Game Show Memories – Winning Lines.

Winning Lines (BBC1, 1999-2004)

When it was time for yet another game show tied-in with the National Lottery draw to launch on Saturday night BBC1, Celador seemingly stitched together two of their previous productions Everybody’s Equal and Talking Telephone Numbers (plus maybe a tiny bit of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire too) to create Winning Lines. It was originally hosted by Simon Mayo, better known for his radio work, but then Phillip Schofield took over which made the show resemble Talking Telephone Numbers even more. vlcsnap-00964

49 contestants, one for each ball that was used in the National Lottery draw, took part after qualifying to play by having matching numbers. A question with a numerical answer would be asked. If you think you know the answer then you enter it in, and if you are right in the quickest time you go through to the next round, but if you are wrong you are eliminated, although anyone else who answered correctly stays in, and this is done six times. vlcsnap-00968

In the second round, the six remaining contestants are asked questions where the answers are their assigned numbers. If they get it right they stay in the game, if they get the answer right that contained the number of an opponent they get knocked out. This continues until there is one contestant remaining who not only goes through to the final, but they also have the opportunity of pressing the button that starts the National Lottery draw. The runner-up also takes away a consolation prize of a holiday. vlcsnap-00965

The show didn’t really become known for these rounds though, the most memorable part which has been described by some critics at the time as one of the best endgames in a game show, was when the one remaining contestant had to face the Wonderwall. There are 49 answers on the screen and three minutes on the clock. A question is read out and the contestant has the give both the answer and its number after finding it on the wall. vlcsnap-00967

Contestants also had two pit stops where they could stop the clock and scan the wall for 15 seconds as a quick attempt to try and memorise some numbers and answers. Contestants would win a holiday, and with every answer they gave, the location became ever more distant, beginning at Spaghetti Junction for one correct answer, with anyone who got the maximum of 20 right answers in time winning a round-the-world trip. vlcsnap-00969

I do remember watching Winning Lines a little at the time and it is regarded by many people as the best of the National Lottery tie-ins, partly because of the well-designed final, and it could have easily run for more than five years. There was also an American version made, a couple of quiz books were published, and in more recent years repeats (with all the Lottery references snipped out) have been shown on Challenge.

One thought on “Game Show Memories – Winning Lines.

  1. Des Elmes says:

    Winning Lines was, in fact, only the third game show tied around the Lottery draws, after The National Lottery Big Ticket (which was a flop) and We’ve Got Your Number (which was better than Big Ticket but still only lasted one series).

    And for all its brilliance, the similarities with Celador’s previous shows certainly can’t be denied. The first round was definitely Everybody’s Equal-esque, while the influence of Talking Telephone Numbers was clear in the part of the set used for this round and in the way the contestants for each show were determined: the second digits of the six contestants who progressed to the second round were taken (23 = 3, 05 = 5, etc) and if these six digits matched the last six digits of your phone number in any order, you could phone a special number with the hope of making it on to the following week’s show. (And, yes, the show did indeed resemble TTN that bit more when Pip took over as host in 2001.)

    The Wonderwall had shades of Millionaire in that the more questions you answered correctly, the bigger your prize would be (although Simon’s catchphrase “The more you get right, the further your flight” was never going to be as memorable as any of Tarrant’s). And the music had a Millionaire feel to it, too – although that’s not surprising when one considers that both were composed by Keith Strachan.

    Could Winning Lines have easily run for more than five years? I asked this question over on Bother’s Bar (, and the general feeling was that it did indeed end too early – especially as the not-quite-as-good In It to Win It managed to last fourteen years, and WL’s immediate replacement was the rubbish Millionaire Manor (an Endemol production, despite its name).

    However, it can’t be denied that WL *was* a pretty expensive show to produce – and especially so for a non-commercial broadcaster like the BBC (a similar problem affected 1 vs 100 a few years later). Plus, Saturday nights in 2004 were *very* different to what they were in 1999 – then, Blind Date and Big Break were still plugging away; now, Simon Cowell and Ant & Dec had taken over ITV while Bruce Forsyth was back at the Beeb with a certain dancing show.

    WL also ended at a time when Lottery game shows were about to move away from containing things related to the draws in some way (with the exception of the aforementioned In It to Win It). And of course, the Wonderwall wasn’t going to remain exciting forever…

    Liked by 1 person

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