Game Show Memories – Gambit.

Gambit (ITV, 1975-1985)

Gambit isn’t a game show that I remember watching first time round, but when I discovered that it was a show based around playing cards in a similar style to Play Your Cards Right which is a classic I was intrigued to find out more. Gambit was based on an American format and was originally hosted by Fred Dinenage (presumably taking a day off from working on How), and where some people would think that this was merely a game show, Fred took the whole thing very seriously and rather grandly described Gambit as “an Olympics of the mind”.

Gambit was a rare Anglia production for ITV, with Sale Of The Century being one of their other famous game shows that was made around the same time. Two married couples took part, and they had to answer questions to earn cards in a game that was based on pontoon. Assisting Fred was Michelle who would deal the cards, and it would be the best of three games. vlcsnap-00479

A general knowledge question would be asked. The team that buzzed in and got it right would then be offered a card which they would take or pass to the other team. The idea is to get a score of 21 or as close as possible, but if you go over 21 you’ll go bust and lose the round. If a team decides to stick, the other team is asked three questions to try and beat their score. Whoever wins the round wins £20. If a team does win a round with a score of exactly 21 they could win a bonus of as much as £500, and Fred would be delighted for them. vlcsnap-00480

The first team to win two games then goes on to play the Gambit Board for prizes. This was a board with 21 numbers on it, with a prize behind each one, things like holidays or cars. A number is picked and then the prize is revealed. They are then shown a card. If they stick they can keep their prizes, and if they score exactly 21 they can choose a bonus star prize. But if they go bust, they lose all their prizes. They then meet their next opponents for another regular game, and teams could have up to two goes on the Gambit Board, so if the cards went their way a lot of money and prizes could be won by them. vlcsnap-00483

Gambit was remembered for featuring some bizarre moments including when Fred would get frustrated by contestants not listening to him and he would say to them “you got a problem there?” (which it seems unintentionally became one of the show’s catchphrases), and he would also be less than impressed when Michelle tried to upstage him by making a daft joke. The look on his face was remarkable. vlcsnap-00485

Gambit ran for almost a decade on ITV, and in 1984 Tom O’Connor became the new host. There was a brief revival though when in the 90s a new series was made but it seems that this was shown only in the Anglia region. Now I have seen a couple of editions for myself I thought that it was rather enjoyable really, and Fred’s struggle with the contestants and his assistant was almost as entertaining as the gameplay.

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More TV Memories – Tenball.

Tenball (ITV, 1995)

You will be familiar with snooker of course, but can’t it be dull sometimes? There isn’t much action. BBC1’s Big Break was an attempt at bringing snooker into a game show format, but Tenball would take it one step further with various changes to the rules, along with statements such as this will bring the game into the new millennium and everyone will soon be playing it down the pub instead of pool which will suddenly be rather boring by comparison.

Tenball (a cross between a sport show and a game show) was hosted by Phillip Schofield (yes, he was hosting every other programme on ITV even in the mid-90s) and it was a knockout tournament where eight professional snooker players including Steve Davis, Alex Higgins, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Jimmy White competed against one another in best-of five matches in a futuristic-looking arena to become the first Tenball champion. There was even a VHS released featuring how to play and offering advice for anyone interested in having a go themselves. vlcsnap-00445

Tenball had various different rules to snooker. Firstly, there was no yellow ball. Instead, there was the yellow and black Tenball which had a value of ten points and was placed on what would be the blue spot in snooker, with the 15 reds surrounding it in a diamond shape. The first colour that a player potted after their first red determined the points value of all other colours for that break, followed by potting the colours in sequence for their usual points value. This meant that if they went for the Tenball the maximum break was 200 (the highest score in the series was Peter Ebdon’s 122, although Ronnie O’Sullivan achieved the maximum in a practice match). vlcsnap-00453

Other innovations included players being able to make their opening break in a pool style, there were cameras on the cues and in the pockets, and we were also told things including how fast a ball was hit. Also to try and help speed up the play there were changes including a ball having to hit at least one cushion in every shot and balls wouldn’t be returned to their previous position after a foul. This meant that there was more emphasis on potting and less opportunity for safety play. vlcsnap-00451

The eventual series winner was Jimmy White (who beat Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final) who received the main prizes of a trophy and a cheque for £20,000. Steve Davis (who was among the divisors of the game) also appeared alongside Phillip to offer some analysis, and of course all of the players along with Phillip said that Tenball was a great idea that they were sure would catch on and would soon be played across the country by viewers who found this an exciting watch. vlcsnap-00452

There was just one problem though, this didn’t happen at all. Tenball never returned for a second series on ITV, and some regions didn’t even show it, although mine (LWT) did, but by the end it was relegated to Saturday afternoons. Although it wasn’t a success, I do remember watching and thinking that this was an interesting idea, and there have been some snooker tournaments in more recent years that have tried to do something different, including having timed matches featuring a basketball-style shot clock to speed up play.

