Game Show Memories – Families At War.

Families At War (BBC1, 1998-1999)

Over the years, Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer have been a rather successful comedy double-act. Their sketch show on Channel 4 did well, to the point that Vic had a chart-topping single. They then went over to the BBC and made some more shows, including the comedy panel game Shooting Stars. Their rather surreal style is probably the ultimate example in “you either like it or you don’t”, and they baffled as many people as they entertained.

But after a while, it was clear that they wanted to try something a little different, but still featuring plenty of bizarre twists. After a pilot, their new game show Families At War was given a series in a Saturday Night slot. To promote this, they appeared on the cover of TV Times, which wondered if BBC1 viewers were ready to enter their rather weird world.

Noel’s House Party had ended for good a few weeks earlier, could this be the show to replace that one as a greatly admired success? To make sure that their antics didn’t get completely out of hand, helping Vic and Bob along was the more conventional host Alice Beer, who was on a lot of other TV shows around this time (presumably Carol Smillie was too busy).

Two teams of three took part. It was clear from the start that this was going to be something different when they all introduced themselves with a song. All of them had a talent, such as singing or dancing, and they had to show this off in a rather unusual way. To determine who did best, a panel of 12 voted for their favourite. They changed every week, and on one occasion were 12 jockeys from Gillingham.

Whoever got the most votes won the round. There were also a few bonuses on offer if they played their challenge hats. The family that won the most rounds went into the final. In this, Vic was dressed as a spider and placed among some prizes. They then had to wheel him in various directions against the clock to hope that he could grab the ones that they wanted.

All of this added up to some very bizarre moments, almost like a warped version of The Generation Game. But Families At War maybe not too surprisingly did very badly in the ratings, and there was only one series. But the ones who did watch are unlikely to forget what they saw. Vic and Bob did a little better in their next attempt to appeal to a more mainstream audience when they starred in a revival of drama series Randall And Hopkirk (Deceased).


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