Game Show Memories – Game Show Stars Part 12.

My next choice to feature in this series might be a surprise to some people, as maybe he isn’t as well-known as some of the others. This might lead to people thinking things like “do you really think that he is one of the greats?” and “surely you’re not putting him in the same bracket as Bruce Forsyth and the like?”, and I’m not really, although he might be a B-list name compared to most, he hosted some shows that I enjoyed, and for me, that’s enough to qualify.

Andrew O’Connor is someone who has had a rather varied career, as well as being a game show host, he has also been a magician, comedian, producer, and much more. He first appeared on TV in the mid-80s, doing his comedy thing on shows including 3-2-1 and Copy Cats, and he also contributed to children’s TV shows including The Joke Machine and On The Waterfront.

In the late-80s, he became the second host of Chain Letters, which at this point was briefly shown in a primetime slot. He also contributed some of his impressions to the Observation round on The Krypton Factor. By the early-90s, he was appearing in CITV’s sitcom Kappatoo. He also hosted One To Win, which although the format was rather similar to Bob’s Full House, this was actually based on an American show called Trump Card.

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And there was Sky Runners, which was an attempt at a team version of Treasure Hunt, which got no further than a pilot shown quietly on a Bank Holiday. Second Guess was another less successful one, shown in the early days of The Family Channel. He was also guaranteed to be good value as a panellist, including regular appearances on Through The Keyhole. By this point, he was also working behind the scenes on game shows, including being the co-creator of Incredible Games and Lose A Million.

In the mid-90s he co-hosted Happy Families, a Saturday Night show that was a little similar to Gladiators, which was when BBC1 was struggling to find some new popular entertainment shows. My favourite of all his game shows has got to be Talk About, which had a rather surreal twist, as most of the contestants were clearly drawn from the “where on earth did we find them?” pile, and there was at least one edition where he couldn’t stop laughing at how useless they were at playing the game. It was great, honest. And he did it all while wearing a horrible waistcoat.

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He then hosted Family Catchphrase, and there was a celebrity edition where Bob Holness was a contestant, who gave him some advice on game show hosting, which I’m sure was definitely worth listening to. Finally in the late-90s there was The Alphabet Game, which he also co-created. This format was then sold around the world, becoming popular in Spain, where the star prize would often rollover until reaching seven figures. This then came back to the UK as Alphabetical.

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Since then, he has concentrated mostly on production work, which has made him a few quid over the years, including being behind several shows about magic and illusions, and he also directed the Mitchell And Webb film Magicians. I don’t have any problem with him being among my favourites. Oh, and he’s no relation to Des. Or Tom.

Game Show Memories – Family Catchphrase Celebrity Special.

Family Catchphrase Celebrity Special (The Family Channel, 1993)

Recently, I put together a list of TV shows that I still want to review for this blog, and it came to about 250, so there are definitely lots more nostalgic memories to come yet. And then of course while I’m deciding which one to choose from the list, I spot something online I like the look of that I haven’t written down and decide to review that instead, so they’ll have to wait for now.

Now it’s well established that I am a fan of game shows, but I have reviewed just about all of the ones that I remember watching, so here is a variation of one that I have already looked back at because I just couldn’t resist. And also, it’s a Christmas special. Now I know it’s still a long way off yet, but with all the Christmas-themed adverts and films already on TV you wouldn’t think so, and I’d rather not wait until December to share it.

I have already reviewed Family Catchphrase, the spin-off game show on The Family Channel (that evolved into Challenge) hosted by Andrew O’Connor, who I always enjoyed watching on TV. And this one is a celebrity special (celebrity editions of Catchphrase? What will they think of next?). But it’s the contestants who take part that really caught my eye (and thanks to “TVSProductions82” for uploading this). vlcsnap-00941

The show begins with the opening sequence introduced in 1986, and it must be Christmas, as there’s a tree, and Andrew has his best waistcoat on. The celebrity teams are Bob Holness and his daughter Carol, against Johnny Ball and his daughter Zoe. Now Bob of course was the host of Blockbusters for over a decade, and he also appeared on a celebrity special of the main version of Catchphrase hosted by Roy Walker. Will he able to solve the clues on this show? vlcsnap-00979

