Password (ITV, 1985, 1987-1988)
This is a game show that I don’t really remember watching at the time, but it is based on an American format, and the first time I came across it was when it was parodied in an episode of Family Guy. Ever since then I had wanted to see more of the show for myself, and then I discovered that there had been several British versions on various channels over 25 years.
Password was actually first shown in this country as long ago as 1963, and there have been so many versions that it almost certainly has the unique achievement of there being at least one series on BBC1, BBC2, ITV, and Channel 4. But this piece will concentrate on the version that was shown on ITV in the 80s, originally only in the UTV region in 1985 when the host was Brian Munn, and then in 1987 there were more series that were shown nationally hosted by Gordon Burns (having a day off from The Krypton Factor) that I think was also briefly shown in the 9:25am slot.
As will become clear, the idea was a word-association game that was rather similar to The Pyramid Game. Two teams of two took part, consisting of one celebrity and one contestant, the average level of celebrity was around the area of Frank Carson. The contestant has to give a clue to their teammate to guess what the password is, but the twist is that they can only use one-word clues (the voiceover would tell viewers what the password is, and it also appeared on the screen). They can also determine whether they want to play or pass the clue, and they have ten seconds to answer.
There are ten points on offer for getting it right straight away, but if they don’t, it is passed over to the other team for nine points, and if they don’t know, it is passed back over to the other team with another point deducted, and so on. When the next password is asked, the teams swap over who gives the clue and who guesses. The first team to score 25 points wins the game, gets their score converted into money, and goes into the lightning round.
In this, five passwords have to be guessed in one minute. There’s £5 for every correct answer, with a bonus £25 if they get all five right. At the end of this, the celebrities then swap teams. The first contestant to win three games is the winner. The losing contestant takes away a vase, and they are replaced by a new contestant. The celebrities also changed for every edition. The winner stays on and could end up winning hundreds of pounds (“hundreds” being the important word here, this wasn’t big-budget stuff). But who cares about that when you can say that you got to meet Frank “it’s a cracker” Carson.