Sunday, 27 November 2011

I have a dream! Its Ted Rogers on Family Fortunes?!

I had a dream last night, nothing new there then. But it was the nature of it which got me thinking, number one I must have been watching Challenge last night and two, it would work...

 What would? I'm hearing you saying, well the idea that I'm going to put out there maybe strange to some but to others it might get some people thinking 'Hmmm... That might work!'

 My dream was that Ted Rodgers was presenting Family Fortunes, alright it never happened in real life but it seemed to work and it seemed right somehow. It might have been the product of some many gameshows in a day, thought that got me thinking which hosts could switch shows and the show would just as good. But it did once happen though, in a Christmas edition of Sale of the Century on January 2nd 1981 it happened. Nicholas Parson was a contestant along with Tom O'Connor and Derek Batey with Steve 'Pyramid Game and voice-over man' Jones asking the questions of them. Plus Batey and Parsons appeared with Bob Monkhouse in a celebrity edition of Family Fortunes, so two examples there and also the tale I've told you about the potential swap of Monkhouse and Bruce Forsyth when Michael Grade wanted Family Fortunes for Bruce.

"Should old acquittance be forgot..."

If Ted Rogers could be taken out of 3-2-1 and put into Family Fortunes, that would mean a space there and I think that maybe Michael Barrymore or Brian Conley would be perfect choice to join Dusty, Caroline and Lynda. With their all round entertainment skills they would be able to handle anything the show would throw at them, plus the rapport with the acts as well would match the enthusiasm of the contestants. Maybe in hindsight Conley would have been the host after Rogers to take over or to refresh the show, but with Barrymore doing the show that would leave Strike It Lucky open for a new host...

Strike It Lucky is a simple format really, not saying that it is a cheap format. But in the right hands it can be done well, part of the time the format with Barrymore is him doing his act interacting with the public. First of all, Les Dennis showed his ease at doing that on Family Fortunes, so he could be my choice, though hang on  ... Maybe what about Joe Pasquale, his chance came with the revived Price is Right. His sillyness provided to put anyone at their ease, so Pasquale would go there.

Thought The Price is Right was a quandry in itself even before the late Leslie Crowther too his place in asking people to 'Come on Down!' Joe Brown, along with Russ Abbott was considered to present the show, Abbott in himself was said to have asked if he could have Bella Emberg as a hostess. So maybe Abbott though subverting the format was the was to go, something which would become commonplace in years further to come. Brown himself had been the host of Square One for Granada, but being seen as a man with a common touch getting close with people who would trust him, as the same would said for Bruce Forsyth and Joe Pasquale. 

"Come on Down!"

For The Price is Right, even through that onto into Whodunnit which had Edward Woodward and Jon Pertwee as its presenters between 1972 and 1978 which took an almost Cluedo-esue format with a panel trying to work out who committed a fictional murder as in the board game, showing that in a show a host can be interchangeable within a format. Win, Lose or Draw had three during its daytime version including Danny Baker and Bob Mills, not including Darren Day doing a 'Teen' version and Liza Tarbuck doing the 'Late' version. Its not so much that hosts can jump from one show to another, but when a format is put around a host, it fits like a glove but when watching a show just think that a host maybe have been up for other shows as well...

But how about Win, Lose or Draw? Well, why not give it a former contestant? I'm not talking about a celebrity who appeared on their but someone who was a member of the public... That man who would be king would be Johnny Vegas, he appeared on the show as an up and coming comedian but surely he would a good choice for a revived version of the show. Though as an interesting aside, Danny Baker also appeared during Bob Mills time as host, this time as a celebrity in week 5 of the 1995 series. Little is known about where executives get inspiration from for choosing a host for a show, sometime they will look upon it as maybe finding someone who's been out of the public eye to being pulled into a role or maybe coming from left field. 

