Game Show Memories – A Question Of Pop.

A Question Of Pop (BBC1, 2000-2001)

For a short while, BBC1 took the successful format of its long-running game show A Question Of Sport and used it for different genres. So we got A Question Of TV, A Question Of EastEnders (yes, really), and a music version called A Question Of Pop, which was hosted by Jamie Theakston, putting all his time interviewing pop groups on The O Zone and Live And Kicking to good use. vlcsnap-00053

Two teams of three took part, and the team captains were Noddy Holder from Slade (Tony Hadley from Spandau Ballet in the pilot), and Suggs from Madness, and their good-natured rivalry did help the show to become a sort-of BBC1-friendly version of Never Mind The Buzzcocks. Their two teammates would also be pop stars, and because this show was made in the early-2000s they would usually be someone from a group that was big at the time such as S Club 7 or Steps and the like. vlcsnap-00057

The rounds were just about the same as A Question Of Sport, with a few minor changes. The first round featured the Picture Board, with the first six of the 12 pictures on offer chosen. The next round was called Pop Action, where a few clips from famous songs from throughout the years were shown and then some questions were asked. The Home Or Away round was altered so that contestants could ask for an A-side question for one point, or gamble for a trickier B-side question for two points. vlcsnap-00059

There was also the What Happened Next? round looking back at some unusual musical TV moments, then there was the Mystery Guest round, and then it’s back to the Picture Board. The final round is on the buzzer with quickfire questions, with one point for a correct answer, and one deducted for an incorrect answer. Once the gong goes, it’s the end of the game, and although there are no prizes on offer, the winning team is declared. vlcsnap-00054

A Question Of Pop didn’t endure like A Question Of Sport and there were only two series. Surprisingly it’s another game show that doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry (although the BBC Genome does list all the pop stars who took part), and around the same time in 2001 there was the short-lived A Question Of TV which was hosted by Gaby Roslin and had the team captains Rowland Rivron and Lorraine Kelly. Unfortunately although I do remember this show too I can’t find any clips anywhere so there is no review planned for the moment.

The Comedy Vault – Count Arthur Strong.

Count Arthur Strong (BBC2, 2013, BBC1, 2015-2017)

A variety entertainer from the old school who talks nonsense and thinks that he is still a showbiz star even though he is clearly past his best? No, it’s not Peter Simon… it’s Count Arthur Strong! Arthur is a character who was created by Steve Delaney who is someone who bumbles through life and doesn’t realise that chaos that he is causing for everyone else around him.

Count Arthur Strong launched on BBC Radio 4 in 2005, and although I didn’t hear the earliest editions, I heard some repeats on Radio 4 Extra and found them rather enjoyable as Arthur manages to irritate everyone he meets with his odd outlook on life and bizarre turns of phrase, and in 2013 the show transferred to TV on BBC2, although there were a few differences to the format. vlcsnap-00013

The TV version was co-written and directed by Graham Linehan, who has worked on some very impressive comedy shows over the years including The Day Today, Father Ted, Big Train, and The IT Crowd. The TV version begins when Michael, the son of Arthur’s old comedy double-act partner, tracks him down to interview him for a biography that he is writing about his dad, and he soon realises that he is unable to get any meaningful anecdotes out of him. vlcsnap-00016

Michael meets Arthur in the cafe, which is run by the rather short-tempered Bulent and his sister Sinem. The only other regular customers seem to be Arthur’s old mates, and although there were some interesting characters some people felt that maybe having one eccentric in the show was enough. However, Michael soon befriends Arthur and meets him regularly, although he doesn’t seem to realise what he is letting himself in for, and often gets caught up in his plans. Also after a while Michael started to date Sinem. vlcsnap-00020

The second and third series were moved to BBC1. Just to pick a couple of examples of my favourite moments in the show. I liked the one where Arthur auditioned to appear in a TV advert for toffees and was completely useless and kept falling off his chair. I just enjoy the idea that Arthur still thinks that he is a useful talent but this is the only work that he can get. There was also another good one where Arthur’s old mate John Shuttleworth turned up. Arthur has also been performed in a stage show and recently he published his memoir Through It All I’ve Always Laughed which is lovely. vlcsnap-00012

Count Arthur Strong wasn’t a huge success on the TV, and you either find the character very enjoyable or immensely irritating. but there were some really good moments, however it was recently announced that there isn’t going to be a fourth series. This is rather a shame, but all three series have been released on DVD, and hopefully Arthur won’t leave us altogether and he will soon be back on the radio. To hear him again really will be mucus to my ears.

