The YouTube Files – Concentration USA.

Classic Concentration (NBC, 1987-1991)

Here’s a look at another original version of an American game show that later came to the UK. Concentration was originally on American TV for 20 years from 1958-1978, and there was a British version as early as 1959. This piece will focus on the revival (which was renamed Classic Concentration) that launched in 1987, a British version of this version launched on ITV in 1988 and ran for two series. There are plenty of editions on YouTube, so let’s do a comparison.

Classic Concentration was a daytime game show (the ITV version was in primetime) hosted by Alex Trebek, who is best known for hosting Jeopardy! for 35 years. I didn’t realise that Trebek had hosted so many other game shows over the years, but his style was more relaxed than on Jeopardy! and there weren’t so many difficult questions (or indeed, answers) for contestants to face. There was also some marvellous knitwear on display and the glamorous assistant Marjorie was available to show off some of the prizes. vlcsnap-00990

Two contestants took part and they had to match the pairs on the 5×5 board (which was identical to the one used on the British version) that would reveal the famous phrase hidden behind the squares. The show was a test of memory. There were also plenty of prizes on offer, but were they better than the British version? The prizes included fridges, pool tables, cameras, holidays, not too bad really. vlcsnap-00997

Contestants picked two squares, if they found a match, they won the prize, the squares were removed, and they could have another go. Also hidden on the board were Wild squares. If they find one of the three of those along with a prize, the other square with the prize is removed. If they match two Wild squares, they win a bonus of $500 and can have another pick. The odds of finding all three Wild squares is very small, but a contestant did that with their very first pick on the very first edition! vlcsnap-00992

A further twist was that there were also green and red Take squares hidden. Find those and you could steal one of your opponent’s prizes. If a contestant thought that they knew the answer, they often would say “I’d like to solve the puzzle, Alex” (I thought that was a phrase used on another game show?). If they are right, they keep their prizes. It’s a best-of-three, if it goes to a third and deciding game, the puzzle is revealed square-by-square from top to bottom. Whoever buzzes in first with the correct answer goes into the final. vlcsnap-00994

In the final, the contestant must make seven matches from the 15 squares in 35 seconds to win the car, the leftover square being the make of car that they win. If they don’t succeed, they can return as a defending champion, and are also given an extra five seconds if they make the final again to give them a better chance of winning. There were also themed editions including college students and a tournament of champions. vlcsnap-00996

There were over 1,000 editions of Classic Concentration made, it was repeated in this country on satellite channels Lifestyle and Sky One, and there was also a board game and a book released. It was fairly similar to the British version, with one big difference being the deciding round, and the prizes on offer were better as this was long before cars and huge cash prizes could constantly be given away on game shows in the UK.

Game Show Memories – Concentration.

Concentration (ITV, 1988-1990)

Last time I reviewed a game show produced by the long-gone ITV franchise TVS, so today I’ve decided to look back at another one. This was a primetime game which was based on an American format where having a good memory helped contestants to solves puzzles and win prizes. The first series was hosted by Nick Jacksonvlcsnap-01097

Two contestants took part competing against one another and the host stood between them. There was a 5×5 grid and they picked two squares which revealed a prize. If they found a match the two squares were removed from the board which revealed part of a famous phrase or saying animated in the style of a rebus puzzle. Also the prize that they had found went up on the board. If they didn’t find a match, play passed to their opponent. vlcsnap-01099

There were also three “wild” squares on the board which created a match with what other square was picked regardless of what the prize was, with the natural match also removed meaning that you could remove three squares in one turn, with a bonus prize on offer for finding two “wild” spaces in your turn. Part of the gameplay of the show was to watch your opponent and if they failed to find a match remember what prizes were hidden behind what squares to try and win them yourself. There was also a chance to play a “take” card once to steal one of your opponent’s prizes that you liked the look of. Contestants only won the prizes that they found if they successfully solved the puzzle. vlcsnap-01098

The contestant who won the most of the three games went through to the final. This time there were 15 squares on the board featuring various holiday destinations. There were 50 seconds on the clock and the idea was to match the pairs, avoiding the one remaining leftover square, and if they could make the seventh and final match in time that would be the destination of their star prize holiday. vlcsnap-01100

If Concentration sort-of comes across as a more old-fashioned polite version of Catchphrase then it is to some extent. The format had already been round for many years and had originally appeared on ITV from 1959-1960 when the show was produced by Granada before TVS attempted this revival almost 30 years later. The American version which began in America in 1958 (and was actually called Classic Concentration for a while) had also been a long-running success. vlcsnap-01101

Also, Nick Jackson only hosted the show for the first series before he went back to his voiceover work. Bob Carolgees took over from the second series which continued in a similar style with a new “swap” rule where you could exchange a prize for a cash amount but unfortunately Bob didn’t have his dog with him. Also, a board game was released in 1990 but unfortunately I never had that. vlcsnap-01102

I don’t remember seeing too much of Concentration at the time but I have found watching the old episodes that are on YouTube an interesting experience. There was a good use of early computer graphics and lots of prizes on offer, but once again because of the TVS archive shambles it won’t be being repeated or revived any time soon. I’ll look back at another TVS game show next time.