Game Show Memories – Game Show Stars Part 7.

This is someone who had an unusual double career in TV, and he went on to succeed in two rather different genres. Paul Daniels originally found fame as a magician, performing various tricks, and always encouraging audience participation. By the late-70s he had his own magic show on TV, were he performed, along with showcasing many other talents from around the world (I might do a piece about that show soon too).

It’s no wonder people were soon calling him “the man who excels”. It was in the early-80s when he started to host game shows. One of the earliest was BBC Radio 2’s Dealing With Daniels, which featured a playing card-scoring system, and celebrities as the panellists. Around the same time he launched his trilogy of TV game shows.

The first of these was Odd One Out, which had a fairly straightforward idea, but was much enhanced by his handling of the show (there was a marvellous opening sequence too). He then moved on to Every Second Counts, and he caused something of a stir, as it was around this time that he ditched his syrup. He seemed to like to get a little more out of contestants than most hosts, so for example he’d make them use props to answer, or say something different to the usual “yes” or “no”.

There were also some fancy prizes on offer, well they were rather fancy for the time at least, but who could turn down the offer of a new dishwasher back then? Also around this time, his magic show continued with some increasingly spectacular stunts, and he also contributed to the rather bizarre CBBC show Wizbit. His son Martin proved that wanting to be on TV ran in the family when he hosted a game show in the late-80s too.

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By the time that Every Second Counts ended In the mid-90s though, his magic show was also coming to an end, although it had ran for about 15 years with several variations on the idea, so maybe it was time to try something new. His third and final TV game show was Wipeout, which again had some quirky questions. And you’d win a paperweight just for turning up. However, the final editions weren’t shown in a primetime slot, and he had no other shows on the go at this point, so by the late-90s, he had practically left the screen.

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He did continue to tour his magic show across the country with his family also taking part, but most of his TV appearances after this were mildly embarrassing himself and being booted off first on The X Factor and the like, and being a figure “people love to hate”, although he also took part in an interesting documentary where he tried to find fame with his act in America. But he does deserve credit for his pioneering TV work.

More TV Memories – Ten Sharp.

Ten Sharp (ITV, 1991-1992)

Pat Sharp first became well-known when he joined BBC Radio 1 in the early-80s, and he also hosted a small number of editions of Top Of The Pops. He then went on to shows on various satellite channels including Sky Trax where he hosted endless hours of music videos, and he also interviewed a lot of the pop stars of the time, isn’t he lucky. He then hosted ITV’s music show The Roxy.

By the late-80s he had moved to Capital, where apparently he played all the hits, although how he’d ever fit every hit single there’s ever been into a three-hour show is unclear. He teamed up with his Capital colleague Mick Brown for a few singles for charity, and one of these managed to make the Top Ten. This meant that he was arguably more famous when he was on a London-only radio station then when he was a national one. And then he hosted the popular CITV show Fun House.

In the early-90s he hosted a couple of TV shows that I’m fairly sure were only shown in the LWT region. Ten Sharp (not to be confused with Ten Sharp, a Dutch group who had a Top Ten hit single in 1992) was a ten minute-long show on Saturday afternoons (in Nicam digital stereo) where he floated along in a spaceship thing in a computer-generated world called The Tunnel Of Ten and he would recommend to viewers ten things to do over the weekend. Full speed ahead!

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This included things like films to go and see at the cinema, the latest hit singles to buy, events taking place around the region, and so on. This was all accompanied by some rather funky background music (I can’t remember if this was a hit single or made for the show though). There were also some great competitions with big prizes, don’t forget that details are on Oracle page 244.

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But another reason that I remember Ten Sharp is because I’m fairly sure that a boy who was in my class at school appeared in a feature alongside a WCW wrestler (not to be confused with the WWF as it was still called at the time). How fabulous. There were also some amusing end credits, such as people being described as “Sharp Shooters” and “At The Sharp End”.

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After Ten Sharp ended, Pat went on to host Sharp’s Funday (which I have already reviewed), shown on LWT on Sunday afternoons, and featuring old episodes of Batman and WCW, along with competitions. And then Pat hosted many other TV and radio shows, including CITV’s Saturday Morning funfest What’s Up Doc. And I did this piece with referencing his hairstyle once. Oh no!

