Game Show Memories – Never Had It So Good.

Never Had It So Good (ITV1, 2002)

This is a game show that I don’t remember watching much at the time, but as it’s all about nostalgia, how could I possibly resist this now? The unaired pilot of Never Had It So Good was hosted by Greg Scott, but by the time the show came to TV, the host was Matthew Kelly, taking a break from Stars In Their Eyes. There were two celebrity teams of three who were ready to take a peek at the past.

The team captains were Rowland Rivron, and Fred Dinenage, who has worked on various shows, including the local news in the south of England on ITV for approximately 500 years. They would be joined by celebrity panellists including Clare Grogan and Leo Sayer. Their first names were in front of them in a similar style to on A Question Of Sport. Could this be the ultimate memory test. vlcsnap-00001

Round one was That Was The Year That Was. Various clips were shown from the archive, and they simply had to guess what year they were all from. There would then be some questions about that year for points. Round two was Connect 3. There were three pictures shown, and teams had to guess what famous person connected them. Going into the break, there was a clue from various people given to a famous thing, and viewers could think about what it was during the break (Greggles sometimes did these). vlcsnap-00002

Round three was You’ve Been ‘Ad. An old advert was shown, and they simply had to guess what it was for. And once again there would be some questions. The final round was Gimme 5 (not to be confused with a CITV Saturday Morning show), a last chance to pump up their points. The teams had one minute to name five things in a category, such as TV or pop music. There is one point for every one, and if they do get five, the points are doubled. vlcsnap-00007

There was a winning team declared at the end, but there were no prizes on offer. This wasn’t the first nostalgia-themed game show, others include Today’s The Day and Backdate. There was only one series of Never Had It So Good, there were lots of fun memories shared, but this seemed to be one of those shows where although the panellists enjoyed it, maybe some viewers didn’t (and there didn’t seem to be a studio audience). vlcsnap-00004

ITV were having trouble filling their post-CITV 5pm slot around this time, the soaps including Crossroads and Night And Day weren’t working, and neither were various game shows like this one. The problem with this timeslot was eventually solved though when a game show hosted by Bradley Walsh was launched and became a big success. No, not Spin Star!

The YouTube Files – Stars In Their Eyes unaired pilot.

Stars In Their Eyes (1989)

Being a fan of Stars In Their Eyes (well the series hosted by Leslie Crowther and Matthew Kelly, let’s not think about the later specials and the revival), I had read that there was an unaired pilot made, and I have been interested in seeing that. The good news is that this recently turned up on YouTube, so credit goes to the uploader “Copied Right”.

The pilot is rather different to the familiar format that ran for over 15 years. Firstly, the host was Chris Tarrant. Now as much as I’ve enjoyed his hosting style over the years, I’ve never really been a big fan of his game shows (beyond Who Wants To Be A Millionaire of course), although he always puts a lot of energy into them. And of course, by the time the show did come to ITV in 1990, he had gone. vlcsnap-00001

The basic idea was the same, with ordinary people being transformed into popular singers, and the studio audience deciding who the winner is. There was a different opening sequence and set design, definitely not as classy or shiny as what we’re familiar with. Chris also insisted that this was the sixth edition of the series, although I’m fairly sure there was only one pilot made. Already into the final (supposedly) was Peter the plumber as… Frank Sinatra! vlcsnap-00003

This version was half-an-hour long, and featured four contestants, instead of the usual five. When the contestants were introduced, they stood on the stage, which featured some things that were linked to their work, as if to emphasise how ordinary they were, and that will make their pop star transformation all the more remarkable (this idea was also used in the early series). Just who will they be? vlcsnap-00004

One major difference in the format is that after they announce who they will be (with the catchphrase not in place yet), they then walk over to a rack containing lots of costumes that will help them complete their look. I very much doubt that this is as spontaneous as they make it out to be though. They then go through the doors (not particularly “famous” as yet though). vlcsnap-00007

