The YouTube Files – Now You See It USA.

Now You See It (CBS, 1974-1975, 1989)

This is another American game show that came to the UK in the 80s. There were two versions of the original, the first was in the mid-70s, and then there was a revival for a short while in 1989. Being more interested in 80s TV, I’ll review that version. The basic idea of Now You See It is to try and find the hidden words, they really are right in front of your eyes if you look close enough.

The host in charge of this version was Chuck Henry. The set design featured three different stages where the three parts of the game were played, each one higher up than the last, it looked mildly scary. Two contestants took part, and the format had changed a little since the original version. There was a grid with four rows of various letters, which unlike the in the 70s was now computer-generated. vlcsnap-00036

The clue is given, and the points on offer that start at 100, drop five at a time, stopping at 25. If the contestant thinks they know the answer, they have to buzz in (cue weird flashing light effect), and give what line the word is on as well as the actual answer. Getting it wrong means their opponent can have a go. The board changes at the halfway point, and if they are short of time, the points get doubled. The first to score 1,000 points progresses to the next round. vlcsnap-00037

They then go on to play the defending champion, and it seems that lucky mascots were encouraged, although whether these people thought that they were succeeding because they had a baseball with them is unclear. What is also rather unusual is that you can hear Chuck talking to the contestants as they go to the break. You did really well, honest! vlcsnap-00038

In round two, the board contains six words all on the same category that have to be found. They have to buzz in to give the first one, and then they have 20 seconds to find the other five. If they don’t, their opponent has five seconds to find just one remaining word. Their screens pop up and down so they can’t see the grid in advance. Whoever wins the first round gets $200. This is then played again for $300, $400, and so on. The first contestant to win $1,000 makes the final. Whoever achieves this is usually rather pleased to put it mildly. vlcsnap-00035

In the final, ten answers have to be found on a grid in 60 seconds. $100 is won for every word found, and by now, as well as having to find the correct line, they also have to circle the word using an electronic pencil. If they achieve this, they win the star prize, and as contestants can return for up to five days, they can win thousands of dollars, along with plenty of prizes. There was also a computer game version around this time. vlcsnap-00039

The YouTube Files – Lingo USA.

Lingo (1987-1988)

This is the original American version of the game show that briefly appeared on ITV in the late-80s. Lingo was the game that combined wordpower and Bingo, and was described as “television’s most challenging game”, which might be overselling it a little. There were various hosts, including Ralph Andrews (who wasn’t the creator of This Is Your Life, that was Ralph Edwards).

The format was fairly similar to what happened in the UK version. Two teams of two took part, and played with a 5×5 grid. One had odd numbers, the other had even numbers, and seven numbers are automatically filled. The had to guess the mystery five-letter words within five goes, and they were given the first letter to start them off. Get the word right, and they can choose two balls, which are announced by the co-host. vlcsnap-00029

The numbers are then placed on their card. If a jackpot ball is found, they can win a bonus, but only if they win the overall game. If they don’t, the prize rolls over to the next game. But finding a red ball means that they lose their turn, so the contestants would often say “no red ball”, in a similar style to how they would constantly squeal “no whammys!” on Press Your Luck. vlcsnap-00030

The first team to create a Lingo, whether in a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal direction, win a bonus and go on to the final. In this, there is another 5×5 grid, which has 16 squares filled in. But the idea is now to not create a Lingo. Again, they had to guess words, but they were now given two letters to start off. They then have to pick out as many balls as guesses they needed to find the word, a maximum of five. vlcsnap-00031

If the number isn’t on the board, then it’s good news. Finding a gold ball is even better, as that means an automatic win. If they do succeed, they can go on to the next word for a chance to double their money, but finding a Lingo means they will lose a lot. They could play up to five times, meaning that the maximum that they could win was $64,000. vlcsnap-00032

This was much more than the £3,200 that was on offer in the British version (and even that was pushing it based on the restrictions on prize money in place at the time). There were some rather tense finishes where people pushed their luck and could barely believe what happened. Games could also straddle if they were unfinished at the end of an edition. vlcsnap-00033

Lingo originally ran in America for only about six months, and there have been several other versions of the show around the world, mostly in European countries. There was then a revival of the show in America in the 2000s, and recently there have been rumours that Lingo might be returning in the UK after over three decades soon too, which could be interesting.

