Box Clever (BBC1, 1986-1987)
This is another game show that is a little before my time, but I have seen enough of it online to consider it worthy of reviewing here. Box Clever was a daytime game show that was hosted by ex-footballer Emlyn Hughes (who was also a team captain on A Question Of Sport around this time). Two related teams of three took part and the show made the most of the computer technology that was available at the time.
One thing that was unusual about the show was that the host actually didn’t ask the questions, this was done by Dr Sue Kingsman from Oxford University. The centrepiece of the game was the 9×9 computerised grid (it looked a little like the maze that was used on the later game show Four Square, I’m not sure if they were created using the same computer). The grid is different for every game. There are five categories of questions on offer, and 30 seconds to answer them.
They place their pointer somewhere on the grid using their joystick, and if they get the question right the square turns to their colour (either red or yellow), the way the pointer boinged around the grid looked a little similar to the computer game Q*Bert. The grid is also split into sections, and they have to try to turn all the squares in the section their colour, or their opponents can steal them (once a section is filled it can’t change colour). If they don’t think they can fill a section in time, they can stop the clock.
At this point Emlyn starts offering some analysis of the teams’ tactics as if he is on Match Of The Day. If there is no clear leader after the five categories, another five categories are on offer, this time with 45 seconds on the clock. The idea of the game is to cut off your opponents’ route round the board (or “box them in” the use the show’s phrase). If a team think that they have reached the point where they can win, they say “box clever”, and the computer automatically calculates who has the majority of the 81 squares (a creepy computerised voice confirms the result).
The winning team go into the final, where they play a computer game (one of the few game shows to feature this, along with First Class and Steal). They have one minute, and every team member has to play for at least 15 seconds. If they score over 100 points, it gets converted into pounds. They then stay on as the defending champions to play another team. More than one game can be played in one edition.
Box Clever ran for a couple of series in the pre-Children’s BBC slot when BBC1 finally launched a daytime schedule in 1986. According to the credits there were a Commodore Amiga or two working overtime to achieve the impressive computer effects, and while I wouldn’t put the show in the same class as Turnabout, this was definitely a game with a lot of depth and creativity on offer.