Game Show Memories – Game Show Stars Part 6.

This is someone who is definitely a game show star to me, and his career spanned five decades. South African-born Bob Holness started his career in radio. He hosted his first TV game show in the UK as long ago as the early-60s, which definitely raised his profile. He then went on to host on BBC Radio 1 (he is in the famous photo of all the launch presenters which also includes Terry Wogan, Kenny Everett, and John Peel).

He also hosted shows on BBC Radio 2 and LBC. By the early-80s, he wasn’t the only one of his family to be in showbusiness, as two of his daughters launched pop music careers, and they both had a hit single in 1982. And then, of course, he went on to become the host of Blockbusters. This was originally planned to feature adult contestants, but then this was changed to teenagers, which turned out to be a wise move.

Now I have already gone on and on in other pieces about why this is one of my all-time favourite game shows, and Bob’s authoritative style is one of the reasons. After coming to an end after about a decade on ITV, Blockbusters was given a reprise and picked up by Sky One. Harold The Hedgehog was reported to be very pleased. He also appeared as a contestant on special editions of a few game shows including Bullseye and Catchphrase.

The next move for his career in the mid-90s was as the host of ITV’s Raise The Roof. This was an interesting show for many reasons, firstly because it gave Bob a game show to host in primetime, along with a little help from his friend ERIC. But the most notable thing is that the star prize was a house worth a six-figure sum, the biggest prize given away on a UK game show up to this point.

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There was a rather drawn-out process to determine who would play for this prize (with eliminated contestants memorably receiving “Bob’s Bungalow”, a house-shaped teapot that most certainly was not worth six figures). This was an attempt to bring the game show into a new era, but there was only one series, and it wouldn’t be until when Who Wants To Be A Millionaire came along a few years later that big money game shows really took off.

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Bob then went on to host a revival of BBC1’s Call My Bluff in a daytime slot for about five years, which was rather enjoyable too. By the early-2000s, he had just about retired from TV, although he did lend his voice to the DVD interactive game version of Blockbusters. When Bob died about a decade ago, many praised his hosting abilities.

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.

Game Show Memories – Raise The Roof.

Raise The Roof (ITV, 1995-1996)

What was the first British game show to regularly give away a big value prize? Most people would think that it was Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, but it was actually Raise The Roof which launched three years earlier. Although it’s all but forgotten now, Raise The Roof was a high-profile Saturday night show which was among the first to take advantage of the lifting of restrictions of the value of prizes that could be given away and was hosted by Bob Holness.

Raise The Roof had six contestants taking part, all competing for the star prize of a house which usually had a value of around £100,000. The business of determining the winner was taken somewhat seriously, and the show could be seen to be trying to bring the game show into a new era in many ways, firstly with its computer-generated title sequence and set design, and somewhat pompous theme music. The show was also sponsored by the Daily Expressvlcsnap-01472

In the first round, the six contestants walk on to the stage to be asked questions by Bob. These were read off a computer tablet known as “ERIC”, essentially meaning that any question from thousands ready in the database could be picked at random to ask. This is commonplace on most game shows now but it was seen as pioneering in those days. vlcsnap-01474

The six contestants are asked seven true-or-false statements, they determine whether they think the statement is true or false by pressing one of the two corresponding buttons. If they get it right they win an amount of money. If they get it wrong, they are “wiped out” and their score returns to zero. The three highest scorers go into the next round. An obvious flaw in this round which was noticed by viewers was that in theory you could get six of the seven answers right and still be eliminated. The contestants who get knocked out at this stage are given the consolation prize of a house-shaped teapot, or “Bob’s Bungalow” as he liked to call it. It seemed an oddly measly prize compared to what contestants were playing for. vlcsnap-01473

In round two the three remaining contestants are given £500. They then bid some money on the question. If they get it right, they win their bid, while the other two contestants have their bid taken away from their total. What will the contestants’ strategies be? The two highest-scoring contestants go into the next round, with again the loser being given a not-so coveted bungalow. vlcsnap-01475

The third round is similar to round two, only this time the two remaining contestants are given £1,000 and again must place their bid on the questions. This is also done individually in isolation booths seemingly for no other reason than they can have a lot of dry ice on the stage and it supposedly makes the whole process more tense. The highest-scoring contestant goes into the final to play for the house. vlcsnap-01476

In the final, there are 54 categories to choose from. The contestant must pick five, which again the ERIC makes it easier for Bob to ask right away. They simply have to get four out of five questions right in 60 seconds to win the house. Again, the tension is supposedly increased here. If they get two wrong or run out of time, they only take away the money that they had won up to that point. vlcsnap-01477

Despite all of this, Raise The Roof failed and was not a big success with viewers. There was nothing wrong with Bob Holness’s performance, and it was great seeing him host a primetime show after a decade’s service on Blockbusters. It seems that viewers just weren’t prepared to see such huge amounts of money put at risk in those days, and there wasn’t a lot of excitement in the show, it came across as very serious, the elimination process was rather complicated, we didn’t get to know the contestants very well, and the endgame was fairly slow-paced and uninspired. Also, the show was only half an hour. It could be have been better if it was maybe 45 minutes long. Again this is the norm now but would’ve been unusual then, even the first series of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire had only 30-minute long shows. Also, the show was produced by Action Time who had created a lot of memorable game shows, but this wasn’t one of them which is disappointing as Raise The Roof is a significant show in the history of British game shows.