Game Show Memories – Game Show Stars Part 1.

As I have now reviewed just about all of the game shows that I have wanted to, I thought that I would take a look at the careers of some of my favourite game show hosts too. Qualification is to have hosted at least a couple of shows that I have liked, and I’m not sure how many will feature in this series yet, maybe a dozen or so. Let’s begin with one of the big ones.

Bob Monkhouse had one of the longest careers in British TV. As long ago as the 50s he appeared in comedy shows and films (he was in the first Carry On), and he hosted various game shows that don’t seem to have been that great from what I’ve read. By the 70s, Bob was on ITV and hosting The Golden Shot and Celebrity Squares (or “Bob’s Big Box Game” as he preferred to call it).

Into the 80s, Bob hosted ITV’s Family Fortunes, and some could argue that he was at his smarmiest, but he definitely knew how to run a show by this point. After the setback of his unexpected departure, he moved to the BBC, and this turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as this brought us some of his best work, including his comedy chat show which featured a lot of talent, and Bob’s Full House.

Now this is one of my favourite game shows of any era. The music, the set design, the game… Bob made it look easy, and was hugely entertaining whilst doing so. He also went on to host a revival of Opportunity Knocks which was fun too. By the early-90s, Bob went over to ITV again, to host The $64,000 Question, the big money game that couldn’t give away big money, and Bob’s Your Uncle, a rather silly game for newlyweds.

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By the time that the final series of The $64,000 Question went out on Sunday afternoons, Bob did seem bogged down. HIs next series was a revival of Celebrity Squares. It was said that he didn’t know much about the celebrities taking part, when you would’ve thought that as someone who had such a keen interest in comedy (and tried to record every comedy show on TV) he would’ve chosen them himself to help nurture new talent.

But then his career received a big boost after his An Audience With… reminded people of his skills as a comedian. And along with a much-acclaimed autobiography, and some more great comedy shows, Bob was suddenly back on top. He finished off by hosting the daytime version of Wipeout, which ran for hundreds of editions. And it was by this point that to some extent he finally felt he had been accepted as the grand veteran of both game shows and TV comedy.

By the time that Bob went in 2003, he was praised for his abilities as a game show host, and as a comedian who had a remarkable recall for witty jokes and a marvellous mirth-maker, he remains much-missed. Bob had always intended to be in showbusiness for the long haul and be the one that endured with viewers. He wanted to be as famous at 75 as he was at 25, and I definitely think that he achieved that.

Game Show Memories – The $64,000 Question.

The $64,000 Question (ITV, 1990-1993)

Because I have enjoyed a lot of game shows hosted by the great Bob Monkhouse, over the next few days I’ll review a trio of shows that he hosted on ITV in the early/mid-90s. The first one is The $64,000 Question, which is based on an American format that was very popular in the 1950s. Of course, $64,000 wasn’t the maximum prize on offer in the British version, but the title of the show wasn’t changed because Bob insisted “you don’t fool around with successful catchphrases”.

Indeed, the top prize on offer was £6,400 which was the biggest cash prize on British TV at the time. When the show began in 1990, this was actually higher than the amount of cash that could be given away in every edition of a British game show, and they had to ask the regulator to make an exception for them which they did, but even then they could only give the star prize away in every other edition. vlcsnap-01127

The set of the show was very impressive and futuristic for the time, and every edition began with Bob telling some more of his great jokes before the serious work began. The idea of the show was that contestants would answer increasingly difficult questions on a specific subject that they were knowledgeable about, doubling their money with every correct answer. Contestants would also appear over a few editions as they tried to succeed. vlcsnap-01129

When the contestant began to play the show used some new technology with the questions appearing on a screen on the floor that Bob would read by refracting the image on a piece of glass in front of him. I never realised this when I was younger and I was always confused as to why Bob always started every round by seemingly trying to rev a motorbike. The first question was for £1, yes really. vlcsnap-01128

In the first stage of the game contestants answered questions which doubled their money every time. Then the questions would become more difficult as they started on the next stage of the money ladder which began at £100. Questions would become longer, and if they did get one wrong at this stage they took away a consolation prize of a money clip. The £1,600 question was in four parts, which each correct answer revealing part of an image on the screen. If the contestant got the question about the image right they could now play for the big money. vlcsnap-01126

From the question worth £3,200 things would begin to get exciting. For this question the contestant entered an isolation booth, and as they entered there would be this rather fancy sequence as dry ice shooted everywhere and the tense music played. Contestants had to answer a five-part question at this stage. Succeed here and they were guaranteed a chance of playing for the star prize. vlcsnap-01130

In the final, the contestant entered the booth one final time. This time the question was in six parts, but contestants did have the chance to come back to parts if they weren’t sure, and there was a seventh part in reserve if they got one wrong, and if they failed they dropped back to £1,600. If they did manage to complete the challenge though everyone would get very excited and then Bob would congratulate them and present them with a briefcase full of money that in one famous out-take he couldn’t open. vlcsnap-01131

Looking back The $64,000 Question now comes across as a sort-of more highbrow Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, with people having to answer increasingly complicated questions for doubling amounts of money. Bob was always on good form and was clearly impressed by the knowledge of some of the contestants under pressure. The show was produced by Central and ran for four series on Friday evenings and was even popular enough for a board game to produced, plus a phone-in competition that people could play at home. question0001