Game Show Memories – Who Wants To Be A Millionaire the revival.

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire (ITV, 2018-?)

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire is one of the all-time greatest game shows around the world, but it ended in the UK in 2014 with something of a whimper. It had once been the big thing but its moment had passed. I thought that it would never return, so it was something of a surprise to learn that ITV were planning to revive to show for its 20th anniversary (which is actually in September). Chris Tarrant who served the show so well and is one of my favourite TV personalities decided not to return as host as he felt that 15 years was enough. Who could possibly replace him?

When it was announced that “Clarkson” was going to take the job I was pleased because I thought it meant the 90s pop star Betty Boo (because her real name is Alison Clarkson do you see I’m so funny ha-ha-ha). But of course it was actually Jeremy Clarkson which was something of an unexpected move. Now first of all as he somewhat divides opinion I have to explain whether I am a fan of his work or not.

I must admit that I have never regularly watched Top Gear or any of his other motoring shows because I simply have no interest or enthusiasm about cars whatsoever, but I know about some of his observations on life. I don’t know if he’s trying to be deliberately provocative and wind people up, but on this show he could be entirely different. Will he enjoy interacting with the public and will he be on their side? vlcsnap-00771

When the show returned it was with hour-long editions on seven consecutive nights. How would it compare to the original version which had several changes by the end? Well pleasingly the format did go somewhat back to basics. The Fastest Finger First round had returned, but this time with six contestants taking part instead of ten, and they were auditioned rather than just qualifying to take part by phoning a number. Whoever gets the multiple choice question right in the quickest time can take the chair. vlcsnap-00768

It should be noted that the set design looked terrific, there were definitely no problems in that area. The original money ladder with 15 questions also returned, and there was no clock! However, the graphics did look rather bad though, how they ended up looking a worse piece of design than the ones created almost two decades ago I wouldn’t know really. Some of the familiar musical cues seemed to be all over the place too. vlcsnap-00763

There are now four lifelines available instead of three. They are Ask The Audience, 50/50 and Phone A Friend (where they now seemingly have to be verified that they are talking from an empty Google-free zone). Maybe this would have been better if the friends had been in the studio and appeared on screen like they did in the later series of the original version. vlcsnap-00764

One of the biggest rule changes is the addition of the fourth lifeline which is Ask The Host. This is where the contestant can actually consult Jeremy on what he thinks the answer might be. There is no 30 second limit for this unlike Phone A Friend, maybe it would be better with one. What was interesting about this was because Jeremy didn’t seem to come across as much of a big quizzer his general knowledge was at a rather average level so he did have to ponder some of the answers as much as the contestants. It was up to the contestant as to whether they wanted to take his advice. Is he worth listening to? vlcsnap-00772

The other main change was that after getting the £1,000 question right, they could set the next safe level themselves before they see the next question. This meant that instead of being fixed at £32,000, it could now be as low as £2,000 for the cautious, or even at £500,000 which would make the final question a free shot. However, when they do reach the second safe level the additional Switch lifeline wasn’t introduced, I wouldn’t have minded that being kept. vlcsnap-00773

Another problem for viewers was the standard of contestants. A lot of them were using their lifelines at a very early stage, and a lot of wrong answers were given, with many dropping back to only £1,000. Maybe it would be good if people did better but they’ve got to prove that they can do it, they won’t be much getting much sympathy from Jeremy if they fail. There were also complaints that the question difficulty levels were too unbalanced, and the odds of someone going all the way seem to be very small unfortunately.

It would be fair to say that Jeremy definitely wasn’t doing a Tarrant impression (no “but we don’t want to give you that!“-type outbursts here) and made the show his own. The ratings were around four/five million which was about what could be expected, the days of this or any other show getting 19 million viewers regularly are long gone. I don’t know if there are any plans for another series, but it they can correct the minor production flaws maybe it could begin another long run on ITV.


More TV Memories – The death of Diana.

The death of Diana (BBC1/BBC2/ITV/Channel 4/Channel 5 etc., 1997)

I wanted to do a piece on here about UK news presentation, so I’ve decided to review this, because it was an historic TV moment. This piece isn’t going to analyse the politics of the event, such as the role that the monarchy plays in this country or attitudes to grief, it’s just going to concentrate on the TV coverage on various channels on 31 August 1997, and I’ll also reveal for anyone interested where I was when it all happened.

