Winning Lines



Simon Mayo (1999-2000)

Phillip Schofield (2001-4)


Alan Dedicoat (voiceover)


Celador for BBC One, 13 June 1999 to 16 October 2004 (81 episodes in 6 series)


How funny would it be if Simon Mayo began selling his own brand of nasal spray? It would be Simon Mayo Nasal Spray. You could call it Mayonnaise.

Anyway, he's decided to sort out the mess that was his hairstyle that confronted us during Scruples and has jumped back into Saturday night television with the best Lottery show since... well... the last one.

Celador should know how to give away money because they make Who Wants to be a Millionaire? for ITV and to that end there are a few similarities. Similarity one is the excellent Industrial Gothic music that's almost permanantly in the background.

Celador also made the iffy Talking Telephone Numbers and it shows here because the first round utilizes telephone numbers to decide the contestant for the next week. In the studio are the Forty-niners, 49 contestants who were chosen the last week because their telephone number matched a set of numbers decided that week.

Original host, Simon Mayo

Inside the computer are a load of questions, the answers to which are numbers between 1 and 49. Simon reads out a question, general knowledge but of mathematical nature (Example: You want to buy each of the Bee Gees a set of Darts for their birthday. How many darts would that be?) and everyone has fifteen seconds to decide whether it is them or not.

When the time's up we see who has 'buzzed' for it. If you buzz for it and is correct you are through to the next round and if you are wrong you are out. Whatsmore if you don't buzz for a question and it's your number then you are also out. Therefore you have to "play to stay".

Of the correct answers, the second digit is taken (i.e 45 = 5, 08 = 8) of each of the six winners. If they form your telephone number in any order then you can phone a special number to play in next week's show.

Traditionalists argue that you shouldn't have luck in a quiz show. Perhaps they are right. The first round, rather than being good, is more functional than anything. [Addendum: in series two this was changed so that contestants typed in their numerical answer using a keypad. Ironically, this seemed to make the first round worse, not better, mainly because it took ages. Just goes to show.]

Round Two is 'Looking After Number One'. The rules are very similar to the previous round, with contestants retaining their assigned numbers from the before, but in this game people buzz in to answer a numerical question, the answer to which is either their own number or that of one of the other remaining contestants. If they get it right then they stay in the game, but if they are wrong they are out. Whatsmore if you buzz in, get it right and it's somone else's number then they are out, therefore you have to buzz first and buzz fast.

This bit works rather better than the initial round, especially when the contestants are of the calibre that they buzz in after only a couple of important words in order to stay in and this is heightened further when there are only two people left. Luckily, even if you come second you've done better than the other 49's because you get a holiday somewhere in the country. You also get to start the Thunderball Draw.

Thunderball is the Lottery's third regular draw where five balls and a separate Thunderball are drawn. Sadly, there isn't a huge clap of thunder when the Thunderball comes out, a missed opportunity we think!

The winner of the game goes through to the Wonderwall in order to play for a three week round-the-world holiday. The player sits in a chair and looks at three giant computer screens. On these screens are all 49 answers (with numbers next to them) for the game ahead. Within three minutes they have to answer as many questions as they can. Answering is not enough though because they have to find it on the board and give the number as well.

If they get twenty during the time they win the top prize holiday. Answering fewer questions gets a you a not-as-good holiday. During the 3 minutes, they are given two "pitstops" - periods of fifteen seconds where they can freeze the clock to scan the board. These are invoked by the pressing a trigger button at any time.

The game itself is perhaps better played in the studio than at home as the widescreen answer effect is lost on the small screen. Instead of the three screens in the studio, people at home have a screen that continually scrolls from side-to-side and automatically jumps to the right place when a correct answer is given. Sadly, it doesn't scroll fast enough for our liking so it takes ages to see all the answers.

An excellent touch is that we can see what holiday the player is currently on from getting one question right being a trip to Spaghetti Junction, through to 3 being a Scottish Castle, 12 is Las Vegas and 20 being the Star Prize. It's a shame they don't change the duff prizes more often.

Even more exciting though (!) is that afterwards the winner gets to press the button to start the proper National Lottery Draw.

Would it stand up as its own show without the Lottery? Probably, and it's certainly a huge improvement over the last proper attempt at a Lottery game show, The National Lottery Big Ticket.

So, the moral of the story? Sort your haircut out and life will be sweet.


There were a few, fairly minor, changes in later series - Mayo did a runner, but good old Pip "Talking Telephone Numbers" Schofield proved himself a perfectly good replacement, and after a while the winner no longer got to start the draw as the Wonderwall quite rightly moved to the climax of the show. The upshot of all this is that Winning Lines wound up as the longest-running of all the lottery tie-ins (until overtaken by Jet Set in 2006 and then by In It to Win It in 2009) - simply by being far and away the best. It was quietly dropped after the 2004 series, and we can't really understand why. If we must have a quiz show built around the national lottery, then better this than the dreadful formats we usually get.


The show was invented by David Briggs, Steve Knight, and Mike Whitehill, who also invented Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, as well as this show's predecessor, Talking Telephone Numbers.


(Before the Wonderwall): The more you get right, the further the flight.


The full list of prize destinations, trivia fans. Three American states (New York, USA and Florida) were replaced halfway through series 3 due to the events of 9/11. They returned at the start of Series 4.

1 - Spaghetti Junction
2 - London
3 - Scottish Castle
4 - Ireland
5 - Amsterdam
6 - Paris
7 - Monte Carlo
8 - Majorca
9 - Italy
10 - New York (Mediterranean Cruise)
11 - Hong Kong
12 - USA (African Beach)
13 - Mauritius
14 - Caribbean Cruise
15 - African Safari
16 - Florida (St Lucia)
17 - Hawaii
18 - Barbados
19 - Australia
20 - Round the World

There really is a VT package in case someone answers just one question correctly in 3 minutes. The screen text says "A weekend for one in a B&B overlooking Spaghetti Junction", with sounds of vehicle traffic in the background.

During the first Schofield series or the third series, the winner of each edition got to return for the midweek Lottery draw on Wednesday and contest the Wonderwall again for spending money. Each correct answer was worth £200, but the last question jumped straight to the jackpot (à la Strike it Lucky), so the contestant could win up to £5,000, which was only won once. The only sting was that this time there were no "pitstops". It was dropped after the third series concluded its run.

The Schofield era episodes were given a repeat airing from March 2010 on Challenge. All references to The Lottery Corp were edited out, which wasn't any trouble for the most part. However it was difficult to miss the frequent changes in Schofield's posture and expressions at the start of the programme due to the many edits during his introduction.


Winning Lines Quizbook (paperback)

Winning Lines Quizbook 2 (paperback)

Web links

Celador's Winning Lines Page

Wikipedia entry

Off the Telly review

Andy Walmsley's set design pictures

See also

National Lottery shows


The last episode of Series 2.


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