The YouTube Files – Gladiators USA.

American Gladiators (1989-1996)

This is another example of a game show that started in America, before coming to the UK, and also going on to be a big success in many other versions around the world. This was the show where athletes competed against the might of the Gladiators in various challenges, and you really did have to be rather fit to beat them. One of the main hosts was Mike Adamle, and you’ll soon see why I am rather familiar with that name (not just because the surname is almost the same as my first name).

The format of American Gladiators was fairly similar to what we got in this country. Two male and two female contestants competed against each other in usually around six games, to try and score some points, but the Gladiators will aim to stop them. They all had the usual names that made them sound all big and tough like Laser, Nitro, and Zap, there were lots of them. Some of the games were rather familiar too, with the Duel being among the most famous. The referee always had to make sure that they were keeping track of the action. vlcsnap-00024

Can the amateurs beat the professionals at their own game? Well whatever points were scored by the contestants were then taken into the final challenge which was the Eliminator, a demanding obstacle course that really will test their strength. Let’s hope that they’re fit enough. This was a knockout format, with the winner progressing to the next round, and the overall series champion winning a cash prize, usually around $10,000. along with lots of acclaim. vlcsnap-00027

One thing that is interesting about American Gladiators is that it was presented almost as if it was sport coverage more than a game show, with plenty of breathless commentary, along with analysis of how the contestants have performed, and also a rather enthusiastic crowd. There were seven series of the show, that led to a computer game, along with a soundtrack of the music used. vlcsnap-00025

The UK version launched in the early-90s, and proved to be a good hit with viewers, enhancing Saturday nights on ITV. After a while there was an international special that was held in this country, where contestants and Gladiators from across the world competed, and Adamle was also one of the hosts of this, I hope he managed to put up with John Fashanu.vlcsnap-00026

And the original US version was also shown in this country on ITV, although rather late at night. As I had got into the British version, out of curiosity I decided to set the video for an edition one night, which just happened to be the grand final (which was co-hosted by Adamle), so there was a lot at stake and it was all rather exciting. And just like in the UK in the late-2000s, there was a revival of the format in America, which would run for a couple of series.

The YouTube Files – Trivial Pursuit USA.

Trivial Pursuit (The Family Channel, 1993-1994)

I do enjoy a good game of Trivial Pursuit, like many others I’m sure. There have been two attempts to bring this board game to TV in the UK, and the American version is much closer to the second UK version hosted by Tony Slattery (which was also shown on The Family Channel, which later evolved into Challenge). This version of the show was hosted by Wink Martindale.

Now I’m fairly sure that this is the first time that we have come across Mr Martindale on this blog. It seems that he has hosted many other game shows in a career that has lasted for decades, and he was the co-executive producer of this one, which meant that we knew there was going to be a decent host in charge. This was the show that was packed with trivia and interesting facts, well I thought so. vlcsnap-00018

Three contestants took part, all hoping to win the star prize. They have a pie that is split into 12 parts. They have to light all the parts of their pie, meaning that they have to give two correct answers in every category. In the first round, the categories are the same as what you’d find in the traditional version of the board game, Entertainment, Arts & Literature, and so on. vlcsnap-00019

Contestants pick the category, but there is only one question for every category, meaning that they all get two goes each. But get it wrong, and it goes on offer on the buzzer. In round two, again there are six categories on offer, but they are now different to the board game version. Look out for the bonus question, which may contain a picture clue, get that right and they $100 and an extra slice. vlcsnap-00020

Round three once again featured different categories, along with some bonuses. The final round goes back to the traditional categories. A question is asked to gain control. Whoever gets it right chooses the category, and they keeping choosing until they get one wrong, and which point the others can buzz in. Whoever completes their pie, or has the most slices when time is up, wins $500 and advances to the final. The others take away whatever money they won and some consolation prizes. vlcsnap-00021

In the final, six questions have to be answered in 45 seconds, one on each traditional category. If they get one wrong, they go back round to the categories until they get it right. If they don’t win, they get $100 for every correct answer, but if they do, they win $1,000 and the star prize of a holiday, and of course they would always be rather pleased about that. vlcsnap-00022

There were also versions that were extended to an hour, that began with preliminary rounds, where nine contestants had to answer various multiple-choice questions against the clock, with the highest scorers being reduced to six, and then they were reduced to the three who progressed to the main game. There was also an interactive game where viewers would be encouraged to phone in to win prizes too. There was another game show with a similar format in America in 2008.

