An unsettling journey into the dangerous world of the turn-of-the-decade daytime quiz.
FIRST THINGS first, this doesn't really count as nostalgia. Not only because most of it's only a few years old. This is not stuff that was ever designed to be memorable, or remembered, so the producers could drag the same thing out for as long as possible without having to bother thinking up any new ideas. No, we're poking around these still-smoking corpses to have a look at the point when satellite and deregulation really started to kick in on British TV, spewing out tons of these interchangeable neon game shows, hosted by a variety of interchangeable semi-entities, for the viewing pleasure of a bunch of idiots (ie. us). Due to come back into "ironic" vogue next year, between the 23rd and 30th of September. A Kettering-based Grand Royal magazine would run an article perming any eight from these gems -
GOING FOR GOLD (1987)
PAN-CONTINENTAL LATE 80s joke, mainly thanks to ludicrously ambitious Euro-harmony raison d'etre, and much-derided sub-Wogan compere HENRY KELLY (cf Game For A Laugh).
Original incarnation offered holiday to Seoul Olympics as first prize (cue animation of Olympic mascot swirling a ribbon thing on his head), later series strained to maintain golden theme, hence much ballyhoo about trips to pan for gold in the Australian outback, mentioned by Kelly about seven times a show (and repeated the next morning). Bland as hell, how-many-cliches-can-we-fit-in theme: "The heat is on, the time is right, it's time for you, for you to play the game, people are coming, everyone's trying, trying to be the best that they can, when they're going for, going for GOLD!" The hapless Kelly usually blathered about the 28 nations taking part (handily splitting Britain into England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle Of Man) but no-one ever seemed to mention that the Brits had the built-in advantage of having English as their mother tongue.
Perennial, never-changing format as follows: seven multi-national contestants span round on rotating desk for elimination round, perched behind seemingly metaphorical mushroom-shaped buzzers. Klaus from the Cafe Hag commercial ("Ah, Henry Kelly! Schmells good!") turned up every day. First four contestants to get a question right progressed to the "first round proper", the detritus spinning off to try again tomorrow. Inevitable Wednesday afternoon battle for final place between two remaining contestants invariably cast xenophobic "come on Malcolm, beat the kraut/wop/frog" air across living room/hall of residence/sixth form common room. Four qualifiers bantered uneasily with host: "I am big fan from Imran Khan" quoth one Eastern European cricket fan, while Kelly vouchsafed that "Going For Gold is so popular in Belgium". Quite. Remaining contestants answered questions worth one, two or three points, with first three to eight progressing to one-minute "specialised subject" round:"I am not so good with the geoh-graf-ey!". Best two went"head to head" in absurdly complex final, featuring celebrated "Where am I? I am a river in northern Africa" questions as time ticked away "in the big four zone". Daily winners went on to Friday final, and the whole thing went on for months and months and months.
Shown as part of Reg Grundy double bill after Neighbours in early daytime schedules, while no-doubt huge airfare bill for BBC was mitigated by pathetically cheap perspex trophy for daily winners. Effect on European brotherhood deemed negligible. Kelly still mispronouncing composers' names on Classic FM [as controlled by Food and Drink chef bloke Michael Barry], but hasn't been seen on television for a mercifully long time. - Chris Hughes
Joseph Costello mailed us recently on the subject of Going For Gold (doesn't happen very often, as you'd imagine). He swears that the following gem of an exchange actually happened...
KELLY: Lars [probably not his name, but you get the idea], your category is 'Biros' - select!
LARS: Er, one please.
KELLY: [pause] I'm terribly sorry, I misread that, the category is actually 'Birds'...
...And we thought it was only the Belgian contestants who had trouble with their English!
Hop over to John Coulthard's Unofficial Going For Gold website (really!) at http://spacemonkeys.freewebspace.com/ind2.html. French and German translations not available.
AND THE REST...
