The YouTube Files – Jeopardy! Australia.

Jeopardy! (Seven, 1970-1978, Ten, 1993)

Jeopardy! is something of an institution in America, running for decades, and being the game show where the contestants have to provide the questions. A lot of viewers seem to consider the sign of a good champion to be their wagering skills along with their general knowledge. This has never really been a success in the UK though, but there has also been an Australian version.

The first version ran in the 70s and had four different hosts, but this piece will concentrate on the revival in the 90s, which was hosted by Tony Barber, who had previously hosted Sale Of The Century (and I plan to review that soon too). This is fairly faithful to the original American version. Three contestants take part, including a defending champion.

The six categories are revealed, and they contain five clues of increasing money values, from $100 to $300, so there is actually a fairly decent amount that can be won. But they must be aware that if they give an incorrect response, they will lose the amount of money on offer. There is also one Daily Double. At this point, the studio audience start insisting how much should be wagered as if they’re on The Price Is Right which is odd.

And then there’s the Double Jeopardy! round, where the values increase from $200 to $1,000 (so that actually isn’t doubling them). And there are also two Daily Doubles on offer. They then take their scores into the Final Jeopardy! round. They make their wager based on the category, and then they have 30 seconds to write down their response in the form of a question.

Whoever ends up with the highest score becomes the champion and wins their total. The defeated players take away some consolation prizes. Contestants can stay for up to five shows before they have to retire undefeated. And I’m sure that all of them had fun. This revival of Jeopardy! was also shown five nights a week, and presumably was planned to have another long run.

However, this didn’t seem to go down that well with viewers and only ran for about six months. To finish off, there was a Super Challenge special, where the best contestants returned to play again. Three decades on, another revival is planned. There is going to be another British version, and the same studio will also be used for the Australian version, featuring expats as contestants.

The YouTube Files – Blankety Blank Australia.

Blankety Blanks (Ten, 1977-1978, Nine, 1985-1986, 1996-1997)

This is based on the American game show The Match Game, and launched before the British version, the slightly differently-titled Blankety Blank. As with all of the other versions, there is rather a large amount of comedy, even though there are prizes being played for. The first version in Australia was hosted by Graham Kennedy, and of course he had a rather big microphone.

As always, there was a panel of six celebrities, featuring plenty of people who were famous in Australia at the time. One of the regulars was Ugly Dave Gray, who later went on to host the Australian version of Play Your Cards Right (that I reviewed recently). Two contestants took part (one being a defending champion), and they had to fill in the blank, and hope that some of the panel think similarly to them.

There was also the producer who Kennedy referred to as “the moustache twirler”, who would have the final say on if the answer would be determined to be correct or not. There was one point on offer for every correct match. I’m still not entirely sure after all this time how many rounds need to be played to determine the winner, but they got there eventually.

The finalist goes into the Supermatch round. There are three answers, with an increasing money value of $25, $50, and $100. They ask three panellists for their answer, and then they make their choice. Whatever amount they match with, they win. But that’s not much is it. So they play one more game, and if they get a correct match with a panellist in this, they multiply their money by ten, so they can win up to $1,000.

This version of Blankety Blanks was shown five nights a week, and soon became very popular, achieving some unusually high ratings. Kennedy also won a coveted Golden Logie for his work, for being one of the biggest personalities on TV. But this also meant that the idea ran out of steam rather quickly, and this ended after barely a year. For a while, there where then some repeat runs.

And then in 1985, there was the first revival, but on a different channel, and with a new host. Maybe there was still plenty of life in the idea (there have also been several revivals of the American and British versions). And in 1996 there was a second revival, notable for there being bigger cash prizes on offer, and for being as silly as it always had been really.

The YouTube Files – Strike It Lucky Australia.

Strike It Lucky (Nine, 1994)

Around the same time that the original British version of game show Strike It Lucky was coming to an end in Britain (before the relaunch as Strike It Rich), a version launched in Australia. The host was Ronnie Burns. Although the basic idea was the same, there were a few notable changes this version. First of all, Burns had a female co-host, who was Jane Blatchford.

Three teams of two took part. One of them has to answer the questions, while the other has to press the buttons. They can play for two, three, or four moves. And every time a prize is revealed, there is a short puff piece about how terrific it is. They have to decide whether they want to bank these prizes, or risk them on the next screen, which could be concealing a Hot Spot, meaning they’ll lose everything.

