Game Show Memories – Game Show Stars Part 12.

My next choice to feature in this series might be a surprise to some people, as maybe he isn’t as well-known as some of the others. This might lead to people thinking things like “do you really think that he is one of the greats?” and “surely you’re not putting him in the same bracket as Bruce Forsyth and the like?”, and I’m not really, although he might be a B-list name compared to most, he hosted some shows that I enjoyed, and for me, that’s enough to qualify.

Andrew O’Connor is someone who has had a rather varied career, as well as being a game show host, he has also been a magician, comedian, producer, and much more. He first appeared on TV in the mid-80s, doing his comedy thing on shows including 3-2-1 and Copy Cats, and he also contributed to children’s TV shows including The Joke Machine and On The Waterfront.

In the late-80s, he became the second host of Chain Letters, which at this point was briefly shown in a primetime slot. He also contributed some of his impressions to the Observation round on The Krypton Factor. By the early-90s, he was appearing in CITV’s sitcom Kappatoo. He also hosted One To Win, which although the format was rather similar to Bob’s Full House, this was actually based on an American show called Trump Card.

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And there was Sky Runners, which was an attempt at a team version of Treasure Hunt, which got no further than a pilot shown quietly on a Bank Holiday. Second Guess was another less successful one, shown in the early days of The Family Channel. He was also guaranteed to be good value as a panellist, including regular appearances on Through The Keyhole. By this point, he was also working behind the scenes on game shows, including being the co-creator of Incredible Games and Lose A Million.

In the mid-90s he co-hosted Happy Families, a Saturday Night show that was a little similar to Gladiators, which was when BBC1 was struggling to find some new popular entertainment shows. My favourite of all his game shows has got to be Talk About, which had a rather surreal twist, as most of the contestants were clearly drawn from the “where on earth did we find them?” pile, and there was at least one edition where he couldn’t stop laughing at how useless they were at playing the game. It was great, honest. And he did it all while wearing a horrible waistcoat.

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He then hosted Family Catchphrase, and there was a celebrity edition where Bob Holness was a contestant, who gave him some advice on game show hosting, which I’m sure was definitely worth listening to. Finally in the late-90s there was The Alphabet Game, which he also co-created. This format was then sold around the world, becoming popular in Spain, where the star prize would often rollover until reaching seven figures. This then came back to the UK as Alphabetical.

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Since then, he has concentrated mostly on production work, which has made him a few quid over the years, including being behind several shows about magic and illusions, and he also directed the Mitchell And Webb film Magicians. I don’t have any problem with him being among my favourites. Oh, and he’s no relation to Des. Or Tom.

CBBC Memories – Happy Families.

Happy Families (CBBC, 1989-1990)

This isn’t the first show that I’ve reviewed called Happy Families (there was also the 1993 game show), and it may not be the last (I might also review the 1985 sitcom). Around the end of the 19th century, there was a traditional card game invented called Happy Families. I also remember that there was a card game called Old Maid, what was that all about?

I have never been that particularly skilled at playing card games, I could just about grasp how to play Snap when I was younger. The Happy Families game also influenced a series of books in the 80s by Allan Ahlberg, and in 1989 some of the stories were adapted for TV. There were several characters featured, including Mrs Wobble The Waitress, and Mr Tick The Teacher. Every episode was 15 minutes long, with the stories being split into two parts. vlcsnap-00286

It was something of a comedy-drama series, and the set and costume design made it seem that it was supposed to have been set about a century earlier, it definitely came across as more 1889 than 1989. There was also a memorable opening sequence which featured a lot of the characters. And, this was another show that featured a pantomime horse, it wasn’t just Rentaghost at it. vlcsnap-00290

There was a regular cast of adults and children who played various roles throughout the series. One of them was Milton Johns, who had appeared in a few other TV shows at the time. Not long after this show ended, he went on to appear in Coronation Street as Brendan Scott, where he replaced the long-serving Alf Roberts as the owner of the corner shop. He didn’t last long though (I don’t know if there was a “Bring Back Alf!” campaign from viewers, of it was always the plan), but not long after he keeled over in the shop, which I remember gave the younger me something of a fright. vlcsnap-00292

Also regularly featuring was Elizabeth Estensen, who had also been in CITV’s T-Bag. Another good thing about the show was the ending, where everyone was credited as “The Radiophonic Music Man: Mr Richard Attree”, “The Videotape Man: Mr Ian Williams”, and so on. There were 24 episodes (featuring 12 stories) in two series on CBBC, and these were repeated until as late as 1993. vlcsnap-00294

But then, oh yes, there was another repeat run around 2000 as part of the CBBC On Choice strand, Happy Families being yet another show that was given a run-out about a decade after it was made. What a flashback that was, it was a pleasure to see it wobble back on to our screens. I don’t think that there have been any VHS or DVD releases of the series though.

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