Left field? What about a cockney taking on a children's quiz show? Well, Colin Nutley wanted Mike Reid to present Runaround in 1975, by thinking his firm but fair style could work with kids and it did over two spells between 1975 and 1976 before returning in 1978 to the programme's end in 1981. Though Leslie Crowther and Stan Boardman were host in the intervening years, taking it to today who could do it? There's one man for the job, the love of the quirky... Londoner... and always funny... How about Danny Baker? There's left field for you! Baker could take the items and give it his own brand of spin... But what about this for a link? Gary Crowley who filled in for Baker on his BBC London show whilst undergoing treatment, did Poparound from Central... The last time the format was put to a series, so maybe it would have come full circle in that way.

"Oh hello! I want to suck your blood, Mike..."
"Get out of it, Charlie!"

We can only theorise about what might be, but one host might be good for another's position... John Humphrys for the Generation Game anyone?

Saturday, 26 November 2011

A quizzical situation...

In these times of the credit crunch everyone is feeling the pinch, especially the television industry. So it comes down to what ideas are cost effective and usually the solution lies in mass producible programmes such as Deal or No Deal and Countdown leading to monster runs of each basically spanning the whole year.
The phenomenal success of Pointless shows that a stranded show in the schedule puts the channel into a position where they can control what they want to do.  In the re-runs of early Pointless on Challenge, the seed is sewed as far the game is so addictive and being able to play along at home, which any quiz is giving its back teeth for.

ITV have experimented somewhat more then the BBC by re-introducing The Price Is Right with Joe Pasquale some time ago. But everyone knows about Golden Balls and Weakest Links of this world, though if it gets worse what shows will be brought back?

Here we ponder at the lesser lights which could fill up a wet Wednesday afternoon against Dickinson’s Real Deal...

Takeover Bid (BBC 1)
The Brucie lead vehicle of the late 80’s and early 90’s when he came back to the BBC, encouraging players to steal prizes off their opponents. Quite right for these times when it seems like every other company is taking over everyone else, so why not have that business-like jolly uncle turned entertainment host Gerry Robinson takes over the role of quizmaster plus with the added bonus of Adam ‘Shaw’s Shares’ Shaw as the glamorous assistant. “Your prizes value may go up or down owing to market conditions….”

Talkabout (ITV 1)
Verbally adept game show once introduced by future Peep Show executive producer Andrew O’Connor is brought up by Simon Cowell’s Syco TV in which the self appointed entertainment guru ditches the game and makes up the rules as he goes along. Contestants are punished if they don’t talk about The X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent or any show presented by Ant’n’Dec, the show is given a trillion week monster run by ITV as they see the potential to use a phone vote to get rid of the contestants one by one…

  Lucky Ladders (ITV 1)
Presented by the woman from the accident claim line adverts. As contestants come on and claim for such things as a loose fitting pen lid to a violent sneezing fit because the waitress in a Little Chef dropped the pepper. If their claim is suitable enough they are given thousands which they have to pay back eventually at double the rate of inflation…

"Gordon Bennett! No it's actually Lennie in fact..."

The Travel Quiz (BBC 1)
Contestants are giving the chance to win pictures of all the destinations that they cannot travel, all to due to the rising costs of air fuel. Due to copyright restriction, only pictures of British seaside resorts maybe used thanks to a dusty box of photos left over from Holiday ’78 found in a cupboard at the back of BBC canteen behind tins of semolina and prunes. (Andi “Ow, that’s rather hot isn’t it?” Peters not included…)

That’s My Dog (ITV 1)
Ironic twist gameshow, where half the staff of Heat Magazine are charged with
trying to control certain nightclub *ahem* beauties and keep them from getting
too merry before filming whilst Derek Hobson tries to reflect where his career has
gone and why they have turned the South-West’s number one produced gameshow
into a scene from Footballer’s Wives…

If that the case of being funny, by suggesting them its a serious business that people will tell you in the number of quiz shows have been piloted for BBC and ITV, with The Weakest Link leaving us soon, it brings into focus that when a format finishes, the next idea has to be ready to go....

So when they've started I'll finish and hopefully it'll be a starter for ten...