The YouTube Files – Win, Lose Or Draw USA.

Win, Lose Or Draw (NBC, 1987-1989)

Win, Lose Or Draw was the quick-draw game show that brightened the ITV daytime schedule for eight years in the 90s, but the original American version of the show launched in 1987. There was a version on NBC, and also a syndicated version, but this piece will concentrate on the NBC version. Firstly, did you know that the co-creator of the format was none other than Burt Reynolds, the set design was based on his own front room, and his production company co-produced the show.

The host was Vicki Lawrence, and two teams of three took part, one all-male, and one all-female. Two celebrities (well what passed for celebrities on American TV at this time, and it seems that a lot of people who were in sitcoms or daytime soaps about a decade earlier took part), along with a non-famous player. Their name badges were in the shape of an easel, in the UK it was a pencil (why do I notice these things). vlcsnap-00073

The show began with a caricature of all the celebrities taking part that day on the board, along with the host. There weren’t too many differences in the format to what we saw in the UK. The opening sequence was the same too, although the music was different. The teams simply have to guess the famous phrases that are being drawn, so hopefully they can communicate this in time. Remember to sit on the floor.vlcsnap-00017

In the first three rounds, every contestant has one go. They had a minute to draw the clue, and if their teammates got it right, they won $200. If they hadn’t got it with 30 seconds remaining, a doorbell sounded, and they could swap with a teammate, but the money went down to $100. In the UK version, only the money would go down. If they didn’t get it though, it was passed over to the other team for a chance to steal the money.vlcsnap-00014

Then there was the speed round. One of the team is nominated to play, and they have to draw as many clues as they can in 90 seconds for $100 each, and they can only pass on two. The winning team then received a bonus of $1,000, meaning that a contestant could win around $2,000 on average. And if they have any leftover time, someone is pulled out of the studio audience to play a round, for a chance to win $100 themselves and get on TV, much to their delight. vlcsnap-00015

The NBC version ran until 1989, while the syndicated version ran until 1990. There were also some special editions made on location around America. And there was a spin-off series for teenagers that ran for a few years (there was a British version of this that was shown on GMTV). At least there wasn’t a late-night spin-off in America! There was also a board game and computer game version, and along with the UK, there were also versions of Win, Lose Or Draw in various other countries including Canada and France.

The YouTube Files – Small Talk USA.

Small Talk (The Family Channel, 1996-1997)

This is the American version of the game show that ran in the UK on BBC1 in the mid-90s, and this one launched just as that one was ending in 1996. Small Talk (which mustn’t be confused with Child’s Play) was hosted by comedian Wil Shriner, someone who I must admit I’m not that familiar with. Because this version was on a commercial channel instead of the BBC, there was a shorter running time, meaning that there were some rule changes to deal with the time constraints.

Three contestants took part as always, although seven children took part instead of nine. The basic idea of trying to guess what the children’s answers would be to various questions remained though, with most of the humour coming from their sometimes unusual observations on things in life. The set design was also rather similar, with multi-coloured speech bubbles everywhere. vlcsnap-00007

In round one, the contestants have to guess what answer a child would give to a question, such as “do you like cauliflower?” for ten points. Six of the seven are asked, meaning that there are two goes each. The things they say, honestly. If the contestants can guess the response that the majority of children gave too, they score 20 points. Oh yes! This round is then played again, but the points are doubled. vlcsnap-00008

Next is the speed round, where there is one question, and the contestants are simply asked if they thought the child did or didn’t know the answer. There are 60 points for a correct answer. The highest scorer gets $500 and progresses to the final, although the other contestants do take away some consolation prizes, but they don’t include the trophy that you get in the British version, you’re more likely to get some binoculars. vlcsnap-00010

The final is played in a similar style to what is actually the penultimate round in the UK, presumably this is also for time constraints. Again, all of the children are asked a question, and the contestant now chooses them at random by pressing a button. Their aim is to get three correct matches before they give two incorrect ones. If they can do this, they win a bonus $1,000, meaning that the most that could be won was $1,500. vlcsnap-00012

I’m not sure how often the children appeared on the show, whether it was rather regularly and they rotated, or they got one go each like the contestants. This version of Small Talk definitely had as many laughs as you would get in the UK, but it only ran for about three months on The Family Channel before leaving the screen for good.

