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Gameshow golden oldies to remember

PUBLISHED: 09:53 15 May 2012 | UPDATED: 09:54 15 May 2012

Nicholas Parsons with the show hostesses on Sale of the Century.

Nicholas Parsons with the show hostesses on Sale of the Century.

Archant

On the whole, I'm not a huge fan of gameshows. Watching other people win brilliant prizes they probably don't deserve or, worse, watching them fail to answer questions that the contents of a petri dish would know the answer to simply makes me angry.

That said, some gameshows transcend my naturally cynical, bitter, miserable response to other people’s good fortune, although most of the shows in question have long-since been decommissioned.

This week, Blockbusters returns to our screens – if you’ve got more than five TV channels – with new host Simon Mayo and adults instead of mascot-laden sixth-formers answering the questions.

I can’t remember if I liked Blockbusters or not: when it aired with Bob Holness at the helm, from 1983 to 1994, I was either very young or very drunk.

I remember the whole “Can I have a P, please?” thing, but urine-based humour can only amuse me for so long before I need more. Call me picky. The reinstatement of Blockbusters, with Mayo at the helm (looking ever-more like a drama supply teacher from the 1980s) made me think about other gameshows that have slipped away from us.

If they can bring back Blockbusters, they can bring back The Adventure Game. And Sale of the Century. And 15 to 1. And Going for Gold, which surely should be the official gameshow of the London Olympics – if there’s an official pork supplier, I see no reason on God’s clean earth why there shouldn’t be an official quiz.

So, here follows my list of five shows which deserve a second airing. That’s not to say I’ll watch them, but I never said I was consistent or predictable. I am neither of those things: that’s why I’m so loveable.

1) Sale of the Century: Live from Norwich, which in itself is reason enough to bring it back to our screens, this show offered spectacularly miserable contestants the chance to “buy” heavily discounted prizes with their gameshow Monopoly money. Fabulously non-aspirational prizes were on offer such as vacuum cleaners, toasters and, brilliantly, a pile of car tyres, all of which were enthusiastically “sold” by host Nicholas Parsons. Better prizes were also available: cars, holidays to Spain and cash, but it was the less glamorous trinkets which attracted Parsons’ best tirades – “would you like a mink coat, Elizabeth? I say, would you like a mink coat, Elizabeth? Would you?” Elizabeth never got her mink coat but the show registered ITV’s highest-ever rated viewing figures with a staggering audience of 21.2 million people. Considerably less tuned in to see Challenge TV’s revival of the show hosted by Keith Chegwin, even though your Sale of the Century pounds could have bought you an £80 steam iron for just £8. There’s no accounting for taste. Sale of the Century fact: Parsons pulled the door off a Lada car prize in rehearsal and was credited for starting an avalanche of jokes about the brand.

2) 15 to 1: The fabulous William G Stewart marshalled this cerebral quiz in which 15 contestants were ruthlessly whittled to one via the medium of relentless general knowledge drilling. Not for 15 to 1 the glitz and glamour of big cash prizes, or indeed any prize that any human might want or need: contestants battled it out to win a Grecian urn attached to a plinth, a prize so hideous that even Nicholas Parsons would have struggled with the hard-sell. Additionally, one cannot fail to be impressed by a gameshow where the host threatens to give a talk on the Parthenon Marbles to fill time if less than five contestants were left standing after round one. 15 to 1 fact: In 1997, three episodes of the show were transmitted in the wrong order. At least two people noticed.

3) The Adventure Game: Like the crazed imaginings of a madman on hallucinogens kicked through A Clockwork Orange, The Adventure Game was set on an alien planet inhabited by shape-shifting dragons (the Argonds), three minor celebrities and a bunch of menacingly psychotic hosts. Celebrities would work their way around a series of games in a bid to get to the Vortex, a bridge across space and time which offered a black-or-white choice between a safe passage and instant vaporisation. Noel Edmonds was evaporated on the Vortex, which is reason alone to call for its reinstatement to our screens. The Adventure Game fact: the animatronic Rangdo of Arg was controlled by Kenny Baker, also known as R2-D2.

4) Bullseye: “Look at what you could have won…” One has to respect a show which actively taunts losing contestants by showing them a glittering speedboat which they could have taken home to their high-rise flat in South London had the darts been with them. Host Jim Bowen was a walking dictionary of catchphrases between 1981 and 1995, reminding us all that darts is a noble sport open to all, regardless of athleticism. You can’t beat a bit of Bully, but you can beat the Dave Spikey-fronted comeback Bullseye in 2006 which flopped like a sumo wrestler in a paddling pool. Bullseye fact: The first two Bullseye programmes were so terrible that they were scrapped and never broadcast.

5) Going for Gold: In the post-Neighbours, pre-News at Six slump, Going for Gold filled the void with a vaguely Olympian format which saw European contestants pitted against each other in a contest hugely weighted towards native English speakers. Host Henry Kelly, who winningly donned a dinner jacket when it came to the game’s final round, would steer contestants – many of whom had only a rudimentary command of our mother tongue – round categories such as “cheese” or “transport beginning with the letter S”. Worth rebooting for the theme tune alone, which was composed by film score maestro Hans Zimmer and brings to mind a Hitler youth rally on amphetamines. Going for Gold fact: filmed at Elstree, Going for Gold regularly attracted studio audiences that numbered… six.

PS: If I only get one choice, I choose The Adventure Game. I have children and figure it could be a powerful weapon in the war against them ever trying drugs.

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