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

All aboard the Euro-visions express (Part Two)

So after a stop off in Spain we are ready to start our journey again in Germany, now you might think that Germany and light entertainment don't go together as bedfellows but strangely they do. With their love for Monty Python and associated shows which have been shown on various channels through out Germany, but more about trans-european shows later...
Though first of all when Robin Blamires tweeted me in response to Part One, he reminded that Noel's House Party made it to Germany for a short while. In 1994, a Germanic version broadcast on Sat. 1 presented by Thomas Gottschalk. Gottschalk himself had been on a similar career path to Noel Edmonds, radio presenter playing pop music but also he had done a entertainment show called 'Na Sowas!' which I referered to in part one. 'Na Sowas!' or roughly translated 'Well Something Like That!" was in style very like The Late Late Breakfast show. So the comparisons are there between Gottschalk and Edmonds, in which the love of live television has seen them both encompassing live stunts into their shows.
Since 1981 there has been one show which has maintained its place as Germany's number one entertainment show and that is 'Wetten Dass!' or as when it came to these shores 'You Bet!' Its format runs the same as the latter but it is live with the addition of music acts to allow the grand sets needed to be set up ready for each of the challenges. The original host and creator Frank Elsner presented the show up until 1987 when Gottschalk took over the show for five years, but took time out between late 1992 and the late 1993 and handing the show over to Wolfgang Lippert. Though Lippert only presented nine editions during this period, Gottschalk came back to present and he has stayed there ever since. But following an accident nearly one year ago which left a man a quadriplegic when one of the challenges went wrong and the show was pulled off air with Gottschalk unable to continue, he made the decision to leave the show at the end of the 2011 series on the 3rd of December because he felt he had to leave.

Gottschalk's place as Germany's number one entertainment host has been has been assured, so if you can get to see that final edition with Gottschalk of Wetten Dass on 3rd December it will be worth it for a man who has transcended his television career by even appearing in Sister Act 2, as part of Whoopi Goldberg losing a bet on the show.

Thomas Gottschalk not betting on the original host appearing...

As we move on from Germany, we enter Switzerland. Why Switzerland, what programme has come from Switzerland? Though a few have gone there... Switzerland, the home of the Golden Rose of Montreux... Through out television, the Golden Rose has been the standard for quality entertainment throughout Europe since 1961 and now takes places in Lucerne since 2004, but this was the prize all producers wanted to achieve whichever channel they were from. Over the years, Britain has had great success winning the Golden Rose and even in some years winning the silver one as well. 

From 1961 when The Black and White Minstrels won the Golden Rose through to 2003 when reality television had come into its element with Faking It winning for Channel 4. Its has been an honour to win the prize with performers of real quality taking the honour people such as Sir David Frost, Marty Feldman, Lenny Henry, The League of Gentlemen and also Kermit the Frog as well. The wide range of programming shows the depth of the British entertainment television industry between these dates with game shows, satirical shows and big entertainment spectaculars providing the winners. In 1972 when Marty Feldman's Comedy Machine won for ATV, the runner-up was The Goodies of which Tim Brook-Taylor found himself in the odd position of both writing for Feldman but also writing and performing with Bill Oddie and Graham Garden as well. Some of the shows which have won the prize have never been seen by British audiences, but in their special ways they show the best that each country has to offer for themselves. With even the prize going across the Atlantic with shows from the United States and Canada winning on many occasions, this shows that the Rose d'Or has the prestige to be able to break down barriers between American and European television.

"And now for something different... and rare.."

As such since 2004 with the categories being separated into component parts such as Arts and Specials, Music, Sitcom, Variety and even giving a prize to the best pilot programme in that year. There have been winners throughout the intervening years such as Peter Serafinowicz, The Inbetweeners, The Vicar of Dibley etc. It seems diluted as an award, though that maybe with the proliferation of some many channels out there. But if Benidorm Bastards or I Survived a Japanese Game Show makes it to air over which could be a possibility then who knows what might happen to the next generations of shows. 

