CITV Memories – Follow Your Nose.

Follow Your Nose (CITV, 1992)

This is a game show that I don’t really remember too much from the time, but as it was on CITV in the early-90s when I was a regular viewer, it must have something going for it. The format of Follow Your Nose seems to fall somewhere between Mega Mania and Fun House, two other game shows that were on CITV at the time, although this one was a little less crazy than those.

This one was hosted by Amanda Ross, who is related to Jonathan and Paul, and she was also the devisor of the show. Every week, just like Mega Mania, Follow Your Nose came from somewhere different in the country. Four contestants took part, and they had to play various challenges. Some of these would involve sport, and they would all have to work together to complete them in time, which was usually about a minute.

For every challenge that was completed, they received a letter. If they didn’t succeed though, they didn’t get the letter. They were also given a clue to what the word could be based on some of the games that they played. So the more letters they have, the more chance they had of winning. If they can solve what the word is in time, then they win lots of nice prizes, including bum bags, jackets, T-shirts, and lots more I’m sure.

There was also a competition for viewers where they could solve a word and write in with the answer for a prize too. There was only one series of Follow Your Nose, but most importantly, did this pass the Tommy Boyd test, and get the endorsement of the main CITV host at the time? Well of course it did. Although it would be rather unlikely that he thought it was bad, he did seem to have a fondness for the show, even if he could never solve the words himself.

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After this, Ross went on to have some more success behind the scenes in TV, becoming a rather influential figure. She did devise a few more game shows, including XYZ, which was shown in a daytime slot and was very good, if rather short-lived. And she has also done well with with her production company, which among other things was behind Richard And Judy’s show on Channel 4.

Game Show Memories – Game Show Stars Part 20.

This is someone who I wanted to feature because although he is another host who might divide opinion, because of his longevity, and the sheer number of game shows that he has hosted (which I think might be just about more than anybody else now), I think that he has earned a place in this series. And once again, I’m fairly sure that he is following me on Twitter, but that hasn’t influenced my decision, no, really, it hasn’t.

Eamonn Holmes started out on TV in the early-80s, as the host of the news in the UTV region, and at the time he was the youngest news host anywhere on ITV. His career beyond this has taken in lots of other things, including being one of the launch hosts of GMTV, but I’ll concentrate on the game shows for now. A lot of them that he has hosted have only been shown in Northern Ireland, so of course I haven’t seen those ones.

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But of the ones that I have seen, I do remember some of them were shown in a daytime slot. He was the second host of Pass The Buck, and TV Scrabble on Challenge. But one of my favourites is Playing For Time. This was partly because in the final round when the contestant looked like they were going to win the star prize, he would get rather excited, and it always amuses me when the host gets more excited than the contestant by a big win.

He then went on to further shows in a primetime slot, including Jet Set and Hard Spell. And there was also Sudo-Q, which might’ve seemed like it was jumping on the bandwagon when there was the first wave of the sudoku craze, but there was actually a decent game here (maybe I should review that one day too). He even hosted comedy panel game It’s Not Me, It’s You rather late at night on Channel 5.

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In more recent years, he got married to Ruth Langsford, who might be a familiar face going back many years, if you were in the TSW region, where she was an in-vision announcer. They have gone on to host several shows together, including This Morning, along with the game Gift Wrapped. He is another one who I imagine will be hosting more game shows for many years to come.

And that’s it. This is planned to be the last entry in this series, as I think that 20 is enough for now. Thanks for all of your comments and memories. Although of course I have enjoyed many more people beyond the ones that I have featured, I feel that all of them have in various ways helped to shape and enhance game shows in this country more than most.

Game Show Memories – Game Show Stars Part 19.

This is someone whose long career has included a few game shows, that are at the more highbrow end of the genre, although one long-running show overshadows the others. Gordon Burns started out as a host of the news in the UTV region. By the late-70s, he had become the host of ITV’s The Krypton Factor, which would run for almost two decades.

This was of course the quest to find the United Kingdom Superperson in a variety of physical and mental tests. What was interesting about the show was that it always moved with the times, and it was always made sure that everything was kept up to date, from the opening theme and set design, to the technology used in the various rounds.

