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.

The YouTube Files – Celebrity Squares USA.

Hollywood Squares (NBC, 1966-1980, 1983-1984, syndicated, 1971-1981, 1986-1989, 1998-2004)

As my review of Celebrity Squares is one of the most-viewed blog pieces of the year, I thought that I’d take a look at the original American version too. Hollywood Squares began in the mid-60s, but I’ll concentrate on the version that was shown in the mid-80s, as this was rather similar to the format that was used when the show was revived in the UK in 1993. The host by this point was John Davidson.

The set design was rather similar to the UK 90s version too, featuring a big flashing sign of the show’s title, and also several cars on stage, just like “The Monkhouse Motor Show” (and it’ll become clear why soon). Hollywood Squares was of course essentially oversized Noughts And Crosses (or “Tic-Tac-Toe” as it’s called in America), which featured stars and cars. vlcsnap-00068

All nine squares featured someone famous (although I’m not really sure what was classed as a celebrity on TV in the mid-80s), but a lot of people who were in daytime soaps took part, along with various comedians (well they claimed they were comedians). Sometimes there were double acts in a square, meaning that 11 or even 12 people actually took part, who would get up to all kinds of things. And they really were stacked on top of each other, and had to climb a lot of rather scary-looking stairs to get to the top row. vlcsnap-00069

Two contestants set at a desk that seemed to be very high up in the air. They would pick a square (usually beginning with the centre one), and then the celebrity would be asked a question. After making a rather embarrassing joke, they would then give their answer, and the contestant had to say if they agreed or disagreed with their choice. Get it right and they win the square, but get it wrong, and their opponent does. vlcsnap-00070

If the contestant gets one wrong that would give their opponent the game, they don’t get the square, they have to give a correct answer themselves to win. Whoever makes three in a row vertically, horizontally, or diagonally, wins the round and $500. This is then played again, but with the Secret Square Surprise added. Pick the square and get the question right, and a bonus prize is also won, which was usually a holiday. The winner of this round gets $1,000. There usually isn’t time for another full game, so contestants are given $100 for every correct answer before time runs out. vlcsnap-00071

The highest-scorer goes into the final. Unlike the 90s UK final (where answers had to given against the clock to win a car), the contestant picked from a set of keys, and they would also pick a celebrity to give them good luck (or all of them if they wanted). If the key started the car they wanted, they won it. If it didn’t, as the defending champion, if they won again, they could pick another key, meaning if they got as far as their fifth appearance and still hadn’t found the key, they were guaranteed the win. There was also a board game, and the late-90s revival was briefly shown on Sky One.

Game Show Memories – Celebrity Squares.

Celebrity Squares (ITV, 1975-1979, 1993-1997, 2014-present)

In my final look at an ITV game show hosted by Bob Monkhouse for now, here’s my review of Celebrity Squares, the show which is essentially glamorised Noughts And Crosses that was based on a long-running American format called Hollywood Squares which Bob preferred to call Bob’s Big Box Game for some reason. Celebrity Squares 4

Bob originally hosted the show in the 70s but returned for a revival in the 90s, which is when I remember watching the show. Two contestants compete against one another to answer general knowledge questions correctly to try and create a horizontal, vertical or diagonal line on the board. Unfortunately not too many of the stars came from the A-list, with several comedians and soap actors taking part. Also, all the celebrities really were stacked on top of one another. Celebrity Squares 14

The idea was that the contestant would pick a celebrity and then Bob would ask them a question, to which they would give their answer. The contestant would then say if they agreed with their answer or not, and if they were right they won the square. They would also win money for every correct answer, with a bonus for completing a line. There was also a round where if they picked the secret square they would win a bonus prize if they got the answer right which was usually a holiday. vlcsnap-01138

After the break the money was doubled and when time was up the highest-scoring contestant goes into the final. A question is given which has a list of 20 answers. If they can correctly guess nine of the 20 on the list in 30 seconds they win the star prize of a car (described by Bob as “The Monkhouse Motor Show”) which they had selected at random from the five on offer. Celebrity Squares 7

When the revival of Celebrity Squares began on ITV in 1993, Bob Monkhouse’s career was at a fairly low point. His presenting style was seen as rather smug by some viewers and it was a little disappointing that it seemed that Bob had to go back to hosting a show that had ended nearly 15 years earlier to continue his career. It was good seeing him interact with some of the celebrities though including Andrew O’Connor (yes I know I’m always going on about him), Jim Bowen and others. Celebrity Squares 3

About a year later though, Bob appeared on Have I Got News For You where he took the opportunity to remind viewers that he was a great quick-witted comedian and this helped to give his career a boost, and for the final decade of his life he appeared on lots of comedy shows as well as game shows where he always gave good value, and since his death in 2003 there have been several documentaries which have reassessed his long career and increased his reputation as a very talented comedian and presenter who always worked very hard to entertain people. vlcsnap-01139

Celebrity Squares was produced by Central and I do remember watching regularly, and there have been several repeat runs of the 90s version on Challenge. In 2014 ITV revived the show again, this time hosted by Warwick Davis and Tim Vine was a regular panellist in one of the squares which was great. This will be the last Bob Monkhouse-hosted game show that I’ll be reviewing for now, but I still haven’t looked back at my favourite one that he hosted yet, you can probably guess which one I mean!