Then they return, go down some stairs, and walk over to a rather small stage to sing live. Their behind the scenes transformation probably took much longer than it seems. Then the studio audience wave banners including “We Love You, Shirley!”. After all the contestants have performed, the studio audience then vote for their favourite (again, this doesn’t look very authentic at this stage), maybe if they got a full series they would install the proper voting technology (they could’ve borrowed the keypads from Chris’s other game show Everybody’s Equal). vlcsnap-00008

The winner progresses to the grand final, and finishes the show by performing again, as lots of people gather round to offer their applause. In the pilot, the winner was Carol as Alison Moyet (not the same woman was the overall series champion in 1993 as Moyet though). Can you believe it, just a few minutes ago, she was a plain old cleaner, now she’s tonight’s winner. Sometimes, dreams really can come true. vlcsnap-00009

This pilot of Stars In Their Eyes was fascinating to watch. I wonder why Chris didn’t take part in the series, but he did have lots of other shows on the go. Little did they realise at the time that the format (with a few changes that I think were for the better, creating a much more polished show) would be popular on ITV for so many years.

Game Show Memories – Stars In Their Eyes Christmas Special.

Stars In Their Eyes Christmas Special (ITV, 1994)

It’s time to have a look back at another Christmas special, well it’s that time of year again. This special was hosted by Matthew Kelly, who had become the new host in 1993, and left in 2004. Although Stars In Their Eyes can be classed as a game show, this special didn’t contain a competitive element, as some of the most memorable performers were invited back to go through those famous doors again and bring us some festive cheer. It was much more interesting than the endless celebrity specials the show eventually got bogged down in. vlcsnap-00092

Matthew wore a rather spectacular waistcoat even by his own standards. It was clear that this was a special occasion, as there was a live studio orchestra, who usually only appeared for the series grand final. There were also plenty of decorations around, and the studio audience had their party hats ready. You’d be seeing musical stars perform together that you’d never previously thought possible, partly because they weren’t the real singers, but you’ve probably realised that. Here’s some of the highlights. vlcsnap-00094

As we’ll see, it’s not only the singers that we are going to see on stage, because one performance includes a nativity scene. This really is going to be an exciting show, and we are then offered the unique combination of Madonna and Cilla Black, it is a shame that they never really did do an album together, I’m sure many people will think after seeing this. Matthew promised us that this will be a special with all the trimmings, and it certainly seems like it. vlcsnap-00093

Then we have a Cliff Richard impersonator with his take on “Mistletoe And Wine”, which would you believe was the biggest-selling single in the UK in 1988. This was still many years before “The Millennium Prayer” came along. Then it’s time to get ready to rock as the likes of Meat Loaf and Billy Idol take to the stage to do their thing while Elton John whips out his piano, and everybody really is in party mood now. vlcsnap-00095

How can you finish off such a special? Well you bring on Elvis, the King Of Rock ‘N’ Roll, being portrayed in his young pre-hamburgers days, alongside none other than Bing Crosby. Well they don’t really make them like that any more. And then everybody gathers round at the end to say a big thank you and wish viewers a Happy New Year, as Matthew opens a big bottle of champagne and promises us that he will be back with a new series soon, which is how all specials should end. vlcsnap-00097

The YouTube Files – Blankety Blank USA.

The Match Game (NBC, 1962-1969, CBS, 1973-1979, ABC, 1990-1991)

This will probably be the final original American version of a game show that later came to the UK that I’ll review, but I might go on to consider reviewing some Irish and Australian versions too because I am just fascinated by the world of game shows and I really enjoy putting the pieces together (and I hope that you’ve found them an interesting read too).

