Weaver's Week 2004-08-28

Weaver's Week Index

28 August 2004

Iain Weaver reviews the latest happenings in UK Game Show Land. Usually.

Ye Weyveres Weeke

Something a little different this week. For which you can read, there's not enough trivia to spin out into two columns during the current sports-fest, and it was this or every joke they used in the TINY AND MR DYKE SHOW earlier in the year.

BULLSEYE (Central Television in association with Chatsworth Television for the ITV network, around 5pm Sunday evening.)
(This review is from the 1984 series recently repeated on Challenge.)

The tenor of the show is set at the very beginning, with an animated bull coming down from his sign outside a pub, marching through the bar, and throwing a dart into the middle of a board, while a plinky-plonky piano plays something that's almost like a Chas and Dave record, but is actually by John Patrick. "It's a bullseye!" says the announcer, and we pull back to see Jim Bowen walking down the audience stairs onto the main studio floor. The backdrop behind the contestants is a fairly lurid shade of orange, with circle motifs in the background. It's a bit like a dartboard, but more like a gun target.

Jim Bowen's a personable host, and brings lots of catchphrases to the show. He doesn't stand in the way of the contestants, giving them a moment to explain a little of who they are - and announcing their ITV region, as is traditional on this channel - before getting on with proceedings. Three teams of two enter the show - there's one darts player, and one who answers the questions in the first part of the show.

Round one is the category board. There are ten categories - Pot Luck, Britain, Places, Spelling, Affairs, Sport, Books, History, Words, and Showbiz. The contestant answering the questions picks one of the categories for their darts- playing friend to aim at. "It's flashing to help you," says Jim every week without fail. It always struck us that the board flashing would be more of a distraction than a help, but what do we know.

Anyway, if the darts player can hit the segment by the chosen category, they win a cash bonus - £30 for the outer ring, £50 and £100 for the inner rings, and £200 if it's a bullseye. Jim asks a question from the segment the dart landed in, so if the darts player misses, not only does the team not win the cash bonus, but they face a question on an "away" subject.

There are three rounds of questioning - in the first round, questions are worth

£30, then £50, and £100. Incorrect answers can be offered, but only to one of the opponents. To make things more difficult, only one question from each category can be asked in each show, so Jim often says "we can't ask the question, because the category's gone."

The team with the least money after this first round goes, but get the money they've won, some Bullseye tankards (goblets for the ladies), hand-sewn badges, and a set of tungsten-tipped darts. There occasionally needs to be a play-off to determine who leaves - the darts players throw three darts at the standard tournament board, the lower (or lowest) score leaves.

The two remaining teams carry forward the money to the second round. After the board's revolved to some spooky music, the darts players throw three arrows each, higher total gets the first crack at the question, and wins one pound for each point their friend scored. "It's pounds for points," and usually the questions are worth between £30 and £80. The pair with the lower score leaves over the break, and Jim says it'll take him "a couple of minutes to count it out." Curiously, he never takes long to count out the third-placed team's money.

After the adverts, a celebrity throws for charity. Sometimes it's a professional darts player, other times it's someone well-known for something different. Those who don't play darts get a £60 start, and if the player scores "301 or more in nine darts," Central will double their donation. The winners of the main game choose where this donation goes. It's good to see some public service broadcasting on a game show, and readers will be able to detect a lineage back to Bob Monkhouse's appeals for stamps on THE GOLDEN SHOT over ten years ago.

The main prize game follows, with another modified darts board. There are eight thin red segments, and some thick black ones. Each red segment is numbered, and if one of the darts lands in the red section, the contestants win the prize.

Some of them are good prizes: "Iiin one - put on a washday smile with this washing machine!" Some of them are not-so-good prizes: "Iiiin four - Something to perk you up, this coffee maker!" In the bullseye is something rather good:

"Bully's special prize tonight - a Betamax video recorder with remote control!"

Jim has another catchphrase to explain this round. "Nine prizes with nine darts, three for the non-darts player and six for you." And he has a catchphrase for the jeopardy it contains: "Stay out of the black and into the red, nothing in this game for two in a bed." He doesn't have a catchphrase for the times when the darts go flying all over the studio - indeed, Jim doesn't even have a pair of goggles for this dangerous pursuit.

