Game Show Memories – Game Show Stars Part 16.

There have been many people who have had long careers, but this is someone who had just about the longest career of any game show host on the TV and radio, lasting for over six decades. Nicholas Parsons first became a TV regular as long ago as the mid-50s. He would take part in comedy shows, and often played the straightman to various comedians, and this meant that he got to know some of the biggest stars of this era.

Even then he was hosting game shows, but it seems that most of these weren’t that great. In the late-60s, he became the host of one of his most popular shows, and little did he realise that he would still be in charge over five decades later. Just A Minute is a great example of one of those games that is easy to play, but difficult to master. After the format settled down, various regulars would take part for several years, and he managed to keep everything going.

His longest-running TV success launched in the early-70s, when he was the host of Sale Of The Century, where hundreds of questions were asked, and prizes were given away at prices that were rather ridiculous. He hosted this for over a decade, and this was one of the most successful game shows on ITV of its era. When this came to an end in the early-80s, he continued to host Just A Minute all along. He’d always let the panellists get the laugh they wanted, and give them too many bonus points for doing so.

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By the late-80s, he was possibly hoping to host a new TV game show, and it turned out to be a rather unlikely one. Night Network was one of ITV’s first attempts at an overnight service, and he was in charge of The All-New Alphabet Game segment, hoping the celebrity panellists could answer the odd questions. In the mid-90s, there was the first of three attempts to bring Just A Minute to TV, and they were all different in their approach.

The first was on ITV in a late-night slot, and featured more comedians at the alternative end taking part than what you would hear on the radio version at the time. He proved that he could work with the younger generation, although by this point by comparison just about everyone was the younger generation. The second attempt was a more cosy affair on BBC1 in a daytime slot, with older panellists who looked like they were on the verge of falling asleep.

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By the late-90s, most of the original contributors to Just A Minute had gone, but he kept going on. The third attempt was on BBC2 in an evening slot, this time mostly featuring the radio regulars, including Paul Merton, who by now was a veteran of the game. This was another short run though. He did seem to be unstoppable, still hosting when many other people would’ve long since retired, and it was clear that he liked to keep a sharp and always inquisitive mind.

Although they often mocked him, it was clear that panellists including Paul Merton and Gyles Brandreth definitely had a lot of admiration for him, and he even hosted a few shows with Merton about the history of comedy. When he did finally depart Just A Minute, there was the difficult task of choosing a new host, proving that essentially nobody is irreplaceable, but he would be pleased that the game is still played, and he deserves praise for his commitment to game shows.

The YouTube Files – Sale Of The Century USA.

Sale Of The Century (NBC, 1969-1973, 1983-1989)

I have already done three pieces taking a look back at the UK versions of Sale Of The Century, which were the original on ITV, along with the revivals on Sky One and Challenge. And I’m sure that you’ve all been waiting for a fourth piece, so I thought that I would review the original American version too. Although this was another one that launched in the late-60s, I’ll look at the format that had been established by the mid-80s.

The host by this point was Jim Perry, who we have previously come across when he was host of Card Sharks (the American version of Play Your Cards Right), accompanied by far too many co-hosts. Three contestants including a defending champion took part, and their aim was to answer the questions and bag those bargains. Jim had a multicoloured display on the front of his desk that went green for correct answers, and red for incorrect ones. vlcsnap-00041

The contestants all begin with $20, and whatever round it is, they get $5 for every correct answer, with $5 deducted for an incorrect one. And there are also the Instant Bargains. An item is shown to the contestant with the highest score. If they like what they see, they buzz in, and the price is deducted from their score. If they are unsure, the host will occasionally take the price down even further, to as little as $5 sometimes, making it almost impossible to turn down. vlcsnap-00042

There was also The Fame Game that was played three times in a show. A question about a famous person or thing is read. Buzz in and get it right, and they can choose from one of nine squares on the board. Some concealed money values which increased in every round, up to $25, so if that was found it could make all the difference. vlcsnap-00044

The game ends with the 60 seconds speed round, which is the final chance to make some money. The contestant with the highest score progresses to the Winners Board. This features 20 squares, and behind them are various prizes. If the contestant finds a match, they win the prize. If they found a square that said “WIN”, they instantly won what was behind the next square they chose. vlcsnap-00043

Winners could come back until they had won everything that was on offer on the board, and this included a car, lots of money, and many other fancy things, meaning that they could win over $100,000 in cash and prizes, not bad at all. Once again it’s fairly clear that the prizes on offer were much more valuable than in the UK version, and this format continued successfully into the late-80s.

Game Show Memories – Sale Of The Century (Sky).

Sale Of The Century (Sky Channel, 1989, Sky One, 1989-1991)

You might remember a while ago when I looked back at some programming and adverts from satellite TV in the 80s, including the earliest days of what would eventually evolve into Sky One. Among the launch schedule of the imports and repeats were a couple of game shows that were both revivals of ones that had been popular earlier in the decade. One of these was The New Price Is Right that I’ve already reviewed, now here’s a look at the other one.

