Game Show Memories – Game Show Stars Part 19.

This is someone whose long career has included a few game shows, that are at the more highbrow end of the genre, although one long-running show overshadows the others. Gordon Burns started out as a host of the news in the UTV region. By the late-70s, he had become the host of ITV’s The Krypton Factor, which would run for almost two decades.

This was of course the quest to find the United Kingdom Superperson in a variety of physical and mental tests. What was interesting about the show was that it always moved with the times, and it was always made sure that everything was kept up to date, from the opening theme and set design, to the technology used in the various rounds.

This meant that various rounds evolved, including the flight simulator being introduced in the Response round, and keypads being used to answer multiple-choice questions against the clock in the Observation round, long before Who Wants To Be A Millionaire came along. The Krypton Factor was always seen as a serious show, which really did challenge its contestants.

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Some people considered that this could be a little dull, but looking back, this definitely wasn’t the case, as he would often provide a breathless commentary on the Physical Ability round, especially when the contestants began to fall off the obstacles, and he was also involved in devising some of the tests used in various rounds, always making sure that things remained up to standard.

By the mid-90s, the format of The Krypton Factor was beginning to be a little tired, and this is another example of a show that had a total overhaul, which just hastened the end, it was felt that they were trying to fix something that wasn’t broken, and if viewers wanted to watch people carrying on as if they were on Gladiators, they would watch Gladiators.

After this, he went on to host a few other shows that had a similar idea. A Word In Ear featured celebrity teams who were challenged to show off how well they could communicate with each other in various games, which often had amusing results, and there was also Relatively Speaking, which was essentially a high-tech attempt at a team version of The Krypton Factor, but this lasted only one series.

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After this, he went back to regional news hosting, this time on the BBC in the north west of England. I had wondered what he was up to after the late-90s, not realising that if I had been up north, I still could’ve seem him on TV regularly. The Krypton Factor is still great to watch in repeat runs, and he also approved of the short-lived revival.

Game Show Memories – The Krypton Factor TV Times Special.

The Krypton Factor TV Times Special (1983)

As a fan of The Krypton Factor, I am always on the lookout for any more specials to review in addition to the regular series. And this is a rather interesting one, as it seems that this was never actually shown on TV. This was before I watched The Krypton Factor or read TV Times, but I presume that there was a competition where viewers could take part in a edition.

As always, the host was Gordon Burns, who insisted that thousands of people had entered this competition. But only four could make it to this stage, and one of them was called William Stewart (not that one!). There would be three rounds instead of the usual six, all taking place in the studio, so they wouldn’t have to get their tracksuits on for a go on the obstacle course. This was about 20 minutes long, and also seemingly featured no studio audience.

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The scoring system was the same, and the winner would receive a specially-made trophy that was a replica of the scoreboard, which was still very much analogue in those days. Round one is Mental Agility, and was based around the game of Battleships. At the end of this, there were joint leaders. Round two is Intelligence, with lots of fiddling about with multi-coloured hexagons. Curiously there wasn’t the usual commentary on their progress to accompany this.

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After this, there is now a clear leader, but will they still be out in front at the end? The third and final round is General Knowledge. Each contestant is asked three questions individually for two points each, and then there are questions on the buzzer for 90 seconds, with one point for a correct answer, and one point deduced for an incorrect answer.

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And after time is up, the winner, with a Krypton Factor of 21, from Christchurch in Dorset, is Nick Jenkins! He then receives the trophy, along with some (probably canned) applause, and he says that he would like to enter the regular series too. I don’t know if this actually happened, but who knows, maybe he was a future superperson in the making.

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 Krypton Factor first and final series comparison.

The Krypton Factor was a long-running success for ITV. I was pleased when some editions from the first series in 1977 turned up online recently, making it possible to do a comparison piece. Now before you all start, I know that the final series of the original run wasn’t in 1993, but the 18th series in 1995 was hugely different to the more familiar format, and I’d rather forget it all happened really.

Scheduling. First series. Shown on Wednesdays at 7pm, and curiously, was just about the only primetime show on ITV that didn’t have an advert break. Final series. The show was now settled at Mondays at 7pm since 1980, and I’m fairly sure that the 17th series was the first to contain an advert break.