There are also some bonuses on offer. If they find a Lucky Strike, they win an instant $100. And if they find a Free Move, they can instantly move on to the next screen. If they can get to the final screen, which usually offers a rather big prize such as a holiday, they have to answer one more question, great it right and they will win the game, and go on to play the final.

However, there is a twist that time can run out before the end. If this happens, whoever is the furthest along wins. But if there is a tie, one question is asked on the buzzer. The final is just about the same as the British version as well. They have to get from one end to the other, by picking the top, middle, or bottom screen, which will be concealing a free move, a question, or a Hot Spot.

If they avoid the Hot Spots and do get to the end, they win even more prizes in addition to the ones that they already have. As far as I am aware, Strike It Lucky wasn’t really a big success in Australia, running for only a short time. What is also notable is that this is played as much less zany as the British version, where all kinds of unusual things could happen.

The YouTube Files – Pass The Buck Australia.

Pass The Buck (Nine, 2002)

Hot daytime game show Pass The Buck ran on BBC1 for a couple of years. About a year or two after the end, there was a short-lived Australian version. And would you believe it, once again the host is John Burgess (“Burgo” also hosted the Australian versions of Catchphrase and Wheel Of Fortune that I have reviewed, so he clearly has worked on a lot of game shows).

The opening sequence features some weird yellow floaty head things, almost like emojis before their time. This version had slightly different rules to the original though. Ten contestants took part in what is a test of knowledge and memory, including a defending champion. Who begins the first round is picked at random. There is a question where dozens of answers could be correct.

If they give a correct answer (accompanied by a satisfying “ding” noise), play passes to the next contestant. However, if they give a wrong answer, give no answer at all, or duplicate an answer, the round ends and they are eliminated. The remaining contestants then all take a step down to the next level, and another round is played, with whoever gave the last correct answer beginning.

Instead of a general knowledge question, some rounds feature the Memory Moment, where 18 words are read out, and these have to be recalled instead. One difference in this version is that they don’t go into a round where three incorrect answers see them eliminated. Instead, when four contestants are remaining, they can nominate who has to give the next answer.

When two contestants are remaining, they play against each other in the final, which is just about the same. They are given 90 seconds, and various questions. Play passes between the two, and there is one point for every correct answer. Whoever is the highest scorer is declared the winner, and then plays the bonus round, which isn’t in the original version.

In this, they are shown ten prizes. They are then given 30 seconds to recall as many as they can. Each prize they do recall they win (a little like the conveyor belt round on The Generation Game). They then return as the defending champion. If they win five shows in a row, they retire undefeated, and win the star prize of a car. This version of Pass The Buck only lasted for one series though.

The YouTube Files – Pointless Australia.

Pointless (Ten, 2018-2019)

There have been various versions of the successful game show Pointless around the world. The American version only got as far as an unaired pilot, but the Australian version, which launched about a decade after the original, did a little better. The trails for the launch insisted viewers were going to find this “crazily addictive”, but I’m not sure if that was right really.

The host was Mark Humphries, and assisting him with all of the facts and figures was Andrew Rochford. The set design was practically identical to the British version (the opening sequence and music were recycled too). There were some changes elsewhere though. Firstly, this was in a half-an-hour slot. This meant that two teams of three took part, not four. There were also three rounds played instead of four.

These did include the familiar rounds though such as lists, pictures, questions, and so on. But as always, the main quest is to find those pointless answers. The jackpot begins at $2,000. For every pointless answer that is found before the final, a bonus $500 is added. The final is rather similar too. The finalists receive a fancy trophy (whether they want one or not).

They have to pick from a choice of two categories, the questions is revealed, and then they have 30 seconds to confer on what their two answers will be. If just one of them is pointless, they win the jackpot (there was no bonus for both answers being pointless). If they don’t win though, the jackpot rolls over to the next edition with another $2,000 added. The biggest ever win was $24,000.

One interesting thing about being able to watch some editions of this version is seeing the questions of specific Australian culture mixed in with the more general ones. There were only two series, which ran for less than a year in total, before being replaced in the schedule. Maybe this never was going to be as “crazily addictive” as was originally promised, but it was still a decent remake.

Game Show Memories – The Heat Is On.

The Heat Is On (UK Living, 1997)

You might think that I am now beginning to scrape the bottom of the barrel with these game show reviews, as this one was shown on a satellite channel and can’t have been seen by many viewers at the time (I definitely didn’t see this myself), but there is a reason why I know about this one and wanted to do a review. A while ago, I used to read Victor Lewis-Smith’s TV column in the Evening Standard.

