The YouTube Files – Blankety Blank USA.

The Match Game (NBC, 1962-1969, CBS, 1973-1979, ABC, 1990-1991)

This will probably be the final original American version of a game show that later came to the UK that I’ll review, but I might go on to consider reviewing some Irish and Australian versions too because I am just fascinated by the world of game shows and I really enjoy putting the pieces together (and I hope that you’ve found them an interesting read too).

There have been several versions of The Match Game going all the way back to the early-60s. There have also been several versions in the UK of Blankety Blank, and indeed there is another one planned to be shown at Christmas this year. I have decided to review the early-90s version. The host by this point was Ross Shafer, and you’ll be pleased to know that he did indeed have a funny-shaped microphone, or maybe it was just the way he walked. vlcsnap-00086

Of course, there were also the six celebrity panellists. It was good seeing ventriloquist Ronn Lucas along with his friend Scorch The Dragon among them. He also had a show on ITV around this time (that I reviewed a while ago), and it seems that he was popular in America in the early-90s too. I presume that he’s still at it, although three decades on he’s probably gone a little mouldy around the edges, and I hesitate to think what Scorch looks like now too, ha. vlcsnap-00088

Also taking part were the likes of that guy who was in the sitcom Out Of This World (also shown on ITV for a short while), along with cast members of daytime soaps like All My Children. Just like in the UK, The Match Game didn’t take itself too seriously, although the format by this time was a little different. Two contestants took part, including a defending champion. vlcsnap-00087

The sextet are given a clue and they all have to fill in the blank, and write their answers on a piece of paper. Can the contestant get a match? There’s $50 for every one. Then there’s the Match-Up round. The contestant picks a celebrity. There are 30 seconds, and for every match they agree on, they win $50. Then it’s back to another round of the regular game. vlcsnap-00089

Then there’s another Match-Up round, but this time there’s 45 seconds, and $100 for every correct answer. The highest scorer goes on to play the Supermatch Game, but nobody wins a chequebook and pen trophy. This round is about the same as the UK version, where the contestant has to guess one of the top three answers. If they get the top answer, they win $500. vlcsnap-00090

In the final, the amount they won in the Supermatch Game is multiplied by ten. They then spin a wheel to determine which celebrity will play with them in the final. If the wheel stops on a double (like in Name That Tune), they could win a maximum of $10,000, an amount that could never be dreamed of in the UK. The contestant has to simply match their answer with that celebrity to win the money, and they could play for five days before retiring undefeated. It was all rather enjoyable.

The YouTube Files – Child’s Play USA.

Child’s Play (CBS, 1982-1983)

This is the original American version of the game show that ran on ITV for about four years in the 80s. And this was yet another one that was hosted by Bill Cullen in his long and distinguished career, I think that this is the third of his shows that I have reviewed, he really did do a lot of them. This version of Child’s Play was slightly different to the format that was used in the UK.

Firstly, it was one contestant against one, instead of two teams of two, so they would not be accompanied by a celebrity panellist who could help them out. Also, there was a defending champion who could appear on up to five shows, so if they kept on winning they might end up earning themselves a rather decent amount of money. And several segments of the studio set span around for no particular reason, which is always great. vlcsnap-00079

The basic idea of the game was to guess the words that were being described by various children (usually aged around seven or eight) who appeared on a rather large screen, mostly on their own, but sometimes in pairs, and of course much of the humour comes from their sometimes rather unusual descriptions that made everyone laugh. If the contestant gets it wrong, it is passed to their opponent who sees the word described by another child. vlcsnap-00082

And if they still don’t get it, it goes back for a third and final child’s description. There is one point for every correct answer. Then there’s the Fast Play round. There are more descriptions, but this time the contestants can buzz in and interrupt the child, if they know the word. Get it wrong, and their opponent can see the rest of the description. There are now two points for every correct answer. Whoever is in the lead when the bell goes wins $500 and goes into the final. vlcsnap-00080

The original format of the final was the Triple Play game. The contestant has to guess six words in 45 seconds, and they can have up to three definitions. Every correct answer won $100, and if they get all of them right, they win an additional $5,000, and also get the chance to squeal right in Bill’s ear with the overexcitement. The format of the final was changed about halfway through the series, as some children now appeared in the studio to give definitions. vlcsnap-00083

There were over 250 editions of Child’s Play that were shown on CBS in the space of just under a year, so they definitely managed to pack a lot in, and some of the children featured ended up being rather famous themselves. As well as the UK, there have also been several versions of the show around the world, although there have been no further revivals of the format in America.

