More TV Memories – Only Joking.

Only Joking (ITV, 1992)

This is yet another show that I watched many years ago now, and there isn’t really a huge amount about this online. Was Only Joking a comedy game show, a variety show, or a complete mess? Well it was probably all of these really. But the reason that this is significant is because this was the first time that I remember seeing Bradley Walsh.

He had appeared on TV before this though, including doing his comedy routine on shows like Des O’Connor Tonight and Cannon And Ball’s Casino, and as early as 1989 he hosted the ITV game show You Must Be Joking, which also featured Shane Richie and his mullet as one of the regular panellists (and this isn’t to be confused with his later BBC1 comedy sketch show You Gotta Be Jokin’). The idea of Only Joking, if you really want to know, was that people from across the country were encouraged to tell some funny jokes. And joke-telling families also competed against the clock.

I think there was some sort of trophy for the funniest. One of the resident comedians was Dave Lee. Now I do have a vague memory that a long time ago my sister was in the audience for one of those live variety shows from The Palladium or some such place, and he was on the bill, and afterwards, he gave her his autograph, how nice. There was also an outtake that appeared on a lot of shows, where a boy said something rude and Bradley’s eyes nearly popped out of his head.

One problem with Only Joking though was that, similar to the You’ve Been Framed!/Caught In The Act situation that happened earlier in the year, there was a show on BBC1 called Joker In The Pack around the same that had an almost identical idea. And there was only one series, which I think was shown in a Saturday early evening slot. But t seems that after a few editions, some ITV regions moved this to a timeslot that even Get Stuffed!! would’ve found embarrassing.

I don’t remember LWT doing this though, and one critic later described this as “comfortably the worst thing LWT have ever made”. One positive though is that I have followed Bradley’s career ever since. This includes appearances on Celebrity Squares where he laughed a lot (what a surprise), and he also teamed up with Joe Pasquale for a one-off comedy special that I was looking forward to, but this was delayed because of World Cup coverage, and I don’t think I ever saw this. He has also done plenty of other acclaimed TV hosting and acting work. Who knows, one day, he might be as big as Billy Pearce.

Game Show Memories – Game Show Stars Part 10.

This is someone whose TV career started out fairly quietly, but he is arguably more popular now with viewers than he has ever been. In the early-80s Bradley Walsh was originally a footballer, although he never played at the highest level, and injuries put an early end to his career. By the late-80s he started to get into comedy, and by the early-90s he was often doing his routine on TV.

The first show that I remember him on though was ITV’s Only Joking, which featured a combination of comedy and games, and he’d also turn up on Celebrity Squares. By the late-90s he was hosting various other shows including Midas Touch, Wheel Of Fortune, and The National Lottery Live, and he had a rather “cheeky” and easy-going style that reminded me of the likes of Brian Conley and Shane Richie.

Another show he did was The Big Stage, Channel 5’s brief attempt at a “bring back variety”-style show, which probably not too surprisingly didn’t succeed. By the early-2000s he had got into TV acting, and he was one of the few people brave enough to appear in the bizarre soap Night And Day. He also hosted Sport Addicts, a rare original show for Challenge.

By the mid-2000s he was in Coronation Street, placed into the cast as one of the several shock secret sons of Mike Baldwin. By the late-2000s, there was Spin Star, a short-lived game show that had the gimmick of being based around a large fruit machine, but it looked like his career was beginning to get stuck in hosting fairly average daytime game shows.

But then he became the host of The Chase, which had a compelling “beat the champion” element. This one seemed to succeed, partly due to the combination of him leaving viewers STUNNED with his antics, and the tension of the final where there was often a lot of money at stake. This finally took him to the next level of fame, and ITV were satisfied enough with the show’s success to eventually commission new episodes 1,000 at a time.

Oh no, he’s off again…

There were also endless repeat runs on Challenge, along with the primetime spin-off Beat The Chasers. He was now in big demand, and he appeared in more high-profile drama series including Law & Order: UK, and Doctor Who. Clearly a fan of the genre, he also hosted a documentary about the history of game shows where he looked back at some of his favourite moments.

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Oh dear…

Other game shows he has hosted recently include Keep It In The Family (which only seemed to exist to feature daft games and make him laugh as much as possible because that’s what viewers wanted apparently), Cash Trapped (which he devised himself), and a revival of Blankety Blank. He just seems to be everywhere on TV at the moment, and he’s definitely earned his success.