The YouTube Files – All Clued Up USA.

The $1,000,000 Chance Of A Lifetime (1986-1987)

One game show that I remember watching regularly was All Clued Up, which was shown on ITV in a daytime slot for a few years in the late-80s/early-90s and was rather good. I recently discovered the original American version on YouTube which was an interesting experience, as it has just about the same rules, but the prize on offer was on a much larger scale. vlcsnap-01189

The $1,000,000 Chance Of A Lifetime launched in 1986 and was hosted by Jim Lange. Two teams of two take part. Just like in the UK version, contestants had to solve word clues, and then they could go up to the oversized keyboard and select a couple of letters that they thought would be in the main puzzle to win some money. They would have to beware of the dreaded stinger though! vlcsnap-01187

Three rounds are played, and the winning team would then go into the final, where they would have to solve six word clues on the same category in 60 seconds. If they succeeded, then they could return on the next show to play again. If they won for a second time, they could return for a third and final time, and this time if they made the final, they would be playing for a really huge prize. vlcsnap-01193

If they won the final for the third consecutive time, they would win one million dollars! Although technically they wouldn’t become instant millionaires, they would actually win $40,000 a year for 25 years. That’s ever so slightly more money than was on offer in All Clued Up, and during the run of the series, nine couples went all the way, and there were some very exciting finishes. vlcsnap-01188

When I was watching All Clued Up where in most editions teams would win about £1,000, I never realised that it was based on the very first game show on TV in America where the top prize was a million dollars, a full 13 years before Who Wants To Be A Millionaire launched in that country. The $1,000,000 Chance Of A Lifetime was a syndicated show that ran for just short of two years in America, even offering such a huge prize couldn’t make it a long-running show but it is a very important one in TV history.

The YouTube Files – Strike It Rich USA.

Strike It Rich (1986-1987)

Here’s another original American version of a game show that was more successful in the UK. Strike It Rich began in 1986 (featuring a similar diamond symbol to the UK version), and it was hosted by Joe Garagiola. I managed to find some editions on YouTube, and I noticed that there were some differences in the rules, although the basic idea of the game was the same. vlcsnap-01164

Strike It Rich seemed to be played on a slightly smaller scale than the UK version, presumably because it was in a shorter timeslot. Firstly, two teams of two took part instead of three, and there were nine screens used in the game instead of ten. Also, when teams have to answer questions to gain moves, they have five options to choose from instead of six, and they can play for one, two or three moves, instead of two, three or four. vlcsnap-01169

Another difference is that the teams play the game together, there isn’t one answering the questions, and one pressing the screens. Once they press the button, the prize is revealed and they can decide whether to bank it or risk pressing the next screen, because they lose their unbanked prizes if they find a screen featuring a character called “The Bandit”, which was changed in the UK version to a Hot Spot. vlcsnap-01160

At the final screen, the team has to answer a question correctly. If they do, they make the final, which again, was slightly different. Because there were only two rows of screens, they only had to decide whether they wanted to pick the top screen or the bottom one. One contestant stands on the top row, and the other on the bottom, and after making their choice, they press the screen to reveal the randomly selected result. vlcsnap-01175

If they reveal a dollar sign, they win some money and move on to the next screen, but if they reveal a Bandit they don’t win anything. If they can find more dollar signs than Bandits they can win a bonus prize too, and they can also return for the next edition as reigning champions. In this version there was a lot more money on offer, and prizes such as cars were on offer. vlcsnap-01178

Strike It Rich was a syndicated show which was only on TV in America for about a year and it didn’t really catch on, it was much more popular in the UK where as both Strike It Lucky and Strike It Rich it ran for about 13 years, where it was helped along by Michael Barrymore who was always an enthusiastic presenter, along with some entertaining contestants, and the amount of comedy on the show was increased too, and it would go on to become one of my favourite game shows of that era.

The YouTube Files – Catchphrase USA.