This meant that various rounds evolved, including the flight simulator being introduced in the Response round, and keypads being used to answer multiple-choice questions against the clock in the Observation round, long before Who Wants To Be A Millionaire came along. The Krypton Factor was always seen as a serious show, which really did challenge its contestants.

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Some people considered that this could be a little dull, but looking back, this definitely wasn’t the case, as he would often provide a breathless commentary on the Physical Ability round, especially when the contestants began to fall off the obstacles, and he was also involved in devising some of the tests used in various rounds, always making sure that things remained up to standard.

By the mid-90s, the format of The Krypton Factor was beginning to be a little tired, and this is another example of a show that had a total overhaul, which just hastened the end, it was felt that they were trying to fix something that wasn’t broken, and if viewers wanted to watch people carrying on as if they were on Gladiators, they would watch Gladiators.

After this, he went on to host a few other shows that had a similar idea. A Word In Ear featured celebrity teams who were challenged to show off how well they could communicate with each other in various games, which often had amusing results, and there was also Relatively Speaking, which was essentially a high-tech attempt at a team version of The Krypton Factor, but this lasted only one series.

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After this, he went back to regional news hosting, this time on the BBC in the north west of England. I had wondered what he was up to after the late-90s, not realising that if I had been up north, I still could’ve seem him on TV regularly. The Krypton Factor is still great to watch in repeat runs, and he also approved of the short-lived revival.

Game Show Memories – Game Show Stars Part 18.

This is someone else who could be another one considered by some to be on the B-list of the history of great game show hosts, but for the sheer number of shows that he’s hosted, I wanted to include him, because well someone’s got to host of all those games on regional ITV in the afternoon or on little-watched satellite channels.

And I do think that he is rather quick-witted and is knowledgeable about pop culture (a friendship with Danny Baker might not be a coincidence here). He is also into his music, being a big fan of Elvis Presley, and he also owns all of Frank Sinatra’s records. He wants them back. I think he was also following me on Twitter, although he doesn’t seem to have said anything for a while, but that hasn’t influenced my decision to include him here at all, honest.

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Paul Ross had worked behind the scenes in TV for many years, but by the mid-90s, he seemed to be here, there and everywhere on game shows, as both a host and panellist. Well he has got five children who need feeding, and he didn’t deny that his answerphone message was “yes, I’ll do it”. Oh, and he’s the older brother of Jonathan as well, but you probably knew that.

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Highlights included Jeopardy! on Sky One, the third channel to attempt a version of this format that has been much more successful in America. And there was also Tellystack, UK Gold’s game about classic TV. All Over The Shop was BBC1’s daytime game featuring celebrity panellists. A Slice Of The Action was Carlton Food Network’s game all about cookery.

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And don’t forget Mind The Gap, a game based around the London Underground tube map. Throw in The Big Breakfast too, and much more besides, and would you believe that he packed all of that into barely three or four years. Going into the 2000s, he hosted It’s Anybody’s Guess, an enjoyable ITV game where the answers had to be estimated.

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Also interesting was No Win No Fee, the daytime BBC1 game where the prize money on offer was his fee for hosting the show, meaning that he could be the one leaving empty-handed. After overdoing it for a while, he finally seemed to ease up a little in the mid-2000s, and he then had some success in other areas away from TV game shows.

This has included going on to the shopping TV circuit, he did some time on Bid TV and Ideal World, and he just about lived to tell the tale. In more recent years, he has done some radio work, including BBC London and LBC, and at the moment he seemingly thinks nothing of doing the 1am shift five days a week on TalkSport, it’s good to know that he’s still out there.

Game Show Memories – Game Show Stars Part 17.

This is someone who has had a rather varied career, which has included plenty of game shows. Matthew Kelly started out as an actor, and he first appeared on TV in the late-70s. By the early-80s, he was part of the Game For A Laugh team, alongside Jeremy Beadle and others. This was a very popular show, and for the next decade or two after this, he would remain a familiar face on TV.

Also in the 80s, he continued his acting work, appearing in some sitcoms, including Relative Strangers. By the mid-80s, he hosted a few other shows, and he also occasionally turned up on CITV. In the late-80s, he hosted short-lived daytime game show Quandaries. But it was going into the early-90s where he had his two biggest successes in game shows.

