Game Show Memories – Cheap Cheap Cheap.

Cheap Cheap Cheap (Channel 4, 2017) 

After the successful and long-running Deal Or No Deal ended, Noel Edmonds returned to Channel 4 with a new show that he created himself. Noel is someone who is known to like to try something a little different in TV, and we were promised that Cheap Cheap Cheap would be a unique cross between a game show and a sitcom, where contestants played the game while various comedy characters looked on and interacted with them. 

Cheap

The response from viewers to this idea was rather predictable really, with most comments on the show from people after one edition just consisting of “this is the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen, I turned off after five minutes”, and “Noel has really lost it this time”, causing the ratings to slump very quickly. I watched to the end of the run though and I just feel that I want to defend this show and reveal why I became a fan, although I am clearly in the minority. vlcsnap-00206

Noel opened his new store in Somerset and he was joined by Barry the manager (played by Alex “not the one who used to be in Hurricane #1” Lowe), plus Marijana the health and happiness guru, Kelly the sales assistant, and Brian the odd job man. Although it seems that some of their material was scripted, I’m not entirely sure if Noel knew what they were going to say, and this made things a little unpredictable. Teams of two take part and they have to determine the lowest-priced item of the three on offer, that’s it really. vlcsnap-00190

If they get stuck they have three tools that were on offer to help them. They could take a look at the next question before deciding to play, they could have the most expensive item removed, or they could have the price of one item revealed. Only one tool can be played per question though. After they make their choice, Noel reveals the prices of the items, and if they have correctly chosen the cheapest, they move one step up the money ladder. vlcsnap-00192

If they decide to play and get it wrong however, they lose all their money. There are eight steps on the money ladder, each question is in theory supposed to be more difficult than the previous one, and the star prize was £25,000 for getting eight right in a row. Barry always looked forward to opening the till for the successful contestants. Shows also straddle so if it’s time for Barry to close the shop for the day they can resume their game in the next edition. vlcsnap-00198

There were a few other odd elements to the show. First of all, there was no live studio audience as such, only the other contestants waiting to play were watching on, so most jokes met with little response, I feel that it would’ve worked better with a bigger audience, and whether you got the style of humour on offer made a difference too. Also, there were lots of guest appearances from old school 1980s celebrities including Bobby Davro, Lionel Blair, Russell Grant and Dennis Taylor who took part in sketches that ranged from amusing to cringe-making. vlcsnap-00203

Perhaps the oddest thing though was how the show ended. By the end of the run, the actress who played Kelly was absent and it wasn’t clear whether it was part of the story or if she had walked before work on the show was completed, and there was also what some people felt was a rather contrived jackpot win in the final edition that left them wondering what exactly was happening behind the scenes. vlcsnap-00199

Cheap Cheap Cheap did reach the end of its six-week run without being moved from its daytime slot, although the ratings were very bad by the end and it was a big failure, and even though it only ended last month I imagine there is no chance of it returning to the screen. If this really does turn out to be the end of Noel’s long TV career then that is very disappointing. Maybe for a second series they could relaunch the show without Noel in a late-night slot, call it Barry’s Bargain Bin and just have him shouting at contestants as they play for terrible prizes. It couldn’t do any worse.

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Game Show Memories – Takeover Bid.

Takeover Bid (BBC1, 1990-1991)

When I put together my tribute to Bruce Forsyth a while ago, I realised that I still hadn’t reviewed his game show Takeover Bid, which was the first show that Bruce hosted after he returned to the BBC in 1990, so here it is. One of the highlights was the opening of the show which was as fun to watch as the actual game. Bruce would come on and try to throw a hat and umbrella on to a hatstand. Sometimes he would succeed, and sometimes he wouldn’t, and wondering what would happen was rather enjoyable. vlcsnap-00003

Bruce’s store was now open and three contestants took part, hoping to bag themselves some bargains, because there were plenty of prizes on offer. The first round was called Fact Or Fib. The contestant was given a choice of one of four prizes worth different values to bid, with the the four star prize being rather decent, and the one star prize being rather daft and useless. If they got the true or false statement right, they keep the prize which would help them in the next round, and they get a bonus prize too! If they got it wrong, they lost the prize that they bid, which could be to their disadvantage. vlcsnap-00148

