Game Show Memories – Game Show Stars Part 2.

This is someone who although he didn’t host a lot of game shows, he definitely became a well-known figure in that area. William G Stewart (the “G” stands for Gladstone) had a career in TV that lasted for over 40 years. He started out working behind the scenes of various shows, and he went on to be the producer and director of some 60s and 70s sitcoms, arguably the most famous of these was Bless This House (he also contributed to some documentaries on what it was like to work with Sid James).

By the early-80s he went on to work in game shows, including Family Fortunes and The Price Is Right, where he made sure that even if people hadn’t been invited to “come on down”, they still all had a good time. By the late-80s, his production company were commissioned to produce Channel 4’s new daytime game show Fifteen-To-One. Not being sure who should be the host, he decided to go in front of the camera himself.

Fifteen-To-One was of course the game show where contestants were challenged to show off their general knowledge, and were eliminated until one remained. He was also on the team of writers, usually contributing questions on the subjects of history and politics. As the years progressed, the show began to develop its style, and became known for doing things such as giving away antiques as the prizes. By the early-90s, the show was popular enough for there to be a celebrity edition.

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He then went on to host Famous People, Famous Places… on ITV (and this was later repeated on Channel 4), but this lasted for only two weeks, and is mostly forgotten now. Fifteen-To-One had now settled into being an daytime game show that was as popular as the long-running Countdown, and he also hosted a special edition when Richard Whiteley and Carol Vorderman were the contestants.

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Going into the 2000s, Fifteen-To-One was at the point where a group of contestants regularly made the grand final with rather high scores, and some felt that there were now too many “proper” quizzers taking part. When the show did finally come to an end after 16 years, there had been over 2,000 editions, and by this point he was regarded as one of the best hosts around, always making sure that people maintained a good standard.

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There was only ever one scandal that put the show’s reputation at risk, when a series champion was stripped of his trophy for bending the eligibility rules. After this, Stewart just about retired from TV, although he did also contribute to Celebrity Mastermind and The People’s Quiz (but he was turned down by Strictly Come Dancing). Although he probably didn’t expect it to happen when he started out, he became a much respected person in game show circles.

Game Show Memories – Fifteen-To-One the revival.

Fifteen-To-One (Channel 4, 2013-present)

I suppose it was something that would happen eventually, that Fifteen-To-One would one day return to the screen. About a decade after it had originally ended, Fifteen-To-One was brought back for a one-off special in prime-time. As it went down rather well, the decision was made to bring back a daytime version, however TV has changed a lot since the original run ended in 2003.

Firstly, there was the challenge of finding a new host. It was decided that Sandi Toksvig would be the new host, someone who already had about 30 years worth of experience in TV presenting when the revival launched. I don’t mind Sandi’s presenting style and having her as the host is as good as anyone else really, it was always going to be tough following the great William G Stewart whoever was chosen. vlcsnap-00894

Among the other notable things is the set design. Every contestant now stands at an individual podium with three green lights on it, and they wear name badges. It also seems that Sandi’s questions are sent to her though what I will always be inclined to describe as an “ERIC”, gimmicky in the 90s maybe, but a necessity now as I suppose this means that one of several hundred or maybe even thousand questions can be instantly accessed to be asked, and somewhat inevitably, there is also background music all the way through. Sandi will also reveal facts about the contestants, and then reveal the category by saying something like “are you any good at history?”, and then also adding an additional fact after the answer has been given. vlcsnap-00895

The most obvious change is that the show is now an hour long, which is the length of most game shows nowadays. Also, as the influence of newer shows such as The Weakest Link seemed to have an effect on the later years of the original, it does seem that some changes in the revival owe a lot to Pointless, one of the most successful game shows of the last five or six years. vlcsnap-00874

The format of the first round is the same as usual, when contestants get a question right a green light shines on them along with a “ding” noise, but if they get it wrong, one of their lights turns red. Get both wrong, and they are eliminated, with Sandi saying to them what is probably the most obvious try at a new catchphrase for this revival, “it’s lights out”. However, like on Pointless if they don’t make the final at the first attempt they can try again, and people can appear up to three times. vlcsnap-00901

