Game Show Memories – Scavengers.

Scavengers (ITV, 1994-1995)

This might be the last game show that I’ll review for a while, but this one was something of a flop. I don’t mean to deliberately review shows that didn’t do well, and it might seem that I am scraping the barrel a little now, but there are some reasons why I do remember watching this one (although it seems that there weren’t too many others who did).

Scavengers made its debut on Saturday Night ITV the day after I left junior school, and I just couldn’t believe that it was finally all over. Before I started to think about what my next move would be, I thought that I would watch this new show to try and keep that all out of my mind. And also, this was a rather ambitious idea, sort of like Gladiators meets The Crystal Maze… but in the future!

There had been a lot of money spent on this, and there was a lot of hope that this would end up doing well. The host (I mean “commander”) was John Leslie, who had recently left Blue Peter, and was clearly wanting to try something a little different. Two teams of two took part. Inbetween lots of pointless running around, they had to play various challenges to score points.

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There was also some android-type woman (who was described by one critic as “Random Emotionless Robot #235”) who would explain the challenges, and give the scores, that were known as “salvage points”. Looking back at some of these now, they are a little similar to the “Super Round” that did for The Krypton Factor (although that’s still a year off at this point).

Once they had completed these challenges, they had to run back to their spaceship in time, otherwise they would lose all of their points, and probably be evaporated too. How intense! The highest-scorers went into the next round, and the winners of that would then go into the grand final, where they would win a nice big prize, probably.

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I did think that the whole thing was rather exciting, but only for about the first five minutes. Scavengers ended up doing so badly with viewers though that this was quickly taken off Saturday Nights, and the final ended up being shown on a summer Monday morning over a year after the first edition, of what unsurprisingly turned out to be the only series.

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This idea just didn’t catch on, and as for John Leslie trying to adopt a macho personality… probably best to stick to hosting Wheel Of Fortune. ITV wouldn’t really try another big Gladiators-style game until Ice Warriors a few years later, which made just about the same mistakes all over again, and even I didn’t watch that one. Oh dear.

Game Show Memories – The Answer Trap.

The Answer Trap (Channel 4, 2021)

This is yet another daytime game show that came and went recently and almost certainly won’t be returning, but deserves more acclaim. Some people thought that the format of The Answer Trap fell somewhere between Wipeout and Only Connect, and this was done rather well. The host was Anita Rani, and three teams of two take part.

In the first round, there are nine answers and two categories. The teams have to put the right answers into the right categories. Doing this earns them £50, but putting an answer into the wrong category will earn nothing. But beware, because if an answer is picked that is wrong and doesn’t go into either category… they have fallen into the trap!

Two game show experts Bobby Seagull and Frank Paul (best-known for their appearances on University Challenge and Only Connect) have placed some wrong answers into the grid. If they are found, lots of alarms go off, and which one set the trap is revealed. They then explain why it is a wrong answer. Finding two traps ends the round for the team.

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In the second round, there are now 12 answers and two categories, and only one of the team plays. Correct answers are now worth £100, and again two traps ends their round. In the third round, there are now 16 answers and three categories, with correct answers being worth £200. Whoever has the most money after this goes into the final.

In this, there is a choice of categories. The question has 16 answers, with ten correct, and six traps. If they find eight correct answers, they win the money that they have made. If they find nine, they double that money. And if they find all ten, they win the star prize of £10,000. But again, they must beware, because finding two traps loses them their money, but they do have the option of being able to stop.

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The things that made The Answer Trap succeed included the rivalry between the Trappers (not a phrase that will catch on like Chasers or Eggheads though), hoping that the teams will fall into their traps, along with all the trivia that is discussed. But just like with Moneybags, this didn’t do that well in the ratings, and Channel 4 could end up with another good format not fulfilling its potential.

Game Show Memories – Rebound.

Rebound (ITV, 2015-2016)

This is another one of those short-lived daytime game shows, which did have an interesting idea that made this stand out more than most, but ultimately not enough to be a long-runner. The host was Sean Fletcher, better known from Good Morning Britain. Rebound was a game that was based around the bar, and thanks to the things that they can do with technology nowadays, this was played all over the studio floor.

