Another time to look at a simpler time when Big Brother was just a member of the family.
One of the 1990’s main features for television was Game Shows. If you look at the rubbish shows on TV today they are nothing more than copy cats of each other, quiz broadcasts. In the 1990’s there was a diverse range of Game Shows where the contestants had to participate and be physical instead of just sitting/standing around, answering questions and being generally lazy. The constant talk of obesity in this country it is easy to see why, no more physical TV shows.
Even children were physically more fitter because they had shows like Fun House. It was one of the highlights of Fridays when coming home from school. 2 teams of children (one boy and one female) would participate in incredibly silly games in the hope of getting points and then win the chance of running around in the fun house to win an assortment of prizes, I wonder if anyone managed to collect all the prizes in the Fun House? This was presented as always by Pat Sharp and aided by his two cheerleaders Melanie and Martina. The Fun House was always the main attraction, it was the show you wanted to be on, I remember the bobsled being the most fun looking part.
Fun House was not the only form of physical entertainment for children; some people may remember Run The Risk. Another game show but this time presented on CBBC where as Fun House was presented on CITV. Run The risk involved 3 teams participating in silly games some of which involved Gunge which was more valuable than oil for TV executives as well as answering questions. It’s presentation style was similar to many game shows of the time which included studios with an audience and no natural sun light, it also included electro music which helped its overall style as being slightly rebellious. It’s one of those shows which was absolutely fantastic but only well-remembered by those who saw it and enjoyed it which is a real shame really because the games were similar to other shows of the time but it’s presentation style really stood out.
There was one other Major Show for kids and it was presented by a man who is possibly the greatest children’s TV show presenter in history, Dave Benson Phillips. The show was called Get Your Own Back in which children apply to have their parents or other adults subjected to a series of silly challenges before the possibility of having them dropped into a tank of Gunge. DBP was of course the star attraction with his wacky style and wacky voice. The show had many format changes in its history but the overall idea stayed the same. The show ended in 2003 after 190 episodes but I have just found out that there is a planned revival in the works.
These 3 shows were all brilliant in their own ways but as far as I know only one has had repeats on Challenge, that being Fun House, I would say that they are all equally brilliant with possibly Get Your Own Back being the better show. All 3 shows also had Fantastic soundtracks.
It was later on in the decade that the Greatest Game Show of all time arrived, Robot Wars. Robot Wars was an amazing show where teams of people who spend a lot of time in the shed make deadly robots that would attack each other. The show continued into the 2000’s but is sadly not on TV anymore and it is about time that it gets a revival. It was the show I wanted to appear on the most and I still want to compete in this sport. The show was eventually (STUPIDLY STUPIDLY STUPIDLY) sold to Channel 5 and that is where it died. So this is really a message for the BBC – BRING IT BACK YOU IDIOTS. I will keep this part short because I can probably get a much better look at Robot Wars if it was a whole post.
Whereas the children had their shows, some of the most well-remembered shows were on Saturdays. Big Break was one of the main events of a Saturday night along with Casualty and Noel’s House Party. It involved several people from the public teaming up with professional Snooker Players to try and win prizes. It was presented by Jim Davidson and John Virgo. What is most confusing about snooker as a whole is why does it take forever seeing as the professionals in Big Break could clear a table in less than 3 minutes? My favourite part as always was the Trick Shot round where Virgo would get the contestant to try and perform some amazing trick (and usually help them cheat). It was also the occasion when the show was most likely to appear on Auntie’s Bloomers. The show was potentially the first sighting of a formula which would eventually spawn Strictly Come Dancing.
Gladiators was one of the biggest shows of the decade, John Fashanu and Ulrika Jonsson presented a show where many physically fit contestants have to complete many demanding challenges against the might of a group of athletes known as The Gladiators. Forget the recent remake (that was rubbish and not worth remembering), this is the true gladiators. The star attraction being Wolf who was a villain to the contestants and the public. He was an extremely entertaining character as well as a very dangerous athlete for the contestants. Another star attraction was John Anderson, the Scottish referee who had his own memorable style in which he overlooked the games, “You Will Go On My First Whistle”. Many of the challenges were something in their own rights. Games like duel which really caught the nation where a contestant and a Gladiator would fight up a height using big sticks. Other games like my favourite Slingshot involved contestants having to jump on a bungee cord to collect a ball and put into their box while avoiding the Gladiators. Eventually the contestants would have to face each other in the Eliminator which was this massive assault course which involved many challenges including the travellator which was a treadmill going up an incline (this was the subject of a comedy piece where someone managed to get a remote for it to go up, see the video below). The show had the combination of music from Queen and its own soundtrack which was an incredible combination.
We can’t talk about shows like these without mentioning The Crystal Maze. What is regarded by many (not including me) as the greatest Game Show of all time. A show where a team of people play through challenges to win crystals so they can have as much time as possible to compete for a big prize in a crystal shaped dome with floating tickets. The only format changes were when the Industrial Zone became a Ship Zone, The clothing worn by the contestants changed and when Richard O’Brien (who recently sang for a song on a certain Puppet TV Show) left and was replaced by Ed Tudor Pole. It was a show that is just asking for a revival and why shouldn’t it, as long as it is exactly the same show (no changes). It’s crazy style was accelerated even further by it’s wacky presenters. Not much can be said without making a whole post about it.
Technically all game shows from this period had fantastic soundtracks particularly in their intro music videos for the show. You have to look at shows that are not game shows to find anything equally as good on TV these days (Rescue: Special Ops). In more recent years the stupid Quiz format has dominated the schedules with only a few shows deserving a mention, shows like Total Wipeout, Globo Loco (look out for the bloke saying “EACH”, one of the best catchphrases in TV history) and Jungle Run (before it was ruined). It is time for the Game Shows to return and get people off their backsides. Stop pretending you can sing or have some strange ability and get off your bum and do something active that is also fun for people to watch without making a complete fool of yourself. The 1990’s was a golden period for Game Shows, a period which will be remembered and may not be seen again. Game Shows, another reason why the 90’s was Fantastic.