The YouTube Files – The Price Is Right USA.

The Price Is Right (CBS, 1972-present)

This is the game show that is one of the longest-running and most popular in American TV history. The original version of The Price Is Right started as long ago as the 50s, but this piece will concentrate on the version that has been going just about non-stop since the early-70s, many years before the UK version launched in the mid-80s (although I am more familiar with the mid-90s version).

This was the chance to win some big prizes in the most exciting game show around. Four people in the studio audience are invited to “come on down!”, who probably not coincidentally also happened to be the most overexcited people that were there, and they were always very eager to have a go. The host at this point was Bob Barker. vlcsnap-00063

Firstly, they have to guess the price of an item, Whoever is the closest to the actual price without going over would win that item, and get the chance to play a game. If they got the price exactly right they won a $100 bonus. There were lots of games that could be played, indeed there were dozens available, some of them became more popular than others, but they all had the same basic idea of being able to win some more prizes. vlcsnap-00065

After this, another contestant is invited to play. Once there had been three games, there was the Showcase Showdown, which the contestants progressed to whether they won or lost. They have to spin the big wheel containing various numbers, and the closest to 100 without going over in one or two spins makes the final. Remember to give it a big tug. Again, there is a big bonus for scoring exactly 100. And then… the whole process is done all over again! vlcsnap-00066

This means that two contestants got to play the Showcase final. They take a look at what’s on offer (which could be holidays, cars, and much more) and decide what Showcase on offer they want to play for. There is no rangefinder on offer in this version, whoever is closest to the value of the Showcase without going over wins, and if they are within $100 of the value, they win both. vlcsnap-00067

When watching some editions online, it seemed to me the show started to get stuck in a timewarp, with the look and style of the show barely changing from the 70s, going into the 80s, 90s, and even beyond. When Barker finally retired from the show at the age of about 102, the new host was Drew Carey, who had previously starred in a sitcom that was often shown late at night on ITV. The basic idea of trying to win lots of prizes has always remained the same, and there have now been thousands of editions. People just love to win.

The YouTube Files – Gambit USA.

Gambit (CBS, 1972-1976)/Las Vegas Gambit (NBC, 1980-1981)

This is the original American version of the game show that ran for about a decade in this country. And well, whadda you know, Wink Martindale is out host again. Wink has had a very long career in TV and radio hosting, and he even had a hit single himself in the UK in 1959 with “Deck Of Cards” (although I’m not really sure that he’s a crooner), which makes him an appropriate choice to host this game show based around Pontoon, which featured oversized playing cards like Card Sharks/Play Your Cards Right.

The British version of Gambit was grandly described as “an Olympics of the mind”, this version was slightly more modest about the format. After the original run ended in the 70s, the show returned (following a channel switch) in the early-80s as Las Vegas Gambit, and now took place on a stage at a hotel in Las Vegas. The cards would be dealt by a female co-host, who unlike the UK version never took the chance to upstage our very suave host. vlcsnap-00054

Two married couples took part. They are asked a question and have to buzz in. Get it right, and they can play or pass the card on offer. The couple that gets the closest to scoring 21 wins the round and $100, and if they get exactly 21, they win a bonus cash prize that increases by $500 for every round that it’s not won. Hopefully the luck will be on their side. Make sure not to go bust, will you. Winning two games meant a chance to play the bonus round. vlcsnap-00052

Originally there was the Gambit Board. There were 18 squares, each contained a prize, such as money, a holiday, and so on. They are given a card and they can then choose the number. But once again, if they go bust, they’ll lose all the prizes, so they have to stop at the best moment. Behind some squares are some extra games such as Stop Or Go, where even more prizes can be won. vlcsnap-00053

This was later changed to the Gambit Galaxy. Instead of cards, this bonus game involved dice, and the idea was a little similar to High Rollers (a game show that I don’t think there’s been a British version of). Roll the dice, get the right combinations, and win the money and prizes on offer. For every time it wasn’t won, the prizes roll over to the next game, with even more added. One couple managed to win over $50,000 worth of prizes, and they were rather pleased about that. vlcsnap-00051

After this, the couple can play another game as defending champions, and things could get rather exciting. When the bell goes though, wherever they are, that means it’s the end of the show, so games could straddle. Wink then goes off to try and shake everyone in the studio audience’s hands. After Las Vegas Gambit ended in 1981, there have been no further revivals of the format in America.