Opening sequence. First series. There wasn’t much of one really. Just the show’s title appearing on the screen, before the contestants were introduced with captions. The futuristic-sounding music (by 1977 standards) was by Mike Moran, and used until 1982. Final series. The familiar green and red “K” symbol wasn’t introduced until as late as the 10th series in 1986. The current opening was introduced in 1992, with the contestants now introduced by voiceover, and accompanied by a remix of the theme by The Art Of Noise also introduced in 1986.tkf1

Set design. First series. Rather plain and sparse. Not much beyond the contestants’ chairs, the monitors behind them, and the very much analogue scoreboard. There doesn’t seem to be much evidence of a present studio audience though. Final series. This was a show that always aimed to use the latest technology, and the studio was now very shiny and blue. It still featured the chairs and monitors. tkf2

Gordon Burns. First series. Gordon had hosted various news shows before this. They didn’t even give him a desk to sit at. Final series. Gordon hosted the first 18 series, and by this point he was even credited as being among the team who designed some of the puzzles. He went on to host further game shows including A Word In Your Ear and Relatively Speaking. tkf3

Contestants. First series. People aimed to be the United Kingdom Superperson. The champion’s trophy was an unusual metal sculpture that was able to detect pieces of kryptonite. It’s rather surprising how many computer programmers seemed to take part, even in those days. The scoring system was ten points for first place, six for second, four for third, and two for fourth. There were 11 editions with eight heats, the winners went into the two semi-finals, and the top two in those progressed to the final. Final series. They now played for a gold trophy in the shape of an athlete. The scoring system was the same, and now revealed on a computer-generated scoreboard. They also wore colour coordinated polo shirts. There were 13 editions with three groups with three heats. The heat winners and highest-scoring runner-up went into the group final, and the winners of the group finals and highest-scoring runner-up in those made the final. tkf4

Mental Agility. First series. This was occasionally played as the first of five rounds, alternating with Intelligence. Contestants put their headphones on to hear clues and had to make the right choices, or give answers in a knockout format. Final series. The first of six rounds, contestants stood on a spotlight and were asked testing questions for 40 seconds, their correct answers converted into points. tkf5

Physical Ability. First series. Round two. Contestants were given a handicap. There were various obstacles which took just over a minute to complete in sometimes rather tricky conditions. Gordon provided commentary. Final series. Round four. Again there were handicaps, and there were now 20 tough obstacles, including the famous water slide. Surprisingly, they still wore no protection like helmets. tkf6

Personality. First series. Round three. Contestants had to perform a script they had written on a subject given to them to camera for about 30 seconds in one take. An independent panel then voted for their favourite. Final series. This round probably not surprisingly was dropped after the first series.

Response. First series. The round didn’t feature at this stage, being introduced in 1986. Final series. Round two. The plane simulator had been used for a long time by this point, but that’s because it was determined to be the ultimate in hand/eye/foot co-ordination. Again, Gordon provided commentary. In the final, they had to land a real plane. Crikey.

Observation. First series. Round four. Contestants are shown about a minute’s worth of a film, and then they are asked three questions on what they saw and heard for two points. There was also an identity parade featuring nine people. Spot the one who was in the film for four points. Final series. Round three. They now watch a short sketch specially made for the show. There are then five questions with four options, they select their answer by pressing the button on their keypad as quick as they can. The identity parade had long gone.tkf7

Intelligence. First series. Played occasionally as round one. Contestants had to complete a logic puzzle with various shapes in about 2½ minutes before the buzzer, although this seems to be slightly deceptive, as the round was more likely edited down to 2½ minutes for TV. There was also some bleepy background music. Gordon provided commentary. Final series. Round five. The puzzle solving was the same, but there was now no time limit as such, or background music. tkf8

General Knowledge. First series. Fifth and final round. Questions on the buzzer. One point for a correct answer, one deducted for an incorrect one. There was no fixed time limit, but the round usually lasted three minutes. Every question had a link to the previous one. The camera awkwardly zoomed in as the contestant gave their answer. Final series. Sixth and final round. Still questions on the buzzer, but there was now a fixed time limit of 75 seconds, and it was two points for a correct answer, and two deducted for a wrong one. Everyone was now shown close-up too. tkf9

The YouTube Files – The Krypton Factor USA.