In part two, after a plug for the website, the contestants can now nominate one another. There seems to be a rule that contestants can nominate the same person twice in a row, and the nominator can also choose the person the was asked the previous question. I’m fairly sure that this wasn’t in the rules in the original version. Also, something else that happens a lot is the curiously modest and somewhat British response that when Sandi asks contestants if they are enjoying being in control and nominating they almost always say “no, not really”. vlcsnap-00902

Another feature is that the nominated contestant’s podium lights up when they are in play. When there are four contestants remaining Sandi gives a quick update of the situation and often says something like “three of you will be making it to the final… one of you will not”, which is thankfully as close as she comes in her presenting style to Anne Robinson. When it’s 12 down and there are three contestants remaining, they go through to the final after the break. vlcsnap-00900

The final is again similar to the original version, and again there are exchanges at the start such as Sandi asking a contestant if they thought they’d make the final to which they always say “no, never”. In the on the buzzer stage of the game, I have noticed that logic questions seem to be asked such as “what is 75% of 48?” before when the question or nominate stage begins it reverts back to regular general knowledge questions. vlcsnap-00905

But there can only be one winner, and they receive a small trophy, again like what happens to winners on Pointless. Most finals aren’t that exciting however, lots of contestants have been knocked out with really low scores, most games end with about 20 questions still remaining, and there have been very few scores over 200, when in most series every score to make the final would have to be over 200, although this is partly because series in the revival have been much shorter, with the first being only 20 shows. vlcsnap-00907

There is a lot to play for in the series grand final though. Although there no longer seems to be a top of the leader board prize, the overall series winner receives the star prize of £40,000, one of the biggest prizes currently available on a UK game show which is definitely worth playing for. There also seems to be a rule change for the final were a question answered incorrectly on the buzzer will go on offer to the two other contestants. vlcsnap-00911

Although this version of Fifteen-To-One was arguably never going to make as big an impact as the original, Channel 4 seem to be fairly happy with it as the eighth series of the revival is about to begin, and it has also outlived Deal Or No Deal which is something of a surprise. I’m not sure how much longer it’ll run for but it’s been good to have it back on the afternoon screen.

Game Show Memories – Fifteen-To-One Grand Final.

It’s time for yet another piece about the classic game show Fifteen-To-One. This time because a few of them have recently been uploaded to YouTube, it’s to time review a grand final, the conclusion of the series when we discover the overall winner. This review will use the series 23 final from 1998 as an example of how a grand final was played and it is of course hosted by William G Stewart. They also added some extra-sparkly bits to the set too which was nice.

The grand final of Fifteen-To-One was always 45 minutes, 15 minutes longer than a regular edition. The 15 highest-scoring contestants throughout the series were invited back to take part. If there was a tie for 15th place an unaired play-off would take place to determine which contestant would take the final place on offer. There are also some familiar names taking part in this final including the defending champion Nick Terry. vlcsnap-01571

At the start of the show the contestant who finished top of the finals board would win a trophy from Laura (who usually provided the voiceover), one of two on offer in the grand final, although very few contestants did the double and won both. In this series the honour went to Roy Smith with his score of 293. Now let battle commence. We begin round one which is played as usual. The contestant standing at position number 1 is none other than Bill McKaig, needless to say he doesn’t have much trouble progressing, and only one contestant is eliminated at the end of this round. vlcsnap-01572

We then move on to round two which is longer than usual because of the higher standard. Bill McKaig is asked the first question in this round and he actually gets it wrong, well I never thought I would live to see the day. They do always get to the point where three contestants are left standing though, and Bill along with David Luscombe and Nick Terry progress to the final of the grand final. vlcsnap-01575

The format of the final was changed after a few series. All 40 of the questions are on the buzzer, and the contestant with the highest score at the end wins. It all excitingly comes down to the final question, and Bill has done it! He has beaten Nick by a very small margin, but he needn’t worry as he would go on to win four series altogether, more than any other contestant. At this point William G Stewart always says to the winner rather modestly considering their achievement “I believe Laura has got something for you”. vlcsnap-01573

