Game Show Memories – Tell The Truth.

Tell The Truth (Channel 4, 1983-1985, ITV, 1989-1990)

This is a show that has been around for a long time, first appearing on British TV as early as the late-50s. Then after a long break it was revived by Channel 4 in the mid-80s, but this piece is going to concentrate on the revival on ITV in the late-80s. It was shown in a weekday daytime slot, and the host was Fred Dinenage, who also hosted game shows including Gambit and Pass The Buck along with CITV’s long-running How 2 of course. vlcsnap-00155

The idea was that three contestants appeared and all claimed to be someone who had achieved something unusual. But wait… it can’t be all three of them! It was up to the four celebrity panellists to determine who were the impostors and who was telling the truth. Regular panellists included Christopher Biggins, Leslie Crowther, and Chris Tarrant. Would the real person be able to beat the panel? vlcsnap-00182

The round would begin with Fred reading a description of what their achievement was. Each panellist could ask the contestants one question each. Then all four of them had to say who they thought was the real person. There would then be the reveal when Fred would say the show’s famous catchphrase “would the real (whoever) please stand up?”. It was always rather amusing when all four panellists got it wrong and Fred described it as a whitewash. The real person would then talk a little more about their career. This round would then be played out again with three more contestants. vlcsnap-00163

The final round was called One To One, where the four impostors took part, and one of them had done something unusual. This time the panellists could only talk to one of them against the clock. Who is telling the truth out of them now? A quick decision had to be made. Again, the real person would be revealed, and there would be more surprises if the panellists had got it totally wrong. vlcsnap-00190

Tell The Truth is another game show that I remember watching a long time ago (as I think I said before I did go to school too, honest), and it was also a TVS production (but where’s their archive now etc). In more recent years a similar show appeared on ITV1 where panellists had to guess who was the real person out of a lineup that was called Odd One In, but I never really watched that as much, I prefer this version.


Game Show Memories – Sporting Triangles.

Sporting Triangles (ITV, 1987-1990)

Here’s why I’m reviewing this game show. A while ago someone requested that I might review Sporting Triangles. When I said that I didn’t plan to because I don’t really remember it they seemed somewhat surprised. There was a game show out there that I didn’t know much about, how could such a thing be possible! I suppose I should be flattered that people seem to think that I am knowledgeable about these things, so I thought that it would be a good idea to have a look for myself.

I imagine that it wouldn’t be going too far to suggest that Sporting Triangles was an attempt by ITV at creating their own version of BBC1’s successful A Question Of Sport (which had been going for almost 20 years by the launch of this show in 1987). It was hosted for the first two series by Nick Owen (who was also a presenter on ITV Sport at the time), and Andy Craig hosted the final two. vlcsnap-00025

Three teams of two took part wearing their colour-coded sweaters (shades of Supermarket Sweep here), featuring a team captain, and various well-known sportspeople including Jimmy Greaves, Dennis Taylor, and Nigel Mansell took part. It was a chance for them to show off what they know about their own sport and others, or indeed what they don’t know. The centrepiece of the show was the triangle-shaped board (which it seems wasn’t computer-generated until the second series in 1988) which featured various coloured spaces. vlcsnap-00038

The dice is rolled, and if you land on your team’s colour you get a question about a sport that one of the team members plays for one point. If you land on an opponent’s colour and you get it right you score one point and the space turns to your team’s colour. If you land on a white space, the question could be about any sport but it’s worth two points. There were various types of questions including multiple choice and the inevitable “what happened next?”. It seems that some extra rounds were introduced in later series including questions asked on the buzzer. vlcsnap-00039

As ever with these type of shows, there were no prizes on offer, but the highest-scoring team meant that their captain won a show and they all hoped to have won the most games by the end of the series. There was also a board game and computer game version of Sporting Triangles released, although I didn’t have either of those. I did have the A Question Of Sport board game though. So there. vlcsnap-00113

How did Sporting Triangles end up doing? Well, it was an attempt at something different and it ran for four series but it’s now long-gone from the screen, while A Question Of Sport is still going, and even poaching Emlyn Hughes from that show to be a team captain for the later series didn’t really get viewers that excited. It was good seeing some editions though.

Game Show Memories – Masterchef.

Masterchef (BBC1, 1990-2000)

As I have said before, I am not really interested in cookery shows, but I do remember regularly watching this one, it may have something to do with the timeslot. Masterchef always seemed to be shown on Sunday afternoons when there weren’t really many alternatives. Well, we only had four channels in those days. This was the show that described itself as the “grand prix for amateur chefs”, which was odd because I never noticed any cars.