The YouTube Files – Now You See It USA.

Now You See It (CBS, 1974-1975, 1989)

This is another American game show that came to the UK in the 80s. There were two versions of the original, the first was in the mid-70s, and then there was a revival for a short while in 1989. Being more interested in 80s TV, I’ll review that version. The basic idea of Now You See It is to try and find the hidden words, they really are right in front of your eyes if you look close enough.

The host in charge of this version was Chuck Henry. The set design featured three different stages where the three parts of the game were played, each one higher up than the last, it looked mildly scary. Two contestants took part, and the format had changed a little since the original version. There was a grid with four rows of various letters, which unlike the in the 70s was now computer-generated. vlcsnap-00036

The clue is given, and the points on offer that start at 100, drop five at a time, stopping at 25. If the contestant thinks they know the answer, they have to buzz in (cue weird flashing light effect), and give what line the word is on as well as the actual answer. Getting it wrong means their opponent can have a go. The board changes at the halfway point, and if they are short of time, the points get doubled. The first to score 1,000 points progresses to the next round. vlcsnap-00037

They then go on to play the defending champion, and it seems that lucky mascots were encouraged, although whether these people thought that they were succeeding because they had a baseball with them is unclear. What is also rather unusual is that you can hear Chuck talking to the contestants as they go to the break. You did really well, honest! vlcsnap-00038

In round two, the board contains six words all on the same category that have to be found. They have to buzz in to give the first one, and then they have 20 seconds to find the other five. If they don’t, their opponent has five seconds to find just one remaining word. Their screens pop up and down so they can’t see the grid in advance. Whoever wins the first round gets $200. This is then played again for $300, $400, and so on. The first contestant to win $1,000 makes the final. Whoever achieves this is usually rather pleased to put it mildly. vlcsnap-00035

In the final, ten answers have to be found on a grid in 60 seconds. $100 is won for every word found, and by now, as well as having to find the correct line, they also have to circle the word using an electronic pencil. If they achieve this, they win the star prize, and as contestants can return for up to five days, they can win thousands of dollars, along with plenty of prizes. There was also a computer game version around this time. vlcsnap-00039

The YouTube Files – The Elvira Show.

The Elvira Show (CBS, 1993)

I wanted to do something a little different for a piece on Halloween, and I discovered something on YouTube that definitely fits the bill. In America in 1981, Movie Macabre launched. This was a show that was hosted by Elvira, the self-styled “Mistress Of The Dark”, a spooky alter-ego who was created and played by actress Cassandra Peterson.

Now Elvira had a rather striking look, with big black hair, and a dress that didn’t leave much to the imagination. In Movie Macabre, Elvira introduced and commented on rather bad horror and science-fiction B-movies, some of them having since become unintentionally amusing. The show originally ran for five years and gained a cult following despite being shown rather late at night, as proven by the smudgy clips taken from now rather mouldy VHS tapes that are available online. vlcsnap-00516

By the mid-80s, Elvira had become a famous character, and was appearing on various TV shows, along with adverts and music videos, and in 1988 there was a successful comedy film. Elvira also became known in the UK, hosting the 1989 BBC2 series Heavy Metal Heaven. There was also a huge amount of merchandise, including comics, computer games, and even pinball machines. vlcsnap-00527

By the 90s, someone thought that it would be a good idea to put the Elvira character into a sitcom, so in 1993 a pilot episode was made for CBS, which is on YouTube. Elvira couldn’t do it all on her own though, so the idea was expanded, with additional characters added, including some shock long-lost relatives. Would this character work in this different format? vlcsnap-00523

The Elvira Show was set in Kansas, and along with Elvira, who works as a fortune teller doing psychic readings, the other main cast members are her long-lost aunt Minerva who is a witch, her long-lost niece Paige who is a girl scout, and Renfield the talking cat, who made “catty” remarks, ha-ha. The guest cast included Chip, who Elvira is very pleased to make the acquaintance of. He could fall under her spell, but does he have a secret? The squealing studio audience couldn’t wait to find out. vlcsnap-00525

Although this was enjoyable, there clearly weren’t 200 episodes in the idea as the show didn’t go any further than an unaired pilot. Looking back, many people think that the show was a cross between Sabrina The Teenage Witch and Married… With Children, with an unusual mix of witchcraft and boobie jokes. Maybe the idea was too spooky for a cheesy domestic sitcom with too much hugging. After this, Elvira made many more guest appearances in TV shows, along with more series of Movie Macabre.