The second round was Crazy Cryptics. The contestants now answer quirky questions against one another with six categories available, to earn the chance to steal prizes from their opponents. Bruce always encouraged them to be ruthless with their choices at this point, as owning the better value prizes really was worth it. This was because the contestant whose prizes had the highest value of stars at the end of the round went into the final. To help them out, at the start of the final, they are given a bonus ten stars, with their stars total then being rounded up to the nearest five. vlcsnap-00149

The final was Star Spin. There was a wheel with ten categories on it. The five-pointed star was then spun, and the five categories that the points were at when it stopped would be the ones that questions would be asked on. The contestant picked a category and could bid an amount of stars on getting the question right, winning them for a right answer, and losing them for a wrong one. If they had got at least 100 stars by the time they reached the final question, they could gamble for the star prize, which was usually a holiday, plus keeping all the prizes that they had already won. vlcsnap-00154

A couple of months after Takeover Bid launched, Bruce hosted his first edition of The Generation Game for 13 years, which turned out to be much more successful, because it was definitely the better of the two shows. However, although Takeover Bid wasn’t a huge success it still ran for a couple of series in the early-90s and it was always a pleasure seeing Bruce do his thing.

The YouTube Files – The Krypton Factor USA.

The Krypton Factor (ABC, 1981)

If you are a regular you will know that The Krypton Factor is one of my favourite game shows, and wondering how many variations have been made over the years, I was interested to discover that an American version was made in the early-80s. It was hosted by Dick Clark, a veteran presenter who appeared on TV for decades, and the show was described as the ultimate test of mental and physical abilities. vlcsnap-00105

Four contestants from across the country took part in five rounds (or “phases” as they were called here). Phase one was the reflex test. The contestants had to complete a challenge on an Atari computer game that was impressive technology at the time, which was a test of hand-eye co-ordination. If they were successful they scored five points. Phase two was mental agility. Two questions were asked about various words and numbers. Get the first question right and score four points. Get it wrong and they are eliminated from the round. Get the second question right and score six points for a maximum of ten. vlcsnap-00104

Phase three was physical ability. This was the assault course round and the obstacles were very tough to complete, possibly even more so than the British version. Every contestant started at the same time, there were no head starts, and the winner of this round scored 20 points, with 15 points for coming second, 10 points for coming third, and five points for coming fourth. vlcsnap-00109

Phase four was observation. Contestants had to watch a film clip, and then they would be asked two questions about what they saw and heard, with four points for getting the first question correct, and six points for the second. There would then be an identity parade where contestants would have to spot an actor who appeared in the scene from a line-up of six for a bonus of ten points. vlcsnap-00110

Phase five was general knowledge. Questions were asked on the buzzer, with two points for a correct answer, and two deducted for an incorrect answer. At the midway point in the round, this increased to four points for a correct answer, four points deducted for an incorrect answer. When time was up, the contestant with the highest score won $5,000 and was invented to return for the final at the end of the series. vlcsnap-00114

There were four heats, with the four winners going into the final, with the star prize being $50,000. Also in 1981, two of the finalists in the US version played two contestants from the UK version in an international special. It seems that this version of The Krypton Factor wasn’t a huge success though, it only ran for five editions. In 1990 there was a second attempt at an American version featuring younger contestants but again this didn’t do very well.

Game Show Memories – Happy Families.

Happy Families (BBC1, 1993)

This isn’t a review of the mid-80s BBC1 comedy series, nor is it a review of the late-80s CBBC series either, Happy Families was a short-lived 45-minute long game show that was shown on Saturday nights on BBC1 in 1993 which was hosted by Andrew O’Connor and Sarah Greene. This review is a little different as I have no memory of watching this show at the time (I don’t know where I was in 1993), so why am I reviewing it?

The reason is because if you are a regular you will know that I have enjoyed a lot of shows hosted by Andrew O’Connor over the years, such as the children’s shows and game shows that he hosted throughout the 80s and 90s before he went on to have further success behind the scenes as a producer and director, and I’ve no idea why I would have never watched this at the time, so now I have finally seen an edition on YouTube here’s what Happy Families was all about. vlcsnap-00086

Happy Families featured two family teams of 11 taking part in various games in a big arena, Andrew and Sarah would also commentate on these games. One odd element to the show was that the granny from the family would sit in a cage on a crane, and every point scored by winning a game would crank the granny up one notch (leading to the show’s remembered by nobody catchphrase “crank up your granny!”). Every week a different celebrity (such as Keith Chegwin) would keep the score and also be the granny cranker (is that a word? I think so). vlcsnap-00079