After these darts, the winning team will usually have some prizes. They then have a choice: should they gamble these prizes against Bully's Star Prize, which is hidden behind a curtain. The gamble is difficult: it's back to the regular darts board, and the team needs to score a total of 101 or more in just six darts. It's difficult, but it's not impossible. The winners are only gambling their prizes from the prize board - the money they won in the first half, and their charity winnings, are perfectly safe.

If the winning team doesn't want to gamble, then the runners-up from the quiz come back and are offered the prize gamble against their money. It's possible for the third team to come back, take the gamble, and win £80 - and a car!

Even if it's not won, the stage hands are being paid to wheel out Bully's Star Prize, so wheel out Bully's Star Prize they will. Generally, it's a small car, or a motorboat, or a mobile home, or something like that. Central is following Yorkshire's lead on 3-2-1 in showing all the prizes available, won or lost, and Jim has another catchphrase: "Look what you could have won."

And that's it. Jim talks all over the closing credits, an idea that's still quite unusual, and there's an entertaining way of melting the Central ending caption into the end of a light but thoroughly absorbing programme.

CATCHPHRASE (Action Time for the ITV network, presented by TVS, Saturday evening)

(This review is from the 1989 series recently repeated on Challenge)

Someone at ITV took a look at Jim Bowen's lines on Bullseye, and thought, why don't we make a show based entirely on catchphrases and common sayings? If our Jim can get away with using the same script every week for series on end, we can get the contestants to say it all for us. And we can sell the show to advertisers and get lots and lots of money from the government talking to potential H2owners.

The result is Catchphrase, hosted by the genial Roy Walker. The star of the show is The Huge And Massive Catchphrase Board, so large that the contestants come plugged into the board, rotate into view when it spins at the start of the show, and for all we know, it takes a team of stage hands to unplug them at the end of the contest. The Huge And Massive Catchphrase Board is a very modern creation, gleaming chrome and coloured neon lights that make an arrow when the contestant buzzes in. And in their colour, too!

If The Huge And Massive Catchphrase Board isn't the star of the show, then it's Chris Goss's animations. Every week, our hero sits down at his Amiga computer, and draws pictures that will reveal some well-known sayings. Some of them are graced by the presence of the show's mascot, Mr Chips, who bears a passing resemblance to Star Wars' R2D2. Mr Chips, in fairness, is yellow and wears a bow tie. It's a slight surprise that Catchphrase has never marketed Mr Chips as a disposable cultural icon, perhaps putting him on a par with the likes of Dusty Bin or Gordon the Gopher.

Is there a game in there? Indeed, there is. Two contestants attempt to spot the catchphrase or well-known saying before their opponent. In the first round, correct answers are worth between £5 and £50 - the amount is randomly decided by a contestant pushing their buzzer before the round starts, and is between £40 and £100 for the second round. In order to avoid the show running short and TVS having to give away more money than the ITC will allow, the contestants can't buzz in before a bell sounds. By the bell, the answer should be blatantly obvious to even the most foolish contestant.

Should be, but isn't. All too often, the contestant will buzz in with something like "Fish robber." Host Roy Walker has developed a polite and memorable way of telling a contestant that they're wrong. "Where did that come from?" "Noooooo" and his very own catchphrase "It's a good answer, but it's not right." Roy could be much more nasty, deliberately insulting the contestant who has given a wrong answer, but that sort of negative presenting would not fit into this format, and is completely alien to British television. Like all good hosts, Roy laughs with the contestants, not at them.

After each correct answer in the main game, a square is revealed from a prize puzzle. Each square removed takes £10 from the prize fund, but makes the puzzle that bit easier. Only the contestant who buzzed in can try to answer the prize puzzle - if their opponent knows it, they have to get a starter correct. After the break, the bell goes, and all the catchphrases are worth £100. There's still a prize puzzle, and this must be won when time expires.

The contestant with the more money goes on to the prize board, a 5x5 grid of squares, each with a catchphrase behind. Any correct answer is worth £50; five right is worth £400, while a row of five going through the middle will win a seriously large holiday. It's billed as "television's biggest travel prize"; the winner of FOUR SQUARE might have an argument with that.

But we don't so much enjoy the show for someone winning or losing a great holiday. We enjoy it for the ludicrously wrong answers the contestants give, and for the way Roy Walker never, ever, insults them at all. Even when they turn "Mad Hatter's tea party" to "Steam the mad hatter's hat." Though quite what Chris Goss was thinking of when he put up that "Snake charmer" as a puzzle, we may never know.