From Switzerland via the medium of a huge rubber band, we are back here in the UK again. So thanks to our European cousins, shows have come over to us and we have sent shows to them. Showing surely the universal language is television and over borders come ideas, new thrills and the chance for performers to been seen in many countries as they can. But for the Gold Standard, they are all trying to achieve at the same time and that, that in itself is just special...

Sunday, 20 November 2011

A trip on the Euro-visions express... Part One

Thanks to my brother whilst watching a programme  called 'Na Sowas!' presented by German's Noel Edmonds with him tonight, he wondered about the all the programme formats which have from foreign climbs to this country and what ones we have given to the Europeans. The X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing are two nowadays as well as The Weakest Link, but there have been plenty more which have come over as friendly visitors to our shores.

"An ooh and a la-la as well.."

So we start out by going from the UK to France first of all for a programme which ventured forth in 1982 and has just announced a new presenter. Des chiffres et des lettres as it know in France came to Britain when Marcel Stellman, a Belgian record executive took the format to Yorkshire Television and thus 'Twice-Nightly Whiteley' was born. The show started in 1965, but the familar format came into being in 1972 . With the length of the round being 45 seconds rather then Countdown's 30 seconds and duels such as contestants having to complete mental arithmetic calculations in their heads plus rounds where contestants have to find nouns and proper nouns in ten letters. The appeal of the programme comes from it simplicity and the nature perusing the mental aspect of the game, being returned in over seven territories worldwide mainly in Europe.

With The Apprentice's Nick Hewer taking over from Jeff Stelling in January, its yet to be seen if the programme can stay at the peak of its popularity. But with Nick Hewer being the fourth host since Whiteley's untimely death, it has stayed the course since 2005 and with its 30th anniversary coming up in November next year, the loyal viewers will be there as usual.

From France, we move to The Nederlands now. Those who know me will know where we are going with this, Een van de acht or translated 'One out of the eight' started off on VARA Television in 1969 when Theo Uittenbogaard came up with the format, but Mies Bouwman came up the idea of a conveyor belt though this came from a German television show and wanted to incorporated into the show. Through this came the late Bill Cotton Jr. travelling to Holland seeing the format and with ITV's domination of the television ratings at the start of the early 70's thought that the format with tweaks would be good for Bruce Forsyth to present which he did until 1978 when Larry Grayson took over, but such is these formats it wasn't only the UK which took on the programme. Germany had Am laufenden Band presented by Rudi Carell which was also a direct decendent of the programme, similar to the South African, Swedish versions as well. Mainly bringing  on the members of the public and letting them compete in games to find out who would go through to the conveyor belt at the end of the programme. A simple format, maybe but always entertaining. There's something to be said, of the unique appeal to the public of seeing themselves on the screen and thinking that if the contestants can do it, so the people at home could do it better.

Dutch Courage...

Onto Spain as we find a pumpkin and a bin to put it in... Un, dos, tres... responda otra vez was the Spanish version of 3-2-1 and hence it came from there to Kirstall Road in 1978, but the original programme started in 1972 and ending in 2004 not before versions in Portugal, Germany and The Netherlands were broadcast.
Die Verflixte Sieben presented again by Rudi Carell was the German version of the show, taking on the variety aspect of the show theming very edition. As such the Dutch version incorporating the Dutch National Lottery within it meaning that it became more reason to watch the programme. Ruperta the Pumpkin in the Spanish version fills the role of Dusty Bin as such as being the show's own mascot but also as a red herring for the contestants to avoid, this is a device which serves as a role for being able to make the mascot seeming innocuous and innocent. But with its sting in the tale, causing the contestants to be cautious on their approach on what to reject as a clue. With each aspect testing the contestants with games, their knowledge being tested and also the ability to decifer the clues as well. Its puts something into the show which is seemingly lost, the element of surprise as well.

"One, Two, Three... Respond please..."

As we pull into the station for now, we have been through France to the UK, back to Holland and onto Spain... Next time, we move onto Deutschland betting on going through the place where shows go to where they are judged from across Europe with ultimate prize on show...

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Is it a bird, is it a plane or is it a load of British actors hamming it up?