ALL CLUED UP ITV (1987) Word game (as they so often were) favoured mainly by senior citizens (both watching at home and playing in the studio). Diddy "David" Hamilton presided (they always "presided", to use a sub-It's A Knockout term popular at the time), first asking you to find out the word revealed letter-by-letter ("A!...beep!...T!...beep!...G!..."), then offering the chance to find out letters of a hidden phrase utilising a Land Of The Giants huge keyboard that contestants had to run up to (physical element - good) and press keys of in humiliating ordeal (especially when they got the only-revealed-to-audience "stingers"). Players' buzzers seemed hilariously fragile. Audience always went "Woooo!" if there was more than two occurences of the chosen letter. A Sunday afternoon treat, up there with Bullseye, cake and sandwiches.
BORN LUCKY ITV (1990) UP AT 9.25AM sharp! for this woefully half-arsed location game show, presented from a different racecourse each week. Beadle "presided" in top hat, to help punters win money on an overgrown prop of a "match the pairs" concentration-type game, as well as other dire stuff too morose and wicked to bother with.
CATCHWORD BBC (1989) Paul Coia rammed this briefly semi-popular BBC Scotland 5pm answer to Countdown amidships with the catchphrase "Cryptic clue coming up. Letter... Letter... Letter... Letter... Letter..." Brian the Computer was supposedly in charge of scoring. Other rounds included the unique anagram round, the synonyms-on-the-buzzer round and the infamous "name a word containing these three letters in order" round - leading to constant invocation of those two really, really long words ("Flocky Knocky" something and that miner's lung disease). Every fucking time. Crossword types got involved, and rewards were de-emphasised in a vain attempt to distance it from the earlier shows. This is BBC2, after all. Ultimate prize was Archimedes computer, or similar BBC tie-in product.
CHAIN LETTERS ITV (1988) Take a word. Change a letter. Do it again. Now you've become a wanker. Speaking of which, "Here's Beadle!" Yes, the light-fingered gnome was "sharing his love for the lighter side of life" all over this appalling presentation of a traditionally sober word game invented by Lewis Carroll. Employed a Catchphrase "Wow! The inside of a fruit machine! Futuristic!"-style set which failed to lift morale. "Change the S to a K to make king, K-I-N-G." For God's sake, when Beadle was replaced quickly by Andrew O'Connor, it managed to get noticeably worse!
INSIDER INFO from MIKE FERRIS: "I'm sure Ted 'Bum Face' Robbins did a stint on Chain Letters. Me and a few mates went to a recording of the show at Tyne Tees during his reign of terror. After being annoyed by dismal, racist warm up man Tony Joe, we joined a group of pensioners from Stockton in witnessing the shoddiest, most amateurish performance from a host imaginable. Every time they ballsed up, Ted would say 'Oh! Apparently there's been a bit of a technical hitch and we'll have to re-do that bit. So, Marsha from Ashby de la Zouch, what is the capital of El Salvador?', to which Marsha would have to answer incorrectly, again. We suspected these hitches were an excuse because we were making a tad too much noise for the sound recordist's liking. This was confirmed when my mate Stew yelled 'She's fucked now!' as Marsha answered incorrectly again, and was then made to repeat her error sans Stew's outburst."
CROSSWITS ITV (1991) The Tom O'Connor hosted, crossword puzzle-themed arse-stiffener. Each one of two members of the Great British Public ("his hobbies are trout fishing and... wait for it... crosswords!") would play alongside either Colin Baker or Jenny Hanley (there were others but all of them have since slid down the ladder of fame to sub-C list celebrity), and answer fiendishly worded "Daily Mail Tea Break Quickie"-type clues - "Underwater banana swims backwards to Turkey, perhaps?" - at least, that was the theory. In practice, most clues wouldn't have taxed an above averagely Mensa-rated chimp ("The king is dead wood - about 12 inches"). Sometimes the solutions themselves would be clues to another, prize winning, key word. If the pleb spotted the link after the first clue was solved, they won a telephone (no, really) or a weekend in a foot spa, that sort of thing. Can still be seen on Challenge TV (i.e. cannot be seen). Quote:"see you next time and, hey, never a cross word - just for me, alright?" Twat.