First of all, he replaced Bruce Forsyth as the host of You Bet! This was the show where if the challenger he backed failed, he would have to do a forfeit, and some of these were rather embarrassing, but he always took it in his stride. One of his biggest successes though came in the mid-90s when he replaced Leslie Crowther as host of Stars In Their Eyes.

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This was the popular musical talent contest, and he quickly realised that this was a show where the contestants were the main focus, and he always encouraged them along the way and made them feel like, well, stars. He seemed to enjoy meeting people from various backgrounds who would perform as singers in various genres. He also wore some rather startling waistcoats.

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He also seemed to relish hosting the specials, and grand finals that were shown live, and he would remain the host for several years. Going into the 2000s, he hosted Never Had It So Good, a daytime game show based around nostalgia that was fun but not exactly a success. By the mid-2000s however, it seemed that he had started to get a little disillusioned with showbusiness.

This meant that he departed from Stars In Their Eyes after over a decade in charge, but by this point the show was on the verge on becoming bogged down in celebrity specials and was never the same again really. He decided to return to acting, more on stage than on TV, but he did play a few straight drama roles where he came across as very different to his cheery game show personality.

Game Show Memories – The Krypton Factor TV Times Special.

The Krypton Factor TV Times Special (1983)

As a fan of The Krypton Factor, I am always on the lookout for any more specials to review in addition to the regular series. And this is a rather interesting one, as it seems that this was never actually shown on TV. This was before I watched The Krypton Factor or read TV Times, but I presume that there was a competition where viewers could take part in a edition.

As always, the host was Gordon Burns, who insisted that thousands of people had entered this competition. But only four could make it to this stage, and one of them was called William Stewart (not that one!). There would be three rounds instead of the usual six, all taking place in the studio, so they wouldn’t have to get their tracksuits on for a go on the obstacle course. This was about 20 minutes long, and also seemingly featured no studio audience.

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The scoring system was the same, and the winner would receive a specially-made trophy that was a replica of the scoreboard, which was still very much analogue in those days. Round one is Mental Agility, and was based around the game of Battleships. At the end of this, there were joint leaders. Round two is Intelligence, with lots of fiddling about with multi-coloured hexagons. Curiously there wasn’t the usual commentary on their progress to accompany this.

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After this, there is now a clear leader, but will they still be out in front at the end? The third and final round is General Knowledge. Each contestant is asked three questions individually for two points each, and then there are questions on the buzzer for 90 seconds, with one point for a correct answer, and one point deduced for an incorrect answer.

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And after time is up, the winner, with a Krypton Factor of 21, from Christchurch in Dorset, is Nick Jenkins! He then receives the trophy, along with some (probably canned) applause, and he says that he would like to enter the regular series too. I don’t know if this actually happened, but who knows, maybe he was a future superperson in the making.

Game Show Memories – Challenge Of The South.

Challenge Of The South (ITV, 1987)

Following on from Amoebas To Zebras (that I reviewed recently), here’s another 80s daytime game show that was hosted by Nigel Rees, and I’m fairly sure that this one was only shown in the TVS region. Challenge Of The South featured a knockout format. 27 contestants took part in nine heats. The winners went into the semi-finals, and then the three winners of those went into the grand final.

The overall series champion would receive a specially-made glass trophy by an artist, which also featured the TVS symbol and everything, how nice. In the first round, general knowledge questions were asked on the buzzer. There were two points for a correct answer, but an incorrect answer gave one point each to both of their opponents.

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Round two was played individually with specialist subjects, and the contestants had to take a different subject at every stage of the competition. But this idea wasn’t exactly the same as Mastermind, honest, because there were 90 seconds on the clock, and two points for a correct answer. Going into the break, there would be an anagram for viewers to solve, probably not made by Richard Stilgoe.

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Round three featured a choice of subjects, on six playing cards, (which had the show’s triangle symbol on them instead of the usual suits), nine, ten, Jack, Queen, King, and Ace. They would pick a card, but if they didn’t like the subject, they could pick again, but this was their last choice, so if they didn’t like this one either, they were stuck with it. Maybe they would get lucky. Again, there were 90 seconds of questions for two points each.