Bill is the series champion and accepts the trophy from Laura, although it could be argued that this wasn’t his greatest achievement on the show as a year later he would score his famous maximum 433. I hope he put his trophies somewhere nice. This also wasn’t the closest ever finish in a grand final either – in 2003 one series ended in a tie, with two contestants have the same score and number of lives remaining. This was a very rare occurrence, and as Fifteen-To-One has no tiebreaker rule both contestants were declared joint winners and another trophy had to be found. Anybody who made the grand final though should be pleased with themselves and a lot of very talented people appeared over the years. vlcsnap-01574


Game Show Memories – Fifteen-To-One Champions Final.

Fifteen-To-One Champions Final (Channel 4, 1997)

By 1997 there had been enough overall series winners of Fifteen-To-One to have them return to play one another in a champion of champions special which was contested in the style of a series grand final. As usual this special was hosted by William G Stewart and a special trophy had been commissioned to be awarded to the winner. vlcsnap-01543

Several memorable contestants took part in this final, including Jon Goodwin who was the winner of the first series in 1988, Kevin Ashman who has also been a Mastermind champion, Martin Riley who at the time held the record for the highest score in a final with 333, and Trevor Montague who was subsequently stripped of his trophy after it was noticed that he had broken the rules. vlcsnap-01545

The show didn’t feature the likes of Bill McKaig, Daphne Fowler or Nick Terry who would win a record four series as they were among the best players of the later years of Fifteen-To-One after this special took place. For this special the rules were slightly different, with only one life lost for every incorrect answer, so even if a contestant got both of their questions wrong they still went through to round two. vlcsnap-01544

The second round was played to the regular rules, but lasted about twice the length of a regular edition such was the standard. William G Stewart admitted when the round ended after about 20 minutes that he thought that he might need a rest. Really any of the 15 contestants could’ve made it into the final, but Andrew Francis, Leslie Booth and Mal Collier were the ones who did. Also, both Francis and Collier are from Ormskirk in Lancashire, as I remember someone pointing out online they must have a very impressive quiz league there. vlcsnap-01546

The final was played out in the style of a regular series final, with all 40 questions on the buzzer. It turned out to be a very close game, with series 2 winner Mal Collier being the eventual winner by a very small margin and going on to have the honour of being the overall champion out of over 20,000 contestants who had appeared on the show at the time and receiving the trophy from Laura. vlcsnap-01547

When Fifteen-To-One launched in 1988 it must have been hoped that the show would earn a reputation for being a tough general knowledge game, and that winning the show would go on to be as regarded as being on the same level as such established and respected shows as Mastermind and University Challenge, and I definitely feel that they achieved that aim. William G Stewart said at the end that he thought the standard was as good as he’d seen on any other show. He also then went on to thank everyone who has taken part over the years and helped to make everything run so smoothly. Just one more Fifteen-To-One piece planned from me now when I take a look at the revival soon.

Game Show Memories – Fifteen-To-One Millennium Quiz.

Fifteen-To-One Millennium Quiz (Channel 4, 1999)

Here’s a look back at another variation on Fifteen-To-One, one of my favourite game shows. The Millennium Quiz was a special edition with modified rules which was shown on Christmas Day 1999 and ran for almost two hours. It was hosted as ever by William G Stewart. As was the case with just about every other programme on TV at the end of 1999, the word “millennium” was inserted into the show’s title rather needlessly, but it was the basis for this edition to feature questions about the history of the world over the past 1,000 years. vlcsnap-01440

Instead of 15 contestants, 25 contestants were invited to take part. They had been chosen from the 25,000 contestants who had appeared on Fifteen-To-One over the previous 12 years. Several series winners and top of the finals board winners were invited to take part, including the then reigning champion Nick Terry who had just won his fourth series, more than any other contestant on the show, and many other familiar faces took part, including our old friend Bill McKaig. All the contestants were playing for a prestigious trophy that had been specially commissioned for the programme. vlcsnap-01441

