Game Show Memories – consolation prizes.

“We hate to lose you, but lose you we must”

Time for something a little different. There used to be a time when however good or bad they did, game show contestants would be given consolation prizes for taking part. Here’s a look at what I think are 16 of the most memorable prizes that were given away. These are the shows where you definitely didn’t go away empty handed…

Backdate. A rather nice electronic organiser.

Big Break. A snooker cue and a trophy, and a waistcoat too if you were lucky.

Blankety Blank. Probably one of the most famous consolation prizes, the chequebook and pen. It’s really isn’t an exaggeration to say that it was more valuable than most of the actual prizes on offer.

Blockbusters. A sweatshirt and a dictionary. Definitely worth having. p3

Bullseye. Tankards, darts, and the bendy Bully. Or the badge and chalk holder that were on offer in the early series.

Countdown. What is always called a goodie bag, including cups, books, and the board game too of course. And don’t forget the teapot either.

Every Second Counts. Not surprisingly considering this was a show based around time, a wallclock and some watches.

The Generation Game. Various prizes in the early-90s revival included a telephone and pocket TV that seemingly only ever showed a picture of Bruce Forsyth’s co-host Rosemarie Ford. p6

Lucky Ladders. A pair of watches. Now they must be expensive.

Raise The Roof. This was the show where the star prize was a house, so the consolation was a teapot in the shape of a house, often known as “Bob’s Bungalow” (after host Bob Holness).

Small Talk. A trophy that according to host Ronnie Corbett was “crafted by my own fair hand”.

Telly Addicts. Another goodie bag similar to Countdown including books about TV, T-shirts and so on. p9

Today’s The Day. A copy of a newspaper from the day that you were born, and maybe a bottle of bubbly too.

Turnabout. Another show that gave everyone a dictionary. Not that exciting, but just any excuse to talk about Turnabout really.

Wheel Of Fortune. Another show that gave away watches and board games.

Wipeout. Early series featured a paperweight, before this was changed to an umbrella. p12

And they all had a lovely day.

Game Show Memories – Big Break.

Big Break (BBC1, 1991-2002)

“It’s only a game”, said pop star Captain Sensible in the opening theme, but it was a very good one. Big Break was essentially the BBC’s equivalent of ITV’s very successful Bullseye, taking a popular game and combining it with a general knowledge element. Like Bullseye it was even hosted by a comedian called Jim, that’s Jim Davidson, who was assisted by John Virgo, a professional snooker player and the referee for the show.

Snooker was very popular around the time that Big Break launched. This was because a lot of the players were charismatic, lots of people liked to play the game, and coverage of tournaments could entertainingly fill endless hours of airtime and get big ratings. So unsurprisingly Big Break went on to be a big success for over a decade, and I always watched the show regularly. vlcsnap-00889

Every week, three contestants took part and they would be paired with a professional player. The first round was Red Hot. The contestants had to answer quirky questions to win time for the player at the table, the maximum being 40 seconds. The rules for this game were the not very complicated “pot as many balls as you can”. vlcsnap-00890

The players would then run around the table as they battled against the clock to pot the ten reds. Six-times world champion Steve Davis once scored only one and he was reminded about it on every subsequent occasion he was on the show. The lowest-scoring team were knocked out, but before they went they were given the chance of a consolation. vlcsnap-00891

Virgo’s Trick Shot was where John would perform a trick and the contestants had to copy it to win a prize. At this point John would often need about nine attempts to get it right to much amusement as seen in outtake shows, and he usually also wear a horrid waistcoat whilst imitating other famous players. The two remaining teams went into round two. vlcsnap-00892

In Pocket Money the teams had to work together again for 90 seconds. All the balls had a equivalent cash value, £10 for one of the six reds, £20 for a yellow and so on. If they pot it, they win the money. Look out too for those double pockets, meaning the most you could score in one pot is £140! If they missed though, a question was asked to the contestant on a category corresponding to the colour. Again, at the end of the round the lowest-scoring team were out. vlcsnap-00893

The final was Make Or Break. Again there were 90 seconds on the clock and six reds on the table, along with the six colours. The contestant was asked five questions. For each one they got right, one red was removed from the table. The player then had to complete a clearance in the remaining time. The more balls they potted, the better the prize. And what prizes they were. If they completed the clearance, the Mystery Star Prize was won, which was usually a luxury holiday. vlcsnap-00894

Big Break was popular, with just about every famous snooker player of the time appearing on the show, and lots of funny moments, before I realised that Jim might not have been so much like the “cheeky chappie” persona that he had on the show, and he also went on to host The Generation Game in the mid-90s, before both those shows finally ended in 2002. There was also a board game released and several spin-offs, even including a VHS of the most memorable moments.