More TV Memories – CD:UK.

CD:UK (ITV, 1998-2006)

Following on from The Roxy and The Pepsi Chart, here’s a look at a third chart music show on a commercial TV channel that attempted to become a rival to BBC1’s Top Of The Pops. CD:UK (I’m fairly sure that it wasn’t officially a part of CITV) launched in 1998 to replace The Chart Show which had been in its Saturday afternoon timeslot for almost a decade and was one of my favourite music shows, and I’ve decided to stop being bitter about it for a moment to look back at this show.

One thing that CD:UK promised to have that The Chart Show never did was live studio performances from the biggest pop acts around, along with regular features including various videos, interviews, competitions and the latest chart. Ant and Dec (who know a thing or two about having hit pop records themselves) hung around from their CITV Saturday Morning show SM:TV Live (which launched on the same day) to host CD:UK along with Cat Deeley who was also a presenter on MTV at the time. vlcsnap-00421

As the years progressed, a lot of pop stars did take part making the show a good archive of who was big on the music scene in the late-90s/early-2000s, and after Ant and Dec left at the end of 2001, Deeley continued as host and was joined by various others. There were even a couple of compilation CDs released under the CD:UK name. Every edition ended with the Top Ten being announced (but again not using the official chart), with the Number One act receiving a special award. As there was a rather high turnover of chart-toppers during this era, a lot of them must have been given out! vlcsnap-00420

However, I much preferred the spin-off show that launched in January 2003 on ITV1 which was called CD:UK Hotshots. This was shown in a much later timeslot (usually around midnight) and it featured a rather unpredictable variety of music videos that you would be much less likely to see on the main show, such as more alternative acts, or videos that were just plain unsuitable for the daytime show. vlcsnap-00422

CD:UK ended up running for almost eight years before finally ending in 2006, and by this point I didn’t watch it much any more, and it seemed to have lost its way a little with the presenting lineup changing rather frequently (including a big relaunch in 2005 when Lauren Laverne and Myleene Klass became presenters), and by this point YouTube was on the rise so being to access a wide variety of music videos and performances was becoming easier than ever. It certainly made an impact with a lot of viewers though. vlcsnap-00419

More TV Memories – The Roxy.

The Roxy (ITV, 1987-1988)

Over the years there have been lots of music TV shows that have been designed to try and be a rival to the long-running Top Of The Pops, and one of them was The Roxy. In the late-70s/early-80s David “Kid” Jensen was a presenter on BBC Radio 1 and TOTP, and when he moved to commercial radio station Capital in the mid-80s he began to host The Network Chart, which featured the latest hits but was based more around airplay than sales, and was designed to be a rival to Radio 1’s Official Top 40 Show.

After Channel 4’s The Tube ended, production company Tyne Tees decided that they wanted to use the five years’ experience of making that show to do something similar on ITV, so in 1987 Jensen was hired to host The Roxy that was based around his radio chart. Jensen hosted alongside Irishman Kevin Sharkey (he is in an episode of Father Ted you know) and every week there would be live performances coming from what resembled a dancehall, ending with the reveal of the Number One single. vlcsnap-00013

The Roxy was a good showcase of the pop music acts that were around at the time, and a fairly diverse range of groups appeared to perform their latest single from Sisters Of Mercy to Swing Out Sister, and facts about them would also scroll across the screen. There was even a look behind the scenes of the show on CITV’s KellyVision in 1988. However, the show ran into a few problems including at least one edition being affected by industrial action, and it ended up being relaunched fairly quickly. vlcsnap-00012

Jensen was relegated to only voicing the chart segment, with Sharkey’s co-host becoming Pat Sharp (who was also a Capital radio presenter at the time and hosted a small amount of TOTP editions around 1982/1983), the studio was redesigned, the theme music was changed to “Amnesia” by Bananarama (them again!), and even the show’s title was changed to The Roxy: The Network Chart Show. But this ended up making little difference, and just ten months after it launched, in 1988 The Roxy came to an end. vlcsnap-00003