Tonight, I have been watching Superman 3. I've loved the Superman movies from a young age as it seemed escapism from the normal hum-drum life and during the 1980's something was needed to be able to. But apart from these movies being set in America, they have a very British quality to them, perhaps this was helped that the filming moved to Pinewood from Italy when the Pound became cheaper in 1977.

For this piece of all-American apple pie, with its directors Richard Donner for the first one, Richard Lester for the second and third, Sidney J. Furie for the fourth and Bryan Singer for Superman Returns. The main cast were mainly all american but when it came to it, it seemed British was the best. With Trevor Howard cast as one of the Krypton elders, that Shakespearian quality would come through to give gravitas to the film. But how many of you know that one of the hoods who contrive to do a robbery is none other then wine-expert Oz Clarke?

"Oh cock! It is you... Pour me another glasses please Oz... Better still give me the whole bottle!"

Now famous for being a sidekick to James May, Oz was an actor who appeared not only in Superman: The Movie but also Who Dares Wins as well. Amazing to think ten years later he would be lyrically giving his opinions on fruity red wines, but his place is assured in the Superman movie franchise.

After the original movie was released and it was a success, the Salkinds had Richard Donner taken off the project though 75% of the second movie's scenes were already done. Richard Lester, had been a unofficial producer on the original film took the helm for the second one, reshooting many of the Donner scenes in his own way. With Lester's history being the director of The Beatles movies, lead to Superman 2 being lighter in tone than the first one.

The basis for the Kryptonian villains took on the same style that Trevor Howard did in the first movie, by hiring Terence Stamp as General Zod adding his own brand of villainy to the role and Sarah Douglas playing Ursa as well gave Hollywood the impression of hiring a Brit usually means they will add menace to a role, but that's not always the the Brits job to do that. Comic relief is also a factor as well, the ability to raise a laugh within all this action taking place. One person who follows through from number two to three in the series is a man who helped launch BBC2, that man was Gordon Rollings. Mention his name and they'll say that he was in the John Smith's bitter commericals for many years, but his first appearance is as a fisherman who cannot believe his eyes when Terence Stamp literally walks on water causing his to question what's been put in his thermos flask...

"Oh Zod it! I've left the cooker on Ursa... Can we come back next week to invade you?"

But the award for the best start and the number of Brits has to go to Superman 3, from Pamela Stephenson fresh from Not The Nine O' Clock News playing Lorelei Ambrosia. She seemingly is dippy, but hiding intelligence beyond her looks. From the start of the move where she most men's heads with a display of legs and cleavage causing all sort of chaos in a chain of events including Graham Stark losing his guide dog in exchange for a line painter, Gordon Rollings again falling in a hole having Stark step on his head, Bob Todd getting covered in paint and for the ultimate humiliation Rollins gets a super pie-slap from Christoper Reeve right in the face. These giants of comedy, show what humour can be had as well as action and it sits perfectly
in any start to a movie. Its this which Superman Returns was lacking in a way, there is realism but also there got to be sillyness as well. As part of an action film, I'm not saying everything must go into a pie fight but those one-liners and comical moments make the movie great.

John Smith's Bitter not included...

Now the baton is being taken up by Zack Snyder with 'Man of Steel' with Christopher Nolan of the revamped Batman trilogy producing the film as well, it seems like this seriousness is over-swamping films now. Its not saying as much, that films have to be serious though think about when movies are their most enjoyable is when the action is mostly akin to the silent movies or just a one-liner which raises a laugh...

As Gene Hackman says in Superman 2 when realising he might have bitten off more than he chew with General Zod "Oh God..." Terence Stamp retorts "Don't you mean Zod?" In that moment we know that villains have a sense of humour and that movies don't take themselves to seriously with the Brits able to make the jokes....

The Big Apple meets The Big Yin's wife...

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Dusting off the cobwebs...

So Challenge has decided in their wisdom to bring out the big guns for the Autumn meaning that they are around again to showing 3-2-1, now that Sky has taken over Challenge it means that along with Deal or No Deal coming to the channel other shows are due an airing from the same cannon.