CBBC Memories – Bailey Kipper’s POV.

Bailey Kipper’s POV (CBS, 1996)

This will probably be the final imported children’s sitcom that I’ll review. This one was shown around the same time as Fudge (that I reviewed recently), but most of the others from the 90s are simply too sickly or inane for my liking, so sorry if you were expecting a review of Saved By The Bell, or even Cousin Skeeter. This one attracted me because it had a rather interesting idea.

Before I go any further though, I would just like to say that I think the name Bailey Kipper is terrific. The show was in a Saturday Morning slot on American TV, before coming to CBBC’s main afternoon strand in 1998. The opening sequence where Bailey rapped about the scenario while all of the cast did a dance was rather embarrassing, but the rest of the show was definitely very enjoyable. vlcsnap-01112

Bailey Kipper is an 11-year-old boy who is rather smart and likes to let his imagination run wild. His dad works at a local TV station and sometimes brings home pieces of technical kit. Bailey then uses this equipment to create his own TV channel where he can keep a close check on his family and friends, because of small cameras hidden around the house (and even on people) in the shape of eyeballs. vlcsnap-01110

Bailey then edits all of this footage together in a special secret room and enhances it with various visual and sound effects to create a video diary of what people have been up to, including his dad Don, mum Vickie, older sister Robin, younger brother Eric, and even the dog, as if he was directing their lives, and they were totally oblivious. Episodes centred around various things such as a day at school or relatives visiting. It is rather weird watching this show back now knowing that I’m closer to the ages of the parents than the children! vlcsnap-01113

The idea of constantly keeping track of someone predated all of the Big Brother-style shows, and watching things from various people’s perspectives was also fairly similar to the idea of Channel 4’s sitcom Peep Show (which at the early development stage was also planned to be called POV). The situation the family were in was rather similar to the later more famous sitcom Malcolm In The Middle. vlcsnap-01114

Bailey Kipper’s POV was a quirky idea that was put together very well, it’s a shame that there were only 13 episodes in one series, they definitely could’ve expanded on the idea, and it deserves more credit. The show was repeated on CBBC until as late as 2002, but there has been no DVD release. Don’t expect a revival of the show any time soon though, because Michael Galeota, who starred as Bailey, died in 2016 aged only 31.

More TV Memories – The Late Show.

The Late Show With David Letterman (CBS, 1993-2015)

American TV has had a tradition of having a late show five nights a week that combined comedy and chat which goes back many years, and a few of these have also been shown in this country. I remember watching this one in the early-2000s when it was imported by ITV2. By this point, The Late Show was hosted by David Letterman (having joined CBS in 1993), who even in those days had long been established as one of the leading figures on TV, and was already an institution.

The show would come from a theatre in New York City, and usually follow the same format. Letterman would come on stage, accompanied by plenty of music from the regular band, fronted by Paul Shaffer. There would then be an opening monologue featuring lots of jokes about the latest news that would often be a success (although this was because seemingly hundreds of writers contributed). vlcsnap-00886

Then Letterman would take his seat and there would be a few features and sketches. These included a look at viewers’ fascinating comments in the Mailbag, which also featured contributions from various members of the production team. And there would be the excitement of Will It Float and Is This Anything. Well if they worked the first time, why not do it again, viewers loved it. vlcsnap-00890

And of course, there would also be the Top Ten list, one of the most famous features which got everyone laughing. And there would be plenty of guests interviewed, usually film stars aiming to promote their latest work, although this was never really the highlight of the show myself, partly because I’m not hugely interested in films and the tone was slightly more serious, I always preferred the daftness that you’d get at the beginning. vlcsnap-00889

Shows would then often end with a performance from a pop group, or a stand-up comedian’s routine, and our very own Harry Hill appeared a few times, trying to see if his rather odd style of humour would appeal Stateside. Unfortunately, because Letterman often spent so much time fidgeting with pencils and rambling on, they’d usually run out of time for this, and they’d all have to return another night to try again. vlcsnap-00887

The Late Show has been shown on various channels in the UK, including ITV2, where it was briefly shown in the evening, usually only a day or two after it was shown in America. It was then moved to a much later slot, before being bumped to ITV4, and then disappearing altogether. Letterman remained on top until his retirement in 2015, and it is remarkable to think that the UK has never produced a successful equivalent of this show.