Rounds included The Podmobile, where one team member was in a pod, and then had to move along to hook the next pod on and then go back, until ten pods had hooked on to one another and then they all had to race to the finish line. There was also Remote Control, where someone was in a car and gave instructions for another team member to drive it, and the team that hit the most bollards against the clock won. vlcsnap-00082

There was also Sticky Mountain, where team members wearing Velcro had to climb a wall, and the first one to plant their flag at the top won, which started giving me flashbacks to the 1995 series of The Krypton Factor somewhat. A game played more than once was Terrorball, where a team member was strapped in a rotating ball and then had to answer Mr & Mrs-style questions about the rest of their family. vlcsnap-00083

After a few more games, then came the final challenge. Teams had to get some gunge and fire it out of a cannon. For every opposing team’s target they hit, the granny went up another notch, so winning a lot of the earlier games would come in useful as it would mean they’d need to hit fewer targets to win. The first team to 15 notches released their granny and won the game (did the losing team’s granny have to stay in the air?). An added incentive was that the teams who reached their target in the quickest time went through to the next round, with the overall series winning family receiving a big trophy. vlcsnap-00085

Gladiators was a show that was very popular on ITV at the time, and it seems that this is the closest that the BBC ever got to having their own version, with Happy Families coming across as sort-of like Gladiators with teams, or a prime-time version of Run The Risk. However, the show was something of a failure and seems to be completely forgotten now, it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry, but it was definitely an ambitious and somewhat unusual show, a curious one-series wonder if ever there was one. Oh well, at least because it never came back grannies across the country were well relived. vlcsnap-00081

Game Show Memories – a tribute to Bruce Forsyth.

After I had competed reviewing all the game shows that I wanted to on this blog, I planned to take a look back some of my favourite hosts too and some their best shows. I decided that I might as well do this one now as we still come to terms with the fact that we are now living in a post-Brucie world. Here’s a quick look at ten memorable shows which featured the great talent of Bruce Forsyth throughout his long career.

The Generation Game. (BBC1, 1971-1977, 1990-1994) One of the best shows that Bruce ever hosted, he was the original host, before he came back in the early-90s to host the era that I remember. Just about all of his famous catchphrases were in use and I remember really enjoying this entertaining show. vlcsnap-00289Bruce’s Big Night. (ITV, 1978) This is a curious one. After leaving the BBC, Bruce went to ITV and was given his own big-budget Saturday night ITV entertainment show. Despite lots of things being tried it wasn’t a big success.

Play Your Cards Right. (ITV, 1980-1987, 1994-1999, 2002-2003) Another one of Bruce’s classics which he ended up hosting three versions of. Again, I remember the 90s version which was always great to play along with and this show is definitely up there with Bruce’s best. vlcsnap-01396

You Bet(ITV, 1988-1990) Although Matthew Kelly is the best-known host of this show, Bruce hosted the first three series, where people tried to complete extraordinary challenges. Bruce would also begin every show with “the You Bet! rap”, hopefully he didn’t realise that as a single. You Bet 10

Takeover Bid. (BBC1, 1990-1991) This was a rather short-lived game show that I haven’t got round to reviewing yet but it was much inferior to The Generation Game. If the highlight of the show is when Bruce comes on at the start and tries to throw a hat and cane on to a hatstand then the actual game might not be so great. Takeover Bid 4

Bruce’s Guest Night. (BBC1, 1992-1993) This was an entertainment show where Bruce would interview various guests such as comedians and musicians.

Bruce’s Price Is Right. (ITV, 1995-2001) Another game show revival. Bruce replaced Leslie Crowther as the host of this classic show where a lot of big prizes were won. vlcsnap-01496Tonight At The London Palladium. (ITV, 2000) Viewers are always saying that they should bring back variety to TV, so who better to do it than the man who hit the big time hosting a show at the Palladium in the late-50s? Lots of variety acts joined Bruce, and he even revived his famous Beat The Clock game. Also around this time on ITV Bruce starred in an edition of the An Audience With series, and also took part in a special show celebrating his 70th birthday.

Didn’t They Do Well. (BBC1, 2004) This was a short-lived game show that I don’t remember seeing much of myself unfortunately, but it seems an interesting idea. I’d sooner watch this than that bloomin’ dancing show he started hosting around the same time!

Bruce’s Hall Of Fame. (BBC1, 2014) Bruce hosts another show at the Palladium where he looks back over his career and is joined on stage by various guests. This one is interesting because not only were my parents in the audience for this and they had a great time in his company, but it also turned out to be just about the final show that he ever did.