Six contestants took part. The first round is Fast Cash. There are three questions asked with four choices, and then the bar on the floor starts to move as the money on offer falls from £1,000, so the quicker you correctly answer, the more you could win. Next is Head To Head. One of the highest-scorers in the previous round picks who their opponent will be.

There are two categories to choose from. They are then given clues, and they have to answer before the bar gets to the end. If they are correct, the bar starts moving back to their opponent, and gets faster with every answer. This was a little like the Bleep Test, which did involve a lot of running, and it was something that I was never any good it, being rather tiring.

The first to lose three categories is eliminated. This is then played twice more, to leave three contestants. Interestingly, the winning contestant takes their defeated opponent’s money, so everything that has been won always remains in the game. Then Fast Cash is played again, this time with five questions, to bring in even more money.

Next is Stop The Bar. The contestant in front has the longest bar, which is the equivalent of 30 seconds. The contestant in second has a three-second penalty, and the one in third has six. A question with three choices appears, and the bars start to move. They don’t stop until an answer is chosen. If it’s right, they stay where they are, but if it’s wrong, there’s a two-second penalty.

When the bar reaches the end, they are eliminated. The one remaining contestant makes the Beat The Bar final, and again, they take their opponents’ money, meaning that they will usually play for around £10,000, which isn’t too bad. In this, they have to give 15 correct answers before the bar beats them. There is a choice of six categories, and they have to give five correct answers for the bar to stop.

If they do, they can choose another category, and then do this again after ten correct answers. If they can do it in time, they win the money. There were some rather exciting finishes where it was close right to the end. Although there were two series of Rebound, like many other shows, it didn’t have much of a chance to grow as viewers again preferred to watch The Chase endlessly.

Game Show Memories – Moneybags.

Moneybags (Channel 4, 2021)

This is a daytime game show that only ended on TV very recently, but as it seems that this might end up being a one-series wonder, I might as well review this because it’s one of the games that have launched in the past year or two that I have enjoyed the most (another one is The Answer Trap, and I plan to review that one soon too).

Moneybags is an hour-long show hosted by Craig Charles, who has appeared in lots of other shows including Coronation Street and Red Dwarf. There are ten contestants who are there all week, and six will be chosen to play in every edition. This does create a problem that some recent game shows seem to have of contestants who have gone through to the next stage or are still having to wait their turn standing around in the background.

Two contestants are picked to play and come on down! There is a category on the screen, and then an answer on a bag goes along a conveyor belt (is this the only other game show apart from The Generation Game to feature one?). If they think that the answer is correct, they must grab the bag. If they don’t, the second contestant has a chance to play.

Correct answers contain cash amounts, from several worth £1,000, all the way to one being worth £100,000. This means that this must be the first Channel 4 daytime game show to offer a six-figure sum as a prize since the heady days of Deal Or No Deal. If neither contestant plays the bag though, it drops out of the game, and Craig (cue drumroll) reveals the answer.

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As well as the money, other things can happen, including stealing your opponent’s highest-valued bag, or having to give yours away, or being bankrupt. If they do play a wrong answer, they are frozen out of the next question, in the Bob’s Full House style. There are about four or five questions in every category, and two categories for every game. The highest scorer goes into the next round, and then this is done twice more.

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The second round is the same, only there are now three contestants, and all of the money in the game can change positions rather quickly. The highest-scorer then plays the final game. There doesn’t seem to be a studio audience, so all that the finalist gets are a few echoey shouts of encouragement from the others who are now on their side.

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In this, there are four questions, played for increasing amounts of what they banked. The first is worth 10% of their money, all the way up to 100% for their fourth. This time, there are two bags and they have to pick the right one, if they don’t, they are bankrupted. They don’t have to play it if they are unsure though. This has been an anti-climax sometimes because few contestants get past the second question, there is a lot at stake.

I did find Moneybags interesting, Craig is a good choice of host because he is enthusiastic, but stays on the right side of being irritating. However Channel 4 prefer to have property shows like I Want This House, I Want That House, and I Want The Other House or whatever they’re called in this slot as they get more viewers, so this might not be seen again, and like with The Answer Trap they’d be throwing away a good format.

Game Show Memories – House Of Games.

House Of Games (BBC2, 2017-present)

Recently I reviewed Two Tribes, a game show that was hosted by Richard Osman (after his appearances as co-host on Pointless raised his profile, although he had been working behind the scenes in TV since the 90s). That didn’t do too badly, but then he went on to host another game show in the same timeslot that has gone on to do even better.