The YouTube Files – The Weakest Link USA.

The Weakest Link (NBC, 2001-2002)

When The Weakest Link launched in the UK in the summer of 2000, it very quickly became a success. Beginning rather quietly on BBC2, by the end of the year there were celebrity specials on BBC1. This was mostly down to the hosting of Anne Robinson, whose rather cold style surprised viewers, along with the gameplay element of openly declaring what contestant you didn’t think was doing well and deserved to be eliminated.

Less than a year after the launch, The Weakest Link came to America on NBC, and again Robinson would be the host, just what would viewers make of her style. The rules were just about the same, but eight contestants took part instead of nine, and $125,000 could be banked in every round (with the money doubled in the final round), meaning the top prize was a million dollars, much more than the £10,000 on offer in the British daytime version, but only if the team helped each other out. This was followed by the shoot-out at the end for all the money. vlcsnap-00002

The British contestants quietly dealt with Robinson’s comments most of the time, and after being told that they were the weakest, they often tried to take it on the chin. The average American was far less reserved about the situation though, definitely making their feelings known, and there was much more at stake, so they better make the right decision, and hope that their opponents will be taking the dreaded “walk of shame”. There were also celebrity specials, and they could definitely hold their own against anything that Robinson said. vlcsnap-00005

Just like in the UK, Robinson became a big hit for her rather uncompromising and emotionless style, and many people wondered if she was a robot whose batteries were on the blink. It was a big deal. And by now in the UK you could buy a tape featuring the best exits, or even play the game yourself at home on the PlayStation. But if fads come and go quickly in this country, then that counts for double in America, which is the toughest TV market in the world. vlcsnap-00004

Robinson’s run as host came to an end in 2002, the final editions were unaired by NBC, and around this time Family Guy even did a joke about Robinson’s famous catchphrases being rather dated cultural references. Despite this, there was also a syndicated version (not hosted by Robinson) that ran until 2003 but with less money on offer, although the British version continued for about another decade. vlcsnap-00006

The American version was also briefly shown in the UK in 2001 on BBC2, a rare occurrence of a non-British game show being shown in this country. There was also a documentary about Robinson’s experience hosting the new version. But very recently there was a revival of the show in America on NBC with a new host, meaning that someone must clearly think there’s still some potential in the format.

Game Show Memories – The Krypton Factor first and final series comparison.

The Krypton Factor was a long-running success for ITV. I was pleased when some editions from the first series in 1977 turned up online recently, making it possible to do a comparison piece. Now before you all start, I know that the final series of the original run wasn’t in 1993, but the 18th series in 1995 was hugely different to the more familiar format, and I’d rather forget it all happened really.

Scheduling. First series. Shown on Wednesdays at 7pm, and curiously, was just about the only primetime show on ITV that didn’t have an advert break. Final series. The show was now settled at Mondays at 7pm since 1980, and I’m fairly sure that the 17th series was the first to contain an advert break.

Opening sequence. First series. There wasn’t much of one really. Just the show’s title appearing on the screen, before the contestants were introduced with captions. The futuristic-sounding music (by 1977 standards) was by Mike Moran, and used until 1982. Final series. The familiar green and red “K” symbol wasn’t introduced until as late as the 10th series in 1986. The current opening was introduced in 1992, with the contestants now introduced by voiceover, and accompanied by a remix of the theme by The Art Of Noise also introduced in 1986.tkf1

Set design. First series. Rather plain and sparse. Not much beyond the contestants’ chairs, the monitors behind them, and the very much analogue scoreboard. There doesn’t seem to be much evidence of a present studio audience though. Final series. This was a show that always aimed to use the latest technology, and the studio was now very shiny and blue. It still featured the chairs and monitors. tkf2

Gordon Burns. First series. Gordon had hosted various news shows before this. They didn’t even give him a desk to sit at. Final series. Gordon hosted the first 18 series, and by this point he was even credited as being among the team who designed some of the puzzles. He went on to host further game shows including A Word In Your Ear and Relatively Speaking. tkf3