Beyond these shows, Brucie made a huge amount of TV appearances, and he also appeared on stage, in films, and in various adverts in a career that spanned decades. TV will never really be the same without him. He really was a terrific presenter and a real star, thanks for the great memories.

Game Show Memories – A Question Of Pop.

A Question Of Pop (BBC1, 2000-2001)

For a short while, BBC1 took the successful format of its long-running game show A Question Of Sport and used it for different genres. So we got A Question Of TV, A Question Of EastEnders (yes, really), and a music version called A Question Of Pop, which was hosted by Jamie Theakston, putting all his time interviewing pop groups on The O Zone and Live And Kicking to good use. vlcsnap-00053

Two teams of three took part, and the team captains were Noddy Holder from Slade (Tony Hadley from Spandau Ballet in the pilot), and Suggs from Madness, and their good-natured rivalry did help the show to become a sort-of BBC1-friendly version of Never Mind The Buzzcocks. Their two teammates would also be pop stars, and because this show was made in the early-2000s they would usually be someone from a group that was big at the time such as S Club 7 or Steps and the like. vlcsnap-00057

The rounds were just about the same as A Question Of Sport, with a few minor changes. The first round featured the Picture Board, with the first six of the 12 pictures on offer chosen. The next round was called Pop Action, where a few clips from famous songs from throughout the years were shown and then some questions were asked. The Home Or Away round was altered so that contestants could ask for an A-side question for one point, or gamble for a trickier B-side question for two points. vlcsnap-00059

There was also the What Happened Next? round looking back at some unusual musical TV moments, then there was the Mystery Guest round, and then it’s back to the Picture Board. The final round is on the buzzer with quickfire questions, with one point for a correct answer, and one deducted for an incorrect answer. Once the gong goes, it’s the end of the game, and although there are no prizes on offer, the winning team is declared. vlcsnap-00054

A Question Of Pop didn’t endure like A Question Of Sport and there were only two series. Surprisingly it’s another game show that doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry (although the BBC Genome does list all the pop stars who took part), and around the same time in 2001 there was the short-lived A Question Of TV which was hosted by Gaby Roslin and had the team captains Rowland Rivron and Lorraine Kelly. Unfortunately although I do remember this show too I can’t find any clips anywhere so there is no review planned for the moment.

CITV Memories – Terror Towers.

Terror Towers (CITV, 1994-1996)

This was a game show that was set in a haunted house which sort-of came across as a spookier version of The Crystal Maze, maybe like a warped version of the Medieval zone. Terror Towers was co-created by none other than Neil Buchanan and it was hosted by his old Motormouth mate Steve Johnson. Also assisting Steve was Boris The Spider (not to be confused with Bruce The Spider from the terrific The Winjin’ Pom of course). vlcsnap-00046

Two teams of three would play various games (just like in CITV’s other game show Crazy Cottage they wore the secondary colours green and orange. Why do I notice these things?). Before every main game there was a round where Steve would read a strange story, and then he would ask various observation questions about what happened. The teams would press their skull-shaped buzzer to answer and the first team to light all of their skull won a eyeball. It might sound horrible but collecting these was very important to the game. vlcsnap-00043

There were also various challenges in different rooms of the house against the clock such as trying to do something as the walls moved in around them, being blindfolded and having to be guided through a maze, and a game where everything seemed to be upside down. There were a various amount of eyeballs on offer for winning each game, these challenges were made more difficult because there seemed to be cobwebs and ghosts everywhere too, and the team that had collected the most eyeballs at the end went through to the final, with the losing team having the consolation of being eaten by werewolves. vlcsnap-00048

The final was called the stinky sink and it involved a lot of gunge, how amusing. The contestants had to get in the sink and they had one minute to find as many bones as they could, and Steve would always be very keen to encourage them to get stuck in at this point because the more bones they found, the more prizes they won. However, they were also told however well they did that they could never leave the house. Now that really is creepy. vlcsnap-00051

Terror Towers was another quirky show which ran for three series, and while it didn’t become as fondly remembered by viewers as Finders Keepers or Fun House, it was still definitely very good, watching an edition again recently brought back a lot of memories of watching CITV in the mid-90s, and somewhat surprisingly the show doesn’t seem to have a Wikipedia entry. However, as enjoyable as he was, I don’t remember seeing Steve hosting on TV again after the show ended, maybe he’s still in the house too…