I must admit that I didn’t see much of the earliest editions of House Of Games, but then I did eventually get into it and realise why this has become popular with viewers. Four celebrities take part, who appear in five editions throughout the week, and they play various rounds that are a little more creative than the usual general knowledge questions.

Five rounds are played in every edition, and Richard presses the button to reveal what they will be. These have included What’s In A Name, The Answer’s In The Question, and there have now been dozens of variations. There are also rounds where the celebrities have to play as a team, or write their answers on a screen. The final round is usually Answer Smash.

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There are lots of points awarded (or deducted), and unusually for a game show with celebrities taking part, there are some prizes on offer, but they are amusingly small, such as maybe an umbrella, or some binoculars, but they really do want to play for them. The maximum score is 24 points, and the highest-scorer at the end of the week also receives a special trophy.

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A lot of people have become fond of House Of Games, and it is rather clear to me why. Even though there is a competitive element to some extent, there is also a warm atmosphere with plenty of amusing moments, viewers can play along, and it is interesting seeing the celebrities showing off some of the more unusual areas of their knowledge thanks to the creative questions and challenges.

This has done well enough for there to be a spin-off series on primetime BBC1 called House Of Games Night, which features more rounds, and a band in the studio and everything! There have also been specials where weekly champions have played against each other, there has been a book released, and there have been lots of repeat runs on Dave.

Radio Memories – Just A Minute.

Just A Minute (BBC Radio 4, 1967-present)

I have already looked back at the three attempts to bring this comedy panel game to TV, but I thought that I would review the original radio version as well, as many people think that this is the definitive one, and it has brightened many a Monday evening. Just A Minute is based on a radio game from the 50s called One Minute Please, and this is another one that was created by Ian Messiter.

I have already gone over the rules of this one, but of course this is the game where the four celebrity panellists have to talk on a given subject for one minute without hesitation, repetition, or deviation. The original host was Nicholas Parsons, and although I wasn’t around at the time, it seems that the format as we know it now took about two or three series to establish itself.

A lot of people have taken the challenge over the years, only to discover that it isn’t as simple as it seems. I was more familiar with the ITV version before I heard the radio version, and I didn’t become a regular listener until the late-90s, so I was rather interested when there was a repeat run of some editions from the 70s and 80s on BBC7/BBC Radio 4 Extra a while ago, as I could hear these for the first time.

One of the most regular panellists who has contributed for over three decades now is Paul Merton, he first featured before Have I Got News For You had launched, and he is always good value. My mum was in the audience for an edition, when one of the panellists was some called Suki Webster. And it turns out that this is Paul’s wife, so I’m sure that she definitely got on the panel on her own merit with no influence from anybody else…

One remarkable thing was the longevity of Parsons, who was the chairman for over half a century and almost 1,000 editions, he was still in charge at an age when most people have long since retired, and it was clear that he had as much enthusiasm for the game as he always did. But after a gap when there was time to consider the next move, a new host was eventually chosen.

This was Sue Perkins, who once mistakenly told Gyles Brandreth that he had “34 minutes” to talk instead of “34 seconds”, but he probably could’ve still achieved this. Who knows how many more years Just A Minute can run for, as I said in my previous review, putting some funny people together and giving them interesting subjects to talk about means that you can stretch the idea almost infinitely.

There have also been some variations on the format, including going to different countries, as this show is indeed very popular around the world, a junior version with children playing, and several highlights have been released on cassette and CD. And there is also a comprehensive fansite (http://just-a-minute.info/) worth visiting with everything you could ever want to know, including statistics and transcripts.

Game Show Memories – Mental.

Mental (PlayUK, 2001)

I still think that UK Play (or PlayUK) was one of the best of the early digital channels. As well as music videos and comedy shows, there were also a few game shows tried in the schedule. I have already reviewed Pop Upstairs Downstairs, and now here’s another one, which I vaguely remember watching at the time. Mental was subtitled The Music Quiz for some reason, so there was definitely no doubt about what was on offer here.