Masterchef was hosted by Loyd Grossman, taking a day off from poking his nose around people’s homes on Through The Keyhole. Every week three contestants would take part. They would be given a budget of £10 to create a three-course meal in 2½ hours. Loyd would be joined by two guests, a chef and a celebrity, and they would also be the judging panel and talk to the contestants about what they were making. vlcsnap-00819

When time was running out, a big “10” would appear on the screen, indicating that there wasn’t long left. When time was up, the judges would taste the food. Mmm, tastes nice. They would then go off to a big empty room to determine the winner. The winner progresses to the next round, and the three best chefs in the series compete against one another in the final for the overall series trophy. A lot of talented people took part over the years. vlcsnap-00820

Masterchef isn’t really a show where you would expect anything odd to happen, but I remember one series where the series trophy was being held by a mannequin of Loyd at the back of the studio, so it was rather strange when Loyd was talking to the contestants and you could also see him stood there in the background if that makes sense. It also survived the wonderfully peculiar parody by Reeves And Mortimer on their comedy show. vlcsnap-00825

Masterchef did well enough for there to be a spin-off series for younger contestants called Junior Masterchef which ran from 1994-1999. Indeed, it seemed to return year after year (with the exception of 1998) and there were almost no changes to the format at all, I remember one critic saying something like “it got to the point where you knew what camera angle was coming next”, and you could practically recite Loyd’s script along with him, including his famous “we’ve deliberated, cogitated and digested” catchphrase. vlcsnap-00821

By 2000 the show had been running for a decade and had become rather stale, it was stuck in a timewarp while the TV landscape had changed around it. So in 2001 Loyd was pensioned off and the format was relaunched on BBC2 as Masterchef Goes Large. I must admit that I never really watched this version, and I don’t really have any interest in the current version on BBC1 where apparently it gets no tougher than this (along with its additional celebrity series), I will always prefer the original.

Game Show Memories – Countdown 3000 And Counting.

Countdown 3000 And Counting (Channel 4, 2001)

In 2001 Channel 4’s long-running game show Countdown reached its 3,000th edition, which was something that they were very proud about. There was a special show to mark this occasion called 3000 And Counting. This was somewhat different to the special for the 2,000th show that I reviewed recently that was in front of a live studio audience, as it was done in the style of a documentary (narrated by Sue Perkins). vlcsnap-00801

This included a look behind the scenes and contributions from Richard Whiteley and Carol Vorderman who had worked together for almost 20 years by this point (it is a surprise to realise that Carol left the show almost a decade ago now). There were also contributions from celebrity fans of the show, and everyone from Chris Moyles to Terry Wogan told us why when the time hits 4:30pm they always like to regularly watch. vlcsnap-00805

We saw some classic archive clips (although they were mostly the same as the ones that featured in the 2,000th edition special). We also saw some of ITV Yorkshire’s Calendar Countdown series, which wasn’t that great really, but it was still much better than the unaired pilot from 1981, that really was a shambles. At least there were no ferrets in the studio. We should be grateful that Channel 4 saw the potential in the idea when they needed a daytime game show for their launch schedule. vlcsnap-00796

The contributors felt that the secret of the show’s success is simply that it is so easy to play along with at home, everyone likes to try and outperform the contestants. There was also the appeal of Richard’s terrible puns, and various other things like the way that some words rather unusually seem to turn up rather frequently, so if you meet a Countdown fan, shout “LEOTARDS” at them, they’ll know what you mean. vlcsnap-00792

Although there have been a few more special documentaries about Countdown, I am fairly sure that this is the last one that was made to celebrate an anniversary. But for the 5,000th edition in 2010 Des Lynam appeared, making him the only one to have completed the hat-trick of being the host of Countdown (from 2005-2006), a contestant (on the celebrity version in 1998), and a Dictionary Corner guest (although only for this edition). vlcsnap-00804

This special was shown shortly before Countdown was extended to 45 minutes, and it’s clear why many people consider the show to be an institution, and it is remarkable how much it has changed over the past 35 years. Deal Or No Deal is the only other UK game show that has passed the 3,000 edition landmark, but Countdown is now not far off its 7,000th edition. It looks like the end could still be a long time away.

Game Show Memories – The Crystal Maze the revival.

The Crystal Maze (Channel 4, 2016-present)

The Crystal Maze originally ran for six series on Channel 4 in the 90s. It was widely regarded by viewers as one of the all-time great UK game shows, especially when Richard O’Brien was the host. Long after it ended, it was still fondly remembered by many people including myself, it frequently topped greatest TV show lists, and maybe more than any other game show in UK TV history it was the one that viewers hoped would return to the screen one day.

