Between 1987 and 1996, this post-Neighbours feel-good favourite gathered together contestants from across Europe to answer quiz questions asked only in English, by a man from Ireland. “The time is right” the theme tune tells us, and so it is: I submit that Going for Gold should return next year as the official game show of the London 2012 Olympics.
In common with many Olympic sports – rowing, cycling and judo, to name but three – Going for Gold operated a repechage format, whereby winning contestants returned the following day as they strove for a place in the final. And the show’s inspirational theme tune (by Hans Zimmer, now a respected Hollywood film composer) could have been written as an Olympic anthem:
“The heat is on, the time is right/It’s time for you, for you to play the game/People are coming, everyone’s trying/Trying to be the best that they can/When they’re going for… going for… gold.”
I rest my case. Paul Jones
15 to 1
“There’s no need to spit the great lady’s name!” retorts William G Stewart in horror after a contestant answers “Margaret Thatcher” in a slightly glum way. But there’s no time to dwell, people need questions.
And so the tone is set for the greatest quiz show on earth…
Dramatic pauses, unlikely gambles and glitzy prizes can go hang, 15 to 1 is quizzing in its purest form. 15 people, 45 cheap green bulbs, a stern bespectacled headmaster and a shedload of relentless questioning.
And after this gruelling cerebral marathon, what is the prize? A million pounds, a static caravan retreat to Felixstowe? Nope, this is a classy affair.
The grand final winner gets to meet the elusive voiceover woman, Laura (later to become Bill G’s wife) and receive a Grecian urn deemed valueless by being glued to a cheap 15 to 1 branded mini-plinth.
After 35 series and 2,265 episodes spanning 15 years, Channel 4 put the programme to bed in 2003 – it was a black day for broadcasting, but an even sadder day for the quizzer in all of us. Tim Glanfield
The Adventure Game
It’s easy to look back with nostalgia at the television shows of one’s childhood and think “they were just way weirder than any of the stuff they make now”. Then you happen upon them again and they don’t quite live up to the memory – or you watch an episode of Waybuloo (which is aimed at pre-school children but seems to have been conceived by the Natural Law Party) and you change your mind. Not so with The Adventure Game.
This kids’ game show from the early 80s takes place on an alien planet inhabited by a race of shape-shifting dragon-like creatures. Often, they take the form of, say, Moira Stuart, but sometimes they like to appear as highly-strung potted aspidistra plants. The games-within-the-Game feature – to pluck a few ideas randomly from the air – a giant red salamander, a pitch-black maze, cryptic coloured tokens called drogna and an Australian bloke who talks backwards. Any contestants who successfully negotiate all of these potentially deadly snares face the dreaded Vortex, a bridge in space that could vaporise them with every step they take.
This is the kind of programme that encourages young imaginations to take flight – or leads to a course of medication. But you have to take risks to get results. Paul Jones
Producer: “ I’ve got a new game show, it’s hosted by Kenneth Kendall.”
Channel 4 exec: “Good, he’s a solid news type, he’s got gravitas, tell me more.”
Producer: “He stands around with two contestants in a dusty library of books and maps…”
Channel 4 exec: “OK, it sounds a bit creepy, but worthy, so let’s give it a bash, anything else I should know?”
Producer: “Oh, yeah… Anneka Rice will act as the contestant’s arms and legs. She’s what I call a ‘skyrunner’ and she’ll spend most of her time hanging out of a helicopter mildly flirting with the soundman before pegging it around a stately home in North Yorkshire. Oh, yeah, she’ll be in a jumpsuit and primarily filmed from behind…”
Yeah, it’s hard to see how Treasure Hunt got commissioned, but my word, I’m glad it did.
Simon Cowell might think he’s got high-concept game shows licked with Red or Black? but nothing can compare to this. Roll VT… Tim Glanfield
Darts gets sneered at a lot for its reputation as a seedy pastime for the sort of athlete who takes breaks in a backstreet pub instead of a gleaming pavilion, but this wasn’t always so.
Between 1981 and 1995, Jim Bowen, Tony ‘capital D’ Green and ‘Bendy’ Bully proved to the nation that darts wasn’t only for those with a nose full of broken blood vessels. Indeed, with Bowen’s glut of catchphrases, a weekly charity round and a charming animated bull for the kids, Bullseye reminded the public that darts was a game for anyone and everyone to enjoy.
Unlike Simon Cowell, Jim never mocked anyone for turning up at the oche with a dodgy perm or a wispy moustache, and losing contestants really meant it when they said that they’d had a grand day out. Bullseye reminded us that darts, like conkers or snap, was one of life’s simple pleasures and something anyone could have fun playing.
There was a half-hearted 2006 Dave Spikey reboot on Challenge TV, but it wasn’t the same…
No, if Cameron’s serious about his Big Society bringing communities together and getting people playing sport, he could do far worse than ordering Bully (with Jim Bowen at the helm) back onto our screens and sending a dartboard to every community centre in the land. Tom Cole
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