Price Is Right. In later series they could also gamble for the car if they had made enough money. There was also a celebrity special in 1981 where Nicholas was one of the contestants himself so Steve Jones deputised as host.
Sale Of The Century was popular enough to have a couple of revivals in later years. In the late-80s when Sky One launched the first revival was hosted by Peter Marshall who was also an announcer on Thames at the time, and a second revival in the mid-90s in the early days of Challenge was hosted by Keith Chegwin. I haven’t seen either of these versions though, although the ITV version was repeated on Challenge for a short while and it remains the best-known version.