I suppose the most remarkable thing about it really was its timing. It was at the end of August early on a Sunday morning, a time when not much is usually happening, and it’s when lots of people are usually away. If there really is a time of year when news departments can deal with having fewer people around because it’s quiet, it’s this. What’s the worst that can happen?

The first report about the crash interrupted a film on BBC1 at about 1:15am. It was hosted by Martyn Lewis as it seems that he was the presenter who lived closest to the studio and they needed to get someone on air as quickly as possible. There was another news report interruption before the film ended at around 2:30am (which was rather late for a BBC1 closedown in those days, I wonder what would’ve happened if they had gone off air around 12:30am that night?). There was also a news report on BBC2. vlcsnap-00683

When it was time for the planned closedown, BBC1 actually stayed on air, and for the first time they handed over to BBC World News for continued coverage (the BBC’s own rolling news channel didn’t launch until November 1997). Having watched the story develop all night, it must have been a remarkable moment for people when it hit them that this wasn’t going to have a happy ending, the moment when you realise that something has gone horribly wrong. vlcsnap-00729

BBC1 returned at about 6:30am with Martyn Lewis presenting again. It was clear that this was an occasion where they had to get the balance right as unlike most news programmes it could be repeated for years after. It’s reported that channels do rehearsals of royal deaths coverage so that when the time comes everything is carefully planned and scripted. But they really did seem to have nothing ready for Diana, it was just so unexpected. vlcsnap-00723

Because of this news, coverage was also shown on BBC2, meaning that for the first and only time a special generic “BBC” ident was used, along with a rather alarming announcement that regular programming had been suspended, bad luck for people waiting to watch the EastEnders omnibus. Another thing about news is that presenters mustn’t get too emotionally involved in a story, but it was clear that it was difficult in this case, you could really sense the disbelief coming through. vlcsnap-00721

Watching some coverage again, one thing that strikes me now is just how straightforward and sombre it is, there are no oversized captions or tickers on the screen, and little use of that increasingly devalued phrase “breaking news”, and the whole presenting team weren’t all bussed out to stand outside Buckingham Palace or some such place all day, and it does still pack an emotional punch. vlcsnap-00730

For the rest of the day on the BBC, Peter Sissons took over as presenter at around 1pm, and joint coverage ended around 3pm when BBC2 showed some sport. There were also some special programmes on BBC1 including documentaries, and the day seemed to turn into an endless edition of The Nine O’Clock News. What had started out as a quiet summer Sunday ended as the biggest operation in the history of BBC News. vlcsnap-00714

As for what happened on ITV, they also had a few news reports throughout the night, before at around 5am The Chart Show was famously interrupted to begin the coverage from ITN that was hosted by Dermot Murnaghan and Nicholas Owen, before at 6am they had to join GMTV. When that ended at 9:25am, it was back to ITN for most of the day. The only scheduled programmes I remember surviving on LWT were Coronation Street (minus its Cadbury’s sponsorship) and Heartbeat, which was followed by a special programme hosted by Trevor McDonald. vlcsnap-00712

Also, it seems that Channel 4 showed some news reports throughout the day along with The Art Of Landscape, but I think most of their schedule stayed the same, although there was an hour-long special edition of Channel 4 News in the evening with Jon Snow. Channel 5 eventually pulled their programming to be replaced by Kirsty Young and Rob Butler in the studio with a desk and everything. vlcsnap-00728

As for where I was when this all happened… I was in bed. Well I was, no-one knocked on my door overnight to tell me what had happened or anything like that, this was how I found out. The summer of ’97 was really the only time that I regularly listened to Capital FM, and it meant that I must have heard the biggest hits of that time including “D’You Know What I Mean?” and “Freed From Desire” hundreds of times on that station.

It was a Sunday morning and I was going back to school a couple of days later so I thought that I would have one last chance for a lie-in. I decided to put Capital on at about 10am but instead of music I heard a news presenter talking about Diana. I wasn’t really sure why, I didn’t know why they were talking about her yet again, then I wondered suddenly… had something happened?

So I went downstairs and saw the BBC News coverage along with newspapers such as the News Of The World and I was rather shocked. It was so unexpected, my first thought was “she won’t be in the newspapers or on the TV any more”, although that wasn’t really how it turned out of course. There had been so much constant speculation (maybe too much) around this time about Diana’s next move that for all of it to end so suddenly really was the most unusual and unforgettable experience.