CBBC Memories – Fudge.

Fudge (ABC, 1995, CBS, 1995)

This is another American sitcom that was shown on CBBC in the late-90s. Fudge is a show that was based on a series of books by Judy Blume that in 1995 were turned into a TV series. The first episode was a 90 minute feature-length special called Fudge-A-Mania. It was supposed to introduce us to the characters, but rather curiously it was shown out of sequence about a month after the regular series launched in this country.

Peter Hatcher is a boy who lives with his family in New York City. When he is at school, he often spends time with the girl next door Sheila, and his best friend Jimmy, and his favourite sport is baseball. However, he is constantly upstaged by his immensely irritating younger brother Farley, who is known to everyone by his nickname “Fudge” (don’t ever actually attempt to call him Farley!). vlcsnap-00423

Fudge was about four or five years old, and everywhere he went with Peter he would carry on as if he was on a permanent sugar rush, constantly jumping around and squealing. Nobody knew what he would do next. What a pain! Also featuring are their parents Anne and Warren who often get caught up in Fudge’s antics too. Most of the stories are told from Peter’s perspective, and he even sometimes addresses the camera to tell us his feelings. vlcsnap-00420

It could be considered that some of the stories in the episodes were a little too sickly sweet for the average young British viewer who might be more used to shows with a harder edge, as things that happened included Fudge auditioning for a TV advert, losing his favourite cuddly toy, or having a birthday party, and that was about it really, how exciting. vlcsnap-00504

Also, occasionally this would be accompanied by some cartoon-style sound effects which was a little odd. It seems that there was also a younger sister in the books, but they weren’t included in the TV series. How Peter managed to put up with Fudge constantly causing chaos wherever he went whilst also trying to get along at school really was a mystery. vlcsnap-00486

There were 25 episodes of Fudge in two series (including a channel switch in America), and it was shown fairly often on CBBC until 1999, a few years after it had actually ended. Although there were some books, as far as I know the TV series has not had a DVD release in this country. It was yet another one of those shows that I remember watching for a while when I was about 12, I’m sure that many others watched it as well.

More TV Memories – The Charlie Brown And Snoopy Show.

The Charlie Brown And Snoopy Show (CBS, 1983-1985)

Look, it’s another cartoon review. This was another one where although it was aimed at younger viewers, I don’t think it was ever shown as part of the main CBBC afternoon strand, it was more likely to be shown on weekend mornings. The Charlie Brown And Snoopy Show was of course based on the popular newspaper strip Peanuts, that was created and drawn by Charles M Schulz for almost 50 years.

I don’t really remember reading it myself much when I was younger though, this was the show where I first came to know the famous characters as they were brought to life in this cartoon, that was first shown on American TV in the mid-80s. I don’t think I even realised that the name of this show wasn’t the title of the actual strip, with many people always thinking that Peanuts was a rather curious choice. vlcsnap-00938

Apart from this show, there had been several one-off TV specials stretching all the way back to the 60s (most of them had a title that ended with …Charlie Brown), but this was an attempt at a full series. In the show we meet several young characters. The main one is Charlie Brown, a boy who wore a yellow shirt, he was always portrayed as a lovable loser, and we also meet his sister Sally. vlcsnap-00936

Among the other characters are Charlie’s pet dog Snoopy, who likes to sleep on top of a kennel rather than inside it, and the bird Woodstock. When not at school, Charlie likes to watch TV, or play with friends, but he always has a mishap, such as being unable to fly a kite. Every character had their own quirk, among the others I remember are Pig-Pen who smelt rather a lot, Schroeder who liked to play the piano, and Linus who was very fond of his blanket. vlcsnap-00939

Every episode featured a few stories that focused on different characters. No adults were ever seen or heard on the show (any adult speaking was out-of-vision provided by an odd trumpet noise), so we don’t know much about any of the cast’s parents or teachers. All of the cast’s voices were provided by children, which meant that they were frequently replaced as they began to outgrow their role. vlcsnap-00935

There were 18 episodes of The Charlie Brown And Snoopy Show in two series. They were repeated rather a lot on BBC1 and BBC2, and it was still being shown as late as 2005, over two decades after it was made. Beyond this, Peanuts has been popular enough for there to have been VHS releases of the TV show, along with books, computer games, documentaries, even musicals. It really is an American institution.