In the final analysis, Catchphrase is frothy, feelgood television, hosted by someone who makes their guests fell very much at ease.


In researching this feature, we were absolutely amazed at how difficult it is to track down archive television schedules on the interweb. Without the Radio Times and TV Times from the past, or contemporary newspapers, it cannot be done. This is our best guess for the listings of 21-27 October 1989, and has been re-created with major help from a feature in the TV Cream Update last year.


10:10 BBC1 Double Dare

Peter Simon, a couple of kids, some gunge, and lots of falling over. Nick Wilton provides the voice-off.
10:20 ITV Mousetrap
Ever wondered what the titular mouse trap would look like in a television studio? Now you know. Recommended. Highly recommended.
6:5 ITV Catchphrase
See review above.
6:25 BBC1 Bob's Full House

"Jan, you need four. Mike, you need seven. Simon, you need just one, and Challenge, you need repeats."


11:10 BBC2 Boxpops
Money is the topic for the archive-film-and-pop-music programme this week, and they must have some money on BBC game shows. Or maybe not.
5:0 ITV Bullseye
See feature review.
9:0 C4 The Media Show

Television in newly-free Poland. One supposes that we'll consider them (and Hungary) Westernised as soon as someone from behind the Iron Curtain corrects Henry Kelly's grammar on Going for Gold - speaking of which, France, Spain, and Italy debut in the third series, beginning two weeks from now. Next week with Emma Freud on TMS, there's an extended feature on the future of the game show, including a preview of Chatsworth's replacement for Treasure Hunt.


8:45 C4 Countdown Masters (all week)
Cliff Boynton and Robert Randall this week; matches to conjure with before the end of the year include Clive Freedman and Darryl Francis in November, and Tim Morrissey and Alan Saldanha in December. Transmissions may be delayed in the event of a major news event, such as the Chancellor resigning, or the Berlin Wall falling. Like any of that's going to happen.
9:25 ITV Runway (all week)
Richard Madeley asks people when they were born and where they'd like to go. "Anywhere but here" is the answer he's perhaps not looking for.
1:50 BBC1 Four Square (Mo-Th)

Pull up a chair for the funkiest sixty seconds of music anywhere on national television. Mr Jive Bunny, that includes you. Repeated 10:05 tomorrow, and we move into the quarter-finals on Tuesday.
4:0 BBC2 Catchphrase (all week)
Bryan, take it away.
4:30 C4 Fifteen To One (all week)
William G's certainly ringing the changes this time! An autumnal red backdrop looks rather good, and with just 50 programmes in the series, many of our favourites will drop out. One week in, and we reckon a score in the 110s should suffice for the final.
7:0 ITV The Krypton Factor

The last heat of section B this week. Steve Coogan is becoming quite the star in the observation round, but we're not convinced by them using the aeroplane simulator every week. A bit too YOUNG KRYPTON, and what have they done with the ergonomic bicycles?


3:0 ITV Tell the Truth
Three people appear before the minor celeb panel (this week: Patricia Brake, Bill Buckley, and Nick Owen); one has a secret, the other two are actors and pretending. Fred Dinenage hosts. Whatever happened to GAMBIT?


6:0 C4 Treasure Hunt
Repeats of the series first shown in spring 1986 were being shown at some point during autumn 1989. We have no idea which episode aired this week - or even if it aired in the old Network 7 slot on Sunday lunchtime - but this series contained the Oxford episode so we may as well recall The Bicycle Chase.


6am C4 The Channel Four Daily

We all know about Countdown Masters, and let's be thankful that they didn't use the red-on-yellow letters we briefly saw in June. Also on the show are business correspondents Dermot Murnaghan and Damian Green - one of them wants to be a Tory MP when he grows up, the other says he's eyeing Kenneth Kendall's job on Treasure Hunt. First Class's Debbie Greenwood has the consumer news.


4:45 ITV Knightmare
"Oh dear, your friend has been eaten by the hungry giant bug. What you should have done was pick up the loaf of bread, entice Pickle with it, then feed the annoying elf to the hungry giant bug. Spellcasting: D-I-S-M-I-S-S."
8:15 BBC1 Challenge Anneka
In which our Annie has two days to do pull in a few favours and do something improbable.

We return to 2004 next week.

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