Fast Friends (BBC1, 1991)
Les Dawson had been a popular figure on TV as a comedian and presenter for many years, but by the end of the 80s his game shows Blankety Blank and Opportunity Knocks were coming to an end, so maybe it was time for a new show to bring his career into the 90s, and Fast Friends (which was based on a pilot of a 1984 American game show) was the result.
After a mildly embarrassing opening sequence that seemed better suited to Top Of The Pops (indeed it seems that the people who did the theme music also did the new theme for TOTP that was introduced in 1991), Les opened the show with some of his jokes, mostly about his poor old mother-in-law. The basic idea behind Fast Friends was that the teams who played would be formed on the show as part of the game.
There are two teams of 30 people that have a team captain. The captain comes on stage and is given 30 seconds on the clock. They are given four questions and must determine who on the team would get it right and how many of the seconds on offer it would take them. If they get it right in time they join the captain on stage. Get it wrong, and the captain has to quickly ask someone else on the team who might know.
Hopefully when both teams had their turn, the captain would be accompanied by four team members (or indeed “friends”) to help them play the second round of the game. This time they are asked multiple-choice questions. Get it right and they stay in the game. Get it wrong and they were banished by Les with much sadness to the Dump Dock, although the captain can rescue then if they get an extra question right.
This carries on until one captain loses all of their friends, but they all take away the consolation prize of a camera and a Fast Friends address book, which really is something. In the final round, the winning captain is joined by their friends. There are eight choices on the screen, the question is given (such as “which of these men have won an Oscar?”), seven choices are correct, one is incorrect.
The captain chooses a friend to give an answer, although they can overrule it. If it is right, they win some money. If they get all seven right, they also win the star prize of a holiday. Find the wrong answer though and it’s game over, although along with their address books the finalists take away the extra prize of a pocket TV along with whatever money they made.
Fast Friends was one of many new entertainment formats that flopped on BBC1 around this time (has a flashback to Caught In The Act), and it only ran for one series, although this may be partly because Les died not long after. However, he did well at making this mildly ridiculous show worth watching with his deadpan sense of humour and sending the whole thing up.