The Krypton Factor (ABC, 1981)

If you are a regular you will know that The Krypton Factor is one of my favourite game shows, and wondering how many variations have been made over the years, I was interested to discover that an American version was made in the early-80s. It was hosted by Dick Clark, a veteran presenter who appeared on TV for decades, and the show was described as the ultimate test of mental and physical abilities. vlcsnap-00105

Four contestants from across the country took part in five rounds (or “phases” as they were called here). Phase one was the reflex test. The contestants had to complete a challenge on an Atari computer game that was impressive technology at the time, which was a test of hand-eye co-ordination. If they were successful they scored five points. Phase two was mental agility. Two questions were asked about various words and numbers. Get the first question right and score four points. Get it wrong and they are eliminated from the round. Get the second question right and score six points for a maximum of ten. vlcsnap-00104

Phase three was physical ability. This was the assault course round and the obstacles were very tough to complete, possibly even more so than the British version. Every contestant started at the same time, there were no head starts, and the winner of this round scored 20 points, with 15 points for coming second, 10 points for coming third, and five points for coming fourth. vlcsnap-00109

Phase four was observation. Contestants had to watch a film clip, and then they would be asked two questions about what they saw and heard, with four points for getting the first question correct, and six points for the second. There would then be an identity parade where contestants would have to spot an actor who appeared in the scene from a line-up of six for a bonus of ten points. vlcsnap-00110

Phase five was general knowledge. Questions were asked on the buzzer, with two points for a correct answer, and two deducted for an incorrect answer. At the midway point in the round, this increased to four points for a correct answer, four points deducted for an incorrect answer. When time was up, the contestant with the highest score won $5,000 and was invented to return for the final at the end of the series. vlcsnap-00114

There were four heats, with the four winners going into the final, with the star prize being $50,000. Also in 1981, two of the finalists in the US version played two contestants from the UK version in an international special. It seems that this version of The Krypton Factor wasn’t a huge success though, it only ran for five editions. In 1990 there was a second attempt at an American version featuring younger contestants but again this didn’t do very well.

Game Show Memories – The Krypton Factor International.

At the start of 2007, the now long-gone digital channel FTN began a repeat run of various game shows including classic series of The Krypton Factor, beginning with the 1987 series (the second to feature the famous green and red “K” symbol, and the 11th overall) which was famously won by Marion Chanter, the only female contestant to become the United Kingdom Superperson. FTN also repeated the 1988-1992 series and unsurprisingly their ratings went up. What I didn’t realise though was that several specials were made too, including the 1983 celebrity special that I reviewed recently, and there was also an international special.

Over the years several versions of The Krypton Factor were made around the world, including a short run in America in the early-80s where it wasn’t very successful. However, in the late-80s versions in Australia and New Zealand did much better, so in March 1988 there was a special edition where the UK’s reigning champion Marian Chanter and series runner-up Alison Heath took on the series champions from the Australia and New Zealand versions which was hosted as ever by Gordon Burns. The overall winner of this special would win a trophy and could essentially call themselves The Krypton Factor champion of the universe. vlcsnap-01620

The format was similar to the regular series, only there were five rounds contested instead of six as there was no response round. The first round was the mental agility round, which was played in the style of a knockout round, with contestants having to memorise lists of increasing difficulty. The second round was observation, where the contestants had to watch a specially-made short film twice which was performed by the same cast who appeared in the 1987 series and then make a note of the five differences. vlcsnap-01621

The third round was mental agility with the famous obstacle course. The British contestants would have had something of an advantage here as this would have been the fourth time that they had tackled the course, however the Australia and New Zealand contestants also had this round in their version which featured an equally tough course. Although it was close Marian Chanter wins this round once again and she didn’t even fall into a pool of smelly water on this occasion. vlcsnap-01622

The fourth round is intelligence. Again the contestants have to complete a challenging puzzle. The final round is general knowledge, as ever answering questions on the buzzer against the clock. As it turns out the winner is Britain’s Alison Heath who receives the trophy, with Marian Chanter in second place. vlcsnap-01625

This was definitely an enjoyable variation on The Krypton Factor, and there were several special editions made alongside the regular series between 1978 and 1990. There was also a CITV version for child contestants called Young Krypton which was hosted by Ross King and ran for a couple of series from 1988-1989. Unfortunately as the revival came to a quick end in 2010 the only way we’ll be seeing The Krypton Factor back on our screens any time soon it seems is if Challenge extract some more classic series from the archive.