The rules were different too. In this version, there were not three lives, every contestant started with 100 points. In the first round they would each be asked two questions, scoring ten points for a correct answer, and having five points deducted for an incorrect one. The format for round two was different as well. vlcsnap-01443

In round two, each contestant would be asked five questions, with the same scoring system being used. After a contestant was asked their question, they would be told the category of the next question, and then they nominated a number for who they would like to face that question. At the end of this round the ten lowest-scoring contestants were eliminated. vlcsnap-01442

In the next round, the 15 remaining contestants were again all asked five questions, this time with all them on events that happened in the 20th Century. At the end of this round, the three highest-scoring contestants would go into the final, although there was a tiebreak so even more questions had to be asked before we knew the finalists. vlcsnap-01444

The three surviving contestants then went into the final, which was played in the style of a series grand final. All 40 questions on the buzzer, ten points for a correct answer, a life lost for an incorrect one. After so many questions in this marathon edition of the show, one clear winner eventually emerged. It was Kevin Ashman, who was the winner of series 3, and definitely one of the best contestants to have appeared on the show. vlcsnap-01445

I don’t think that I remember watching the Millennium Quiz the first time round, so it was great to finally see it when it was uploaded to YouTube, and the battle between the contestants was fascinating. I still have the Fifteen-To-One Champion Of Champions Special and the revival to review on here. I’d also like to review The Fifteen-To-One Scrapbook, but that doesn’t seem to have appeared online and I never recorded it myself, if anyone does have a copy to upload I’d be very grateful.

Game Show Memories – Maximum 433 On Fifteen-To-One.

I know I’m going on about classic game show Fifteen-To-One again but I wanted to look back at one of the most remarkable editions of the show’s history. Eventually in 16 years over 2,000 editions of the original run of Fifteen-To-One were made, and most came and went with little incident, but because so many shows were made sometimes it can throw up a freak result.

In a series 25 show in April 1999, ten contestants were eliminated in the first round which was a record at the time. This meant that only two contestants needed to be eliminated in round two. This didn’t take very long and host William G Stewart was beginning to think about what he would have to do as the show was now looking like it would seriously underrun. But they managed to fill the time in part two rather spectacularly.

One of the three contestants who made the final was Bill McKaig from Glasgow. He was a regular on Fifteen-To-One, having been the series 23 champion and the top of the finals board trophy winner in series 22 so it was clear that he was going to be very difficult to beat. He got the first three questions right on the buzzer and when it came to the question or nominate phase of the game he decided to take a question. vlcsnap-01255

And then another, and then another. The questions were on various subjects, ranging from sport to history. Incredibly, Bill went on to get all 40 questions right, the second record-breaking moment in this edition. “It’s a score that it is never ever going to be beaten on Fifteen-To-One because it is the maximum score” said a clearly impressed William G Stewart, and he is right. 433 is the highest possible score, 400 points for 40 correct answers in the final, 30 bonus points for having three lives left, and 3 points from having three lives left at the end of part one. vlcsnap-01257

This meant that Bill faced 43 questions on the show and he got every single one of them correct. Unsurprisingly Bill went on to win that series’ top of the finals board trophy, although Nick Terry would be the overall series winner. The two defeated contestants who didn’t get a look in in the final were kindly invited back to take part in the next series… on a show where Bill wouldn’t be a rival contestant. vlcsnap-01256

This really was quizzing at its best and it was very exciting watching Bill when it was realised that he was making an attempt at the record, even admitting afterwards that he wanted to do it. (It would have been an interesting moment if he had got the final three questions wrong though). This is one of the most famous Fifteen-To-One editions and it has been frequently repeated whenever there’s been a gap in the Channel 4 schedule. vlcsnap-01258

Bill McKaig is definitely one of the best contestants to have taken part on Fifteen-To-One, and after his maximum there were three more scores over 400, but no-one else scored 433. It was just brilliant to watch, a real masterclass of general knowledge, and one of the best moments in the show’s history. What a guy.

Game Show Memories – Fifteen-To-One first and final series comparison.