ITV was a powerhouse of gameshows from the late 70's to the mid 90's, as such both Bruce Forsyth and Bob Monkhouse switching between the BBC and ITV during that period. I remember watching these show as a child whenever they were on and it was like another world away from my own. Apart from Play Your Cards right, which at that time and still now has the most exciting and lively start to a gameshow. For the early 80's it was big time for Brucie coming off the back off his 'Big Night', yet the tales about Michael Grade wanting what turned into Family Fortunes are available from books, the internet and other media. It felt right for Bruce, taking on that role and its success stretched throught out the 80's with revivals as well.

But many of the gameshows are forgotten now, let me lead by the hand as we go for gold or strike it rich in Boggenstrovia's Guide to shows which have been forgotten by the public...

1. "A difference of opinion here Geoffrey..."

Winner Takes All, the only gameshow to combine general knowledge and betting. Starting in 1975 with Jimmy Tarbuck at the helm until 1986, it was a strange affair to the young child who didn't know anything about betting at all. All I knew is if they got an answer right, they got a whole load of points for it. I didn't know what 10-1 was, I had heard it on World of Sport but what it actual meant was a whole different matter.

Jimmy was the man with the cash even at the start of episodes when he brought it on in a suitcase, little wonder that Securicor wasn't there to protect him with something like that. Though for Play Your Cards Right's titles, the original titles to Winner Takes All seemed like a psychotropic affair. Numbers, thousands of Tarbys and lots and lots of colours, later on the titles were a bit more calmer...

"Suited, booted and ready to go.."

In the final, two contestants would battle it out for £1000 with the winner getting the chance to get more money by coming back the next week but if they lost they would only get the £100 losers prize. So the greed was there, for the people who wanted it plus also the spangly sets. Well, a spangly curtain at the beginning for the contestants smile over in a circle, but with a spinning Yorkshire Chevron as well. Yorkshire loved the Chevron to do things in their gameshows, just to make you more scared if you weren't already scared enough of it. Poking itself around the door with a maniacal smile on its face, playing thousands of Tarbys coming towards you in your sleep...

2. "Punchlines!"

The Saturday teatime show which would be the cousin of Celebrity Squares but wouldn't write to it at Christmas. With Lennie 'TSW's Opening Show" Bennett at the helm nothing could go wrong really, by its nature all it was was making jokes to their  'Punchlines'. See what that they did there? With eight guests supplying the punchlines and to confuse the situation, they would change their boxes to confuse the contestants or put another way to make a joke sounds more rude then it already was. For three years between 1981 and 1984, even taking in an FA Cup Final appearance on the big day itself to get viewers away from the BBC. Taking in the atmosphere were Matthew Kelly and singer Rose Marie who made regular appearances through the series, with celebrity guests teaming up with a member of the public and when they got to 150 points they would win the game and the losing contestant got a Lennie Bennett doll during the first two series, a odder consolation prize I cannot think of. But after series three, they got some champagne and some glasses, so from the son of Lennie to something to drown their sorrows.

"Who'll bid me for this Gus Honeybun?"

It was another show with strange titles, not animated but in 3D. I think it was just a game by the television industry to see who could make the most lavish titles for the least money, it was a case Lennie ruled the gameshow universe for a while like all new gameshows. Whatever show was put in front of people, it was lapped up quicker then an analogical situation. I wish Challenge would put this on their schedule, maybe I'm a sadist for the show but it was good, well in my mind it was.

Two to be going on with there, it maybe strange to say that maybe a move to Freeview has saved Challenge judging by the number of people who are watching again, from the days when it shared time with The Family Channel when it first launched on Sky. But looking at the list on Wikipedia of the shows which they have shown over all that time, it reveals that a lot of shows could be shown. But its become a very British channel again, taking shows like 3-2-1 and Blankety Blank and putting them on the channel again. Something to say about it, is that they have settled in nicely and with a presence on twitter as well @ChallengeTV 

Maybe a hint or two could be sent to those who run it to put some more archive shows on there, dust off the cobwebs and give us some Punchlines!