Game Show Memories – Tenable.

Tenable (ITV, 2016-present)

This is a game show that launched only a couple of years ago that I’ve really enjoyed. Tenable is a daytime game show that is hosted by Warwick Davis, who is better known as an actor (he was in Star Wars, but he is very modest about it and sometimes goes up to five minutes without mentioning it) who only really entered TV presenting when he hosted the revival of Celebrity Squares on ITV a few years ago. vlcsnap-00023

Tenable is a show that is based all around Top Ten lists, but it had a different idea to the long-forgotten Topranko! A team of five (who all know one-another beforehand) take part, including a captain. Every team member plays an individual game, and the maximum prize money on offer is £125,000. The question is shown, such as “the ten largest countries in the world” or “the ten most recent Champions League winners”, and then they determine which one of the team will play. vlcsnap-00113

They then give their answers one by one, if they get stuck they can nominate one of their teammates to offer an answer, but this can only be done three times throughout the game. The captain can also overrule an answer if they want. If they get up to five correct answers, they start to win money, going from £1,000, all the way up to £25,000 for finding all ten answers on the list. However, get too many wrong and they are eliminated from the game (for now at least), and the money is lost. vlcsnap-00155

The last of the five on the team to play is the captain, who is immune from elimination. Once they get up to five correct answers, they have the option to buy back an eliminated team member (which could came in useful), or take the money. The team then take the contestants that they still have in the game, along with the money that they’ve made, into the final. Warwick always encourages the contestants along all the way and there are some interesting facts learned from the lists used. vlcsnap-00151

In the final, the team are given a choice of two categories. They make their choice, and the question is revealed. They then take it in turns to give answers, a correct answer keeps them in for another go, a wrong one eliminates them for good. If they can find all ten answers between them, they win the money. The biggest wins on the show so far have been around the £40,000-£50,000 mark. vlcsnap-00163

Tenable has been a very good addition to ITV daytime to create an enjoyable trio of game shows along with Tipping Point and The Chase, and although I doubt like those two established shows they’ll suddenly be making about 300 editions a year (plus celebrity specials), hopefully it has done well enough to continue for a while yet, (and also if there are still enough lists to play with!) it’s definitely a success for me.

Game Show Memories – Midas Touch.

Midas Touch (ITV, 1995-1996)

This is a game show that I actually have no memory of watching at all when it was originally shown, so why is it being included as part of this series? It’s because when I first found out about it, I thought that it seemed a rather interesting idea, and now that I have finally seen an edition, it’s time for a review. One of the things that attracted me was the host.

Midas Touch was hosted by Bradley Walsh, and this was over a decade before The Chase, and also long before every time he laughed (and seemingly leaving viewers STUNNED in the process) it was turned into a news story on social media as if it was incredibly important. However the first time I can remember seeing Bradley on TV was when he hosted a comedy show on ITV in 1992 called Only Joking, I wonder if that’s worth revisiting. vlcsnap-00697

Five contestants took part, seemingly drown from closer to the “I’m crazy, me!” end of the game show contestants pool. The star prize was a gold bar worth £5,000! There is a pyramid on stage and the contestants stand at the bottom level. Only four of the contestants will go through to the next round. A question with a numerical answer is asked and they have to guess what it is. After the answers are revealed, and once Bradley has stopped laughing because they were usually way off, the contestant whose guess was closest goes through to the next round and up to the next level. vlcsnap-00698

This is then done twice more. When there are two contestants remaining, they have a play-off to determine who takes the final place on offer. Some of those games wouldn’t have looked out of place on shows like Double Dare or Run The Risk, as they have to complete a challenge whilst wearing a silly costume (there was a theme running through the games every week such as the farm or the circus), and then Bradley laughs some more. The winner takes the final place, and the loser is eliminated. vlcsnap-00700

This is then done again to reduce four contestants to three, and then three contestants to two. The final round is called the Bank Raid. The contestants must enter the first number of a code at the bottom level, the second at the level above, and the third at the level above that. They must then enter all three digits at the next level (if they can remember them) to unlock the gold bar at the top level and become the winner. vlcsnap-00701

I’m not really sure why Midas Touch passed me by as I remember many of the game shows from this era (maybe it wasn’t shown in my region?), but it was rather fun and ran for a couple of series, although it is little remembered now (it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry), and after it ended in 1996, Bradley went off to host the much more successful Wheel Of Fortune along with many other shows right up to the present (including The Chase which has now been repeated about 10,000 times on Challenge). 