Sale Of The Century was a format that became a success around the world, it ran on ITV for 12 years, and it came to Sky in 1989. This was the first revival, there would be another one in the 90s on Challenge with Keith Chegwin (and I have already reviewed that one). Now the first thing that stood out to me in this version was that it was hosted by Peter Marshall, who was also a continuity announcer for several ITV regions including Thames, so it would be interesting to see him as a game show host for a change. vlcsnap-00199

The rules were slightly different to the ITV version. Three contestants took part, including the defending champion. They all begin with £20, and they are asked general knowledge questions on the buzzer worth £5 each (or £5 deducted for a wrong answer). At various stages there is a visit to the gift shop (originally known as the instant sale), where only the contestant in the lead has the opportunity to buy the item that is at a bargain price, accompanied by the usual enthusiastic voiceover. vlcsnap-00189

Another variation was The Fame Game, which happened three times in every edition. A Going For Gold-style “what am I?” question was asked. Whoever buzzed in and got it right could choose from a board of nine squares that all had prizes hiding behind them that were revealed by Peter’s co-host, including some cash values of up to £25 that could come to prove very useful. vlcsnap-00130

The final round has more questions on the buzzer, only this time there was a time limit of one minute. The contestant with the most money at the end goes into the final, with the losers taking away the consolation prize of an atlas along with what else they’ve already won. The star prize on offer was a car that was usually valued at around £600, but it would take about five wins in a row to be able to afford it, so most contestants decided to return the next day as defending champion to try and win some more money. vlcsnap-00129

This meant that there was the rather unfortunate situation where most editions ended without a really big prize being given away, although it would always be an exciting moment if someone did eventually win the car. Sale Of The Century was shown five days a week, and over 450 editions were made. I can only imagine that the small amount of people who had satellite dishes in the UK at the time were suitably entertained.

Game Show Memories – The New Sale Of The Century.

Sale Of The Century (Challenge, 1997)

A while ago I wrote about Sale Of The Century, a popular game show that launched on ITV in 1971 and ran for over a decade. It has since been revived twice, firstly in 1989 in the early days of Sky One when it was hosted by Peter Marshall, who was also an announcer on Thames at the time. But this piece will concentrate on the second revival in the late-90s, the ultimate in TV shopping.

When Challenge made some original programming it was hardly ratings-topping stuff, but they did try out a few ideas, one of them being a revival of Sale Of The Century, which was hosted by Keith Chegwin, who around this time was turning up a lot on game shows on various satellite channels, either as the host or as a panellist. So how does this compare to the original? vlcsnap-01026

Well, it’s fairly faithful, beginning with a remix of the original theme music (although there’s no organist here). Also, the announcer was Robin Houston, who was also hosting Channel 5’s game show 100% out-of-vision around the same time. Three contestants (including a defending champion) took part and they had the opportunity to bag some bargains. As always Keith was very enthusiastic and encouraged them all the way through, and he also kept his clothes on. vlcsnap-01031

The contestants begin with £15, and in the first round every correct answer on the buzzer (which made the same noise as the ones on Going For Gold) was worth £1 (or £1 deducted for a wrong answer). Then there is the first Instant Sale, where a prize is shown (breathlessly described by Robin) and if a contestant wants it, they can buzz in and it’s theirs. In the next two rounds, the correct answers are worth £3, with a couple more Instant Sales. vlcsnap-01033

After the break, in the next two rounds it’s £5 for a correct answer, along with two more Instant Sales, although contestants seem to be a little more reluctant to buzz in for them at this point. The last round features 60 seconds of questions, with again £5 on offer as one more chance to bump up those scores. When time is up, the contestant with the most money goes into the final to play for the big prizes. vlcsnap-01032

They have the choice of various prizes, the top ones being a holiday (usually reduced to around £400) or a car (around £500). They have to decide if they will come back on the next edition as the defending champion to try and earn some more money, or buy one of the prizes on offer. Buying the car should take about five or six wins. At this point Keith will start jumping around with over-excitement, whether they take a prize or not. vlcsnap-01037

It seems that this version of Sale Of The Century was shown five days a week on Challenge for a while. The prizes on offer weren’t too bad considering this obviously wasn’t a big budget show and they were at about the same level as the original version, and it was good seeing a host who clearly wanted the contestants to do well and make the most of their time inside the magic rectangle. If only Challenge encouraged more ideas like this now.

Game Show Memories – Sale Of The Century.

Sale Of The Century (ITV, 1971-1983)

Sale Of The Century isn’t a game show that I remember watching, mostly because the final series on ITV ended a few months after I was born, but I know that it is regarded as one of the most popular game shows of the 1970s, it often gained very high ratings, and it was successful enough to run for over a decade, so I decided to watch a few clips on YouTube to discover what the show was all about.

Sale Of The Century was based on an American format and produced by Anglia for ITV, one of the middle-sized regions, and this was one of their biggest successes that was shown on the network to the point that they referred to it proudly as “the quiz of the week”. The show was of course presented by Nicholas Parsons live from Norwich and the idea was that contestants could earn money to bag some bargains. vlcsnap-00149

Three contestants took part and they all began with £15. They would be asked various general knowledge questions on the buzzer to win money, usually at the first stage of the game £3 was on offer. Then there is an “instant sale” where an item is announced as being on offer for a bargain price while an organ plays. If the contestant is tempted by this, they buzz in to buy it, and the money is deducted from their score, although this could harm their chances of making the final. vlcsnap-00151

Then this round would be played again, but this time answers would be worth £5. There were a remarkable number of questions that needed to be asked on the show for contestants to have any chance of taking away the big prizes in the final, and some people have estimated that the show asked more questions in its half-hour slot than any other game show of that length in this country. vlcsnap-00148

When the gong went the contestant with the highest score then goes into the final, where they can have a look at what’s on offer and decide what prize they want to take away, and the prizes for the time were very impressive, a little similar to the Showcase on The Price Is Right. In later series they could also gamble for the car if they had made enough money. There was also a celebrity special in 1981 where Nicholas was one of the contestants himself so Steve Jones deputised as host. vlcsnap-00154

Sale Of The Century was popular enough to have a couple of revivals in later years. In the late-80s when Sky One launched the first revival was hosted by Peter Marshall who was also an announcer on Thames at the time, and a second revival in the mid-90s in the early days of Challenge was hosted by Keith Chegwin. I haven’t seen either of these versions though, although the ITV version was repeated on Challenge for a short while and it remains the best-known version.