Monday, 5 November 2012

"And its Bob's Full House tonight as well.." - Why Bob Monkhouse and Bingo on the Beeb is still beloved after all these years...

Over the past couple of weeks, Challenge has started to repeat one of seminal gameshows to be broadcast on television in the United Kingdom, that of course being Bob's Full House. 

Previously the channel has shown all the available editions of Bob Monkhouse's time on Family Fortunes, so it came as no surprise when they said they had purchased Series One of Bob's Full House. Following on from the success of its purchase of the earlier series of Bullseye as well. This takes the modern viewer back to the day when the gameshow were the kings and queens of the screen. So much so, that at one time BAFTA used to present an award to the best gameshow host.

Going back to the early eighties, all sorts of shows were on the air such as Punchlines where contestants had to match the joke read out by Lennie Bennett to the Punchline given by one of the celebrities opposite them, which in turn could be said that the show also took aspects from one of Monkhouse's former shows Celebrity Squares. Also in the London Weekend Television camp came Bruce Forysth in Play Your Cards Right, the idea imported from the United States' Card Sharks. Though Forsyth wanted to swap with Monkhouse, so that he could do Family Fortunes instead. ATV held their ground and Forsyth along with his Dolly Dealers turned the cards for nearly six years on top of the new millennium revival.

Over at the BBC, the big banker gameshow was Blankety Blank with Terry Wogan but soon to be hosted by Les Dawson in 1984, plus with Paul Daniels coming on the scene with Odd One Out as well. The BBC needed something new and different, when Bob Monkhouse left Central and Family Fortunes in 1983, the next port of call was the Beeb. First of all he presented his chatshow interviewing legendary plus up and coming comedians as well on BBC 2. But the gameshow itch was waiting to be scratched by both the management and also Monkhouse as well.

Though the story of how Bob's Full House came to air is not quite as smooth as the show turned  
out to be. When the idea was first presented by its devisers Terry Mardell and David Moore in 1983, it was a different beast originally called 'Top of the Shop'. From where it actually came from through so many different versions before the final version came to screens on the 1st of September 1984, that thirty-seven revisions were made to get it to the right format with one version even suggesting putting bingo cards in the Radio Times to allow the viewers at home to 
play along with the quiz at home. Which would have made it a sort of national lottery before the idea had been even thought about in this country.

The final format settled on was easy to understand, by cutting down the numbers from 90 to 60 meant that the game could be simplified. The space given was taken up with a monologue at the start of the show and the time to allow Monkhouse to talk to the contestants, very much like he had previously done on Family Fortunes. But when it came down to the actual game itself, the simplicity was in the types of questions, part general knowledge but also part fact based as well allowing Bob to do a joke about the question before moving on to the next contestant. 

With the first round for the four corners of the bingo card, it relaxes the contestants into the game by asking them questions individually. Most of these are fun, sometimes silly facts usually of a true or false nature, pretty much almost really easy to get into the game and win the first spot prize. The game itself as a contest starts with the 'Monkhouse Master Card' with each ten numbers referring to a subject with the contestant can choose from on the gameboard. Thus going for a subject which they may know about such as Cooking, for instance with that subject taking in the numbers 11-20 and choosing the number 14 for example. Getting it meant that number was lit on the players bingo card in front of them. Though get the answer wrong and it would be open to all the rest of the contestants to answer, get it right and they could lit a number of a subject they didn't like on the board. Though get it wrong and they would be frozen out of answering the next question if it was their turn or not, more commonly know in the game as being 'Wallied'. Though ever the pro Monkhouse had a catchphrase for the reveal of the subjects "In bingo-lingo its clickety-click... Its time to take your pick of the six!" and also when the subjects were mixed up "Please mix the six, if you'll please..." The style of the catchphrases used by Bob makes the game even more fun then it already is.

The final part of the game where contestants are aiming to light up all the numbers on their bingo card ramps up the excitement as all the contestants try to answer the questions quick fired by Bob to them all the time. Every so often he reminds the audience and the viewers at home of the situation of play with the refrain "Boggenstrovia neeeds seven for a full house, Rob neeeeds four..." etc. Again making the game flow as natural as it can, seemingly making the last part of the main game almost exciting as the actual game of bingo itself whist waiting for the final number to come out of the bag for a big prize. The moment is as thrilling as anything ever experienced on television before, not knowing who will win at all. 

Once the full house is completed then finally its time to play for the big holiday and the chance to win money to go with it in the Gold Card round. The uniqueness of this round is not only the time limit of two minutes to answer the questions, but also the number of questions to do it in, fifteen to be precise. Seeming easy, but sometimes very difficult. The actual skill is in picking the right numbers to be able to form the letters which make up the place name of the holiday the contestant will be sent on if they find all the letters, but the tension is played to it fullest with the contestant not sure where the letters would be and trying to get all the questions right or have enough to be able to find all the letters at the end. Bob does make play of this with the first letter being reveal such as a 'B' making light of it with the joke "An 'B'... I hope it isn't Bognor!" Though this puts the player at their ease, allowing them to smile and have a laugh at this. Once won, the prize is revealed and the contestant congratulated by Bob to wish them a happy holiday and to say goodnight to the viewers and invite them again to join him again to watch the show next time.

It is Bob's enthusiasm for both the game and the participants themselves which makes the show great, he is one big part of it but its the game aspect which is bigger then anyone. The prizes may seem cheap to us now, the style is different to what a newer generation is used to, but this is why Bob's Full House maybe, just maybe be the best gameshow that has been broadcast on British television. Maybe, you have a different opinion on that. But for me the doors are always opened for you and me on Bob's Full House and I for one am glad that they have been reopened for us by Challenge TV....


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