Contestants. First series. People aimed to be the United Kingdom Superperson. The champion’s trophy was an unusual metal sculpture that was able to detect pieces of kryptonite. It’s rather surprising how many computer programmers seemed to take part, even in those days. The scoring system was ten points for first place, six for second, four for third, and two for fourth. There were 11 editions with eight heats, the winners went into the two semi-finals, and the top two in those progressed to the final. Final series. They now played for a gold trophy in the shape of an athlete. The scoring system was the same, and now revealed on a computer-generated scoreboard. They also wore colour coordinated polo shirts. There were 13 editions with three groups with three heats. The heat winners and highest-scoring runner-up went into the group final, and the winners of the group finals and highest-scoring runner-up in those made the final. tkf4

Mental Agility. First series. This was occasionally played as the first of five rounds, alternating with Intelligence. Contestants put their headphones on to hear clues and had to make the right choices, or give answers in a knockout format. Final series. The first of six rounds, contestants stood on a spotlight and were asked testing questions for 40 seconds, their correct answers converted into points. tkf5

Physical Ability. First series. Round two. Contestants were given a handicap. There were various obstacles which took just over a minute to complete in sometimes rather tricky conditions. Gordon provided commentary. Final series. Round four. Again there were handicaps, and there were now 20 tough obstacles, including the famous water slide. Surprisingly, they still wore no protection like helmets. tkf6

Personality. First series. Round three. Contestants had to perform a script they had written on a subject given to them to camera for about 30 seconds in one take. An independent panel then voted for their favourite. Final series. This round probably not surprisingly was dropped after the first series.

Response. First series. The round didn’t feature at this stage, being introduced in 1986. Final series. Round two. The plane simulator had been used for a long time by this point, but that’s because it was determined to be the ultimate in hand/eye/foot co-ordination. Again, Gordon provided commentary. In the final, they had to land a real plane. Crikey.

Observation. First series. Round four. Contestants are shown about a minute’s worth of a film, and then they are asked three questions on what they saw and heard for two points. There was also an identity parade featuring nine people. Spot the one who was in the film for four points. Final series. Round three. They now watch a short sketch specially made for the show. There are then five questions with four options, they select their answer by pressing the button on their keypad as quick as they can. The identity parade had long gone.tkf7

Intelligence. First series. Played occasionally as round one. Contestants had to complete a logic puzzle with various shapes in about 2½ minutes before the buzzer, although this seems to be slightly deceptive, as the round was more likely edited down to 2½ minutes for TV. There was also some bleepy background music. Gordon provided commentary. Final series. Round five. The puzzle solving was the same, but there was now no time limit as such, or background music. tkf8

General Knowledge. First series. Fifth and final round. Questions on the buzzer. One point for a correct answer, one deducted for an incorrect one. There was no fixed time limit, but the round usually lasted three minutes. Every question had a link to the previous one. The camera awkwardly zoomed in as the contestant gave their answer. Final series. Sixth and final round. Still questions on the buzzer, but there was now a fixed time limit of 75 seconds, and it was two points for a correct answer, and two deducted for a wrong one. Everyone was now shown close-up too. tkf9

Game Show Memories – Turnabout first and final series comparison.

Turnabout is one of my favourite BBC1 daytime game shows. When I finally saw a first series edition online, I was rather surprised at how different it was to the more familiar format the show eventually settled into that became a success. Let’s do a comparison.

Scheduling. First series. In 1990, Turnabout was shown at 1.50pm, the slot where Going For Gold usually appeared, and the first two series also had a repeat the following day at 10.05am. Final series. By 1996, after appearing in several slots over the years, the eighth series was shown at 2.35pm.

Title Sequence. First series. The contestants appeared on one of the spheres on the board, accompanied by some rather funky music. Final series. The third sequence used featured some spheres flying through space, and again some rather unusual music. t1

Set Design. First series. The set was rather small and mostly blue, with the contestants stood at their podiums, accompanied by a small but enthusiastic audience. Final series. Much bigger and brighter from the second series onwards, the contestants now sat at their podiums, and there was famously a pool in the middle of the studio for no particular reason. I’m fairly sure that the audience was still more real than canned.t6

Rob Curling. First series. At this time Rob was also hosting the sport on Newsroom South East, so if like me you were in that region, you would see him rather frequently. Final series. Rob hosted all 239 editions, and even developed a few catchphrases along the way, including “can we Turnabout the timer, please”. t2

