Bob Monkhouse On Game Shows (Channel 4, 1998)
Following on from my review of Peter Kay’s Let’s Get Quizzical, here’s a look at the other documentary that formed part of a special night dedicated to game shows on Channel 4 in May 1998 which has turned up on YouTube. This one was hosted by Bob Monkhouse who was definitely someone who knew what it takes to put a good game show together, as well as being a big fan of them, he hosted lots throughout his long career including Celebrity Squares, The $64,000 Question, and Bob’s Full House which is one of my all-time favourites.
This hour-long documentary took a look back at six decades of game shows on TV. Although game shows have been on British television since the 1930s, it wasn’t until the launch of ITV in 1955 that cash prizes were given away, so when Double Your Money and Take Your Pick came to the screen they caused a sensation with viewers who could watch ordinary people finally be rewarded with money for their knowledge. Not a huge amount compared to what’s on offer today though of course.
There were also a lot of contributors to the documentary including William G Stewart, who had worked behind the scenes on various successful game shows including Family Fortunes and The Price Is Right before becoming the host of Channel 4’s Fifteen-To-One, and he spoke about how hard it can be to get a format just right, but once you get all the correct elements up and running, it can run for practically years unchanged and still remain popular with viewers. Another thing touched on was how to write questions that are challenging enough to thoroughly test a contestant.
Also contributing were various contestants who have been very successful on game shows over the years including Kevin Ashman (who once scored a remarkable 41 points on Mastermind), Daphne Fowler (who won the first series of Going For Gold) and Trevor Montague who spoke about their experiences of how it felt to become a winner. One thing that those three all have in common is that they have all been series champions of Fifteen-To-One, although Montague was famously later stripped of his trophy.
Bob also took a look at some of the scandals that have happened in game shows, mostly concentrating on the famous one on American TV in the 1950s (indeed, another part of this game show night on Channel 4 was the premiere of the film Quiz Show that was based on the scandal), and how viewers had felt betrayed that a seemingly knowledgeable contestant who caused great excitement on his way to a huge cash prize had been given the questions in advance.
One thing that is interesting looking back at this documentary is that it was shown a short time before Who Wants To Be A Millionaire launched on ITV which really did bring game shows into a new era. 1998 was just about still a time on British TV when if you took part in a show and went home with a four-figure sum you would be fairly happy, restrictions on cash prizes that could be given away had been recently removed, and being able to become a millionaire just by giving a few correct answers was about to become a reality. There is no question that the game show is a genre that is still thriving.