Because Bullseye is one of my favourite game shows and I wanted to write another piece about it, I thought it would be a good idea to like I did with Fifteen-To-One compare the first and final series. The show’s format and rules surprisingly changed rather a lot over the 14 years it ran on ITV so let’s take a look at how the show evolved.
Scheduling. First series: When Bullseye launched it was produced by ATV and began in September 1981 on Monday evenings which didn’t last long. Final series: Produced by Central since 1982, and after being shown on Sunday evenings for many years in a slot which fitted the show perfectly, by the end Bullseye had moved to Saturday evenings and it just didn’t seem the same really, with the show ending in July 1995.
Title sequence. First series: An odd animated sequence where the Bully mascot on a pub sign suddenly comes to life and starts to throw darts which the people watching on don’t seem to find strange at all which also features an unfamiliar version of the opening theme. Final series: After dropping the familiar Bully driving a coach of darts players through space sequence, the opening had changed to feature our hero running amok in the studio and winding up Jim with some Who Framed Roger Rabbit?-style animation.
Jim Bowen. First series: Jim always says that he was the fifth choice to host Bullseye and he was already known to viewers for appearing on various TV shows as a grumpy comedian in the 1970s. Although he would become known for phrases such as “super”, “smashing” and “great” (which he insists he never actually said all in one go), I’m surprised that one that didn’t catch on was “marvellous”, as whatever seems to happen in the earliest episodes Jim thinks is “marvellous”. Also there was no scorer at this point so Jim added the points himself and he wasn’t that good at it. Tony Green appeared in a first series show doing the charity throw and seemed to be a lot better at scoring than Jim so he was on board from the second series onwards, although he was out-of-vision at first. Final series: Clearly someone had been watching BBC1’s successful snooker game show Big Break and decided to increase the interaction between Jim and Tony with them often having an awkward comedy exchange at the start of the show, much to the rowdy studio audience’s delight.
Contestants. First series: Three teams of two took part for the whole run of the show. In this series the pairs walked on individually introduced by voiceover Nick Owen (a couple of years before TV-am) to have a brief stilted talk with Jim. Oddly each player’s name badge featured both members of the team. For a while after this Jim would introduce the teams with their names and what ITV region they were from. Final series: Now all six players were sat together waiting to talk to Jim and tell their oh-so amusing anecdotes. Again, Jim had settled into using a nice catchphrase to describe the teams: “the people that throw and the people that know”.
First round. First series: Before the round started each player threw a dart at a board, with the nearest to the bull going first. Then the category board appeared and Jim takes a long time to explain how it all works. There were a few different categories on the board, with the likes of Food, Bible and Myths available. The cash values were £10, £20, £30, and £50 for hitting the bullseye. There were also no bonus lights and the lowest-scoring team was knocked out at the end of the round. Also when contestants ran out of time they got a loud “buzz” noise. Final series: There are more familiar categories are now on the board including Faces, Words and Affairs. And Jim says, “the ones that are lit are the ones you can hit”. Cash values on the board are now £30, £50, £100 and £200 with questions being worth £30, £50 and £100 and from 1988 all three teams go through to round two regardless of their score. Also when contestants run out of time they hear the more familiar Bully “moo” sound effect.
Second round. First series: The two remaining teams now play on a traditional matchplay dartboard, with the highest scorer earning the chance for a general knowledge question worth £25, £50, or £101. The lowest scoring team get knocked out and receive their money and consolation prizes which are some darts and a chalk holder, how terrific. Now the break. Final series: The “pounds for points” rule has now been introduced. The two lowest-scoring teams received their consolation prizes of darts, tankards, and the coveted bendy Bully. They’ll be back in a couple of throws!
Charity throw. First series: Part two begins with a professional darts player throwing to raise money for a charity of the finalists’ choice, using the “pounds for points” rule, and who knows, maybe the likes of Eric “The Crafty Cockney” Bristow could earn them a few bob, although for a few series they occasionally used celebrities. Final series: The throw still features but now with an incentive for the players too of the bendy Bully award for the highest scorer in the series. And they double the money if they score over 301 with nine darts!
Bully’s Prize Board. First series: The design of the board is a little different but the idea is the same. Jim quickly annonces the prizes over some weird music. They could win a colour TV! Final series: The famous “iiiin one!” introductions by Tony are now here along with the simple explanation of the rules by Jim, “keep out of the black and stay the red, there’s nothing in this game for two in a bed”. It’s arguable that prizes aren’t much better though.
The gamble: First series: The idea of the gamble was the same throughout the whole of the run, just score 101 or more with six darts. They gambled their prizes and unsurprisingly when there was a winner of the star prize which was usually a car or a holiday Jim says “marvellous” for about the 25th time. Final series: One change to the gamble is the “BFH” rule which was introduced in 1991, they now gambled their prizes along with the money that they had won. When they win it’s a great moment, useless it’s a speedboat.
The end: First series: The curtain rising the reveal the star prize whether the team won it or not is rather quick as the credits roll almost right away, leaving Jim to abruptly finish the show by yelling “bye!”. Final series: Again, another great catchphrase by Jim has formed to properly end the show for another week: “you can’t beat a bit of Bully!”, although the amusing closing sequence where Bully misses the board is no longer used.