A few years ago The Crystal Maze Experience opened where people could play games in a replica of the maze. After this did well, in 2016 it was announced that The Crystal Maze would finally return to the screen, but only as a one-off special for charity. However, this was successful enough for there to be a full series announced, the first for 22 years. Who could possibly fill the shoes of Richard O’Brien and Ed Tudor-Pole and become the new maze master? Although hopefully they would be given their own shoes…

The choice was Richard Ayoade. He would be best known to viewers for appearing in various comedy shows including Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, The Mighty Boosh, and The IT Crowd, and I remember watching him in all of them. As the structure of TV had changed rather a lot since the last series, there were several changes to the format, including a remix of the famous theme music. vlcsnap-00011

Firstly, a team of five would take part instead of six, and they would all know one another beforehand instead of being put together. The four time zones were back, with the return of the Industrial zone replacing Ocean, along with Aztec, Medieval, and Futuristic. Also, fewer games were played, simply because there are more advert breaks in an hour nowadays. Maybe the show would’ve benefited from being extended to 75 or even 90 minutes however inconvenient that might be. vlcsnap-00182

Ayoade tried to make his mark on the show by using some quirky terminology, such as describing the length of games as “mins” instead of minutes, and “ALIS” for an automatic lock-in game. Another one of his gimmicks is a fake hand thing on a stick which he uses to guide the contestants to their next game. He also wore a lot of brightly coloured suits. vlcsnap-00780

As ever, the teams play the various games to try and win the crystal for five seconds of time inside the Crystal Dome. One of the games features the severed head of Adam Buxton which was a nice touch. There was also one game which had no time limit which was an interesting move. Some games were also edited down, it seems with fewer games played they still couldn’t fit them all into the available time. The Dome looked very impressive though, and there were plenty of great prizes on offer for winning teams. vlcsnap-00784

Viewers had plenty of opinions about the revival. Firstly, although some of Ayoade’s asides were rather amusing, they seemed to be the same in every show, and his attempts of indifference and sarcasm at the team’s performances made it seem like he didn’t really care whether they won or lost. Intentional or otherwise, he came across as a little too distant. vlcsnap-00785

Also, there was the standard of contestants. I remember watching a video online a while ago featuring some funny unseen moments from the original series, including one where you can hear the production team despair at a contestant’s failure, leading to some “where do we find them?”-type comments. vlcsnap-00781

Some of the performances in the revival were so bad you get the feeling that they were only chosen so their games could be turned into videos with “check out this failure!”-type descriptions to try and gain some easy laughs and publicity. Indeed, in one edition, a team who won some crystals but bought out their locked-in teammates ended up being the first team to go to the Dome with no crystals, making their show a waste of time and some viewers were surprised that it aired at all. vlcsnap-00787

Another problem was the scheduling. Sometimes it was shown on Fridays, sometimes on Sundays, and the running order was all over the place, with some editions credited as from series three being shown before ones from series two. The show then began to be propped up with endless celebrity specials. I very much hope the final editions don’t end up being burned off at around midnight on E4, it deserves better than that. There was also a book released featuring various challenges to play along with.

The Crystal Maze revival has ended up falling between the two areas of younger viewers who don’t remember the original version not being won over, and older viewers remaining unconvinced about the whole thing. After the initial excitement, the ratings slumped and it’s unclear whether there will be any more series. I will continue to watch though, even if overall it can be classed as something of a disappointment.

CITV Memories – Mega Mania.

Mega Mania (CITV, 1992)

Back in the early-90s I recorded various shows on CITV. One of them was Mega Mania, but it was incomplete, indeed, it only came to about one or two minutes. I was never really sure why there was such a short amount on the tape, but I must have had some interest to have recorded any of it at all. I couldn’t really remember much about it though, so I was very pleased to discover that every edition is in full on YouTube.

What was Mega Mania? I would say that it was a game show. It has teams competing in various games against one another to score points and win prizes, but it isn’t listed on the UK Game Shows website which is a surprise as they are usually the authority on these things. If even they don’t remember this one then it really has been lost in the mists of time, so here’s what it was about.

