Game Show Memories – Game Show Stars Part 12.

My next choice to feature in this series might be a surprise to some people, as maybe he isn’t as well-known as some of the others. This might lead to people thinking things like “do you really think that he is one of the greats?” and “surely you’re not putting him in the same bracket as Bruce Forsyth and the like?”, and I’m not really, although he might be a B-list name compared to most, he hosted some shows that I enjoyed, and for me, that’s enough to qualify.

Andrew O’Connor is someone who has had a rather varied career, as well as being a game show host, he has also been a magician, comedian, producer, and much more. He first appeared on TV in the mid-80s, doing his comedy thing on shows including 3-2-1 and Copy Cats, and he also contributed to children’s TV shows including The Joke Machine and On The Waterfront.

In the late-80s, he became the second host of Chain Letters, which at this point was briefly shown in a primetime slot. He also contributed some of his impressions to the Observation round on The Krypton Factor. By the early-90s, he was appearing in CITV’s sitcom Kappatoo. He also hosted One To Win, which although the format was rather similar to Bob’s Full House, this was actually based on an American show called Trump Card.

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And there was Sky Runners, which was an attempt at a team version of Treasure Hunt, which got no further than a pilot shown quietly on a Bank Holiday. Second Guess was another less successful one, shown in the early days of The Family Channel. He was also guaranteed to be good value as a panellist, including regular appearances on Through The Keyhole. By this point, he was also working behind the scenes on game shows, including being the co-creator of Incredible Games and Lose A Million.

In the mid-90s he co-hosted Happy Families, a Saturday Night show that was a little similar to Gladiators, which was when BBC1 was struggling to find some new popular entertainment shows. My favourite of all his game shows has got to be Talk About, which had a rather surreal twist, as most of the contestants were clearly drawn from the “where on earth did we find them?” pile, and there was at least one edition where he couldn’t stop laughing at how useless they were at playing the game. It was great, honest. And he did it all while wearing a horrible waistcoat.

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He then hosted Family Catchphrase, and there was a celebrity edition where Bob Holness was a contestant, who gave him some advice on game show hosting, which I’m sure was definitely worth listening to. Finally in the late-90s there was The Alphabet Game, which he also co-created. This format was then sold around the world, becoming popular in Spain, where the star prize would often rollover until reaching seven figures. This then came back to the UK as Alphabetical.

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Since then, he has concentrated mostly on production work, which has made him a few quid over the years, including being behind several shows about magic and illusions, and he also directed the Mitchell And Webb film Magicians. I don’t have any problem with him being among my favourites. Oh, and he’s no relation to Des. Or Tom.

Game Show Memories – Talk About.

Talk About (ITV, 1990-1993)

Talk About was an early-90s ITV daytime game show that was based on a Canadian format and it was hosted by the mighty Andrew O’Connor and his terrific waistcoats. It’s a show that is a real forgotten gem which deserves to be better known, not only because it was one of the best daytime game shows of its era, alongside the likes of Lucky Ladders, but also because it was actually somewhat funny and even surreal.

Two teams of two took part, and they usually featured rather extrovert characters, although they had to be really because this was a game where being something of a loudmouth would be to your advantage. Andrew would give one of the teams two quirky categories to choose from, for example: “do you want to talk about plumbers or plums?”. The team would then decide. vlcsnap-00023

One of the players on the team would then have 20 seconds to talk on the category. There were ten hit words that were predetermined that it was likely someone would say when talking about that category, and for each one they said they scored one point. Then the other team member spoke on the same category for the same amount of time. This would be rather funny as the contestants struggled to talk quickly and get the right words, and even Andrew couldn’t believe their efforts half the time. There was also a bonus for getting all ten but this didn’t happen much. vlcsnap-00025

When time was up Andrew would go over to the other team who up to this point had been wearing headphones which were playing them rather odd noises so they didn’t know what was happening. He would show them the hit words that were not said, and if the team could guess in five seconds what the category was from these words they would steal the points, although rather often their guesses were wide of the mark. Then it was time for their turn with two new categories on offer. This would carry on until a team got to 15 points and they would then go through to the bonus round. vlcsnap-00026

In this again one of the team members had to talk on a category, this time scoring £20 for every hit word that they got. Then there was the gamble, where if their teammate who up to this point had been isolated said one of the unsaid hit words in ten seconds they doubled the money, or if they said a specific unsaid hit word in the number of seconds of how many hit words were already said, they would “double-double” their money, meaning that a maximum of £800 could be won in one game. This led to the best-known incident on the show, when Andrew shouted that the category was “undertaker”, which messed up the team’s game as that was actually the specific hit word that they needed to get to win the double-double. The champions would then meet their next opponents and the first game starts again, with a team staying on for up to five games before retiring. vlcsnap-00024

Talk About was also a show where games would straddle over into the next show, and on one occasion this led to one of the oddest moments that I’ve ever seen on a game show. Because Andrew realised that they had run out of time for the day, he said to the in-play team “shall we just leave them there?”, and then they walked off, leaving the final shot of the show as one empty podium on one side, and the other team still stood at their podium with their headphones on not knowing what had happened, and then the credits started. How strange. vlcsnap-00027

Talk About was brilliant stuff, and it really is up there as one of the best and funniest game shows that I’ve seen, and why Andrew O’Connor hasn’t received an OBE or such a thing for his outstanding contribution to cheap daytime games I’ll never know. Also, I’d like to thank Oliver Ashmole who recently uploaded an edition of this show online as I have been wanting to see it again for a long time and it brought back some great memories. vlcsnap-00028