Game Show Memories – The Krypton Factor Special.

The Krypton Factor is one of my favourite game shows and it seems that as well as the regular series, there were a lot of variations over the years, such as celebrity specials and champions specials, so I have decided to review a special edition from 1983, partly because it seems to be the oldest complete edition of The Krypton Factor online and I thought it would be interesting to see how the show evolved over the years. 

This is a “Great Britons” special featuring people who had completed impressive endurance feats in 1983 and as usual it is hosted by Gordon Burns who hosted The Krypton Factor for 18 years. The first thing that is noticeable is the title sequence, using the best computer technology available at the time, but not featuring the green and red “K” symbol or The Art Of Noise theme as neither of those were introduced until 1986, the 10th series. Although the rounds are slightly different too the format is essentially the same as ever with four contestants competing in the demanding mental and psychical tests over five rounds. 

In the first round which is mental agility contestants are given nine statements about events that happened in 1983, and they must pick the four that are correct. Then round two is the physical ability round, where the notoriously difficult obstacle course has to be tackled, but for these four talented sportspeople it shouldn’t turn out to be too difficult to complete compared to some of their achievements, even on a wet day in December. vlcsnap-01593

In the third round it’s time to take the tracksuits off and return to the studio for the intelligence round, one round that I always found interesting to watch and the contestants have to solve a tough numbers puzzle as quickly as they can. Round four is observation. Contestants have to watch a short clip of a drama, then answer questions on what they saw and then also identify an actor who appeared in the clip from a lineup. vlcsnap-01594

The final round is general knowledge. All four contestants are asked questions individually on their specialist subject, and then they compete against one another on the buzzer against the clock in the more familiar style, with all the questions being about events that happened in 1983. As it turned out, the eventual clear winner was the man who ran the Himalayas, Richard Crane, who wins some money to donate to the charity of his choice. vlcsnap-01595

It was great seeing a vintage edition of The Krypton Factor featuring sportspeople as contestants and it really is remarkable to think that the first series was almost 40 years ago now. The show was also imported to a few other countries and a special edition featuring winning contestants from across the world has also appeared online so I’ll be looking back at that variation too soon. vlcsnap-01596

Game Show Memories – The Krypton Factor revival.

The Krypton Factor 2 (ITV1, 2009-2010)

After The Krypton Factor came to a somewhat disappointing end in 1995, there were frequent rumours that the show would eventually return to the screen, and after an absence of nearly 14 years, it finally did on ITV1 at the start of 2009. The new host of the show was Ben Shephard and he was insistent that as it was finally brought into the new millennium The Krypton Factor would remain TV’s toughest quiz.

The format for the first series of the revival was that four contestants from across the UK would take part every week in five rounds. There would be seven heats, with the seven winners and the highest-scoring runner-up going into the two semi-finals and the two highest scorers in those making the final to play for the prestigious trophy. The scoring system remained the same. vlcsnap-00667

Round one was Mental Agility. It was much like in the original version but the contestants had to take the challenge in The Kube. There were against the clock number or letter challenges. Before this each contestant was introduced with a brief biography and afterwards they spoke to Ben about how they got on. Viewers were also invited to try the games themselves via the website. vlcsnap-00668

Round two was Observation, there was no Response round in this version. A short clip of a drama from the ITV archive was shown such as Inspector Morse or The Darling Buds Of May and then contestants were asked about questions about what they saw and heard. Some individually, and then some on the buzzer. vlcsnap-00669

Round three was Intelligence. The contestants had to solve a puzzle within a time limit, sometimes making physical objects or using computer touchscreens to create a picture. vlcsnap-00670

Round four was Physical Ability. A rather tough obstacle course had to be navigated. This round was somewhat different from the original version, only two contestants competed at a time and they wore lots of safety equipment including a helmet which also had a camera attached to it. Also, because the course took about seven minutes to complete what we saw was edited down somewhat. vlcsnap-00671