Bradley, about to “break down in hysterics” again.

The YouTube Files – Married For Life.

Married For Life (ITV, 1996)

Here’s how I chose the next show to review in my “were there any decent 90s ITV sitcoms” series, following on from Sometime, Never and Not With A Bang. One thing that ITV tried throughout the 90s was adapting American sitcoms, and they managed to have success with The Upper Hand which was the British version of Who’s The Boss? and ran for seven series. So maybe it was time to adapt another American sitcom?

One American sitcom that I am a fan of is Married… With Children which was shown a lot on ITV in the early-90s, although I first saw it on Paramount about a decade later. In 1996 ITV launched their own version called Married For Life. I don’t remember watching this first time round, but I have wanted to see it for a while, so again I went on YouTube and I was pleased to discover that the majority of the episodes are on there.

One thing that is notable about Married For Life is who plays the lead role. Throughout the 80s Russ Abbot had been a popular comedy figure on TV, and he also had a Top Ten hit single, appeared on the cover of Radio Times a few times and starred in cigar adverts. But a decade on his comedy show (which had moved from BBC1 to ITV) was faltering, so maybe it was time to try something a little different. vlcsnap-00681

In Married… With Children, the Bundys were considered to be the most outrageous family on TV until The Simpsons come along, and in Married For Life they were re-imagined as the Butlers. Russ Abbot played Ted (Al in the American version), who worked in a shoe shop and was rather unhappy with where he was in his life. His wife Pam (the Peggy role, played by Susan Kyd) was rather glamorous and spent most of the little money he made. vlcsnap-00678

They had two teenage children, Nikki (Kelly/Lucy Blakely) and Lee (Bud/Peter England). The next door neighbours were the Hollingsworths (instead of the Rhoades), Steve (Steve/Hugh Bonneville) and Judy (Marcy/Julie Dawn Cole). One thing that was notable about Married For Life was that the scripts were recycled from the American version, with some localised changes. vlcsnap-00676

One problem with this was that the reworked episodes were taken from the early series around 1987/1988, so by the time of this version they were almost a decade old which made things seem a little dated. So how well did Married For Life end up doing for ITV? There is one fact that tells you all you need to know: there were over 250 episodes made of Married… With Children, Married For Life came to an end after seven. vlcsnap-00675

Married For Life turned out to be a big flop and there has been no DVD release, although it does have a Wikipedia entry. It is notable that it is rather strange seeing familiar episodes being played out with a different cast, but the humour seemed to make no impact with viewers, and it disappointed in just about every department compared to the original. However, later in the 90s ITV adapted some more American series that they hoped would do better, and I might review those soon too.

The YouTube Files – Not With A Bang.

Not With A Bang (ITV, 1990)

Here’s the next in my “were there any decent 90s ITV sitcoms” series. Having recently looked back on here at Sometime, Never, I wanted to discover more, so here’s why I chose to review this one. A while ago, I was going through some old tapes to see if there were any continuity clips on them that were worth putting online, and one of the tapes in the collection was from 1990.

This one was just about the oldest tape that was in the collection, so I very much hoped that there would be some adverts on it and the like. On the tape was a trail for a show on ITV called Not With A Bang. I really had no idea what this show was, I didn’t watch it at the time, and I knew nothing about it at all. I had wanted to track it down for a while. So once again, I thought, “is this on YouTube?”

And well would you believe it, all seven episodes are on there in full, so thanks to the uploader “jaredyjaredy” for letting me finally discover what this show was all about. It turns out that Not With A Bang was another flop ITV sitcom that was shown in the Sunday 10pm slot, and it was set in a post-apocalyptic world. It was written by Tony Millan and Mike Walling, who later went on to write some episodes of BBC1’s The Brittas Empirevlcsnap-00655

The first episode opens with an edition of the popular BBC1 science series Tomorrow’s World… er, I mean the entirely different LWT production for ITV The World Tomorrow which is hosted by Judith Hann. Whilst demonstrating an experiment on a live edition, Judith drops a beaker of green liquid on the floor and says “oh bugger” (another impressive use of the sitcom device of a celebrity guest unexpectedly swearing there), and she is reduced to a pile of ash. vlcsnap-00659