Game Show Memories – Game Show Stars Part 6.

This is someone who is definitely a game show star to me, and his career spanned five decades. South African-born Bob Holness started his career in radio. He hosted his first TV game show in the UK as long ago as the early-60s, which definitely raised his profile. He then went on to host on BBC Radio 1 (he is in the famous photo of all the launch presenters which also includes Terry Wogan, Kenny Everett, and John Peel).

He also hosted shows on BBC Radio 2 and LBC. By the early-80s, he wasn’t the only one of his family to be in showbusiness, as two of his daughters launched pop music careers, and they both had a hit single in 1982. And then, of course, he went on to become the host of Blockbusters. This was originally planned to feature adult contestants, but then this was changed to teenagers, which turned out to be a wise move.

Now I have already gone on and on in other pieces about why this is one of my all-time favourite game shows, and Bob’s authoritative style is one of the reasons. After coming to an end after about a decade on ITV, Blockbusters was given a reprise and picked up by Sky One. Harold The Hedgehog was reported to be very pleased. He also appeared as a contestant on special editions of a few game shows including Bullseye and Catchphrase.

The next move for his career in the mid-90s was as the host of ITV’s Raise The Roof. This was an interesting show for many reasons, firstly because it gave Bob a game show to host in primetime, along with a little help from his friend ERIC. But the most notable thing is that the star prize was a house worth a six-figure sum, the biggest prize given away on a UK game show up to this point.

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There was a rather drawn-out process to determine who would play for this prize (with eliminated contestants memorably receiving “Bob’s Bungalow”, a house-shaped teapot that most certainly was not worth six figures). This was an attempt to bring the game show into a new era, but there was only one series, and it wouldn’t be until when Who Wants To Be A Millionaire came along a few years later that big money game shows really took off.

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Bob then went on to host a revival of BBC1’s Call My Bluff in a daytime slot for about five years, which was rather enjoyable too. By the early-2000s, he had just about retired from TV, although he did lend his voice to the DVD interactive game version of Blockbusters. When Bob died about a decade ago, many praised his hosting abilities.

Game Show Memories – Game Show Stars Part 5.

Here’s someone who is fondly remembered for hosting one game show, although he did do much more TV work beyond this. Richard Whiteley started his career in the 60s working in news, for ITN, and then in the Yorkshire region. He was already a familiar figure to viewers for hosting Calendar, when in the early-80s when was chosen to host the British version of a game show that had already been running for a long time in France.

Calendar Countdown ran for only one series, but when Channel 4 felt that they needed something for their afternoon slot, Countdown was chosen, and this was the show that they launched with, a fairly low-key choice it seemed. But very few could’ve predicted just how long-running and successful this show would become. If you were in the Yorkshire region, you could now get a double dose of Whiteley!

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His style was rather stilted at first, but he soon relaxed, becoming known as much for his terrible wordplay as for his encouraging of the contestants. By the early-90s, Carol Vorderman had gone from being the mathematician in every other edition to being the main co-host, Richard and Carol soon formed a popular double-act, and about a decade on Countdown was continuing to do well.

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Viewers decided that they wanted more, so in the mid-90s, Countdown was on Channel 4 all year round, by which point he had left Calendar. In the late-90s he achieved an ambition when he had his own chat show on BBC1 called Richard Whiteley Unbriefed, because he didn’t research the guests in advance, not because he interviewed them not wearing any trousers! Or maybe he did.

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The guests would simply come on stage as a surprise, and he would have to ask questions off the top of his head based on what he knew about them, which sometimes wasn’t too much. This was a fun idea that should’ve got a full series. By the early-2000s he had long settled into the Countdown role, and he also appeared on several other shows as a panellist where he showed off his knowledge and didn’t seem to mind sending himself up.

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The many faces of Richard Whiteley from a 2000 edition of Countdown

Countdown was then extended to 45 minutes, although by this point, even though he knew when to be silly and when to be serious, Richard and Carol’s endless laughing and joking seemed to be overshadowing the game. He also hosted That’s Your Lot, shown only in the Yorkshire region, where it seems he would cheerily think nothing of banging himself in an awkward place.