I know I keep returning to Fifteen-To-One but I am a big fan of the classic game show. I was watching some clips of old episodes on YouTube recently when I decided that it might be an interesting idea to compare an episode from the first series which launched on Channel 4 in January 1988 with an episode from the 35th and final series of the original run that concluded in December 2003. I wanted to make a comparison between the series, having a look at the show when it started before it became properly defined, to the end almost 16 years later when the format had settled comfortably into a groove to see how it had evolved.

Scheduling. First series: Fifteen-To-One was shown on weekdays at 4:30, alternating with Countdown, and this series was also recently repeated on Challenge. Final series: Unfortunately the show had fallen a little out of favour by this point and was now shown at 2:45 before Countdown which by this point was shown all year round. f1

Opening Sequence. First series: The announcer was Anthony Hyde, although he didn’t last long, and later two announcers were used who alternated. They were Philip Lowrie, who was also an original cast member of Coronation Street, and Laura Calland who used to appear on-screen at the end of the series to present the trophy to the overall winner, who we later discovered was William’s wife. Also, we hear the familiar opening music. Final series: The opening was now animated and used a revised version of the theme that was introduced in about 2001. It wasn’t as funky as the original version, but I still liked it. The show was also in widescreen by now of course. f9

Set design. First series: It was rather blue, featuring the familiar semicircle with the three green neon lights and the contestant’s number beneath them on an LCD. Final series: After a few redesigns the set in September 2001 had become purple and the neon lights were still around. f2

Studio audience. First series: There is a live studio audience. There doesn’t seem to be too many of them, only about a dozen scattered around, but they make themselves heard, with even one of them going “woo-woo-woo” at the start which doesn’t seem right really. Final series: After a while a live audience stopped being used, partly because of set redesign and also because supposedly they began to fall asleep and started to snore. So by now the same canned applause sound effect seemed to be used in every show and it was odd seeing William acknowledge some non-existent people for their support.

William G Stewart. First series: William starts the first episode by simply saying “well, well, well” (and almost tripping over a cable). William G Stewart had worked behind the scenes in TV for many years as a producer on such shows as sitcom Bless This House and game show Family Fortunes. His own production company Regent produced Fifteen-To-One which was based on an idea by John M Lewis. He isn’t introduced by the announcer so he introduces himself as “William Stewart” (what no “G”?). He also goes on to explain the rules for a couple of minutes, saying that up to 200 questions per show could be asked but that never really happened. He also has different glasses and a moustache which didn’t last long. Final series: William would gain in confidence in front of the camera, and by now all he needs to say to begin round one is “off we go”. There is also a nice camera swoop at this point. By now William was 68 years old and he retired when the show ended, although he has been seen occasionally on TV since in documentaries. I believe that he will turn 80 next month and I do think that he is a terrific and genial host, definitely up there with the likes of Magnus Magnusson and Bamber Gascoigne. f3

Contestants. First series: They all wore a name badge on which their name and number had been written with a marker pen and it looked rather cheap. William also refers to all the contestants as “sir” (well, the male ones). The familiar ding and buzz noises for correct and incorrect answers sound a little different too. Final series: The contestant’s name and number was now displayed in front of them on a monitor in the italic version of the font that was used for the question graphics on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. When they were knocked out the screen changed to just say “15-1”. f4

Questions. First series: These were simply read off cards, with questions which also had a visual clue appearing on a card too which was rather odd. There were also a few research howlers in this series, such as insisting that Croatia was a part of Czechoslovakia. Final series: Question cards are still used, there were no electronic devices like you get on most shows now, but visual clues were now represented on a monitor. I would say that the questions weren’t necessarily harder in any particular series, a good standard was maintained throughout. f5

End of round one. First series: William doesn’t say “it’s four down, 11 to go” at this stage. Although the announcer does say who has been knocked out. Final series. The contestants to have been eliminated are told “you must now leave us”, creating an awkward moment as people walk off which was described as “the walk in the dark syndrome” which had been pioneered by newer game shows such as The Weakest Link.