Game Show Memories – Just A Minute.

Just A Minute (ITV, 1994-1995, BBC1, 1999, BBC2, 2012)

Just A Minute is the comedy panel game that has been running on BBC Radio 4 for a remarkable 50 years, but my introduction to the show was through the first attempt at a version that was shown on TV. There have been three attempts to bring this show to TV (all on different channels), and just like the radio version they have all been hosted by Nicholas Parsons.

Just A Minute is a great example of a game that is easy to play but difficult to master. Four contestants take part. They are given a category that they must talk on for one minute without breaking one of the three main rules, hesitation, repetition, or deviation. If one of their rivals believes that they have broken one of these rules, they can buzz in and challenge, and if their challenge is correct, they take over the category and must try to talk for the remaining time. vlcsnap-01307

This continues until the minute is up, with bonus points on offer for speaking when time is up, and also for going the whole minute without being correctly challenged. Although there is a winner declared at the end Parsons always insists that the most important thing is the contribution that the panellists make to the show, not necessarily how many points they score. vlcsnap-01309

So if you can think of enough creative categories, and find enough witty people to talk about them, you’ve got an idea can be stretched almost infinitely. The first version of Just A Minute came to the screen in the mid-90s. I’m fairly sure that the first series was only shown on ITV in the Carlton region in a late-night slot (and was also sponsored by the Evening Standard). The four panellists in this version were usually drawn from the alternative comedy scene, and some of the categories reflected London life. vlcsnap-01310

To help the show be a little more visual, there were some changes to the rules. Firstly, there would be a round where a mysterious object would appear, and the panellists had to talk about what they thought it was. There was also a round where the studio audience could suggest the category (a little like what happened on Whose Line Is It Anyway?). Also in this version there was never actually a clock on-screen indicating how much time was remaining in the round! vlcsnap-01304

There were some changes for the second and final series. I think that this series was also shown in the Central region (a sign of the forthcoming Carltonisation of that region) and there were two regular panellists. They were Tony Slattery and Dale Winton (who I don’t think has ever taken part on the radio version which is a surprise as he was good value). After this TV version ended, from about the late-90s I began to listen to the radio version and really got into it. vlcsnap-01308

The second TV version of Just A Minute was shown on BBC1 in 1999. This was in a daytime slot and I don’t really remember watching it, but it seems that this version lacked the edge of the ITV one, with fewer alternative comedians taking part and no regulars. The third and final attempt at bringing Just A Minute to TV was on BBC2 in an evening slot in 2012. Again, this was for only a short run, and it featured some veterans such as Paul Merton mixed in with a few newcomers proving that all these years later lots of people want to have a go. vlcsnap-01311

None of the three TV versions of Just A Minute were really a huge hit with viewers, but it remains consistently popular on the radio after half a century. My sister was in the studio audience for an edition of the ITV version, and a while later my mum went to the recording of a couple of editions of the radio version, and they both very much enjoyed the experience. minute0001

More TV Memories – Auntie’s Bloomers.

Auntie’s Bloomers (BBC1, 1991-2001)

In 1977 ITV launched their famous out-takes show It’ll Be Alright On The Night, and in the early-90s the BBC launched their equivalent show Auntie’s Bloomers (nice wordplay). This was the show where Terry Wogan would look back at some of the more embarrassing moments in the BBC archive in his usual style, revealing that even the most professional of presenters and actors could make mistakes. (Wogan was even game enough to feature in a few mishaps himself.) vlcsnap-01222

There were a lot of memorable out-takes used on the show, and if ever a regional news presenter had stumbled over their words, or a children’s TV presenter had fallen over, suddenly this would come in very useful to be used on the show. Several of the clips in Auntie’s Bloomers also seemed to be recycled in the similar 90s BBC1 series Miss-Takes which I reviewed a while ago. vlcsnap-01230