Then everyone else in the studio turns to ash… and eventually everyone else in the world (cue shrieking LWT studio audience). And that’s it, the end of human civilisation. However… we join the story about a year later seemingly somewhere in the UK, when we meet four people who have somehow survived this, and as the episodes go by we see how they have adjusted to this new world. vlcsnap-00661

They are Brian (Ronald Pickup) who tries to take charge of things, and Colin (Stephen Rea), who still likes to go to the pub, and he is mildly obsessed with rugby league, which is a shame as there is no-one around to play the game any more. They were then joined by the married couple Graham (Mike Grady) and Janet (Josie Lawrence), who have been searching for survivors and realise that they need start repopulating the world, although Graham is finding it hard to admit that he’s having some problems in the bedroom. vlcsnap-00663

Not With A Bang ran for only one series and there has been no DVD release, but it does have a Wikipedia entry. I seem to have a fondness for unusual post-apocalyptic shows, having been a big fan of The Tribe and Dark Angel, and this show falls into that category. For most of the episodes Brian and Colin pondered if there really is still anyone else out there. But it seems that the viewers weren’t and that was it. vlcsnap-00664

You might not like to know that the theme music to Not With A Bang is available to buy now on vinyl. vlcsnap-00665

The YouTube Files – Sometime, Never.

Sometime, Never (ITV, 1995-1996)

Here’s a story of how I get the ideas for my pieces. Recently I got hold of some more old TV magazines. These included a pullout which previewed various programmes that were coming to the screen around late-1996/early-1997. On the page about comedy shows we were told that there would be some popular series returning including The Thin Blue Line, 2Point4 Children, Drop The Dead Donkey, and others.

Also on the page was a new sitcom called Sometime, Never (which I don’t remember watching first time round) which was described as “embarrassing” (which was surprisingly critical by TV Times‘s standards), and concluded that there was no chance of this show being a success. So after reading this, once again I became intrigued and had that thought again… is there any of it on YouTube?

One of the aims of this blog is not only to share memories of shows that I remember that people might find interesting, but also to track down long-lost series and see if they are worthy of a reappraisal and more information about them being online, or if they are better off left in the past. And I’m sure you’ll appreciate that I don’t want to review shows on here that I didn’t like, so I hoped that this would be worth watching.

I probably shouldn’t have been surprised to discover that there isn’t a Wikipedia entry for this show, and there has been no DVD release, but it seems that there are two of the eight episodes that were made online. So if people do want to know more about this show I thought I might as well explain. Firstly, one of the things that made me interested in watching Sometime, Never were the two main cast members who I had heard of.

Throughout the late-80s/early-90s the comedy double act Sara “the blonde one” Crowe, who had the squeakiest voice on TV this side of Sandra Dickinson (ask your dad) and Ann “the brunette one” Bryson appeared in a popular long-running TV advertising campaign for Philadelphia cheese. I presume at some point someone thought that they might like to appear together in a sitcom, and of course I have admitted on here that I am fond of quirky female duos. vlcsnap-00646

In 1995 the pilot episode of Sometime, Never was shown as part of the Comedy Firsts series, and it seemed to do well enough to earn a full series that was shown in 1996 (and was a lesser-spotted Meridian presentation for ITV) in the Sunday 10pm slot, which for about a decade was the time was where ITV’s more alternative comedy shows were shown, including the likes of Hale And Pace and Spitting Imagevlcsnap-00653

So what was the idea behind Sometime, Never? Was there anything here to give the likes of French And Saunders a run for their money? It seems that it was sold as a female version of Men Behaving Badly. Maxine (Crowe) is a teacher who has just reached her 31st birthday and was single with no children, while her friend Bernice (Bryson), stays at home to raise her two children and has become bored with her life, and it seems that they wished that they could swap places with one another. vlcsnap-00654

The two episodes that I watched featured Maxine bickering with the school staff including the younger teacher Louise and the absentminded headmaster, as well as the pupils, while Bernice was having trouble with her children and her useless husband. I didn’t think it was that bad really, but it was far from a classic, and the fact that it didn’t return for a second series probably isn’t too much of a surprise. I wonder where they are now? never0001

If I can find any other interesting shows online I’ll try and continue this “were there any decent 90s ITV sitcoms” series soon.