Happy Families (BBC1, 1993)
This isn’t a review of the mid-80s BBC1 comedy series, nor is it a review of the late-80s CBBC series either, Happy Families was a short-lived 45-minute long game show that was shown on Saturday nights on BBC1 in 1993 which was hosted by Andrew O’Connor and Sarah Greene. This review is a little different as I have no memory of watching this show at the time (I don’t know where I was in 1993), so why am I reviewing it?
The reason is because if you are a regular you will know that I have enjoyed a lot of shows hosted by Andrew O’Connor over the years, such as the children’s shows and game shows that he hosted throughout the 80s and 90s before he went on to have further success behind the scenes as a producer and director, and I’ve no idea why I would have never watched this at the time, so now I have finally seen an edition on YouTube here’s what Happy Families was all about.
Happy Families featured two family teams of 11 taking part in various games in a big arena, Andrew and Sarah would also commentate on these games. One odd element to the show was that the granny from the family would sit in a cage on a crane, and every point scored by winning a game would crank the granny up one notch (leading to the show’s remembered by nobody catchphrase “crank up your granny!”). Every week a different celebrity (such as Keith Chegwin) would keep the score and also be the granny cranker (is that a word? I think so).
Rounds included The Podmobile, where one team member was in a pod, and then had to move along to hook the next pod on and then go back, until ten pods had hooked on to one another and then they all had to race to the finish line. There was also Remote Control, where someone was in a car and gave instructions for another team member to drive it, and the team that hit the most bollards against the clock won.
There was also Sticky Mountain, where team members wearing Velcro had to climb a wall, and the first one to plant their flag at the top won, which started giving me flashbacks to the 1995 series of The Krypton Factor somewhat. A game played more than once was Terrorball, where a team member was strapped in a rotating ball and then had to answer Mr & Mrs-style questions about the rest of their family.
After a few more games, then came the final challenge. Teams had to get some gunge and fire it out of a cannon. For every opposing team’s target they hit, the granny went up another notch, so winning a lot of the earlier games would come in useful as it would mean they’d need to hit fewer targets to win. The first team to 15 notches released their granny and won the game (did the losing team’s granny have to stay in the air?). An added incentive was that the teams who reached their target in the quickest time went through to the next round, with the overall series winning family receiving a big trophy.
Gladiators was a show that was very popular on ITV at the time, and it seems that this is the closest that the BBC ever got to having their own version, with Happy Families coming across as sort-of like Gladiators with teams, or a prime-time version of Run The Risk. However, the show was something of a failure and seems to be completely forgotten now, it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry, but it was definitely an ambitious and somewhat unusual show, a curious one-series wonder if ever there was one. Oh well, at least because it never came back grannies across the country were well relived.