I kept some of the reviews, including the one for this show, because he ripped into this one even by his standards, in an amusing way. So imagine my delight (if “delight” is the correct word in this case) when I managed to track down an edition of this (even if it isn’t the specific one from the review), so I could finally see this for myself and determine if this really was as awful as was being made out.

The Heat Is On was yet another example of what could be called a “culinary challenge”, which fell somewhere between Can’t Cook Won’t Cook and Ready Steady Cook (which was being repeated on UK Living at this time). The studio audience consisted of about four people, and the host was Keith Chegwin. Now it would be rather fair to say that VLS was not a fan of the rather enthusiastic hosting style of the late “Cheggers”.

He described him as “spouting a centimetre of meaning for every kilometre of noise”, and claimed that his “mouth and arms were working at a frantic pace” while he spoke “fluent garble”, before suffering a “profound cortical malfunction”. Two teams of two took part, along with a celebrity chef that some viewers might have even heard of.

I think that the most high-profile coverage this show ever got was when an outtake appeared on It’ll Be Alright On The Night or some such show when Anthony Worrall-Thompson came on and promptly fell over, making Cheggers break down in hysterics. They have to take some ingredients, and then create a meal as quickly as they can, meaning that there was something of a “can you beat a professional?” element to this.

Then after much hard work and sweating, came the taste test. The winning team won some wine, which was nice. VLS was unhappy because this show “reduced the subtle art of gastronomy to a sub-parlour game, I once produced The Restaurant Awards for ITV you know!” (well he didn’t say the last bit). He might not have liked The Heat Is On, but it was marvellous really.

And remember that recipes are available on Living Text page 669.

Game Show Memories – Celebrity Squares the revival.

Celebrity Squares (ITV, 2014-2015)

This is the second revival of this game show, or is it maybe the third? The first was in 1993, when Celebrity Squares returned to ITV after an absence of almost 15 years, and was again hosted by Bob Monkhouse, who insisted that this was actually “Bob’s Big Box Game”. There was another revival in 2003, but this didn’t get any further than the unaired pilot stage.

For this revival, the host was Warwick Davis, who might seem to be an unusual choice at first, because he was better-known as an actor, and this was his first experience in this area. The idea remained the same though, this is still essentially oversized Noughts And Crosses. But TV has changed, where half-an-hour was once enough, most game shows now run for an hour, so some extra rounds had to be added.

Two contestants took part, and there were nine celebrities in the squares. Most of them changed every week, but there were also two regulars, who were Joe Wilkinson, and Tim Vine! You should know that I do think that you can’t go wrong with Tim, so being able to see him do his thing every week was definitely a good move. Chuck in a hyper studio audience who sound like they’ve had too many chocolate biscuits and you’re ready to go.

In some rounds, the contestants pick a celebrity, who is asked a question, and they have to say if they agree with their answer or not. Correct answers won the square and £50. Get three in a row horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, and you win the round and a bonus £500. This carries on, but there is a point where it’s time to double the dough, and even more money is on offer.

There is also an extra round where a celebrity tells an anecdote about themselves, and it has to be determined if this is true or not. And don’t forget about the secret square either, if this is picked, a big bonus prize can be won. The highest-scorer goes into the final. In this, they have to pick a category and then give nine correct answers in 30 seconds.

If they do, they win £20,000. But if not, they are given £1,000 for every correct answer they did get, added to what they had already won. For the second series, there were some changes. The duration was decreased to 45 minutes, and the star prize was increased to £25,000. After the revival of Celebrity Squares ended, Warwick went on to host daytime game show Tenable, which has done well.

The YouTube Files – Keynotes Australia.

Keynotes (Nine, 1992-1993)

One of the game shows that was shown in the long-running 9:25am weekday slot on ITV was Keynotes. I was surprised to discover that this was based on an Australian format that was shown on TV in that country as early as 1964 (unsurprisingly I haven’t managed to find any clips of this), so when the British version launched in 1989, this had already been around for 25 years.

After the British version did well and ran for almost four years, there was a revival in Australia in 1992. The (second) Australian version of Keynotes was hosted by Richard Wilkins, and this was very similar to what was seen in this country, with an almost identical set design, graphics, and music. The rules were just about the same as well, but with bigger cash prizes on offer.