There have been several versions of The Match Game going all the way back to the early-60s. There have also been several versions in the UK of Blankety Blank, and indeed there is another one planned to be shown at Christmas this year. I have decided to review the early-90s version. The host by this point was Ross Shafer, and you’ll be pleased to know that he did indeed have a funny-shaped microphone, or maybe it was just the way he walked. vlcsnap-00086

Of course, there were also the six celebrity panellists. It was good seeing ventriloquist Ronn Lucas along with his friend Scorch The Dragon among them. He also had a show on ITV around this time (that I reviewed a while ago), and it seems that he was popular in America in the early-90s too. I presume that he’s still at it, although three decades on he’s probably gone a little mouldy around the edges, and I hesitate to think what Scorch looks like now too, ha. vlcsnap-00088

Also taking part were the likes of that guy who was in the sitcom Out Of This World (also shown on ITV for a short while), along with cast members of daytime soaps like All My Children. Just like in the UK, The Match Game didn’t take itself too seriously, although the format by this time was a little different. Two contestants took part, including a defending champion. vlcsnap-00087

The sextet are given a clue and they all have to fill in the blank, and write their answers on a piece of paper. Can the contestant get a match? There’s $50 for every one. Then there’s the Match-Up round. The contestant picks a celebrity. There are 30 seconds, and for every match they agree on, they win $50. Then it’s back to another round of the regular game. vlcsnap-00089

Then there’s another Match-Up round, but this time there’s 45 seconds, and $100 for every correct answer. The highest scorer goes on to play the Supermatch Game, but nobody wins a chequebook and pen trophy. This round is about the same as the UK version, where the contestant has to guess one of the top three answers. If they get the top answer, they win $500. vlcsnap-00090

In the final, the amount they won in the Supermatch Game is multiplied by ten. They then spin a wheel to determine which celebrity will play with them in the final. If the wheel stops on a double (like in Name That Tune), they could win a maximum of $10,000, an amount that could never be dreamed of in the UK. The contestant has to simply match their answer with that celebrity to win the money, and they could play for five days before retiring undefeated. It was all rather enjoyable.

The YouTube Files – Child’s Play USA.

Child’s Play (CBS, 1982-1983)

This is the original American version of the game show that ran on ITV for about four years in the 80s. And this was yet another one that was hosted by Bill Cullen in his long and distinguished career, I think that this is the third of his shows that I have reviewed, he really did do a lot of them. This version of Child’s Play was slightly different to the format that was used in the UK.

Firstly, it was one contestant against one, instead of two teams of two, so they would not be accompanied by a celebrity panellist who could help them out. Also, there was a defending champion who could appear on up to five shows, so if they kept on winning they might end up earning themselves a rather decent amount of money. And several segments of the studio set span around for no particular reason, which is always great. vlcsnap-00079

The basic idea of the game was to guess the words that were being described by various children (usually aged around seven or eight) who appeared on a rather large screen, mostly on their own, but sometimes in pairs, and of course much of the humour comes from their sometimes rather unusual descriptions that made everyone laugh. If the contestant gets it wrong, it is passed to their opponent who sees the word described by another child. vlcsnap-00082

And if they still don’t get it, it goes back for a third and final child’s description. There is one point for every correct answer. Then there’s the Fast Play round. There are more descriptions, but this time the contestants can buzz in and interrupt the child, if they know the word. Get it wrong, and their opponent can see the rest of the description. There are now two points for every correct answer. Whoever is in the lead when the bell goes wins $500 and goes into the final. vlcsnap-00080

The original format of the final was the Triple Play game. The contestant has to guess six words in 45 seconds, and they can have up to three definitions. Every correct answer won $100, and if they get all of them right, they win an additional $5,000, and also get the chance to squeal right in Bill’s ear with the overexcitement. The format of the final was changed about halfway through the series, as some children now appeared in the studio to give definitions. vlcsnap-00083

There were over 250 editions of Child’s Play that were shown on CBS in the space of just under a year, so they definitely managed to pack a lot in, and some of the children featured ended up being rather famous themselves. As well as the UK, there have also been several versions of the show around the world, although there have been no further revivals of the format in America.

The YouTube Files – Double Dare USA.

Double Dare (Nickelodeon, 1986-1987, 1990-1993, Fox, 1988)

This is the original version of the rather ridiculous game show that came to this country as part of CBBC’s Saturday Morning show Going Live! in 1987. Double Dare launched in America a year earlier in 1986, and helped to establish a game show element in the schedule of the increasingly popular at the time children’s channel Nickelodeon.

