Game Show Memories – consolation prizes.

“We hate to lose you, but lose you we must”

Time for something a little different. There used to be a time when however good or bad they did, game show contestants would be given consolation prizes for taking part. Here’s a look at what I think are 16 of the most memorable prizes that were given away. These are the shows where you definitely didn’t go away empty handed…

Backdate. A rather nice electronic organiser.

Big Break. A snooker cue and a trophy, and a waistcoat too if you were lucky.

Blankety Blank. Probably one of the most famous consolation prizes, the chequebook and pen. It’s really isn’t an exaggeration to say that it was more valuable than most of the actual prizes on offer.

Blockbusters. A sweatshirt and a dictionary. Definitely worth having. p3

Bullseye. Tankards, darts, and the bendy Bully. Or the badge and chalk holder that were on offer in the early series.

Countdown. What is always called a goodie bag, including cups, books, and the board game too of course. And don’t forget the teapot either.

Every Second Counts. Not surprisingly considering this was a show based around time, a wallclock and some watches.

The Generation Game. Various prizes in the early-90s revival included a telephone and pocket TV that seemingly only ever showed a picture of Bruce Forsyth’s co-host Rosemarie Ford. p6

Lucky Ladders. A pair of watches. Now they must be expensive.

Raise The Roof. This was the show where the star prize was a house, so the consolation was a teapot in the shape of a house, often known as “Bob’s Bungalow” (after host Bob Holness).

Small Talk. A trophy that according to host Ronnie Corbett was “crafted by my own fair hand”.

Telly Addicts. Another goodie bag similar to Countdown including books about TV, T-shirts and so on. p9

Today’s The Day. A copy of a newspaper from the day that you were born, and maybe a bottle of bubbly too.

Turnabout. Another show that gave everyone a dictionary. Not that exciting, but just any excuse to talk about Turnabout really.

Wheel Of Fortune. Another show that gave away watches and board games.

Wipeout. Early series featured a paperweight, before this was changed to an umbrella. p12

And they all had a lovely day.

The YouTube Files – Lucky Ladders USA.

Chain Reaction (NBC, 1980)

It’s time to look back at another original American version of a game show that would later come to British TV. One of my favourite game shows that was shown in the 9:25am weekday slot on ITV was Lucky Ladders. I wonder how many people know that it was based on an American show called Chain Reaction. There have been several versions of this show in America, but I’ll concentrate on the original one that was shown on NBC back in 1980.

Chain Reaction (“the show where one word leads to another”) was hosted by Bill Cullen, who hosted a lot of US game shows over the years, including the original version of Blockbusters around the same time which I also reviewed as part of this series. Although the basic idea of word association was the same, there were several differences to Lucky Ladders. Firstly, two teams of three (not two teams of two) took part, and they consisted of one non-celebrity along with two celebrities. vlcsnap-00695

In the first round, the word ladder (or “chain” as it was called here) with the top and bottom word filled in appeared (consisting of eight words instead of seven), and the contestants had to guess the linking words inbetween. Unlike Lucky Ladders the same contestant chooses what letter they want and then they have to guess the word. If they get it right, the team keeps control of the chain and play passes to the next contestant in line. Get it wrong and play passes to the other team. One thing the two versions did have in common is that there were a lot of somewhat embarrassing incorrect guesses. vlcsnap-00694

The scoring system was also different. Teams scored one point per letter for each word that they solved, and words on the chain that featured a “+” sign meant that they were worth double points. Play carried on until a team reached 50 points, at which point the contestant won $250 and then their team would go on to play the bonus round, which was completely different from Lucky Ladders and called Instant Reaction (not the more familiar Jackpot Ladder, which wasn’t introduced until the first revival in 1986). This was the chance to win $10,000 in 90 seconds! That’s something of a contrast to the UK version which had no cash prizes on offer. vlcsnap-00691

The two celebrities had to describe something against the clock, but they could only give one word at a time and alternated, sort of a more intense The Pyramid Game. A bell would then ring and the contestant had to answer. If they got it right, they would win some money, all the way up to $10,000 for ten correct answers. They would then stay on to play another game against a new contestant, and they could play up to ten games. vlcsnap-00690

This version of Chain Reaction didn’t do very well and it only lasted for about six months in a daytime slot on American TV, although it was revived in more recent years with a few rule changes. I must admit that after watching this I prefer Lucky Ladders (which ran for almost five years on ITV), but it was still rather interesting to discover where the idea originally came from. vlcsnap-00687

Game Show Memories – Lucky Ladders.

Lucky Ladders (ITV, 1988-1993)

Lucky Ladders was a fast-moving weekday word association game that was based on an American format called Chain Reaction. It was hosted by Lennie Bennett who always livened up things by wearing a lovely sweater and throwing in a daft joke now and again and it was one of my favourites of the ITV 9:25am game shows. Lucky Ladders 6Every day two teams of two took part who were related in some way. They always had to run on waving as they were introduced by Peter Simon (him again!). The ladder which featured seven words then appeared on the screen with the top word and bottom word filled in. One team member had to ask for a letter under the top word or above the bottom word and the other one has to guess what the word was. If they got it right they won some points, but if they didn’t it went over to the other team.

Lucky Ladders 4

Sometimes it could be rather frustrating as the teams struggled to guess the simple word clues and Lennie would end up saying “when this ladder started I had hair”. When the ladder was completed the team that did so won a bonus. The contestants then swapped places and the points were doubled for the next ladder. The ladders carried on until one team got to 200 points. The losing team were then given a few consolation prizes, give them a round of applause, weren’t they lovely. Lucky Ladders 10

The winning team then went on to play the jackpot ladder. Again they had to guess the words but this time they were restricted to only being able to ask for five additional letters. If they did complete the ladder though they became the reigning champions who would then face another team. If they managed to complete the jackpot ladder five times they won the star prize of a holiday so they had to be sharp thinkers. I’m not sure if anyone ever achieved this but it was always enjoyable finding out what would happen. Lucky Ladders 5

Lucky Ladders was one of the few game shows that was produced by Anglia for ITV. It was a show that I always enjoyed watching, it was harmless fun and everyone seemed to enjoy being on the show, including Lennie Bennett who always hosted the show well, but unfortunately after the show ended in 1993 he wasn’t seen much on TV after that. It also had great music and recently a brief clip from what appears to be an unaired pilot from 1987 appeared on YouTube which was interesting. It’s definitely a show I would like to see repeated on Challenge (although I think it was repeated endlessly on UK Living for a bit in the 90s) or maybe even revived.