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 – The Alphabet Game.

The Alphabet Game (BBC1, 1996-1997)

The Alphabet Game was a weekday daytime show hosted and co-created by Andrew O’Connor who if you’re a regular reader to this blog will know I am a fan of some of the shows that he hosted over the years, and I think that this was the last one that he did, before he went on to have further success behind the scenes as a producer of many more quirky TV shows. (Sorry about the fuzzy pictures by the way, I recorded an episode back in the old analogue TV days and I had a rubbish aerial.)

Every day two teams of three took part, featuring two celebrities and one contestant. There was also a fifth celebrity taking part who acted as judge alongside Andrew. The celebrities would be of the Paul Ross/Frank Bough variety and stay all week and rotate so all of them had one go at being judge. Unsurprisingly the games on the show were all based around the letters of the alphabet. vlcsnap-01158

In the first round a statement would be given such as “things I would do if I won the lottery” and then answers would have to be given beginning with every letter of the alphabet. This meant that some of the contestants had to be rather creative with their answers, and if their opponents thought their answer wasn’t very good they could challenge, which is where the judge came in who would debate with Andrew if they would accept the answer, with points being given for every accepted answer. vlcsnap-01159

There was then another round where a word chain had to be created, with another statement being given and every answer having to begin with the last letter of the previous one. There was also a round where a contestant had written down a word beginning with a specific letter and the opponents had to guess what it was. vlcsnap-01162

The next round was where a phrase was given and contestants had to offer a statement connected to the phrase that began with every letter of it, sort of in the style of an acrostic poem. They then went back round to playing the first round again until they ran out of time or all the contestants lost their mind, with the highest-scoring team going through to the final. vlcsnap-01160

In the final the teams simply have to answer five questions correctly in 60 seconds to win the contestant the star prize of a personal organiser. They were fancy in those days, honest. They answer the questions by only giving the first letter of every word, so if the answer is “Chariots Of Fire” they have to say “COF” to be correct, sort of a Blockbusters Gold Run in reverse. vlcsnap-01161

The Alphabet Game ran for a couple of series and I thought it was good fun but it’s not one of the better remembered BBC daytime game shows. Trying to find out more about the show and who appeared on it I looked on the BBC Genome but it seems that Radio Times never really wrote a description in their pages ever more specific than simply “Quiz”, and there is no Wikipedia entry for the show, and I don’t think it’s ever been repeated on Challenge. However, the format was sold around the world to countries including Spain where their version of the show continues to be very popular.