This version was hosted by Marc Summers, who had a lot of enthusiasm, but unlike our dear friend the award-winning Peter Simon who hosted the UK version, he also had the gift of being able to walk properly. Two teams of two took part, although there were a few differences to what happened in the UK. Firstly, the teams had names, and they began with a game to get control, cheered on by an overexcited studio audience. On your marks, get set, go! vlcsnap-00074

Questions were then asked (which also appeared on the screen) such as “which president got stuck in the bathtub?”, and they were worth money rather than points. If you don’t know the answer though, you can dare your opponents to have a try, but beware, because they could double dare it back! If still no-one knows, it’s time to play a physical challenge. vlcsnap-00075

This was where the team had to complete a challenge, usually in around 20 or 30 seconds, so make sure that you’ve got your kneepads on. There are usually about two of three of these played per show, so lots of money could be won. Watch out for when the hooter goes though, because that’s the end of part one, and going into the second part, the money values are all doubled! vlcsnap-00076

When the second hooter goes, it’s the end of the game. The losing team take away some consolation prizes though including a bag of Skittles, but the winners progress to play the obstacle course! In the final, there are eight obstacles, that all contain a flag. They have to find all eight of them in 60 seconds, to win some really big prizes. Now it can be done, and it ends up with a big mess everywhere. Repeat for years. vlcsnap-00078

There were also various spin-off series that were shown on a few other channels along with Nickelodeon in America. These included Family Double Dare, Super Sloppy Double Dare, and Double Dare 2000, along with a computer game too. In more recent years there have also been further revivals, along with a stage show that Summers was also involved with.

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.

The YouTube Files – The Price Is Right USA.

The Price Is Right (CBS, 1972-present)

This is the game show that is one of the longest-running and most popular in American TV history. The original version of The Price Is Right started as long ago as the 50s, but this piece will concentrate on the version that has been going just about non-stop since the early-70s, many years before the UK version launched in the mid-80s (although I am more familiar with the mid-90s version).

This was the chance to win some big prizes in the most exciting game show around. Four people in the studio audience are invited to “come on down!”, who probably not coincidentally also happened to be the most overexcited people that were there, and they were always very eager to have a go. The host at this point was Bob Barker. vlcsnap-00063

Firstly, they have to guess the price of an item, Whoever is the closest to the actual price without going over would win that item, and get the chance to play a game. If they got the price exactly right they won a $100 bonus. There were lots of games that could be played, indeed there were dozens available, some of them became more popular than others, but they all had the same basic idea of being able to win some more prizes. vlcsnap-00065

After this, another contestant is invited to play. Once there had been three games, there was the Showcase Showdown, which the contestants progressed to whether they won or lost. They have to spin the big wheel containing various numbers, and the closest to 100 without going over in one or two spins makes the final. Remember to give it a big tug. Again, there is a big bonus for scoring exactly 100. And then… the whole process is done all over again! vlcsnap-00066

This means that two contestants got to play the Showcase final. They take a look at what’s on offer (which could be holidays, cars, and much more) and decide what Showcase on offer they want to play for. There is no rangefinder on offer in this version, whoever is closest to the value of the Showcase without going over wins, and if they are within $100 of the value, they win both. vlcsnap-00067

When watching some editions online, it seemed to me the show started to get stuck in a timewarp, with the look and style of the show barely changing from the 70s, going into the 80s, 90s, and even beyond. When Barker finally retired from the show at the age of about 102, the new host was Drew Carey, who had previously starred in a sitcom that was often shown late at night on ITV. The basic idea of trying to win lots of prizes has always remained the same, and there have now been thousands of editions. People just love to win.

The YouTube Files – The Pyramid Game USA.

The $100,000 Pyramid (1985-1988)

This is a game show that started out in America in 1973, before coming to the UK and running for about a decade. When reviewing American versions of game shows, two fairly obvious differences have stood out to me in just about all of them. Firstly, there were often many more editions made, and of course there was much more money on offer. This is another one that follows that trend.