Mega Mania (a Thames production for ITV) was hosted by Joe Greco (who also appeared in some other CITV shows around this time including the sitcom Spatz) who represented the red team, and Lucy Alexander (who 26 years later is still on TV as one of the hosts of BBC1’s daytime show Hammers Under The Home or whatever it’s called, I’ve never seen it myself, and more impressively, appeared in an advert for Burger King) who represented the blue team. vlcsnap-00743

Mega Mania toured the country and every week came from a different location such as a hospital, a supermarket, or a farm. Two teams of four took part and there were five rounds, which included some messy and rather silly games, making the show draw comparisons with Fun HouseThere were 20 points for the team that won the round, and 10 points for the losers, Joe and Lucy did their best to encourage them all the way through as they wanted their team to win, and it usually all to play for going into the final round. vlcsnap-00745

Prizes on offer included a pair of trainers, a camera, a board game, and a NES console. Fantastic. Having now watched some editions of Mega Mania again, a lot of the games were rather well put together and enjoyable, and there were some funny moments, but the show ended after just five editions, never to been seen again (it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry). vlcsnap-00777

However, the similar CITV shows Finders Keepers and Fun House were much more successful, maybe the market for wacky game shows (along with the likes of Double Dare and Get Your Own Back on CBBC) was already too overcrowded at the time for Mega Mania to stand out. Tommy Boyd thought that it was great though, and there can’t be much better endorsement than that.


Game Show Memories – Who Wants To Be A Millionaire the revival.

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire (ITV, 2018-?)

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire is one of the all-time greatest game shows around the world, but it ended in the UK in 2014 with something of a whimper. It had once been the big thing but its moment had passed. I thought that it would never return, so it was something of a surprise to learn that ITV were planning to revive to show for its 20th anniversary (which is actually in September). Chris Tarrant who served the show so well and is one of my favourite TV personalities decided not to return as host as he felt that 15 years was enough. Who could possibly replace him?

When it was announced that “Clarkson” was going to take the job I was pleased because I thought it meant the 90s pop star Betty Boo (because her real name is Alison Clarkson do you see I’m so funny ha-ha-ha). But of course it was actually Jeremy Clarkson which was something of an unexpected move. Now first of all as he somewhat divides opinion I have to explain whether I am a fan of his work or not.

I must admit that I have never regularly watched Top Gear or any of his other motoring shows because I simply have no interest or enthusiasm about cars whatsoever, but I know about some of his observations on life. I don’t know if he’s trying to be deliberately provocative and wind people up, but on this show he could be entirely different. Will he enjoy interacting with the public and will he be on their side? vlcsnap-00771

When the show returned it was with hour-long editions on seven consecutive nights. How would it compare to the original version which had several changes by the end? Well pleasingly the format did go somewhat back to basics. The Fastest Finger First round had returned, but this time with six contestants taking part instead of ten, and they were auditioned rather than just qualifying to take part by phoning a number. Whoever gets the multiple choice question right in the quickest time can take the chair. vlcsnap-00768

It should be noted that the set design looked terrific, there were definitely no problems in that area. The original money ladder with 15 questions also returned, and there was no clock! However, the graphics did look rather bad though, how they ended up looking a worse piece of design than the ones created almost two decades ago I wouldn’t know really. Some of the familiar musical cues seemed to be all over the place too. vlcsnap-00763

There are now four lifelines available instead of three. They are Ask The Audience, 50/50 and Phone A Friend (where they now seemingly have to be verified that they are talking from an empty Google-free zone). Maybe this would have been better if the friends had been in the studio and appeared on screen like they did in the later series of the original version. vlcsnap-00764

One of the biggest rule changes is the addition of the fourth lifeline which is Ask The Host. This is where the contestant can actually consult Jeremy on what he thinks the answer might be. There is no 30 second limit for this unlike Phone A Friend, maybe it would be better with one. What was interesting about this was because Jeremy didn’t seem to come across as much of a big quizzer his general knowledge was at a rather average level so he did have to ponder some of the answers as much as the contestants. It was up to the contestant as to whether they wanted to take his advice. Is he worth listening to? vlcsnap-00772

The other main change was that after getting the £1,000 question right, they could set the next safe level themselves before they see the next question. This meant that instead of being fixed at £32,000, it could now be as low as £2,000 for the cautious, or even at £500,000 which would make the final question a free shot. However, when they do reach the second safe level the additional Switch lifeline wasn’t introduced, I wouldn’t have minded that being kept. vlcsnap-00773

Another problem for viewers was the standard of contestants. A lot of them were using their lifelines at a very early stage, and a lot of wrong answers were given, with many dropping back to only £1,000. Maybe it would be good if people did better but they’ve got to prove that they can do it, they won’t be much getting much sympathy from Jeremy if they fail. There were also complaints that the question difficulty levels were too unbalanced, and the odds of someone going all the way seem to be very small unfortunately.

It would be fair to say that Jeremy definitely wasn’t doing a Tarrant impression (no “but we don’t want to give you that!“-type outbursts here) and made the show his own. The ratings were around four/five million which was about what could be expected, the days of this or any other show getting 19 million viewers regularly are long gone. I don’t know if there are any plans for another series, but it they can correct the minor production flaws maybe it could begin another long run on ITV.