Despite all of this, there was much shock at his unexpected departure in 2005. By this point he had hosted almost 4,000 editions of Countdown, with his final one being shown posthumously. People of all ages from across the UK sent their condolences. I try not to get too worked up by celebrity deaths, but this one moved me more than most, I’m not sure why, you just thought that he would always be there really.

Game Show Memories – Game Show Stars Part 4.

Shane Richie is someone who first appeared on TV in the late-80s, doing his comedy thing on various shows including 3-2-1 and The Saturday Roadshow, at which point he had a rather alarming mullet hairstyle. The first time I really came across him though was in the early-90s when he was among the cast of You Gotta Be Jokin’, part of the last gasp of old-school variety shows on Saturday Night BBC1.

I did find him rather amusing on this, and I have followed his career ever since. He then got into TV hosting, including plenty of game shows. This began with Caught In The Act, which did do well in the ratings, but it was considered to be such a blatant You’ve Been Framed! clone, that it was felt that this wasn’t the kind of thing that BBC1 shouldn’t be doing, and there was only one series.

This was then followed by CBBC’s Run The Risk, which was essentially Double Dare: The Sequel, where he asked the questions and baffled people with his rather bizarre jokes, but he didn’t get involved in the games, leaving that to the award-winning Peter Simon, who continued to constantly fall into the gunge, and it was still very amusing.

He then went over to ITV for a while in the mid-90s, including replacing Danny Baker as the host of Win, Lose Or Draw (curiously he also replaced Danny in those Daz adverts around the same time). He also hosted Lucky Numbers, another variation on the bingo format used in Bob’s Full House, which was one of the first wave of British game shows to offer a five-figure sum as the star prize.

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He then went on to Saturday Night show The Shane Richie Experience, where along with the games he liked to sing rather too often (a hasty restructuring of the format to Love Me Do didn’t exactly give things a boost though). By this point however, his fame was beginning to wane a little, and by the late-90s he had started to fall out of favour.

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In the early-2000s, he decided to take a chance on joining EastEnders, cast as the cheeky barrowboy Alfie. This gave his career a much-needed boost, and he won viewers over with his character. This led to a second wave of hosting game shows on BBC1, including Reflex (considered by many to be an inferior knock-off of ITV’s The Cube), Decimate, and Win Your Wish List. It’s always great to see him on TV.

More TV Memories – Watson And Oliver.

Watson And Oliver (BBC2, 2012-2013)

As I am always on the lookout for new comedy shows, so I thought that I would give this one a try. This was a comedy sketch show that featured a female double-act, who I must admit I didn’t know much about at the time, but Lorna Watson and Ingrid Oliver (presumably no relation to J Edward) had already worked together for several years, including performing on stage together, and appearing in various comedy shows, when seemingly someone thought that they were worthy of a show of their own.

In the publicity before the launch of the first series, rather predictably there was some debate wondering if they were going to be “the new French and Saunders”. I felt this was rather frustrating for two reasons, firstly because it’s a rather lazy comparison to make, and secondly because it stops them from having a chance to develop their own style.

Watson And Oliver was a show where the sketches featured a small amount of recurring characters and there wasn’t an overreliance on catchphrases, but there were a few parodies of various things, such as TV shows, and there were also a few additional cast members to help them out, along with some guest appearances, adding to the general air of silliness. They were also among the writers.

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To give an example, one sketch that I particularly remember was when they played two women who worked in an office, but their fingernails were too long for them to be able to do anything properly. Looking back now, I noticed that one of them had bright yellow nails, just like that strange singer woman from 1986… no, I mustn’t start going on about her again…

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The response to the first series from critics was not that much of a surprise really, with some saying that although they clearly had some comedy talent, the quality of some of the sketches wasn’t that great really. Also, Watson And Oliver was first shown at 10pm, but then repeated not long after in an earlier timeslot, making it seem like BBC2 weren’t really sure of what type of audience they wanted to aim this at. The ratings dropped off too.