There were several variations on this format in America, but this piece will concentrate on the one shown in the mid-80s. This was The $100,000 Pyramid (when the show came to the UK it was originally called The £1,000 Pyramid Game, so contestants could win up to 100 times more for essentially doing the same thing). They really do everything bigger over there. The host was Dick Clark, another one who had a very long and popular career in TV and radio. vlcsnap-00057

The format was just about the same as the version in the UK. Two teams of two took part, where a contestant would be paired with a celebrity. Who could it be? Maybe it was someone who was in a soap, or maybe even someone in a sitcom, how exciting. There are six categories on the board, with a vague clue about what they could be. The category is picked, and look out because a bonus prize could be hidden behind one. vlcsnap-00059

One contestant then has to describe seven words associated with that category to the other in 30 seconds, with one point for every correct answer. Each team does this three times, meaning that the maximum score is 21. If they get all seven right in the bonus category, they win a prize which could be money, or even a holiday. The highest-scoring team then very quickly goes over to the Winners’ Circle. vlcsnap-00058

The celebrity has to describe six categories of increasing difficulty in 60 seconds, with various cash amounts won for every correct answer. If they get them all right in time, then they win a rather large cash amount. The contestants then swap celebrities and do this all over again, essentially meaning that two games are played in one show. If the contestant can make the Winners’ Circle again, they play for higher money amounts. vlcsnap-00060

Occasionally, the best performers in the Winners’ Circle round are invited back to play in a special tournament, which is where they can win the top prize of $100,000, a little like what Name That Tune (that I reviewed recently) did around the same time. Although this version ended in the late-80s, there have been several more versions (along with a computer game and board game), there was even a revival in this country that was shown on Challenge, and there have been versions in many other countries around the world too.

The YouTube Files – Gambit USA.

Gambit (CBS, 1972-1976)/Las Vegas Gambit (NBC, 1980-1981)

This is the original American version of the game show that ran for about a decade in this country. And well, whadda you know, Wink Martindale is out host again. Wink has had a very long career in TV and radio hosting, and he even had a hit single himself in the UK in 1959 with “Deck Of Cards” (although I’m not really sure that he’s a crooner), which makes him an appropriate choice to host this game show based around Pontoon, which featured oversized playing cards like Card Sharks/Play Your Cards Right.

The British version of Gambit was grandly described as “an Olympics of the mind”, this version was slightly more modest about the format. After the original run ended in the 70s, the show returned (following a channel switch) in the early-80s as Las Vegas Gambit, and now took place on a stage at a hotel in Las Vegas. The cards would be dealt by a female co-host, who unlike the UK version never took the chance to upstage our very suave host. vlcsnap-00054

Two married couples took part. They are asked a question and have to buzz in. Get it right, and they can play or pass the card on offer. The couple that gets the closest to scoring 21 wins the round and $100, and if they get exactly 21, they win a bonus cash prize that increases by $500 for every round that it’s not won. Hopefully the luck will be on their side. Make sure not to go bust, will you. Winning two games meant a chance to play the bonus round. vlcsnap-00052

Originally there was the Gambit Board. There were 18 squares, each contained a prize, such as money, a holiday, and so on. They are given a card and they can then choose the number. But once again, if they go bust, they’ll lose all the prizes, so they have to stop at the best moment. Behind some squares are some extra games such as Stop Or Go, where even more prizes can be won. vlcsnap-00053

This was later changed to the Gambit Galaxy. Instead of cards, this bonus game involved dice, and the idea was a little similar to High Rollers (a game show that I don’t think there’s been a British version of). Roll the dice, get the right combinations, and win the money and prizes on offer. For every time it wasn’t won, the prizes roll over to the next game, with even more added. One couple managed to win over $50,000 worth of prizes, and they were rather pleased about that. vlcsnap-00051

After this, the couple can play another game as defending champions, and things could get rather exciting. When the bell goes though, wherever they are, that means it’s the end of the show, so games could straddle. Wink then goes off to try and shake everyone in the studio audience’s hands. After Las Vegas Gambit ended in 1981, there have been no further revivals of the format in America.