Why did The Roxy fail? Firstly, some viewers felt that it was too similar to TOTP and they were satisfied with that show for pop music coverage. Also, because an unofficial chart was used most of the positions were way off where acts really were on the Official Chart so it wasn’t a trusty gauge of how singles were really doing. Another problem was that because the studio was in Newcastle most acts didn’t think it was worth the effort to go up north despite the TV exposure they would receive, especially when the established TOTP‘s studios in London were more accessible. vlcsnap-00005

Another problem was scheduling. Most regions showed The Roxy in different timeslots, with some moving the show against EastEnders on Tuesdays which caused the ratings to plummet, and some dropped the show altogether, so in 1989 ITV decided to poach The Chart Show from Channel 4 to fill the gap for their own regular pop music show (although this didn’t use the official chart either). vlcsnap-00006

I don’t really remember watching The Roxy that much, but my sister was a fan of the show when she was really into pop music in the late-80s, and there are a large amount of performances on the show online. Despite the failure, there have been more attempts to create a commercial rival to TOTP in more recent years including CD:UK on ITV and The Pepsi Chart on Channel 5, and I plan to review those too soon.

Game Show Memories – Stars In Their Eyes Champion Of Champions.

Stars In Their Eyes Champion Of Champions (ITV, 1999)

This is another variation on the popular singing contest Stars In Their Eyes. After the end of the 10th series in 1999, the decision was made to have the ten series winners compete against one another to determine who was the best of them all from the past decade in a special live edition shown on ITV in October 1999 that was almost two hours long and I remember watching it at the time. Matthew Kelly was the host and he wore his fanciest bow-tie for this big occasion. vlcsnap-00005

This edition was a sort-of deluxe version of a grand final, and all ten of the series winners took part, from singers as Shirley Bassey who won the first series in 1990 to Chris De Burgh who won the most recent series in 1999, and they went through those famous doors to be transformed into their singing idol one final time, with their performance accompanied by a live orchestra. vlcsnap-00062

Also taking part were singers performing as Nat King Cole (1991), Patsy Cline (1992), Alison Moyet (1993), Marti Pellow (1994 and 1996, yes, there were two singers who won as the Wet Wet Wet frontman, viewers seemingly couldn’t get enough of him), Bobby Darin (1995), Olivia Newton-John (1997), and Neil Diamond (1998). vlcsnap-00075

Everyone who took part was also given a small silver trophy to acknowledge their success, and we also discovered what they had all be up to since becoming a champion. Also, the specially invited studio audience consisted of the contestants’ friends and family, plus some celebrities, who mostly seemed to be from the cast of Coronation Streetvlcsnap-00023

After everyone had performed, the phone-lines were then opened for about an hour, and you could even vote through their fancy new website. Who would the ITV viewers determine as the winner? Matthew’s virtual friend Hayley revealed the results. It turned out to be Ian Moor whose performance of Chris De Burgh’s 1986 chart-topper “The Lady In Red” received over 480,000 votes and he won by a big margin, with more than double the votes of the second-placed contestant, winning him the main trophy and a lot of applause. He was rather pleased. I thought that this was the edition where the man himself joined Ian on stage to congratulate him on his success, but that was actually when he performed again at the 2000 grand final. vlcsnap-00002

Stars In Their Eyes was a long-running show and there were several more variations on the format over the years, including lots of celebrity specials, a children’s series, and even a version featuring singers from across Europe, along with the revival a couple of years ago, but I wasn’t as big a fan of those versions, this edition was definitely one of the highlights of the show’s run.

The YouTube Files – The Preventers.

The Preventers (ITV, 1996)
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Here’s a look at another strange and little-remembered comedy show. In March 1996 a comedy series on BBC Radio 4 launched called Fab TV which featured spoofs of various shows, one was called The Preventers which was a spoof of the various cult action and espionage drama series of the late-60s/early-70s such as The Persuaders and The Avengers. In December 1996 The Preventers came to TV when a one-off episode was shown late-night on ITV. 