FIRST LETTER FIRST BBC (1990) With DON MACLEAN.
FOUR SQUARE BBC (1990) "I imagine," mused Stephen Fry at the time, "that there must be many people who have never pulled up a chair for a Four Square. I doubt if they will even know the meaning of this estimable phrase." With endorsement like that, how could it fail to be anything other than total crap? Rubbish computerised boardgame which revolved on making squares of four (get it?) or something. Presented by that master of the non-catchphrase, JOHN SACHS - "Let's set sail four square to the wind!"
GIBBERISH BBC1 (1992) Cuddly KENNY EVERETT certainly didn't deserve this reasonably watchable improv-lite effort as his swansong series. Generally two teams of B-list celebs (aaaalways two teams of B-list celebs) had to act out scenarios, shoehorn odd phrases into conversations, and others tuff nicked off I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue. Regular participation of The Bake, freshly liberated from WIN, LOSE OR DRAW, often raised the tone.
THE GREAT BRITISH QUIZ BBC1 (1993) Scraping the bottom of the barrel now with this Britain-"themed" bog-standard quizzer hosted in early years by Peel-sidekick JANICE LONG, then taken over by dour newsreader PHILLIP HAYTON. Pretty much The Travel Quiz (qv) with geography reversed. Subject matter allowed much leeway, ie we can use any question as long as it's got something to do with the UK. May have had oddly-named teams, as in Masterteam and Quiz Night (qv).
HUMDINGERS BBC1 (1991) YET ANOTHER Grundy production. Your host, highly talented Australian former Virgin radio DJ...Jonathan "Jono" Coleman. The format was a bit like Name That Tune, only you had to "hum" the tunes, which possibly were called "dingers". There was a colour-coded scoring system: "Let's look at the pretty colours," as Jono used to say. The prize was a personal CD player - pants even for 1991. And Jono would add: "and I tell you what, we'll throw in some headphones as well!", in an attempt to be funny. Bah.
KEYNOTES ITV (1991) with the ever-smiling Alistair Divall: curious three team members who've only just met hugging each other to guess bouncy-ball Name That Tune-ish lyricteasers vibe.
LUCKY LADDERS ITV (1988) Joined Born Lucky and The Pyramid Game in the unhallowed post-TV-am slot. "Ladders" of words linked by logical questions were made, not unlike... most of the other game shows around it. Compere Lennie Bennett injected it with his award-winning humour, but still it was shite. Peter "poor man's Stu Francis" Simon did the VO.
MATCH POINT BBC (1990) With Angela Rippon: basically a retread of Masterteam with a tennis-y vibe, if you can imagine such a concoction.
NO KIDDING! BBC1 (1991) Somebody, somewhere, thought that revamping Ask The Family as a kind of daily morning Confessions vehicle ("so who does the washing-up in your house?") for MIKE "SMITTY" SMITH was a good idea. It wasn't. Viewers switched over to Richard and Judy sharpish, and that was the end of that. Cheers.
THE PYRAMID GAME ITV (1989) Late '80s morning transposition for mid '80s annoyingly sturdy triangular playing field and award-show-VO-staple Steve Jones spouting the crappy questions in that ever-so-calming voice. He had big independent local radio glasses too.
Surprisingly lavish effects for 9:25 of a Tuesday morning.
QUANDARIES ITV (1991) With Matthew"MADABOUT" Kelly: a bit like Scruples. In fact, a lot like Scruples.
RUNWAY ITV (1990-94) Richard Madeley would often double your agony on those precious days off, by appearing twice. At least, on This Morning, you knew Richard would say something embarrassing, or that Judy would get pissed on the wine. Here he simply smarmed his way through this bog-standard Granada-only (for a while) gameshow with spurious holiday theme. Odd bits included the introduction of the contestants, with a little graphic of their passport, and personal details listed (age was concealed, for it was one of the rounds, "guess your opponent's age", leading to usual Madeleyisms - "Thirty-three? You're older than thirty-three, aren't you? Well you look it.") and the biggest ever rotating structure on a TV show - contestants and host perched on giant turntable, which turned at regular intervals for apparently no reason whatsoever, complete with overhead shot. Final was usual "illuminate lights on titular runway by answering questions" arse.