Despite all of this, there was a second and final series, which did feature more of the same. I don’t really recall seeing them on TV much after this though, and I don’t think that there ever was a DVD release, maybe they weren’t going to be the next big thing then. As far as female comedy talent goes, although they might remain behind French and Saunders, I would put them ahead of Catherine Tate, whose show contained some of the most irritating comedy characters that I have ever seen.

Game Show Memories – Game Show Stars Part 3.

This is someone whose long TV hosting career has included plenty of game shows. Phillip Schofield began his TV hosting career in the early-80s in New Zealand, but he came back to England just in time to get the job as the host of CBBC’s newly-launched Broom Cupboard, when they were at the point of considering various cast members of Grange Hill as hosts.

After a couple of years, he went on to host various other CBBC shows, including Going Live! and The Movie Game. By the time he left in the early-90s, he had proven himself to be an adept host of live TV, managing to deal with anything that came his way. He then made an attempt to break into primetime TV shows aimed at older viewers, and he succeeded where others didn’t.

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He then joined ITV, where he has hosted several shows, most of the early ones weren’t too memorable really, including Schofield’s TV Gold (looking back at very old clips, and interviewing a few people in them, which was almost a continuation of the similar TV’s Greatest Hits that he hosted on BBC1), and Schofield’s Quest, where he tried to help people track down various things.

As for game shows, in the mid-90s he hosted Talking Telephone Numbers (originally alongside Emma Forbes, who he worked with on Going Live!), and this was one of the first British game shows where the star prize was a five-figure sum, not that many people gambled for it. And there was also Tenball, which was a fast-paced variation on snooker, but as this wasn’t shown at all in some ITV regions, and the final was shown on LWT at 5:30, this actually wasn’t going to be the future at all.

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He did briefly return to the BBC to host more game shows, including Winning Lines (a format that he was comfortable with as this was almost identical to Talking Telephone Numbers), and Test The Nation, another live show where he always cheerily moved things along, and proved that he could even tolerate working alongside Anne Robinson.

In more recent years, his ITV game show work has included Five Gold Rings (and doing adverts flogging gin on the sly), but the most popular show must be The Cube, where if people can complete the challenges, they can win really big money, and many feel that this one has succeeded as there is lots of genuine tension. Let’s hope that he will be on TV for years to come yet.

Game Show Memories – Game Show Stars Part 2.

This is someone who although he didn’t host a lot of game shows, he definitely became a well-known figure in that area. William G Stewart (the “G” stands for Gladstone) had a career in TV that lasted for over 40 years. He started out working behind the scenes of various shows, and he went on to be the producer and director of some 60s and 70s sitcoms, arguably the most famous of these was Bless This House (he also contributed to some documentaries on what it was like to work with Sid James).

By the early-80s he went on to work in game shows, including Family Fortunes and The Price Is Right, where he made sure that even if people hadn’t been invited to “come on down”, they still all had a good time. By the late-80s, his production company were commissioned to produce Channel 4’s new daytime game show Fifteen-To-One. Not being sure who should be the host, he decided to go in front of the camera himself.

Fifteen-To-One was of course the game show where contestants were challenged to show off their general knowledge, and were eliminated until one remained. He was also on the team of writers, usually contributing questions on the subjects of history and politics. As the years progressed, the show began to develop its style, and became known for doing things such as giving away antiques as the prizes. By the early-90s, the show was popular enough for there to be a celebrity edition.

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He then went on to host Famous People, Famous Places… on ITV (and this was later repeated on Channel 4), but this lasted for only two weeks, and is mostly forgotten now. Fifteen-To-One had now settled into being an daytime game show that was as popular as the long-running Countdown, and he also hosted a special edition when Richard Whiteley and Carol Vorderman were the contestants.

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Going into the 2000s, Fifteen-To-One was at the point where a group of contestants regularly made the grand final with rather high scores, and some felt that there were now too many “proper” quizzers taking part. When the show did finally come to an end after 16 years, there had been over 2,000 editions, and by this point he was regarded as one of the best hosts around, always making sure that people maintained a good standard.

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There was only ever one scandal that put the show’s reputation at risk, when a series champion was stripped of his trophy for bending the eligibility rules. After this, Stewart just about retired from TV, although he did also contribute to Celebrity Mastermind and The People’s Quiz (but he was turned down by Strictly Come Dancing). Although he probably didn’t expect it to happen when he started out, he became a much respected person in game show circles.