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An article on Fab TV in Radio Times in March 1996

I didn’t see the show myself at the time, although I have seen a trailer, and I wondered if it was on YouTube in full because it seemed like a show that I might enjoy. Indeed it was, so credit goes to the Curious British Telly website which uploaded the episode. Of the little that has been written about The Preventers online (there isn’t even a Wikipedia entry), it is fair to say that the reviews from critics and viewers is “mixed”, but I wanted to judge for myself. vlcsnap-00185

The main characters were the elegant Penelope Gold (played by Morwenna Banks, who also starred in the great sketch show Absolutely, and indeed this show was an Absolutely Production for Carlton for ITV), the sophisticated Craig Sturdy (Robert Harley), and… the other one, Mike Stallion (Chris England, these three were also the writers of the show). The trio were put together to create an elite team of international troubleshooters who work for a mysterious top-secret organisation called The Movement. vlcsnap-00187

At the start they are given their mission by The Controller (played by William Gaunt who starred in The Champions, one of the old series that this show was spoofing) where they had to thwart a plan from the Australian Roger Mordick who was the head of The Consortium and wanted to take over the world, and they had to work together because of course they’re the only ones who can save the day for all of usvlcsnap-00186

The episode takes a very odd turn, mocking a lot of the cliches in these type of series such as exploding cars, rather dodgy blue-screen effects and weird gadgets, and there is a lot of amusing dialogue which isn’t too far away from the Police Squad!-style which I enjoyed. The episode ended with a “To be continued…” caption, but again, this could have been a joke in itself as our terrific trio never returned to the screen. vlcsnap-00189

I’m not sure if The Preventers was an intentional one-off or if there were plans for a series, but it wasn’t seen on TV again after this episode. Maybe this was an idea that could have worked better on either BBC2 or Channel 4. I definitely feel that it had the potential for a full series, but we’ll now never know what would have happened next and whether the show would have been a success.

The YouTube Files – Goodbye To All That.

Goodbye To All That (ITV, 1992)

A while ago I wrote about my memories of the TV news coverage on the day in 1991 that it was announced that Thames had lost their licence, and also their final programme before they went off air at the end of 1992. Another ITV company that came to an end on that night was south and south-east of England franchise TVS, and thanks to YouTube user “TVSProductions82”, I have been able to see their final programme now too.

Goodbye To All That was a special 75-minute programme that was hosted by Fred Dinenage (who has hosted various programmes over the past five decades for the ITV companies Southern, TVS, and Meridian) and Fern Britton, taking a look in the archive to recall the highlights of the programmes that TVS had made for ITV in their 11 years on air. Continuity announcer Malcolm Brown introduced the show which took place in front of a large studio audience. vlcsnap-00158

First there was a look back at some comedy programmes, including etc…, a late-night show which gave some early TV exposure to Paul Merton, the sitcom That’s Love, sketch show Five Alive which featured Brian Conley and Doon Mackichan among the cast, and Kelly’s Eye, a sketch show starring Matthew Kelly who was then interviewed, and he then stayed around to interview some studio audience members himself including Police 5‘s Shaw Taylor. vlcsnap-00159

Then there was a look back at some news and documentary programmes, followed by some drama series including CATS Eyes and an interview with Jill Gascoine. This was followed by a look back at some childrens’ programmes including Do It, How 2, The TelebugsMr Majeika, and Fraggle Rock, and there was also an interview with good old Neil Buchanan who starred in such goodies as No. 73, Motormouth, Finders Keepers and Art Attackvlcsnap-00162

There was then a look a look back at some cultural programmes and some more drama series including Perfect Scoundrels which starred Peter Bowles and Brian Murray who were also interviewed. This was followed by a look back at some game shows, including Jeopardy!, The Pyramid Game, Tell The Truth, which was followed by an interview with Roy Walker who hosted the great Catchphrasevlcsnap-00164

Then there was one more look back at some award-winning drama including The Ruth Rendell Mysteries and an interview with George Baker who played Inspector Wexford, plus a look at some regional programmes including the local news Coast To Coast and TVS’s contribution to the three ITV Telethons. And just before the end there was a chance to see some amusing moments where things went wrong including Bobby Davro falling over. vlcsnap-00167

Goodbye To All That was definitely a poignant send-off for TVS, which was much more dignified than the end of their predecessor Southern in 1981 which came across as rather bitter. When the end finally came Fred and Fern thanked everyone who had worked for TVS over the years along with the viewers for their support to much applause, and the show concluded with the message “Thanks for watching”. vlcsnap-00170

Although I don’t live in this region I imagine that a lot of people watching that night felt similar to how I did when Thames left the screen at the same time. I did enjoy a lot of programmes made by TVS, but unfortunately their archive is now in something of a mess, with almost no chance of anything they produced ever being repeated on TV or released on DVD. Preserving shows like this online though means that people can still see some of their best programmes.