The host was Iain Lee, who was best-known at the time as one of the hosts of Channel 4’s The 11 O’Clock Show… but he didn’t actually ask the questions! Six contestants took part, who wanted to show off their musical knowledge. There is a board with eight groups on it. The contestant then decides whether to ask a question about them, or be asked one, which would be things like “what was their first hit single?” or “what label are they on?”.

But how do we know that the information in the question and answer is correct? There were two adjudicators on standby who seemed to be in a rather small room with a large pile of reference books to verify everything (where is Wikipedia when you need it). There are ten points for a correct answer, but if they get it wrong, the asker gets ten points instead.

But if it turns out that the asker didn’t actually know the answer to the question that they asked themselves, it’s worth 15 points. At the end of this, the two lowest scorers are eliminated. The next round is similar, but now features various genres to choose from as well as groups. Again, the two lowest scorers leave, and the two remaining contestants go into the final.

In this, they are given the categories one-by-one, they are not given a choice this time, so they really do have to think quickly. And if they play their Brain Card and get it right, then, ooh crikey, it’s worth double points! The winning contestant went on to a Fifteen-To-One-style leaderboard, with the six highest-scoring contestants returning for the grand final, to play to be overall series champion, and win the star prize of a state-of-the-art stereo music thing.

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This means that Mental featured a lot of questions about half-forgotten groups, and well I thought that it was rather interesting. And this must also be one of the last game shows to use the old-school scoreboards. But Iain seemed to be mildly horrified by the whole thing, saying later that this was the low point of his career, but I don’t think that it was as bad as that really.

Radio Memories – Dealing With Daniels.

Dealing With Daniels (BBC Radio 4, 1982-1983, BBC Radio 2, 1984-1989)

This is a radio game show that I don’t actually remember from the time, but here’s why I was interested to find out more. As I have said before, Paul Daniels had a rather unusual double career, being both a magician and a game show host, including Every Second Counts. But did you know that in the 80s he also hosted a game show on the radio?

Dealing With Daniels was based on an earlier radio game show called Fair Deal, which was created by Ian Messiter, who was behind several quirky formats, the most successful being Just A Minute. The show’s title had a clever double meaning, because it meant “dealing” as in “giving out playing cards to people”, and also “dealing”, as in “having to put up with him”, how clever, er, yes…

Every week, three celebrity panellists took part, including comedians and TV hosts, and Barry Cryer, Patrick Moore, and June Whitfield were among those who often featured. Dealing With Daniels was a test of both memory and general knowledge, and it could be a big night for one of them if they play their cards right. No wait, that’s a different show…

There is a pack of playing cards, and every suit is represented by a different category. 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 cards are not used. 7, 8, 9 and 10 cards are worth one point, Jack, Queen, and King cards are worth two, and Ace cards are worth three. They pick a card, and they are given the question. Some of these are rather silly, and can lead to what some people might describe as “faffing”.

The categories are played in rotation, and if a panellist asks for a card that has already gone, a rather loud hooter would go off, they would be penalised the points value of that card, and they would have to pick again. Get three wrong in a row and they lose their turn. Hopefully their choice would still be there. But they could also play their Joker, this could only be used once, and would restore any lost points.

This meant that it was a good idea to play this as close to time being up as possible, so all of the clocks in the studio were removed to make this more difficult. They could also play for a bonus if they thought that all of the cards had gone in a category. If they had, they would score ten points, but if not, they were penalised by how many cards were remaining.

There were a lot of points won (and lost), and there was a winner declared at the end, but there were no prizes on offer, how mean. Dealing With Daniels ran for about seven years, and it was good to come across this one and discover that this was a game that was enjoyable, and had a few twists, like the ones that Paul hosted on TV, how magic.

Game Show Memories – Cash Trapped.

Cash Trapped (ITV, 2016-2019)

When The Chase took a break one summer for another game show, viewers were OUTRAGED, until they discovered that its replacement was going to be hosted by Bradley Walsh too, and, picking up a thing or two about how these things work over the years, he was also the devisor. The idea behind Cash Trapped was that contestants played until there was an outright winner, even if they had to do it over and over again.

Six contestants took part. In round one, they are asked a question on the buzzer for £100. They are then given a multiple-choice question. Get this right for £1,000, and they can trap one of their opponents, meaning that they are out of the round. It’s a cash trap… and you’ve been caught! Round two is similar, but this time there are six categories to choose from, with the buzzer question worth £200.