Round two. First series: The rules for this round are again explained carefully, with William constantly saying to the first contestant “are you ready?”. Final series: By this point there had been a rule change where you couldn’t nominate the same person twice or the contestant who had just nominated you to keep the gameplay moving around.

The final. First series: Again, the rules of the final are explained rather clearly. There was a slight difference in that lives from the end of round two weren’t carried over, and William would also say things like “you have ten points, sir”. When a contestant had three correct answers there was a weird “woop-woop-woop” noise. Final series: At the start of the final, the podium moved forward and the contestants had to walk towards it. By now the “question or nominate” format had become familiar and the final was simply introduced as “fingers on buzzers, off we go.” f6

End of episode. First series: When there was only one contestant left they had the option to carry on answering questions or decide to just take the points for however many lives they still had left. We are treated to some rather long credits. Final series: By this point you carried on until the end and contestants definitely needed a score of over 200 to have a chance of making the finals board. And all Williams usually needed to say to close the show is “we’ll be back tomorrow, see you then”. f7

A couple of other things… There was a special edition called The Fifteen-To-One Scrapbook which had a look at how the show was put together. It seemed to be repeated frequently when the cricket was delayed or finished early and it was a great insight into the workings of a successful game show. f8Also, the only other game show I can recall William G Stewart hosting during this time was a general knowledge show called Famous People, Famous Places… of which there were eight editions made and it was only shown in the Thames region in December 1992, the final month that they were on air. It was something of a surprise to see him turn up to host a show on ITV and it’s little remembered now.

Game Show Memories – Fifteen-To-One Celebrity Special.

Fifteen-To-One Celebrity Special (Channel 4, 1990)

Another intriguing variation on the classic Fifteen-To-One format, in 1990 it seems that a couple of years after the show began, someone thought that it would be a good idea to do a celebrity special. What is interesting about this special is that all of the 15 contestants seem to be host William G Stewart‘s close showbiz pals. It seems that we went through his address book to pick some famous faces who he thought could take the general knowledge challenge. vlcsnap-01009

The contestants included such people as fellow game show hosts Richard Whiteley, Bob Holness and Nicholas Parsons (who William always referred to on the show as “my good friend Nick Parsons”), and it was enjoyable seeming them all have a go. There was one rule change for the first round, only one life would be lost for every incorrect answer, so everyone would go through to round two regardless of how they did. vlcsnap-01012

Because of the personalities of celebrities, when William asked the questions, rather than just giving the answer, there was a lot of stalling and joking from the contestants, and William had to try hard to keep order, coming across as a lot more animated than in the regular show where he was a lot more restrained and authoritative, although these were all his best mates. You’ve only got three seconds to answer so get on with it. At the end of the first round William simply remarked “I hope never to go through such an experience again”. vlcsnap-01011

One thing that was interesting about the second round is that every time a contestant lost all their lives and was eliminated, all the other contestants started to laugh mockingly as another celebrity had been vaguely humiliated because they didn’t know the answer, seemingly as if they would never live it down. No-one ever carried on like that in the regular version thankfully. vlcsnap-01013

Eventually although it took a while as it always has to be it was 12 down, three to go. The format of the final had the regular “question or nominate” rules. The overall winner of the show was Nigel Rees who is a right old clever clogs and he won a special prize for charity. A couple of years later there was another celebrity special but that one doesn’t seem to have appeared online. vlcsnap-01010

A decade another the original run of Fifteen-To-One ended, the revival was started with another primetime celebrity special. Although it looked for a while like it would be another show that only continue in celebrity specials, there have since been a couple of regular series, and there are more to come in the future. I personally prefer the usual format but this was a fun variation.

I’ve still got a couple of Fifteen-To-One spin-offs to review, the Champion Of Champions special and the Millennium special, so look out for those soon.

Game Show Memories – Fifteen-To-One Schools.

Fifteen-To-One Schools (Channel 4, 1999)

Because I am a big fan of the great game show Fifteen-To-One, I have decided to review all the various spin-offs that were shown over the years including the revival, the celebrity special, the millennium special, the champion of champions special, and this, the schools series.

