XYZ (BBC1, 1993-1994)
This is a short-lived daytime game show that was usually in the post-Neighbours slot where around this time you would be more likely to see Going For Gold or Turnabout. XYZ was hosted by George Marshall, who had previously been among the cast of comedy sketch show You Gotta Be Jokin’ alongside Shane Richie (that I reviewed recently), but I can’t remember seeing him on TV again after this.
At first the idea might seem to be a little similar to Blockbusters, as it centres around various letters of the alphabet, but there are some differences. Three contestants took part. George would begin the game by saying “letters play” (catchphrase alert!). In round one they picked a letter in turn from the Alphabank (not a word), and then they would be asked a general knowledge question where the answer began with that letter (and this must be one of the earliest shows where the questions were read off a computer screen). Every letter is only in play once.
If they got it right, they could take a perspex strip with that letter on it and slot it into place. It was at this point that someone seemingly noticed that not many words begin with the final three letters of the alphabet, so here’s the twist. They could ask for an “XYZ” question, which would be accompanied by an audio or visual clue from the archive (and often be multiple-choice too) which could begin with any letter.
If they get it right, they can add it to their string anywhere as a sort of “wild” letter, although they could have no more than three “XYZ” strips at any time. The idea was to create the longest string of consecutive letters, because “it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t in a string”. So for example, A-B-C-D-E would beat N-O-P-R-S-T. Then this round is played again, but now on the buzzer, and contestants can nominate a letter from the Alphabank to bring more into the game, or an opponent’s to try and steal it, and break up their string. If they get it wrong, an “XYZ” question is asked.
And the end of the round, the contestant with the shortest string (not the fewest letters) is eliminated, their letters go back in the Alphabank, and they take away the consolation prize of a mug tree (yes, really), it really was something to treasure. After the viewers’ phone-in competition to win a TV, the two remaining contestants again tried to keep and steal the letters. The contestant with the longest string at this point makes the final.
In this, the finalist had to answer a question beginning with every letter against the clock. But to make this easier, any letters they had at the end of the previous round are removed. Get it wrong and they are asked another question beginning with the same letter, and however many “XYZ” strips they had can also be used as wildcards to skip a letter and save time. If they win, they get a fancy prize.
George would then end the show by saying “ABC-ing you!”. There was only one series of XYZ, but it didn’t really catch on with viewers, maybe if it had returned, it could’ve built up a decent following as it wasn’t that bad an idea. Maybe it was no Blockbusters, but it used the idea better than the later Alphabetical. Oh, and I’m fairly sure that this is my 1,000th blog piece. Thanks for your interest and support over the past five years, that’s the reason why I have got so far. I hope you’ve enjoyed my nostalgic memories.