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.

Game Show Memories – Bob Says Opportunity Knocks.

Bob Says Opportunity Knocks (BBC1, 1987-1990)

Whilst I have been looking back at various game shows that I have enjoyed watching over the years, I realised that I haven’t reviewed many yet hosted by Bob Monkhouse who was a great host and comedian and one of my favourite TV personalities, so here’s a review of a show that he hosted in the 80s, and I’ll review some other game shows that he hosted soon.

Opportunity Knocks was a talent contest show that had already been around for many years, appearing on ITV from to 1956 to 1978 when it was hosted by Hughie Green. Many acts from across the country took part to perform their turn hoping that it would start a successful career for them, and it was very popular with viewers. After a while the show was revived in 1987 on BBC1 with Bob as host and there were a few changes made to the format. bob0002

The show was now called Bob Says Opportunity Knocks, it was 50 minutes long and was shown live on Saturday evenings. The show would begin with Bob telling some of his great jokes before the six acts were introduced. Lots of different acts took part, from singers to dancers and comedians, and of course the quality of performance did vary somewhat but everyone was welcome to have a go. vlcsnap-01121

After their turn Bob would have a quick interview with them to learn more about their career and ambitions before passing on some advice which would definitely have been worth listening to. After everyone had their turn, the Clapometer would come out, supposedly a high-tech device that determined which act had gone down the best with the studio audience by gauging how much applause they wanted to give them. vlcsnap-01124

But that wasn’t how they won. What was most significant about the first series of the show was that it was the first TV programme in Britain where the winner was decided by telephone votes from the viewers at home. Although this is the norm now, it was seen as a pioneering move in those days to make sure that people watching at home could determine the winner. vlcsnap-01122

The winning act from every show then went into the final. When the big day came Bob put on his best bowtie and all the acts performed again, and then the phone lines opened to determine the overall series winner, which was always seen as an exciting occasion and a few people who appeared did go on to further success. Bob always hosted the show well especially as it was live and he had some great catchphrases too, including always ending the show by saying “when opportunity comes your way… don’t knock it!”. vlcsnap-01123

After hosting three series Bob left the show to go ITV and host some more game shows including The $64,000 Question, and he was replaced for what turned out to be the final series in 1990 by Les Dawson who had appeared as a contestant on the show himself before he was famous. Of course talent shows are still popular on TV nowadays but Bob definitely made Opportunity Knocks worth watching, always welcoming the contestants and really hoping that the show could break new talent for people who deserved it. It’s a lot better than watching some judges pretending to bicker with one another, that’s for sure.