Catchphrase (1985-1986)

Here’s a review of another game show was short-lived in America but became popular in the UK. Catchphrase began on American TV in 1985 and it was hosted by Art James. The basic idea of the show was the same, two contestants having to determine what the famous phrases are that are being animated on the screen to win prizes, although there were a few differences to the rules, as I discovered when I watched some editions on YouTube. vlcsnap-01153

The contestants had to solve the computer-generated puzzles, I don’t know whether any of these were recycled for the UK version but it could be possible. They had to wait for the bell and then buzz in (different buzzer noise!) to determine the phrase. There was one flaw in the rules though. When a contestant got a phrase right, they didn’t win any money, it went into the bonus bank, meaning that you only won the money by solving the bonus. This meant that a contestant could get eight out of nine phrases right and not win any money, thankfully this was changed for the UK version. vlcsnap-01154

There is no Ready Money Round as such, but the money on offer does increase for every round, and there was much more money on offer than the UK version. Another thing that is notable is the host who although he moved the show along well enough doesn’t say anything like “say what you see”, and the contestants seem to be much more excitable. vlcsnap-01158

One more thing that I noticed was that the famous Catchphrase mascot Mr Chips does appear, but in this version he is called Herbie, and hearing the host say “there’s Herbie” is a little odd too. When the main game is over, the contestant with the most money goes into the final. This is just about the same as the UK version, where contestants have to get five clues in a row right on a 5×5 grid in 60 seconds, but the US version had a reigning champion format, meaning that they could return the next day to play for even more money, and they could appear up to five times before having to retire, meaning they could win as much as $75,000 if they did well. vlcsnap-01152

Catchphrase had a very short run in the US, it was syndicated, shown five days a week, and ran for 65 editions, or the equivalent of 13 weeks, and apart from a failed attempt of a revival in 2006, it hasn’t been seen in that country again. About one week after the American version ended, Catchphrase came to the UK where it was much more successful, and indeed it’s still on ITV after over three decades. This was another game show variation that I enjoyed seeing, and I’ll be looking at another one soon.

The YouTube Files – Blockbusters USA.

Blockbusters (NBC, 1980-1982, 1987)

Blockbusters is one of my all-time favourite game shows, it wasn’t until long after I first watched the show on ITV that I discovered that it was based on an American format. I always wondered what that was like, and thanks to the magic of YouTube, I have now been able to see some for myself. The American version of Blockbusters launched in 1980 and was shown on NBC on weekday mornings, replacing The David Letterman Show in the schedules. 

Blockbusters was originally hosted by Bill Cullen, who was a TV presenter veteran in America who hosted a wide variety of game shows throughout his long career. The first thing to notice is that although the basic idea of the game is the same, featuring a team of one taking on a team of two and questions with one-word answers, some notable differences to the British version become clear. First of all, the contestants taking part are adults instead of students. vlcsnap-01130

Also, the 5×4 gameboard (which wasn’t computer generated at first) featured the single team playing with red hexagons, and the double team playing with white hexagons, and it took a while for me to stop thinking that the white team were going the wrong way across the board. Also, there was no money on offer for each correct answer, but teams won a bonus amount of money if they did win a game. vlcsnap-01129

The winning team then went on to the Gold Run (originally called the Gold Rush), and just like the UK version, they had to get from one side of the board to the other in 60 seconds, and if they did, they would win a cash prize, usually $5,000. By the end of the series, contestants could play up to 20 Gold Runs, meaning that they could take part on the show for a very long time and win a lot of money. vlcsnap-01119

Blockbusters wasn’t a big success in America, it ended in 1982 after a couple of years, and launched on ITV a year later where it would run for about a decade, and that’s not including the later revivals. There was also a brief revival of Blockbusters on NBC in 1987. This time Bill Rafferty was the host and a computer-generated board was used. One major change was that the show was now one against one which looks rather odd and if they went to a third deciding game the board was redesigned to be 4×4 to make it a little more equal. vlcsnap-01134

Discovering American versions of classic game shows definitely has been an enjoyable experience for me, it’s always interesting seeing how shows started out and how they developed in other countries, and when I decided to look for other American game shows that would become a bigger success in this country, and I found a couple more that I liked the look of, and I’ll review those here soon too.

The YouTube Files – A classic Stars In Their Eyes moment.

