Chris Serle (1987)

Richard Madeley (1988-93)


Action Time in association with Granada for ITV, 12 October 1987 to 19 February 1993 (200 episodes in 5 series)


Well-produced but extremely straight-laced 9.25am morning quiz for travel bores. In a bid to liven the show up, the set had a revolving turntable where the contestants could face the different game screens, which was nice.

Three willing victims get ready to fight to the death over some travel luggage

At the start of the show, each contestant would Check In and we would see the details on their passport - their name, occupation, where they're from... but not how old they are. Oh, no, for this was the first oh-so-jolly jape - guess how old your opponents are. Sometimes there was a Pathe news clip or a newspaper cutting to help the contestants out. Then there'd be three questions about the year in question for that person, wrong answers offered on the buzzer to the opponents. What this has to do with travel we're not sure.

The audience, with an unusually high woolly pullover quotient

Anyway, we then move on to the Departure Board, which has nine answers from which contestants can chose. The host reads out a question, and the contestant chooses an answer. A correct answer scored points, but an incorrect answer forces you to guess again until you find the right response. For each wrong answer offered, the answer disappeared off the screen and you no longer get the question that you would have been asked which had that answer. This is played four times - individually for each contestant, then a collective board played for on the buzzers.

The Runway departure board

Finally, there's the Dirty Tricks round - questions where you either took 4 points for yourself, or knocked 2 points off a nominated opponent's score, the idea being that spot prizes were offered for the first contestant to reach 20, 30 and 40 points. Fair enough, but it's all the usual point-shuffling we've seen time and again before, and it isn't particularly well-themed for the show. The two losers would go home with that coveted prize, a "copy of a newspaper from the day you were born" (value - about thirty quid).

Scoreboard for the Dirty Tricks round

The end game is actually a misnomer because in the first few series it was played at the beginning of the next show. It used an animated picture of a runway to illustrate what was going on, which was so complex it took us about three series to work it out. The contestant had to light nine sections of the runway by answering nine correct questions in batches of three at a time. They had no choice of what the country for the first three questions was (usually something fairly easy like Spain or Canada). Thereafter, they could choose to stick with that country or go on to another one which the host offered.

He's not going to make it to Italy. Few people did.

While the questions were being read and answered, the 90-second time limit was demonstrated by the white lines of the runway lighting up slowly. If you hadn't lit the runway (and, metaphorically, "taken off") by the time the white edges had been completed, you lost. Winners got a holiday (but only after three consecutive wins in early series) or, on later shows, £100 of "travel vouchers" (read: a cheque) and you could return next time. Losers got some "nice" travel luggage, just to rub it in that they didn't win the holiday.

Have a look at what you could've won

Readers write...

Someone, who sadly didn't leave their name, contacted UKGameshows Towers thusly:

"I directed the first series of Runway and can share a few memories with you... The show was devised by Steve Leahy, then head of entertainment at Granada, and refined by producer Bill Jones. At the very first recording, the motor for the turntable (huge, real, metal, designed by Colin Pocock) conked out, so Chris Serle, the floor manager and various crew had to push it with their feet, like riding a scooter, between the rounds!

"The runway itself was also "real" - not a picture - and the lights on that conked out a few times too. Because of the way the show was transmitted - last round first - there was a mix-up on one of the 50 shows we did and Chris Serle ended up wearing two different coloured sweaters! We had to lay on an extra day in studio for a re-take. We all thought it a good show, and had lots of fun making it!"

The studio staff push the turntable around

And Brian Matthews tells us:

It seems a long, long time ago, but I was a contestant in 1993. As you mentioned, the end game was very difficult and I failed by one point. If I had won, however, the prize was not that great. Before becoming a contestant I believed what I heard, i.e. Richard Madeley asking winners "Where would you like to go?". The contestant then replied "Florida" or "Barbados" or whatever, and Richard would say "We'll send you on your way." My wife and I had always wanted to go to Australia but could never afford it, so the chance of winning was the reason I applied to be a contestant. When we got to the studios in Manchester, however, it was pointed out that the prize for winning was a fairly insignificant amount (£400 springs to mind - which in those days would get us no further than, say, Italy). So, had I won, the TV audience would have been led to believe that "Runway" was financing a trip down under when in effect all I would have got was a fairly small contribution towards it. Enjoyable day? Yes. Cheesy programme? Definitely. Economical with the truth regarding the prize? You decide!

Key moments

The bastard hard questions in the end game. Apart from possibly the capital and currency of a country, how much would you know about Kuwait, Namibia and Benin?

Theme music

1987-1988 theme was by Joe & Co.

1989-1993 theme was by Richie Close.


Later series of the show were scheduled to go out just before This Morning, presented by husband-and-wife team Judy Finnegan and Richard Madeley (that last name sound familiar?), enabling the host to make quips at the end of the show like "...and I'll see you again in about five minutes." In all fairness, though, it should be said that Madeley did a considerably better job of hosting 'Runway' than he had done of hosting Connections - not that that was difficult, frankly.

Richard Madeley liked to make his entrance by coming down the stairs through the audience. He claims that in order to make the studio audience look larger than it actually was, dummies were used to fill out the back rows - and nobody noticed.

Former contestant Andrew Phillips-Tebb writes: "I did Runway in 1990 and the Dirty Tricks round saw me and the other male contestant reduce our points so much that the lady contestant won after answering only one question! Still have my birthday paper!"

Series 4 was originally going to run for 8 weeks (as Richard Madeley said at the start of the first show of the run) but it was pulled after 8 episodes due to the 1991 Gulf War; ITN put out a news report in its place. Thankfully, Runway returned later in the year with the remaining 32 episodes being shown from 29 August.

Web links

Wikipedia entry


The first episode of Series 4.


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