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The fourth and final round was just about the same as the first, back on the buzzer, only this time all of the questions were linked to various things in the south of England. Of course, when time was up, the contestant with the highest score won, and in the final the chairman of TVS no less would then be invited to hand over the trophy to the series champion.

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Rees seemed to be rather hopeful that there would be further series of Challenge Of The South, with more champions to be added to the roll of honour in the years to come, partly because he was the devisor of the show himself, but as far as I know there was only the one series. He’d have to go back to compiling all those graffiti books.

Game Show Memories – Game Show Stars Part 16.

There have been many people who have had long careers, but this is someone who had just about the longest career of any game show host on the TV and radio, lasting for over six decades. Nicholas Parsons first became a TV regular as long ago as the mid-50s. He would take part in comedy shows, and often played the straightman to various comedians, and this meant that he got to know some of the biggest stars of this era.

Even then he was hosting game shows, but it seems that most of these weren’t that great. In the late-60s, he became the host of one of his most popular shows, and little did he realise that he would still be in charge over five decades later. Just A Minute is a great example of one of those games that is easy to play, but difficult to master. After the format settled down, various regulars would take part for several years, and he managed to keep everything going.

His longest-running TV success launched in the early-70s, when he was the host of Sale Of The Century, where hundreds of questions were asked, and prizes were given away at prices that were rather ridiculous. He hosted this for over a decade, and this was one of the most successful game shows on ITV of its era. When this came to an end in the early-80s, he continued to host Just A Minute all along. He’d always let the panellists get the laugh they wanted, and give them too many bonus points for doing so.

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By the late-80s, he was possibly hoping to host a new TV game show, and it turned out to be a rather unlikely one. Night Network was one of ITV’s first attempts at an overnight service, and he was in charge of The All-New Alphabet Game segment, hoping the celebrity panellists could answer the odd questions. In the mid-90s, there was the first of three attempts to bring Just A Minute to TV, and they were all different in their approach.

The first was on ITV in a late-night slot, and featured more comedians at the alternative end taking part than what you would hear on the radio version at the time. He proved that he could work with the younger generation, although by this point by comparison just about everyone was the younger generation. The second attempt was a more cosy affair on BBC1 in a daytime slot, with older panellists who looked like they were on the verge of falling asleep.

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By the late-90s, most of the original contributors to Just A Minute had gone, but he kept going on. The third attempt was on BBC2 in an evening slot, this time mostly featuring the radio regulars, including Paul Merton, who by now was a veteran of the game. This was another short run though. He did seem to be unstoppable, still hosting when many other people would’ve long since retired, and it was clear that he liked to keep a sharp and always inquisitive mind.

Although they often mocked him, it was clear that panellists including Paul Merton and Gyles Brandreth definitely had a lot of admiration for him, and he even hosted a few shows with Merton about the history of comedy. When he did finally depart Just A Minute, there was the difficult task of choosing a new host, proving that essentially nobody is irreplaceable, but he would be pleased that the game is still played, and he deserves praise for his commitment to game shows.

Game Show Memories – Amoebas To Zebras.

Amoebas To Zebras (ITV, 1986-1987)

This is another game show from the 80s that I don’t really remember from the time, but as I always enjoy them from this era, I thought that I might as well review this one. Amoebas To Zebras (which doesn’t rhyme!) was a daytime game show that was subtitled “a natural history quiz”, just so we were in no doubt as to what this was, and this one had a good claim to being TSW’s second most-popular game show after That’s My Dog.

Amoebas To Zebras was hosted by Nigel Rees, who is notable for a few things. Firstly, he has compiled several books of humorous graffiti, so that’s good news for people who find things like “I used to be indecisive, but now I’m not so sure” amusing. He has also hosted the BBC Radio 4 panel game Quote… Unquote for endless decades. And he used to be a regular in Dictionary Corner on Countdown, where I thought that he looked rather similar to host Richard Whiteley, maybe he was his secret brother all along.