Stars In Their Eyes (ITV, 1994)

Recently I wrote a blog piece about when I discovered something about the pop group Bananarama that really blew my mind, if you haven’t read it yet, you should! Whilst putting the piece together I was reminiscing about Siobhan Fahey’s other group, top goth-rockers Shakespear’s Sister, and when trying to track down some more information, I had an odd thought: “were they ever done on Stars In Their Eyes?”. As far as I know, people could only take part individually, performing as solo artists or the frontman or woman from groups, I’m not aware of duos being able to appear, so I thought it was rather unlikely, oh well, it would’ve been good but it was just a thought, it doesn’t matter. vlcsnap-01020

I’ve already written about Stars In Their Eyes on here and I’m sure you remember how it all works, the main elements being Matthew Kelly and his waistcoats, people coming on stage to perform as their pop idol for five minutes of fame, an entertaining Saturday night show on ITV throughout the 90s. When I was fiddling about on Google recently, I noticed an image of a YouTube video thumbnail of what appeared to be Matthew welcoming two women to the stage. I thought that duos didn’t take part. Then I thought, well, two young women, performing as a duo, how many successful female pop duos were there in the early-90s… wait a moment, they’re not going to be… are they? You are kidding me. vlcsnap-01018

So I tracked down the video to watch on YouTube (in fuzzy YouTube-o-Vision, but it’s better than nothing for now), and Emma and Julie who both work in a pub in Oswestry, Shropshire (who can also do a great impression of Zig and Zag) went through those famous doors, and well shut my face, they only did come back out as Siobhan and Marcella didn’t they? I know that Stars In Their Eyes liked to feature a wide variety of pop acts, from 50s crooners to 90s indie blokes, but I never expected this, the show was about to get a little weird. And of course they go on to perform the 1992 chart-topping blockbuster “Stay”. The performance is also rather faithful to the famous award-winning video, there’s even a dead man (well probably) wheeled on to the stage to crank up the emotion. (I should also point out that this edition is from 1994 by which point Siobhan and Marcella had gone their separate ways.) vlcsnap-01050

How did they do? Well they definitely didn’t do too badly at imitating them, as if there could ever be another, and then at the end Matthew kindly congratulated the ladies on their performance, the experience really had been a dream come true for them. They didn’t win though however, they were beaten by Jim Reeves who went into the final. I am so thrilled to discover that it actually happened though, two ladies wanting to do that on ITV prime-time in what must be the most bizarre moment in the 16-year history of Stars In Their Eyes, I can only wonder what viewers made of it. I’ll try and stop going on about Shakespear’s Sister now, I really should buy their album one day… 

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EXTRA! They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so along with Stars In Their Eyes, here are three other occasions that I’m aware of where people donned the old make-up to imitate Shakespear’s Sister in various TV shows in the early-90s. First, the most famous one is by French and Saunders (with Dawn French as Siobhan and Jennifer Saunders as Marcella), who memorably parodied their videos “Goodbye Cruel World”, “Stay”, and “I Don’t Care”. (In 1989 French and Saunders did a parody of Bananarama for Comic Relief as Lananeeneenoonoo, With Dawn French as Keren, Jennifer Saunders as Sara and Kathy Burke as Jacquie. Also, Marcella Detroit appeared in two episodes of Jennifer Saunders’s sitcom Absolutely Fabulous). Second, in the sketch show The Mary Whitehouse Experience, there was a parody by Robert Newman (as Marcella) and David Baddiel (as Siobhan), who were introduced as “that equally talented vocal partnership”, the joke being that Siobhan literally honked her way through the songs and was outshone by Marcella. Best of all, proof that they had become a cultural reference was when the video for the 1993 Christmas Number One by Noel Edmonds’s mate Mr Blobby also featured a parody of the “Stay” video. Now there’s a legacy to be proud of! vlcsnap-01057

The YouTube Files – An Evening With LWT.

An Evening With LWT (ITV, 1987)

After writing a piece about an old continuity clip from the Thames region that I enjoyed watching on YouTube, I wanted to do the equivalent for LWT, the other ITV region that we could get in London. Recently I did come across an old LWT continuity clip and I liked it so much that I “liked” it if that makes sense, and I decided that it was worth reviewing here. It was shown on 18 July 1987 (just after my 4th birthday) and features adverts and continuity around the late film 9 To 5. It was uploaded to YouTube by a user called “thesearethedays” so credit goes to them. vlcsnap-00988

Just before the film, there are the LWT News Headlines. LWT still didn’t have a proper news service at this point, the continuity announcer appeared in-vision to read the news, it wasn’t until the start of 1988 that their regular news programme launched. Then there’s the famous LWT ident which was introduced in 1986 and was used for a few years which I am just about old enough to remember. I also wanted to highlight some of my favourite adverts that appear in the clip. vlcsnap-00989