Two teams of three took part, who were rather enthusiastic about music, almost as much as tightly hugging each other even though they’d all only just met. They’d pick one of the nine notes that were available, and then they were played a short piece of a song. They had to select which of the three words on offer is in the lyrics, and they were encouraged to sing their answer, however bad their voice was.

Get it right, and they win the note. They listen to the song with however many notes had been filled in so far (Keith “Cheggers” Chegwin composed these for the British version). Whatever team gets it right wins the money, although there was a rather flawed scoring system. In the first round $300 was on offer, followed by $600 in the second, and $1,200 in the third (amounts that could only be dreamed of in the UK).

A maximum of $2,100 could be won, but you could also win two rounds out of three and actually lose the game. In the final, again they had to earn nine notes, but this time against the clock. Get it right and they double what they win. They can stay for up to five shows, and if they win their fifth, they win a bonus of a holiday. This version of Keynotes ended shortly after the British version did, and there have been no further revivals.

The YouTube Files – The Weakest Link Australia.

The Weakest Link (Seven, 2001-2002, Nine, 2021-2022)

Were the creators of The Weakest Link surprised at just how quickly the format became a success? They must’ve been confident that they had a good idea of course, but this seemed to become a cultural phenomenon with viewers after barely weeks on air. And this was all at the point when this had still only been shown in a daytime slot on BBC2.

This was mostly because of the hosting style of Anne Robinson, who really did give a rather honest assessment of the performances of the contestants. You have to remember that there was a time when most viewers really wouldn’t have seen anything like this on TV before. The creators must’ve realised that this format now had the potential to be sold around the world.

Soon, Robinson-bots (or indeed, yes, “Anne-Droids”) were being assembled in various countries in preparation, and Australia would be one of them (remember that the American version got the actual Robinson, much to their horror). The host for this version was Cornelia Frances, who was English-born, and already known for playing no-nonsense characters in various soaps including The Young Doctors and Home And Away.

She also resembled Robinson in looks and personality to the point that it was rather uncanny. Nine contestants took part, but as this version was shown in a primetime slot, there was rather a lot of money on offer. The format is the same really, who will survive to the end, who will bank the most money, who will be voted off, who will get a rather easy question wrong.

There is $10,000 on offer in every round, and in the final round, what they bank is trebled, so a rather nice $100,000 could be won, that’s more than they ever could’ve won in the UK. There was also a chance to see how the Aussies play the game. They might come across as a little more forthright than the Brits, but they were still nothing compared to the hot-tempered Americans.

And there were the inevitable celebrity specials too. One edition featured cast members from soap Blue Heelers (which was shown in this country in a daytime slot for a while). Can you believe that there was a round where they banked nothing, how embarrassing. This version of The Weakest Link wasn’t a huge success, and ran for about a year. And recently, just like in the UK, there was a revival, which picked up where they left off.

The YouTube Files – Family Fortunes Australia.

Family Feud (Nine, 1978-1984, Seven, 1990-1996)

Family Feud is the long-running American game show that launched in the UK in the early-80s, and was renamed Family Fortunes, because the thought of people feuding to win prizes was just too much for us reserved Brits. The Australian version began in the late-70s though, and didn’t receive a name change. Again, I’ll concentrate on the early years.

The hosts of the earliest editions included Tony Barber and Daryl Somers. This version in its presentation was very similar to the American one. And this is a show that is famous enough that the rules don’t have to be thoroughly explained really. There are some differences though that are worth pointing out. Firstly, two teams of four took part, not five, clearly Australia doesn’t have a huge amount of people to go round.

Of course they have to find the top scoring answers in the various surveys of 100 people, but if they give three incorrect answers, they could be in trouble, and lose control of the game. There was also a combination of old and new technology. The correct answers on the board flipped over, but were on an electronic display. And there were only three rounds played.

The first two were played for single points (as this would probably be described now), and the third was for double points. The first team to reach 200 (not 300) points goes into the final, where they can play for a rather large amount of money (for the time anyway). Again, this is rather familiar, as two contestants have to try and score 200 points between them from the five questions.

If they succeed, they win the money. They can also return as defending champions, and they can play up to five editions, so they really could win big money. The original run of Family Feud lasted for six years, and this was followed in the 90s by another six-year run. And there have been two further revivals in more recent years, that seem to concentrate more on questions set up to receive rather unusual answers.