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And it seems that this show was uploaded by a Rees fan account featuring lots of his TV appearances, you wouldn’t think that there ever would be such a thing really, but as they say, whatever pulls your chain. Amoebas To Zebras was indeed all about animals and the world of wildlife, and three contestants who were naturalists took part, both amateur and professional.

There was also a rather bizarre scoring system, where they went through the evolutionary scale, starting out as an amoeba in the primeval ooze. The co-host Nicky Ezer pointed to the board to keep us up to date with their progress. Presumably Carol Vorderman was unavailable. Could anybody win by climbing the tree and becoming an, er, zebra? This would be a true survival of the fittest.

There were six rounds, and I don’t know if they changed often, but they had to show off their knowledge about various animals from around the world, whether it was small creepy crawlies, or big hairy things. There were no prizes on offer as such, just the honour of knowing that you did well enough to become an amphibian. There were two series of Amoebas To Zebras, and Paul Ross once claimed that he hosted an unaired pilot, and didn’t know that there was a full series.

Game Show Memories – Game Show Stars Part 15.

This is someone who has hosted a huge amount of game shows in his long career, and while he has always been enjoyable to watch, I am surprised by how many I didn’t really like or don’t remember at all, but the triumphs far outweigh the failures. Chris Tarrant started out as a local news reporter in the mid-70s, and he soon became known to a national audience as one of the hosts of successful Saturday Morning show Tiswas.

By the early-80s, he had left that show and gone on to OTT, an attempt at making a late-night version for older viewers, although despite his lively style, it was soon realised that this wasn’t really a great idea. By the late-80s, he had got into radio, becoming the host of Capital’s breakfast show for 17 years. He hosted plenty of TV shows including Tarrant On TV, and he also went on the game show circuit, as a host and panellist.

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In the early-90s, he hosted various game shows including Cluedo, PSI (later renamed Crazy Comparisons), and The Main Event. A good one for me was Everybody’s Equal, where studio audience members had to use their keypads to answer multiple-choice questions against the clock to win money. Sound familiar? This was later recycled for Channel 5 as Whittle, and also forms the basic idea of one his later game shows…

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Another good one was Lose A Million, where contestants were given a million pounds worth of prizes, and had to lose them as quickly as possible by answering silly questions. Well at least it wasn’t Man O Man. Going into the mid-90s, he hosted a revival of Pop Quiz, just when we wanted it! But it was in the late-90s when he really caused a sensation. After restrictions on how much prize money could be given away on British game shows was lifted, someone clearly thought that it was worth going to the extreme, and created a show where the top prize was a million pounds, which was totally unthinkable even five years earlier.

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I think that he was the perfect choice to host this show, and here’s why. On his Capital show, there was the feature The Birthday Bonanza, which gave away cash prizes that still weren’t possible on TV at the time, so this attracted a lot of interest, as up to £50,000 could be won. There was a TV advert shown rather frequently promoting this, where he deliberately teased the contestant and paused before revealing that they’d won (interestingly, he also used the phrase “your final answer”).

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When Who Wants To Be A Millionaire launched, he used this hosting style for the show, which really worked, and helped to finally bring the game show into a new era (and I’m surprised at how few people seem to have realised that this is practically a big money version of Everybody’s Equal). He was a great host, being serious when needed, and when he said that he wanted the contestants to win lots, you could tell that he really meant it.

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Unsurprisingly, this soon did very well in the ratings, and he insisted that the format was good enough to run for years, although the production schedule was tough, and as he was continuing to work on his radio show, he was briefly committed to having no sleep at all. It took a while, but the show did eventually get its first millionaire winner. After this, despite more wins, the ratings then began to descend, although I can’t imagine that people thought “well there’s been a winner, so it’s boring now”, as if winning seven figure sums had suddenly become old fashioned.

Going into the 2000s, he also hosted The Colour Of Money, The Door, The Great Pretender, and It’s Not What You Know. About a decade on from the launch, there was some tinkering with the format of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, including endless celebrity specials, and he did begin to look like he wasn’t enjoying hosting as much as he used to. When he finally departed after almost 15 years, few seemed to notice, which was a real shame. After this, he just about retired from TV hosting, and it’s his 75th birthday soon, he is a great star.