Spellbound (Sky One, 1994-1996)
A game show hosted by Paul Coia which featured three contestants trying to make words? No, it wasn’t Catchword which was nearing the end of its run on BBC2 when this show launched, it was Spellbound, it was shown live on Sky One, and it was just about that channel’s first attempt at an original game show following on from making revivals of The Price Is Right, Sale Of The Century and Blockbusters. This isn’t really a show that I remember watching much at the time but after finding a couple of editions on YouTube I thought that it was interesting enough to be reviewed.
Spellbound was another Action Time production, a company that made a lot of 90s game shows, and it was a combination of bingo and words. There was a board with 15 randomly-generated numbers on it, and behind each number was a letter. There was a category given and the board contained two hidden words. If contestants picked a number that contained one of the letters in a word they score its value. This means that they could be tempted to pick the higher-value numbers, but if they uncover a letter that isn’t in one of the two words, it’s a “lousy letter” and they score nothing and lose their turn.
There were also bonus points on offer if contestants found a starter letter, and if they managed to complete the one of the words by finding all of its letters. Questions would also be asked on the buzzer to gain control of the board (I couldn’t help but notice that the buzzer noise is the same as on Timekeepers, another 90s Action Time production). This would be done three times, and the highest-scoring contestant would then go through to the final to play for the star prize.
In the final, the contestant had to find six vowels that would fit into three words. These were hidden by 15 various playing card symbols. I’ve not seen it myself but apparently at the end of the first series instead of using the usual joker symbol, a picture of Paul making a silly face appeared and it seemed that he was very embarrassed. The contestant could make up to eight guesses and if they completed all the words they would win a holiday or a cash prize, usually around £1,000.
Viewers watching at home should have been paying close attention to what was happening too, because game cards were given out, and if anyone managed to cross off all of their letters then Paul would phone them at the end of the show, and if they got a simple question right they would win a cash prize too. Paul would also be occasionally assisted by his wife and fellow TV presenter Debbie Greenwood (no relation) for this part. Although I’ve only seen a couple of editions it seems that Spellbound was one of the better attempts at an original interactive game show from the early days of satellite TV.