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The contestant also chooses an opponent to play the multiple-choice question against, alternating with their answers until one is correct and wins £2,000, the loser of this mini-duel being trapped. By this point, viewers were relived that Bradley still took every opportunity to laugh as much as possible. In round three, contestants are asked questions for 45 seconds, with £500 for a correct answer.

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This is rather similar to the Cashbuilder round in The Chase, just to bring some more money into the game before the final. The highest-scorer is now the one who gets the chance to escape with their money (usually around £5,000), the others will have to try and stop them. Questions are asked for 60 seconds, and several scenarios are possible.

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If the finalist buzzes in, the clock stops. Bradley then clearly stalls for the tension, saying their answer again whilst wiggling his leg (possibly the old football injury playing up again there). If they are right, they can trap an opponent. If they are wrong, ten seconds are removed from the clock. If an opponent buzzes in and are right, the clock continues, but if they are wrong, they trap themselves.

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If the finalist can trap all five opponents in time, they win and take their money. If they don’t, their score is reset to zero, all their opponents keep their money, and everyone has to come back for the next show. This did lead to the situation of contestants buzzing in when Bradley had barely started to ask the question, never mind finish it, in mild desperation.

Some games ended up going on for five days, or even longer, with one contestant winning over £40,000 that had gradually built up. There was also a short post-game interview. Cash Trapped didn’t do too badly, but viewers preferred The Chase with its more straightforward format. Luckily for them then that this’ll possibly be shown on ITV every day until the end of time.

Game Show Memories – Alphabetical.

Alphabetical (ITV, 2016-2017)

This is a daytime game show that I watched regularly, and I was attracted to this for a couple of reasons, although unfortunately this didn’t turn out to be a big success, mostly because there was a rather big flaw with the format. Firstly, Alphabetical was based on a Spanish game show, which itself was based on BBC1’s The Alphabet Game, which means that in a rather roundabout way one of the creators of this was Andrew O’Connor.

Secondly, the host was Jeff Stelling, and it was good to see him having another go at a game show following his departure from Countdown (and lots of people said that he was a suitable host for this one because his name is Jeff Spelling, even though it actually isn’t). Alphabetical was a game that was all about words and letters.

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As most game shows are now in an hour-long slot, there was probably a discussion like “how are you going to do essentially a variation on the same thing four times?”. Four contestants took part, three challengers, and one returning champion, who stood at a separate podium as if to make it look like they were rather superior. They were all given 100 seconds on their clock.

The first round is First Letters. There are 60 seconds of questions, and all the answers begin with the same letter. There is one second for every correct answer. Next is Last Letters, which has the same idea, but this time the answers end with the same letter. Then there is Starting Letter. Categories are given, and the first letter of every word in the answer. At this point, the lowest-scorer is eliminated.

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Next is 13 Letters. Half of the alphabet has been chosen, and questions are asked that begin with those letters. This is now on the buzzer, with two seconds for a correct answer, and being frozen out of the next question for a wrong one. Again, the lowest-scorer leaves, and the remaining contestant plays the champion in the final, which is the real trouble with the format really.

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With the time that they have made, usually around 130 seconds, they now have to answer 26 questions, one for every letter of the alphabet. If they are not sure of an answer, they can say “alphabetical” and came back to it later. But only one wrong answer means that it’s all over, they have to get all 26 of them right in time to win the money.

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Now there are two rather big problems with this. Giving 26 consecutive correct answers is rather difficult in itself, but trying to do it in barely two minutes as well is practically impossible (most contestants did well if they managed to score 20). The jackpot started at £5,000, and went up by £100 for every correct answer that was given in the final if it wasn’t won.

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There were two series, and nobody at all won the top prize, meaning that almost £59,000 went unclaimed. Jeff tried his best to inject some excitement into all of this, especially if there did turn out to be some close finishes, but watching people take an hour to win nothing became rather frustrating. The returning champion would probably wonder if it was worth it.

To give an idea of just how difficult this final challenge is, in the Spanish version, they can go so long without a winner that the rollover jackpot sometimes reached seven figures and would become a rather big deal. And well, they weren’t ever exactly going to give away a million pounds on ITV in the afternoon were they. Bring back XYZ.