One interesting thing about the earliest editions of Auntie’s Bloomers was that most of the clips seemed to be sourced from Christmas tapes, daft moments preserved by the production team for their amusement. Also, around the middle of the run in the mid-90s, Wogan hosted the show in what was supposed to be the BBC archive, surrounded by dusty old film-cans, as if he had broken in late at night, decided to find the mishaps himself, and screen the moments that they had tried to hide away.vlcsnap-01233

The show was successful enough for there to be a spin-off series called Auntie’s Sporting Bloomers which was also hosted by Terry Wogan, featuring various odd moments taken from the Grandstand archive, and Wogan would also interview guests such as famous sportspeople and commentators remembering some of the stranger things that they have seen. Auntie’s Sporting Bloomers ran for four series from 1995-1999 on BBC1 and was an amusing variation on the format. vlcsnap-01232

Auntie’s Bloomers was never shown as a series, usually only turning up occasionally as one-offs on BBC1, usually at Christmas. The show became popular enough for there to be a lot of editions made, featuring ever more complicated titles such as Even More New Auntie’s Super Special New Bloomers 2 (well I made that one up, but the titles weren’t getting too far away from being like that by the end). vlcsnap-01235

Auntie’s Bloomers would eventually run for a decade, and when it ended it was replaced on BBC1 by a similar series in 2002 called Out-Take TV which also ran for about a decade and had various hosts including Paul O’Grady and Anne Robinson, although I don’t remember watching this as much. Overall though I did enjoy the show and it featured a lot of funny moments that were just as good as anything that ITV’s equivalent could offer.

Game Show Memories – Give Us A Clue.

Give Us A Clue (ITV, 1979-1992)

It’s another celebrity panel game, and this time it’s charades! Give Us A Clue was originally hosted by Michael Aspel (and the theme music at this point was the same as CBBC’s Grange Hill), before in 1984 Michael Parkinson became the second host. Give Us A Clue is a show that could be described as a battle of the sexes as every week two celebrity teams of four took part, with the ladies being captained by Una Stubbs (Liza Goddard from 1987 onwards), and the men being captained by Lionel Blair, who is regarded as one of the great players of the game. vlcsnap-01058

How to play Give Us A Clue is rather straightforward. One contestant was given the name of something like a film, a TV programme or book, and they had to express what it was within two minutes as a mime without speaking, hoping that their three teammates would be able to understand them. This led to the show’s catchphrases being things like “it’s a book… two syllables… sounds like…”. Lots of celebrities were eager to take part over the years, although some were better at playing than others. vlcsnap-01025

If the team could guess the phrase within one minute, they scored three points, if they got it within two minutes they scored two points, and if they didn’t get it in time it would be thrown over to the other team to guess for one point. Some of the phrases were rather bizarre, leading to some celebrities having trouble expressing them properly which was where most of the humour came in. Although lots of points were scored, there were no prizes on offer as such, just the honour of winning that particular game. vlcsnap-01051

Give Us A Clue ended up running on ITV for over a decade, and by the time I remember watching the show it was in its final year or two and by this point it was shown in a daytime slot. Looking back at it now it comes across as a very corny show but it was fun enough to watch in those days in the afternoon. And clearly someone somewhere decided that people wanted more because in 1997 five years after the show originally ended there was a revival. vlcsnap-01032

This time Give Us A Clue was shown on BBC1 in a daytime slot, although I don’t ever remember watching this version myself, it only seemed to run for about six weeks and didn’t make much of an impact, it also featured a different host and team captains, maybe by this point the show’s time had passed. Also around this time though some of the earlier editions were repeated on satellite channel UK Gold, and there don’t seem to be that many editions online but it was a very popular show on TV throughout the 80s.

The Comedy Vault – Men Behaving Badly.