Contestants. First series. The contestants played as red, orange, and blue, and were introduced by an uncredited voiceover. There were two games played in every show, with the defending champion playing red. The nine highest scorers returned for the semi-final stage. Final series. They were now seated and from series two played red, green and blue. There was no defending champion and one game was played per show. Again the nine highest scorers progressed to the semi-final stage. t3

Sphere Game. First series. The red, orange, and blue spheres appeared on the board. However, the red spheres looked orange, and the orange spheres looked yellow. The on-screen timer was some pink lights around the board going out, accompanied by a ticking clock. Solve a word clue, five points for a row of three spheres, ten points for a row of four on the board, with plenty of sound effects. The sequence of spheres turning red/orange/blue also conveniently spelled out “ROB”, but contestants sometimes struggled to make their choice which was awkward, and they could accidently give points to their opponents. You couldn’t buzz in if you had no spheres on the board. Final series. The red, green, and blue spheres looked much clearer on the board, which now also featured an on-screen timer (with no ticking sound) and scoreboard. The confusing sequence had been dropped for the “the sphere turns to your colour” rule, making gameplay quicker and fairer. Scoring was the same. Buzzer noises remained the same too, but the board sound effects had changed. t4

Star Game. First series. Only the champion plays this. 16 word clues, try and get them all right in 60 seconds. Five points each, rounded up to 100 for all 16 correct. Final series. Now all three contestants played, and they could choose their game. The scoring system was the same, but now with 50 seconds to play. Also by this point there was the additional About Turn round and viewers’ phone-in competition. t5

Prizes. First series. I don’t think there were any consolation prizes for defeated contestants, but the overall champion won some audio-visual equipment. Final series. Contestants now took away consolation prizes including dictionaries and T-shirts, and all three finalists won a holiday, with the overall champion going on the trip of a lifetime to Australia.

Game Show Memories – Sitcom Showdown.

Sitcom Showdown (UKTV Gold, 2006)

UK Gold (as it used to be called) was a channel that used to show various classic TV series before they just started to show the same sitcoms all day. Occasionally they have recycled their archive for a game show format. In the 90s there was Tellystack (that I reviewed a while ago), and there were also Classic Comeback with Les Dennis, Great Wall Of Comedy, and this one.

Now this was rather interesting because it was all about sitcoms and hosted by Danny Baker, who really did have a lot of knowledge and enthusiasm for the subject, and he could be described as full of information and even a walking BBC Genome (well probably). And I’m sure it’s no coincidence that this one was produced by his old mate Chris Evans’s production company. vlcsnap-01024

Danny was clearly into his comedy and I couldn’t help but be reminded of the nostalgia shows he hosted in the 90s including TV Heroes and Bygones where where he would randomly give out bonus points if people knew who Peter Glaze was. Sitcom Showdown came across as a sort-of more surreal version of Telly Addicts, looked like it was taking place in Danny’s front room, and featured two teams of three that contained a self-confessed sitcom superfan. vlcsnap-01025

Each team represented a sitcom such as Absolutely Fabulous, Blackadder, Only Fools And Horses, Yes, Minister, and so on, all of the big hitters that also conveniently filled most of the channel’s schedule at the time. The superfans would play alongside a B-and-a-bit-list celebrity, Sue Perkins, Linda Robson, those type of people. There were five rounds. vlcsnap-01026

In the first, they watched clips of their favourite sitcom, and then answered a few questions about them. Round two was like Call My Bluff, where daft sitcom ideas were discussed, and their opponents had to guess which one was made up. Round three is where they have to re-enact a classic scene from their chosen sitcom with only a few props, and they are then given points on how well they did. vlcsnap-01027

Round four featured the opening sequence of a sitcom and the theme of another, and they had to guess both. The final round was quickfire. Answer questions on their own sitcom, or on others for bonuses. The winning team with the highest score were rightfully proud and won a terrible prize, while the losers would have endless shame heaped upon them. vlcsnap-01028

Danny’s hosting was much praised by critics, saying that he was “a true professional” and “an effortless combination of humour and erudition”, as he made it look easy. That makes it all the more surprising that there were only five editions of Sitcom Showdown, and Danny himself said that he thought the format was “a stinker”. Unfortunately doing a podcast from his shed is the best work that he can hope for nowadays.