As I’m sure people know, two of Bob’s daughters also had hit singles in the 80s. One of them was as a member of Toto Coelo (of “I Eat Cannibals” fame that made the Top Ten), and the other was by his teammate Carol, under the name Nancy Nova, who had a hit with “No No No” which reached a sensational No. 63 in September 1982. Now I’ve not heard this song myself, I suppose I should check it out. vlcsnap-00980

Johnny’s daughter Zoe was starting out as a TV presenter at this time, having been on CBBC for about a year, which Andrew likes to make lots of jokes about. Johnny hosted lots of children’s TV shows (I remember enjoying Johnny Ball Reveals All on CITV), while Zoe would go on to further success including becoming the host of the BBC Radio 2 breakfast show. Andrew later starts going on about Zoe announcing “bunnyhops”, he seems to be thinking of Gus Honeybun who I don’t think was ever on CBBC! vlcsnap-01011

The two teams were playing for points to win prizes for their chosen charities, including a colour TV. It’s time to play, so don’t forget to say what you see, and remember the bell. All of the catchphrases are Christmas-themed. But Bob buzzes in before the bell, oh no! Whoever solves the bonus also wins a prize. In the next round, the teams alternate on the buzzer, and going into the break, Johnny and Zoe are in the lead by five points! They’ll be back soon, don’t go away! vlcsnap-01013

The puzzle is finally solved for the prize of a CD player. Now there’s no bell, anyone can buzz in, and it becomes fast and furious. Bob and Carol take the lead, and also win a waterproof camera! It’s all over, and Bob and Carol win 735-620! They go into the Super Catchphrase, which is even more exciting than the Gold Run. They win the star prize, and they are very pleased. Father Christmas then comes on to give everyone a hug, now that’s the way to end a show. What fun, you’ll only find entertainment like this on Challenge at 5am. vlcsnap-01049

Game Show Memories – Family Catchphrase.

Family Catchphrase (The Family Channel, 1993-1994) vlcsnap-00309Family Catchphrase was a mid-90s spin-off from the classic game show Catchphrase, but instead of single contestants taking part, it featured related teams. Curiously, it was not shown on ITV and it wasn’t hosted by Roy Walker, but instead Andrew O’Connor who is one of my favourites hosted so he was a decent substitute, and it was shown on The Family Channel, which over the years would eventually evolve into the channel now known as Challenge. vlcsnap-00323

Two teams of two took part, usually consisting of a teenager alongside an older relative such as a parent or an aunt or uncle. The rules were slightly different to the original version of Catchphrase. First of all, teams played for points instead of money, and various rounds were played as a team or individually. Just say what you see! vlcsnap-00321

The first round was the same as regular Catchphrase, with teams having to wait for the bell before they answered. The bonus Catchphrase was also the same with its nine squares to pick from, and this is the first version where the value of the bonus decreased each time it was incorrectly guessed, and this rule was introduced to the ITV series in 1994. vlcsnap-00606

Then there was a round where the teams played individually and there was no conferring, so this was the only time where youngsters weren’t encouraged to listen to their elders. The final round was similar to the Ready Money Round as the bell had been taken out and teams could buzz as many times as they wanted until they got it right, but because there was no money on offer it was renamed Fast And Furious. 


The highest-scoring team go through to the Super Catchphrase. This is just about the same as in the main version, with the idea of getting five phrases right in a row horizontally, vertically or diagonally in 60 seconds still the same, only the prizes on offer were on a smaller scale, such as the main prize for going through the M square being a trip to Alton Towers or a games console. vlcsnap-00335

I didn’t see Family Catchphrase the first time round, but in recent years I have seen a few editions thanks to the endless repeats on Challenge and YouTube. There were a couple of memorable moments. First of all, in a clue which had a worm protruding from the planet Earth, a boy buzzed in and said “The Worm From Earth”. The look on Andrew’s face. Also, a pre-fame Simon Amstell took part with his aunt and they ended up winning some nice prizes. vlcsnap-00312

I also noticed that Family Catchphrase used the title sequence introduced in 1986, but featured the set design introduced for the 1994 relaunch on ITV, which made it an odd mix of 80s and 90s visually. Overall though I did think that this was a fun variation on the idea, and I enjoyed watching it more than the post-Roy Walker revivals on ITV.