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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.