Game Show Memories – Game Show Stars Part 1.

As I have now reviewed just about all of the game shows that I have wanted to, I thought that I would take a look at the careers of some of my favourite game show hosts too. Qualification is to have hosted at least a couple of shows that I have liked, and I’m not sure how many will feature in this series yet, maybe a dozen or so. Let’s begin with one of the big ones.

Bob Monkhouse had one of the longest careers in British TV. As long ago as the 50s he appeared in comedy shows and films (he was in the first Carry On), and he hosted various game shows that don’t seem to have been that great from what I’ve read. By the 70s, Bob was on ITV and hosting The Golden Shot and Celebrity Squares (or “Bob’s Big Box Game” as he preferred to call it).

Into the 80s, Bob hosted ITV’s Family Fortunes, and some could argue that he was at his smarmiest, but he definitely knew how to run a show by this point. After the setback of his unexpected departure, he moved to the BBC, and this turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as this brought us some of his best work, including his comedy chat show which featured a lot of talent, and Bob’s Full House.

Now this is one of my favourite game shows of any era. The music, the set design, the game… Bob made it look easy, and was hugely entertaining whilst doing so. He also went on to host a revival of Opportunity Knocks which was fun too. By the early-90s, Bob went over to ITV again, to host The $64,000 Question, the big money game that couldn’t give away big money, and Bob’s Your Uncle, a rather silly game for newlyweds.

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By the time that the final series of The $64,000 Question went out on Sunday afternoons, Bob did seem bogged down. HIs next series was a revival of Celebrity Squares. It was said that he didn’t know much about the celebrities taking part, when you would’ve thought that as someone who had such a keen interest in comedy (and tried to record every comedy show on TV) he would’ve chosen them himself to help nurture new talent.

But then his career received a big boost after his An Audience With… reminded people of his skills as a comedian. And along with a much-acclaimed autobiography, and some more great comedy shows, Bob was suddenly back on top. He finished off by hosting the daytime version of Wipeout, which ran for hundreds of editions. And it was by this point that to some extent he finally felt he had been accepted as the grand veteran of both game shows and TV comedy.

By the time that Bob went in 2003, he was praised for his abilities as a game show host, and as a comedian who had a remarkable recall for witty jokes and a marvellous mirth-maker, he remains much-missed. Bob had always intended to be in showbusiness for the long haul and be the one that endured with viewers. He wanted to be as famous at 75 as he was at 25, and I definitely think that he achieved that.

Radio Memories – The Boosh.

The Boosh (BBC London Live, 2001)

Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt are a comedy double-act who have done some rather unusual things both together and individually since the mid-90s. I had barely heard of them before the first series of The Mighty Boosh launched in 2004, but I did really enjoy this, and I had never really seen anything else like it on TV before, so I was pleased to discover that they had also done a radio series.

This was before the TV version, and once again, this is a series that has gone on to be repeated several times on BBC7 and BBC Radio 4 Extra. The Boosh (seemingly they had not become “Mighty” by this point) brought us the rather bizarre adventures of various creative characters, which was all mixed in with music and just plain weird moments, as they continued to establish their really rather surreal style.

The idea was rather similar to the first TV series, as Vince and Howard struggled to work in a zoo that didn’t seem to have too many animals, not that the particularly liked them anyway. Indeed most of the episodes were reworked for the first series of the TV version, and their attempts to bring some of these ideas to life and match the imagination was rather bold.

A lot of listeners must’ve found all of this rather baffling, but it seems that everyone making this was having a laugh. Also featuring in the cast were Rich Fulcher and Richard Ayoade, who went on to appear in the TV version, and Lee Mack was among those helping out too. The show also won an award for innovative comedy writing, and not funkiest hairstyle as I would’ve originally guessed.

There were six episodes of The Boosh in one series, and I did enjoy this as much as the TV version, it was like discovering a bonus series of their adventures that had been there all along. After the third and final TV series ended, Noel and Julian took The Mighty Boosh on tour. Some of these shows have been released on DVD, and I’ll review those soon too.