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’s Full House Christmas Special.

Bob’s Full House Christmas Special (BBC1, 1989)

One of my most popular blog pieces over the past year has been the one looking back at Bob’s Full House, and good thing too, because it’s one of my favourites and it really is one of the all-time classic game shows. I wondered how I could write anything else about it, so I’ve decided that because we’ve reached that time of year again I’ll review a Christmas special.

There were several Christmas specials made during the show’s run, and I’ll be reviewing the one shown in 1989 which was 40 minutes long. Bob’s Full House had been running for over five years by this point, and it would come to an end on BBC1 about a month later in January 1990. The game was the same but four celebrities took part to show off their quiz knowledge and to try and win some prizes and money for their chosen charities. vlcsnap-00003

They are Ken Bruce, who was a morning presenter on BBC Radio 2 at the time (and he still is), Debbie “no relation” Greenwood, Pamela Armstrong, and Adrian Love, another Radio 2 presenter. Bob comes on and he really has settled into the rhythm of hosting this show now, and he gives us another masterclass, beginning by saying “Merry Christmas to all our readers!” curiously, before informing us that they got the decorations at Woolworths. bob3

In the first round, they have to light their four corners. As well as playing for prizes for charity if they won the round, they would also win £10 for every number they lit, so try not to get wallied. Adrian wins this round, and selects some early learning toys from the prizes on offer, something that is definitely going to bring some seasonal splendour to the youngsters. vlcsnap-00031

In the second round, they have to light their middle line, and it’s time to bring out the Monkhouse Master Card with various categories. If they pick their Lucky Number and get the question right, they win a bonus £50. Adrian wins this round too, and selects what is vaguely described as “a karaoke” as his next prize from the selection. Well it is the latest craze. Adrian has now built up a big lead, will that give him an advantage going into the final round? vlcsnap-00036

This is the round on the buzzer where they have to light the rest of the numbers on their card. Adrian gets a full house and is the overall winner, beating Pamela by a margin of two, and this time he chooses as his prize what is simply called “a computer screen”, how terrific. Can Adrian now sweep the board by winning the star prize in the Golden Card Game? vlcsnap-00043

Adrian will be playing for a holiday like what usually happens in this round, but it won’t be for him, it’ll be for some people who will be helped out by the charity that he is representing. It’s a close finish, but Adrian is a winner, and he’s won someone a holiday to Florida, hooray! And he also added another £165 to the money he had already won! Bob then decides to light all the other contestant’s cards anyway to give them a bonus £150. This was another very enjoyable edition of what was always an entertaining show. vlcsnap-00046

Game Show Memories – Bob’s Full House.

Bob’s Full House (BBC1, 1984-1990)

This is it. Bob’s Full House is one of the reasons that I really became a fan of TV game shows, and it’s also one of the reasons that I decided to create a blog because I really want to share my memories of this one with everyone. It is a difficult choice, but I really do think that this might be my all-time favourite game show, and I’ve been really looking forward to telling you why.

Bob’s Full House was a bingo type-game that was of course hosted by the great Bob Monkhouse, and although he hosted several game shows, this was definitely the best one of his long career. His doors were always open for you. Four contestants took part to play in the various rounds for a chance to win the star prize of a holiday. bob

Each contestant had 15 numbers on their card. In the first round the contestants the had to light the four corners. Bob would ask various questions on the buzzer, some were rather straightforward general knowledge questions, but some were a little more quirky. Bob also also drop in the occasional great joke too. If the contestant got it right, they chose one of their corners to light, but if they got the answer wrong though, they were frozen out of the next question, or “wallied”, as it was famously described. The first contestant to light all four corners could pick from a choice of prizes. vlcsnap-01027

In the second round, contestants had to complete the middle line of their card. This time they had to pick from various categories on the Monkhouse Master Card. (“It’s time to take your pick of the six!”) If they got the answer right, they could light their chosen number, but if they got it wrong, it went on offer to the other contestants. Also hidden away was a “Lucky Number” and if the contestant got that question right it would win them a bonus prize. vlcsnap-01009

There was a twist though, just as the contestants had worked out what was where, they would “mix the six” and change the categories available. Again though the first contestant to complete their middle line won a bonus prize. The final round was the Full House round, where contestants had to complete the rest of their card. This was a very fast-paced round on the buzzer, with the “wallied” rule in place, and Bob constantly updating the contestants on how many more numbers they needed. The winner gets a prize and goes through to the Golden Card Game. vlcsnap-01016

In the final there is one minute on the clock and 15 questions available. If the contestant gets one right, the clock is stopped and they can pick a number. If there’s nothing behind the number, they win the value of that number in cash. But if they reveal a letter, it’s a clue to a holiday destination. If they get enough questions right in time to pick all the numbers which conceal a letter, the place that is spelled out is the destination of their star prize holiday. If they didn’t succeed though, they won the consolation of a hamper. vlcsnap-01015

Bob’s Full House remained popular with viewers throughout the whole of its run, and also featured celebrity Christmas specials, and there were also computer game and board game versions released, and the first series was repeated on Challenge a while back which was great. There were also later game shows that featured the same Bingo element including The Biggest Game In Town and I’ll look back at those soon. vlcsnap-01012

There are so many things for me that make Bob’s Full House work so well. As well as the terrific gameplay element, everything else is great about the show too, including the various sound effects, even the way that the question cards are different colours for each round, and Bob is clearly enjoying hosting the show and is really at his best here, with his super catchphrases, slick presentation and blatant cheating in the final among his highlights. Over 30 years on Bob’s Full House remains the pinnacle of Saturday night showbiz entertainment on any channel, and it’s still a brilliant show and a real classic.