Men Behaving Badly (ITV, 1992, BBC1, 1994-1999)

Men Behaving Badly was a sitcom that was written by Simon Nye. The show originally starred Martin Clunes (as Gary) and Harry Enfield (as Dermot) as two young flatmates who tried to get through life. Enfield had been a great success in sketch shows but looked a little more uncomfortable in a sitcom so he decided to leave after the first series, and he was replaced by Neil Morrissey (Tony) who along with Gary became the show’s best-known double act. Also appearing were Dorothy and Deborah who lived nearby. vlcsnap-01078

Gary works in an office alongside two very dull middle-aged colleagues which bores him greatly, so he often likes to spend his spare time partying with Tony, and they both have a rather laddish outlook on life. They could often be found in the local pub, and when they were at home, there was always a can of lager nearby. They also liked to flirt with the two ladies and just about any other woman they met but they often embarrassed themselves. Most episodes ended with Gary and Tony sat on their sofa in front of the TV thinking about what they had learned from what had happened to them in the episode (which wasn’t much). vlcsnap-01072

Men Behaving Badly got off to a fairly quiet start and its success almost didn’t happen. The first two series were shown on ITV in 1992 in a pre-9pm slot and they didn’t get a big response from viewers, so the show ended. A couple of years later, the production company thinking the characters still had potential decided to take the show to BBC1, where it returned for a third series in a post-9pm slot allowing for more bad behaviour from the men and it really began to make a big impact, and eventually it became one of the most successful British sitcoms of the 90s. vlcsnap-01074

Men Behaving Badly eventually ran for six series. It won many awards and also had a few Radio Times covers. Because of the popularity of the show, in 1998 they decided to bring it to an end by doing the same with what they did with Only Fools And Horses. When that show ended (for five years at least), there were three extra-length episodes shown in quick succession over Christmas which were a huge success. In the final trilogy of this show Deborah gave birth in the very last episode. vlcsnap-01071

Men Behaving Badly was released in the fairly early days of DVD, so unfortunately there aren’t that many extras included beyond a few funny out-takes that you have to press a few buttons to find. Another thing that I remember about Men Behaving Badly was that because it always did well in the ratings, some episodes (from around the series four or five point) seemed to be repeated frequently on BBC1 in the late-90s, but I always enjoyed watching them as they were among my favourite episodes and they are still really enjoyable now.

Game Show Memories – Winning Lines.

Winning Lines (BBC1, 1999-2004)

When it was time for yet another game show tied-in with the National Lottery draw to launch on Saturday night BBC1, Celador seemingly stitched together two of their previous productions Everybody’s Equal and Talking Telephone Numbers (plus maybe a tiny bit of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire too) to create Winning Lines. It was originally hosted by Simon Mayo, better known for his radio work, but then Phillip Schofield took over which made the show resemble Talking Telephone Numbers even more. vlcsnap-00964

49 contestants, one for each ball that was used in the National Lottery draw, took part after qualifying to play by having matching numbers. A question with a numerical answer would be asked. If you think you know the answer then you enter it in, and if you are right in the quickest time you go through to the next round, but if you are wrong you are eliminated, although anyone else who answered correctly stays in, and this is done six times. vlcsnap-00968

In the second round, the six remaining contestants are asked questions where the answers are their assigned numbers. If they get it right they stay in the game, if they get the answer right that contained the number of an opponent they get knocked out. This continues until there is one contestant remaining who not only goes through to the final, but they also have the opportunity of pressing the button that starts the National Lottery draw. The runner-up also takes away a consolation prize of a holiday. vlcsnap-00965

The show didn’t really become known for these rounds though, the most memorable part which has been described by some critics at the time as one of the best endgames in a game show, was when the one remaining contestant had to face the Wonderwall. There are 49 answers on the screen and three minutes on the clock. A question is read out and the contestant has the give both the answer and its number after finding it on the wall. vlcsnap-00967

Contestants also had two pit stops where they could stop the clock and scan the wall for 15 seconds as a quick attempt to try and memorise some numbers and answers. Contestants would win a holiday, and with every answer they gave, the location became ever more distant, beginning at Spaghetti Junction for one correct answer, with anyone who got the maximum of 20 right answers in time winning a round-the-world trip. vlcsnap-00969

I do remember watching Winning Lines a little at the time and it is regarded by many people as the best of the National Lottery tie-ins, partly because of the well-designed final, and it could have easily run for more than five years. There was also an American version made, a couple of quiz books were published, and in more recent years repeats (with all the Lottery references snipped out) have been shown on Challenge.