Game Show Memories – Game Show Marathon.

Game Show Marathon (ITV, 2005-2007)

In 2005, there were several shows to celebrate the 50th anniversary of ITV. It was decided to include some game shows as part of this, so that resulted in the Game Show Marathon. This was shown on Saturday nights and was originally hosted by Ant And Dec. Every week a different game show that had been on ITV would be featured. Every edition would include the show of that week’s original opening sequence (along with the ITV company that produced it’s ident too!).

There would also be a quick look back at history of the show, including contributions from fans and the original host. The first series began with The Price Is Right, as some of the celebrity audience were invited to “come on down”. They returned to take part in other games throughout the series, until there were two remaining. The climax was Family Fortunes, where the two finalists Vernon Kay and Carol Vorderman appeared alongside their families to determine the overall champion. vlcsnap-00473

Also featuring in the first series were Take Your Pick, The Golden Shot, Sale Of The Century, Play Your Cards Right, and good old Bullseye. Any money and prizes that were won were put into a fund, where viewers could enter a competition to win them. Seeing some of these shows return to TV went down rather well with viewers, so two years later there was another series, with Vernon Kay moving from contestant to host. vlcsnap-00460

Another group of celebrities took part, and this time the shows included The Price Is Right, Blankety Blank, The Golden Shot, Name That Tune, Mr And Mrs, and Play Your Cards Right. But among the highlights for me in this series were Bullseye (which was also revived on Challenge around this time), where the celebrities teamed up with professional darts players, because all these years on you still can’t beat a bit of Bully. vlcsnap-00476

And there was also one of the many revivals of Blockbusters. It’s always a pleasure seeing this show, and among those playing and taking their place on the hot spot was Ben Shephard (before he hosted a few game shows of his own including Tipping Point). There was also £50 for a correct answer which was rather generous, it was only £5 in the original version. vlcsnap-00477

Even though the second series had one extra edition, it retained the knockout format. In 2006 there was also an American version of the Game Show Marathon, and this was shown on ITV2. There have also been some rumours that there might be another series, meaning that it’ll be a revival of a revival. Will it include what will be about the 17th different version of Blockbusters? Maybe we’ll find out soon.

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 – Bullseye the revival.

Bullseye (Challenge, 2006)

Bullseye is a fondly thought of long-running game show that was on ITV for 14 years. After it ended in 1995, it was often rumoured that it would return to the screen. In 2005 as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of ITV there was a special series called the Game Show Marathon, where each week a classic game show was revived for a one-off edition with celebrities as the contestants.

These included the likes of Blockbusters, and also Bullseye, making it the first new edition for a decade. This was rather well received, so maybe it was finally time for a full series of a revival. And in 2006, game show channel Challenge decided to bring it back! Well, it was what we wanted wasn’t it? This was back in the days when Challenge made some original programming along with showing repeats. Dare I go near this one, as it seems that most fans would rather forget that it happened?

Well firstly, Jim Bowen wasn’t invited back to host. Instead, Dave Spikey hosted the revival. He was best known at the time for appearing in Channel 4 sitcom Phoenix Nights, and he did have some experience in game show presenting, as he was one of the hosts of ITV’s Chain Letters. However, they did bring back scorer Tony Green to join in. I remember one critic saying at the time something like “they brought back Tony Green but not Jim Bowen, the mind boggles”. vlcsnap-00617

The revival begins with the opening sequence which is a reworking of the famous one that was used around the late-80s/early-90s, along with a different version of the theme music that everyone claps along to. It all seems a little cheap compared to the ITV version, although that could be said about just about all the elements of the show. As ever, three teams of two take part to show off their darts skills and general knowledge. vlcsnap-00628

Now we were in the era of big money game shows, it is something of a surprise to discover that the money on offer actually went down in this version, with £150 for hitting a bullseye in the first round instead of £200. All other money values stayed the same. This was followed by the Pounds For Points round, although usually the round’s highest score was around 41, there weren’t many 180s on display here. vlcsnap-00620

At the end of this round, the lowest-scoring teams were eliminated, but don’t worry, they did get their bendy Bullys along with plenty of other consolation prizes. After the break, it was time for the charity throw, but just like in some of the early series of the original version, the shows alternated between a professional darts player such as Phil Taylor and a celebrity taking part. vlcsnap-00622

Then it was time for Bully’s Prize Board. There were nine prizes on offer as ever, but some of them seemed to get laughs from the studio audience which was a little harsh, the prizes weren’t that bad were they. Then it was time for the gamble, to score 101 or more in six darts to win the star prize, maybe it could be a fancy new car, just as long as it’s not another speedboat! vlcsnap-00626

The revival of Bullseye lasted for 30 editions in one series, although it is still repeated on Challenge all these years later, but usually at around 2am, and there have been no plans for another revival. This version wasn’t as popular as the original series and overall it was a little disappointing, the format was 25-years-old by this point, maybe its moment had passed, but if ITV had given it a go and it had a bigger budget it possibly could have done a lot better. Maybe that could still happen one day.

Game Show Memories – Bullseye first and final series comparison.

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. b0

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. b1

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. b2

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”. b3

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! b5

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! b6

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. b7

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. b8

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. b9

Game Show Memories – Bullseye.

Bullseye (ITV, 1981-1995)

Here’s the first in a very long series of my favourite game show memories. Some of the shows I’ll be looking back at will be rather obscure, but this one isn’t. However, I am still a big fan of Bullseye, and as the format doesn’t really need much explanation as you must already be familiar with it, this will more be a piece about the history of the show and what it means to me. vlcsnap-00201

After darts began to increase in popularity, Bullseye started on ITV in 1981. It was hosted by Jim Bowen who always insists that he wasn’t the first choice to host the show. At the time he was best known for being a comedian but he did become a success hosting the show. vlcsnap-00207

When the first series was repeated on Challenge recently it did come across as something of a shambles and rather different from the show that people would come to know and enjoy. There were some odd rounds that only appeared in that series, different categories on the board including Myths, Jim’s conversations with the contestants were rather stilted and there wasn’t even a scorer so Jim had to practically guess what the players had scored. It was also shown on Monday evenings which didn’t seem right. vlcsnap-00205

Thanks goodness they persevered though, because although it took a few series, Bullseye would go on to be a big success. One of the main factors in this seems to be moving the show to Sunday afternoons. Like many people, I used to enjoy the show when it was shown in this timeslot, it seemed just right for it. vlcsnap-00202There were lots of other great things including Jim having some memorable catchphrases (although I’m sure he said once “and the question’s gone so I can’t ask the category”), new features such as a professional darts player throwing for charity, the addition of Tony Green as scorer, and the prizes on offer. Some of what you could win on Bully’s Prize Board does seem rather laughable now but people did want them and Bullseye gained in popularity. It was always exciting to watch a team gamble for the star prize.


However, in 1993 Bullseye was moved to Saturday evenings. Even though it was exactly the same show the timeslot just didn’t seem right, and following the success of BBC1’s Big Break they made Jim and Tony interact more. They also introduced a horrible new title sequence. By 1995 Bullseye came to an end, it seems that people just didn’t want to answer questions for only £30 any more, but there’s no doubt that ITV got the best years out of the show and it is still remembered fondly, with the repeats on Challenge always worth watching. vlcsnap-00210

Don’t forget your Bendy Bully and your tankards either. And who knows, they might even have a little drink afterwards. And I wrote this piece without a reference to speedboats. That’s why you can’t beat a bit of Bully. Bye!