One notable one is for Budweiser where some men sing “The Tracks Of My Tears”. One of them looks a little like a young Jerome Flynn. I’m not sure if it is him or not, but I do know that he had three Number One singles in the 90s with his mate Robson Green so seemingly all that singing in adverts came in useful eventually. There is also an advert for the Five Alive drink that came in cartons. Without wishing to sound too cliched, I’m not sure if they still make this drink, whatever happened to it? I definitely remember it. vlcsnap-00992

There is also a rather odd advert for the Cadbury’s Double Decker chocolate bar, it’s “crunchy and chewy”. Also featuring are adverts for Diet Pepsi (with NutraSweet!) and Miller Lite with the “it ain’t heavy” slogan, which about a year later would lead to “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” by The Hollies becoming a Number One single after it was used as part of this campaign. We then come to my favourite advert in the whole clip… vlcsnap-00994

It’s Cadbury’s Crunchie! I’ve always liked this advert, it’s rather hard to describe it though. It features someone with a horrid suit and big bow-tie saying that Crunchie bars give him “that Friday feeling”, and it also seems to use a lot of creative stop-motion effects, none of the advert seems to be computer generated. The “thank Crunchie it’s Friday” slogan was used for a long time and I still remember it. It’s just a shame that I actually don’t like Crunchies… vlcsnap-00996

Then there’s an advert for radio station LBC influenced by TV show The Prisoner. I don’t think that the current LBC on-air is related to this version of LBC, but there have been so many owners and relaunches it’s difficult to keep track of the history. Then that’s it. Following the weather, there’s a look at the programmes that are coming on Sunday evening, including game show Tarby’s Frame Game and an episode from the first series of sitcom Watching. This is followed by the National Anthem (Thames never played it) and what has to be one of the final closedowns on LWT before they went 24-hours. It was really great to watch this clip and be able to go back in time nearly three decades. After all this time I still really enjoy old continuity clips, and this is definitely one of the best that I’ve seen from the LWT region. vlcsnap-00997

The YouTube Files – The Great Bong.

The Great Bong (ITV/Channel 4, 1993-1994-ish)

Recently I bought some old editions of TV Times online, hoping to bring back some memories of various shows that I watched. One of them was from 1994 and covered the HTV region. Even though I’ve never been there myself, I still thought that it would be interesting to look at. I started by looking at Saturday’s schedule on ITV which reminded me of when I used to watch the CITV Saturday Morning show, which was followed by another favourite of mine The Chart Show.

Then following this was the 12:30pm timeslot where I remember various shows were tried out including Movies Games And Videos, rotten sitcom The Munsters Today, some game show that was hosted by Dominik Diamond, and many others. On this day I noticed that in this slot there was a show called The Great Bong. I don’t ever remember seeing this myself, I don’t think that it was ever shown on CITV or in my region LWT, and the description made me rather curious as to what the show was all about, so I asked on Twitter if anyone knew anything more about it. 

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What’s going on here?

I was told that it was a children’s show which contained puppets, and after seeing a picture I thought that they looked a little like the cast of The Winjin’ Pom, a show that I really enjoyed in the early-90s and it was one of the first that I wrote about on here, but I don’t think that it’s made by the same people. I was also told that the voices were provided by Stanley Unwin (who voiced Bong), Michael Bentine (Spudley), Spike Milligan (Ogmore) and Barbara Windsor (Mabel), which is a rather impressive cast. So I began to think to myself, this sounds good, I would like to see some of this, is there any on YouTube? vlcsnap-00979

So I had a look and discovered that there was, although it comes to about two minutes worth, only the opening and closing sequences. It seems that the main character was a magician called Bong who lived in an old oak tree who was always creating crazy spells and they all have various adventures. It also seems that 26 episodes were made and they were shown on Channel 4 on early Sunday mornings, and also on HTV as well because they co-produced the show. vlcsnap-00980

The Great Bong seems to be a rather odd show, I probably would have become a fan and watched it regularly if I had ever seen it in the early-90s. However, there isn’t a huge amount about the show online and it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry, but it is always good to track down something curious almost 25 years after it first appeared on TV because just when I think I’ve come across them all I still get surprised. vlcsnap-00987