In the summer of 1999 there was a series of Fifteen-To-One for schools, where sixth-formers from 108 schools all over the UK competed, and for this series the show had a different format. It was the only time that the contestants were divided into three teams of five and there was a scoring system. vlcsnap-00791

In the first round, each contestant faced two questions and there was no conferring. If they got it right they scored ten points, but if they got it wrong, they scored no points, there were no lives used at this point. In the second round, more questions were asked, this time with ten points for a correct answer, five points if they got the correct answer after conferring, and no points for an incorrect answer. vlcsnap-00789

The three teams then took the points that they had scored into the final, and nominated one of their team members to play. In the final, there was no question or nominate, there were 30 questions and they were all on the buzzer with ten points for a correct answer. However, now the three lives rule came into play, so if anyone did get three questions wrong they would be knocked out and lose all their points, but I can’t recall this happening. vlcsnap-00790

The team with the highest score then went on to the finals board. The nine highest scoring teams in the series would then go through to three semi-finals, and the winners of those would then go into the grand final, with the overall winning school receiving a trophy. The eventual winners were Audenshaw School who won the final with 290 points, and the top of the finals board winners were the Royal Belfast Academical Institution with 365 points. vlcsnap-00793

This was an interesting variation on the regular format and as ever William G Stewart hosted the show well, with the usual various range of challenging questions, and it was good seeing some younger people show off their general knowledge talents. However, disappointingly there was only ever one series made of the schools version, and some people felt the game was weakened a little by the de-emphasis on the three lives rule, but overall it was still an enjoyable series.

Game Show Memories – Fifteen-To-One.

Fifteen-To-One (Channel 4, 1988-2003)

Here’s a review of one of my favourite game shows, of course this one is not that obscure so instead of explaining the rules I’ll write about why I enjoyed the show and what I think makes a good quiz contestant.

The show is essentially 15 people are asked general questions until they are knocked out and only one remains. The show was hosted by William G Stewart who had previously worked behind the scenes as a producer on various shows, but this was the first one that he presented. Looking back at his episodes now I am struck by his authoritativeness and professionalism, he was definitely a good choice to host the show. vlcsnap-00322

The show itself was about as pure as quizzing can get – there are no specialist subjects or predetermined categories, the questions really could be about anything so not knowing what was coming next meant that the contestants had to have a wide range of knowledge to succeed. vlcsnap-00326

However there are only so many things in the world and revising various lists for what gets asked time and time again on game shows comes in very useful. If you can remember all the names of things like presidents, monarchs, countries, chemical elements and prime ministers I feel you’re halfway there to being a success, and also having the ability to recall these facts within a few seconds when you are under the spotlight comes in very handy too. vlcsnap-00323

Every daily winner had a chance to make the finals board, with the top 15 scorers coming back for the grand final. The top scorer and overall series winner both won a trophy, and it was always enjoyable to watch the tactical battle of the final. Remarkably, one grand final ended in a tie and as the show has no tie breaker rule two contestants won a trophy in that series. vlcsnap-00324

There were many notable contestants on the show. One was the mighty Bill McKaig, the only person to score the maximum 433 in the entire run of the show, which I really do think is one of the all-time greatest game show achievements. There was also Nick Terry who won four series. The only disadvantage of these contestants appearing regularly was that when you saw them introduced you knew the other 14 that day stood little chance, but you couldn’t help but admire their superb performances as they won by such huge margins. vlcsnap-00325

Fifteen-To-One eventually ran for just short of 16 years and it served Channel 4’s daytime schedule so well. However, in later years it was treated a little shoddily and it was moved from the timeslot 4:30 to 4pm, with the final series eventually being aired at 2:45. And also with the advent of game shows such as The Weakest Link that were beginning to grab the headlines the format began to look a little tired, but it really was one of the best examples of the game show genre in this country. It was also fascinating seeing the recent repeat run of the first series on Challenge. vlcsnap-00321

I never thought that the show would be revived, but incredibly it was in 2013, I’ll review the new version of the show in a separate piece to determine how well it has evolved and fits within with a modern-day schedule.