Golden Balls

Image:Golden Balls logo.jpg



Jasper Carrott


Amanda Grant


Initial for ITV1, 18 June 2007 to 18 December 2009 (288 episodes in 6 series)


What stud poker would be a bit like if there was a giant lottery machine involved, and the prisoner's dilemma.

Image:goldenballs machine.jpg The Golden Bank delivers its payload.

Four players are dealt out golden balls worth varying amounts of money (from a tenner to £75,000) and some "Killer" balls. Two of each player's balls are on show, the rest are known only to each player. The aim is to eliminate the players with the Killers whilst keeping the big money in play, with a The Weakest Link style vote. Obviously players who dealt weak balls have to fast-talk their way into the next round. The final two players aim to build as big a jackpot as possible, and then inevitably go home with nothing because they're both very selfish.

Image:goldenballs set.jpg The Golden Balls set, complete with 700 (fact!) programmable bulbs.

In Round One, 12 cash balls come from the Golden Bank and four Killer balls, and from these, each player is distributed four each, two on the front row and two on the back row. They then open the front ones and leave them open for all to see. They then each get to peek at their back two balls and afterwards, they take it in turns to announce what they have on their back row, simultaneously trying to convince the others they're telling the truth whilst trying to convince the other two that someone else is a stinking liar (invariably by "shouting very loudly"). At this stage, balls on the back row can only be seen by the player who owns them.

Image:goldenballs front.jpg The front two balls on show. This is a decent hand: two large cash amounts and no Killers, which pretty much immunises the contestant from elimination.

Then we have the vote, with some stylish cards that are put on stands that can be turned around for Jasper's "The first/second/next/final vote is for..." The player with the most votes is out of the game. (In the case of a tie, the players who received no votes discuss who to save and who to eliminate and, if they still can't agree, the ball machine decides for them via a random draw - one player gets a Killer, the other gets an empty ball. The player who had the Killer is eliminated.)

Image:goldenballs vote.jpg Get yer coat.

The as-yet unrevealed balls are then opened and, rather predictably, there are a lot of Killers and missing zeroes knocking about, which often leads to how-dare-you hilarity of epic proportions when it turns out they've kept in someone with a shocking hand. The player who is voted off then has to "bin" their balls (a.k.a. drop them down a chute) and do the Walk.

Image:goldenballs hand.jpg One player successfully sweet-talks his way into the second round.

The remaining players' balls go back into the massive roulette wheel thing, with two more cash balls from the Golden Bank and one more Killer ball, so we have 15 balls, 5 distributed to each player: two on the front row and three on the back row. Repeat the last round.

The remaining two players bring their balls through to the money-making round, along with another Killer ball, making 11 balls in play for "Bin or Win". Each person picks a ball to get rid of (Bin) and another to add to the jackpot (Win). If you pick a Killer to win, then your total is divided by 10, so if you have £10,000, your total drops to £1,000.

Image:goldenballs binorwin.jpg "Which of these completely identical-looking balls are you most drawn to?"

After they make up their row of five winners, they are given two final balls each: Split and Shaft Steal. If they both choose the Split ball, they share the remaining cash 50/50. If one chooses the Split ball and the other chooses the Steal ball, the Stealer gets all the cash and the Splitter gets none of it. If they both choose the Steal ball, they both go home with nothing. In later series, Jasper Carrott counted down from three before asking the players to reveal their Split or Steal balls. The distorted camera effect used to close in on the players is known as a Hitchcock zoom.

Image:goldenballs splitsteal.jpg Call Kilroy!

Somehow, Golden Balls became ITV's surprise summer hit of 2007 (and they needed one after Tycoon!). Achieving audiences of up to around 2.1 million, it was ITV's first show since The Paul O'Grady Show to win the ratings battle at 5pm and the first show (other than World Cup football) to beat The Weakest Link.

Key moments

From an episode in the first series, one contestant named Nick got through to the Bin or Win round with another contestant named Ibrahim and they both accumulated £13,600 in their Golden Five. When it came to the Split or Steal round, Nick said to Ibrahim he was 100% going to pick the Steal ball, which left Ibrahim (and Jasper) stunned. He also said to Ibrahim to pick the Split ball so that he could Split the money with him after the show. Ibrahim had a feeling that he was lying at first until he changed his mind to trust him. The filming of it went on a lot longer from what the final edit gave us where Jasper had to eventually tell the remaining contestants to wrap it up because the audience came by bus and it was the last one of the night where they might eventually miss it if filming overran. The result later revealed both of them picking the Split ball, meaning they both went home with £6,800 each.

Imagine if that happened on Divided.

Theme music

Marc Sylvan composed the full score.


Recorded at BBC Television Centre.

In the unaired pilot, the top ball was worth £200,000, and there was a £100,000 ball also.

Voted the Best New Show in this site's Poll of 2007. It was, however, divisive enough to also come joint third in the vote for the Worst New Show.

The smallest win was £1.83, won by both players, Adam and Chris, on the 2 February 2009 episode, as they both split the jackpot of £3.65. The lowest overall jackpot was £2.85, stolen by Hannah on the 14 May 2009 episode.

The episode of 11 February 2008 had the largest possible potential jackpot - £168,100 - after the top two balls (£70,000 and £75,000) made it through to the final round.

A special episode on 14 March 2008 (the day Jasper Carrott turned 63) brought together four former victims of the Steal ball from the first series and gave them a second chance to play the game: Chloe (22 June 2007), Stephen (16 July 2007), Sarah (2 July 2007) and Darren (12 July 2007). At the show's climax, Sarah stole £100,150 from Stephen and became (somewhat ironically) the show's biggest winner. Sarah had previously appeared in a team of Accountants on series 2 of Codex - in the very same top, incidentally.

From 25 February 2008 to 13 February 2009, the show was sponsored by ITV Bingo (powered by Party Gaming) - except in Northern and Central Scotland, where it was sponsored by STV Bingo (powered by, if you must know). From 2 November 2009 to 18 December 2009, the show was sponsored by Carpetright.

One of the contestants in the first episode was Hugh Irvine, a serial game show contestant and TV extra, who would later appear on Game of Thrones.


Golden Balls board game

Web links

Wikipedia entry

See also

Trust Me


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