Round five was General Knowledge. 70 seconds of rapid questions on the buzzer with two points for a correct answer and one point deducted for an incorrect one. This was of course the round that determined the winner and it would be an exciting finish if the scores were particularly close. vlcsnap-00672

I did wonder what a revival of The Krypton Factor would be like were it ever to happen and I must admit that I was rather impressed. It has always been a show that has embraced the latest technology and there was an impressive modern set design and there had clearly been a lot of thought put into the production of the show, and Ben Shephard handled the hosting of the show well and I thought that it could definitely continue for years if they kept this format. vlcsnap-00665

However, when the show did return for another series in 2010 there were some format changes, some not very good. There were now only four rounds with Intelligence being dropped, and there seemed to be a lot more audience cutaways with them all cheering and waving signs as if it was The X Factor or something, diluting the gravitas of the show somewhat, and there was a lot of annoying background music too. However, the obstacle course was redesigned so that all four contestants now competed at the same time and it was easier to follow what was happening.

The show didn’t return after that, meaning that the revival only lasted for two years, with the second series being rather disappointing and it wasn’t a massive success in the ratings. Overall though it was definitely a good try at reviving this classic game show.

Game Show Memories – The Krypton Factor.

The Krypton Factor (ITV, 1977-1993)

The Krypton Factor was the long-running search for who was best in a series of mental and physical tests to become the overall series champion and the “United Kingdom Superperson”. People from all walks of life took part but it seems that being a 35-year-old computer programmer helped. The show was hosted by Gordon Burns and it was a great success. Most series were split into six rounds so here’s how it worked. vlcsnap-00428

Round one was Mental Agility. Contestants had to memorise a phrase or some numbers and were then asked questions against the clock on them. Looking back now this round is a straight one-on-one between contestant and host, no pounding background music, no fancy effects, just someone being challenged to do their best. vlcsnap-00429

Round two was Response. Contestants had to sit in a flight simulator and land a plane. This was seen as the ultimate test in hand/eye/foot coordination at the time and the performances ranged from superb to disastrous. In the final they had to perform a landing in a spaceship simulator or even a real plane. vlcsnap-00430

Round three was Observation. Contestants had to watch a short specially made for the show comedy or drama sketch and then answer questions on what they saw. Lots of famous names took part in the sketches including Andrew O’Connor, Steve Coogan, Roy Barraclough, Matthew Kelly, Tony Robinson, Tony Slattery and many others. vlcsnap-00431

Round four was Mental Agility. Contestants took part in a gruelling obstacle course. This round was always great to watch, and there were some remarkable moments including contestants falling off the obstacles, landing in some smelly water and some exciting close finishes. Looking back it seems a great surprise now that the contestants wore no safety equipment and there were some injuries. vlcsnap-00427

Round five was Intelligence. Contestants had to solve a logical puzzle. Some of these were very creative and it is said that this round could go on for over an hour before it was edited down to a couple of minutes for the programme. vlcsnap-00432

Round six was General Knowledge. Just answer questions on the buzzer in the allotted time. At the end, whoever had the highest “Krypton Factor” was declared the winner and some the expressions on the contestant’s faces when they realised that they had triumphed were terrific. vlcsnap-00433

The series winner received the trophy which was considered a very prestigious honour and some very talented people appeared on the show over the years on what was considered “television’s toughest quiz”. The show also made the best of the technology that was available at the time, a lot of thought and care had clearly been put into the making of the show which was all pleasingly rounded off with the professional hosting by Gordon Burns. vlcsnap-00434

It’s a surprise to realise that The Krypton Factor started in the 1970s, and the distinctive “K” symbol that people remember didn’t appear until the tenth series in 1986. I do remember watching the later years, and I was really pleased when FTN began a repeat run of the 1987-1992 series, followed by Challenge showing the 1993 series. It was great seeing it again and it definitely ranks as one of my all-time favourite game shows. vlcsnap-00435

You will notice that I described the show in my introduction as ending in 1993, when of course there was a series in 1995. Seemingly realising that after 18 years the format might have become a little tired, there was a doomed attempt to make the show bigger and better with all the “super round” nonsense. This killed the show off and I’d rather forget that series existed. However, there was an inevitable revival in 2009 that was much better and I might review that soon.