SOUNDS LIKE MUSIC ITV (1990) With Bobby Crush: More Name That Tune-lite with a memory-scorching jingle.
TALKABOUT ITV (1990-93) Pick of the bunch, this one. Andrew O'Connor invited two teams of two to "talk" "about" a given subject, trying to mention all of the ten words listed on futuristic CGI graphic display, obviously out of their sight. OK, so it's Taboo in reverse, but it was entertaining all the same. O'Connor bounded between the two teams (positioned as far apart as space would allow) with an energy that was refreshing to see at that time of day. Had a soundproof booth. Ended up running perpetually on UK Living.
THE TRAVEL QUIZ BBC (1993) Unillustrious but highly-polished idiot's parade notable for the "adult" debut of one-time C4 pornographer-in-chief Andi Peters (well, swearwords at 1pm on a Sunday? Cuh!), here dressed nattily in braces and a shirt. Nothing to report except fluffs-a-plenty from our rabbit-in-headlights host, eg question revolves around montage of clips of Barcelona, backed with "Barcelona" by Mercury & Cabelle, he says "Aww, they faded it out before it goes 'Barr-cel-oonnaa'! And your question is, which city were these pictures of...ohh noooo!" Not good. Around the same time as now infamous "My God! Some TV screens are hot!" incident, bless 'im.
TURNABOUT BBC (1991) Devised by CLIVE DOIG! How could you go wrong? Easily. Presented by local newsreader made good ROB CURLING, and involving a sort of wet, three-way, 3D Othello thing (the rules matter not, except that the computerised counters were "turned about" (get it?) after a word with missing letters question was solved). Theme sounded like mid-'80s Radiophonic Workshop doing Herbie Hancock, and the title sequence usefully showed you all the words that could be made out of the show's title. Surprisingly resilient - may still be on somewhere. Oh yeah, and the studio floor was made of water. Yes, you read that right.
WHO'S BLUFFING WHO? BBC (1991) Presented by the magnificently named Richard Cartridge in conjunction with Ulrika Jonsson (making her almost prime-time non-sad-weather-girl debut), it involved a team of blokes and a team of women lying to each other for half an hour whilst their opponents tried to guess when they were telling the truth. Not at all like CALL MY BLUFF, it was axed after precisely one fortnight. (true!)
WIN, LOSE OR DRAW ITV (1990) Bog-standard Pictionary drawing rip-off was to the Michela Strachan generation of C-list Britcelebs what Give Us A Clue was to the Una Stubbs posse. A notional "front room" set and drawing board was presided over by, originally, jobbing mouthboy Danny Baker, who explained the rules in typical manner ("It could be a very simple title like Kickboxer II, or it could be something very complicated, like 'Mother of mercy! The squid! She no longer responds to mind control!'") The "girls' team", cutely, sat cross-legged on the floor for their turn. A member of the public bolstered each team and provided source for regional quips (whither the MOP mixed with celebs?). Another long-term concern, in various slots of the schedule - later series had Shane Richie then Bob Mills replacing The Bake to lesser effect. Will be remembered for unveiling the latent speed-drawing genius lurking within TOMMY BOYD, if nothing else.
XYZ BBC (1992) Lame alphabet-oriented word effort with George Marshall. Contestants had to bandy around long perspex strips with letters on them, for no real reason. Produced by Jonathan Ross' ever-loving Channel X. "ABC-ing you!"
© Chris Hughes, Peter Gordon, Rod Begbie, Ian Tomkinson, Mark Greenwood, Mike Ferris, Steve Williams MCMXC
And of course, after daytime tv comes...
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