The YouTube Files – Catchphrase USA.

Catchphrase (1985-1986)

Here’s a review of another game show was short-lived in America but became popular in the UK. Catchphrase began on American TV in 1985 and it was hosted by Art James. The basic idea of the show was the same, two contestants having to determine what the famous phrases are that are being animated on the screen to win prizes, although there were a few differences to the rules, as I discovered when I watched some editions on YouTube. vlcsnap-01153

The contestants had to solve the computer-generated puzzles, I don’t know whether any of these were recycled for the UK version but it could be possible. They had to wait for the bell and then buzz in (different buzzer noise!) to determine the phrase. There was one flaw in the rules though. When a contestant got a phrase right, they didn’t win any money, it went into the bonus bank, meaning that you only won the money by solving the bonus. This meant that a contestant could get eight out of nine phrases right and not win any money, thankfully this was changed for the UK version. vlcsnap-01154

There is no Ready Money Round as such, but the money on offer does increase for every round, and there was much more money on offer than the UK version. Another thing that is notable is the host who although he moved the show along well enough doesn’t say anything like “say what you see”, and the contestants seem to be much more excitable. vlcsnap-01158

One more thing that I noticed was that the famous Catchphrase mascot Mr Chips does appear, but in this version he is called Herbie, and hearing the host say “there’s Herbie” is a little odd too. When the main game is over, the contestant with the most money goes into the final. This is just about the same as the UK version, where contestants have to get five clues in a row right on a 5×5 grid in 60 seconds, but the US version had a reigning champion format, meaning that they could return the next day to play for even more money, and they could appear up to five times before having to retire, meaning they could win as much as $75,000 if they did well. vlcsnap-01152

Catchphrase had a very short run in the US, it was syndicated, shown five days a week, and ran for 65 editions, or the equivalent of 13 weeks, and apart from a failed attempt of a revival in 2006, it hasn’t been seen in that country again. About one week after the American version ended, Catchphrase came to the UK where it was much more successful, and indeed it’s still on ITV after over three decades. This was another game show variation that I enjoyed seeing, and I’ll be looking at another one soon.

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