Monday January 16, 2017
Written by Andy Roberts
Ah, the lost world of the 1980’s ITV quiz – glitter, tinsel and the chance to win a Ford Fiesta Popular.
On a BBC game show, victors might have left with ‘a selection of board games’ and even on the commercial channel there was heavy restrictions on prize values until 1993. Happily, for the motoring enthusiast, this frequently resulted in a splendid array of Lada 1200s and the like. Here are five prime examples of the genre, all hailing from a lost world of shoulder pads, Paul Calf loafers and the chance to drive home in a Polski-Fiat 1300 loaded with Teasmades and ‘his and her matching bathrobes!’.
Sale of the Century – Anglia Television 1971 - 1983
‘And now from Norwich – it’s the quiz of the week!’ For 12 years those words heralded 30 minutes of glorious retroness, contestants apparently mesmerised by Nicholas Parson’s choice of blazers and the awesome sight of this week’s four-wheeled prize. By the early ‘80s the show’s ace voice man, John Benson would frequently enthuse over an entry-level Austin Mini Metro, one usually sourced from a local dealer. This clip dates from the last days of Sale of Century and on this fine Metro City someone has evidently switched on the hazard lights in a vain attempt to distract from its single door mirror and non-halogen headlamps.
3-2-1 – Yorkshire Television 1978 - 1988
Put simply, the viewers at home really had to suffer before the moment when the hostess (one of ‘The Gentle Secs’) unveiled a gleaming Vauxhall Chevette E as 3-2-1 was less a quiz/variety show and more of an endurance test. Ted Rogers was a very agreeable MC but he posed questions that often resembled the interrogation scenes in The Prisoner. Then there were the regular song and dance numbers from The Brian Rogers Connection, embarrassed-looking guest stars - the sight of Frank Thornton dressed as a giant owl will haunt me for the remainder of my days – and regular appearances of the “booby prize” ‘Dusty Bin.' After such tribulations, the winner surely deserved a Jaguar XJ12 rather than a Skoda Estelle.
Bullseye – ATV/Central 1981 – 1995 ATV
Asides from that animated bull there was a lot to like about Bullseye even if, like me, you found the rules of darts incomprehensible. Jim Bowen was the ideal choice for the host, the questions were often genuinely challenging and, best of all, were the main prizes. Caravans were a popular choice, but in the early episodes, there was the chance to win no less a vehicle than a Morris Ital. ‘Super, smashing, great,' as Jim never actually said.
The Price is Right – Central 1984 - 1988
Possibly the most uber-1980s of the programmes listed here, although The Price is Right still predated the era of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, so the ultimate prize would still be a caravan (again) or a low-budget car. A 1988 edition of the show has the off-screen announcer Simon Prebble gamely extolling the luxury features of a Mini 1000 - namely ‘a heated rear window’ and ‘a rear fog lamp.' And who could forget the opening sequence with Leslie Crowther’s command of ‘come on down!’ and contestants running through the studio, all of them apparently enthused and/or crazed with the chance of driving home in a Talbot Samba.
Play Your Cards Right – London Weekend Television 1980 - 1987
‘Ok dollies, do your dealing!’. ‘You don’t get anything for a pair – not in this game!’. ‘What do points make? – Prizes!’. Watching revivals of the original series of Play Your Cards Right (a chap is allowed his hobbies) reminded me that a) there was an average of 1,544,834 catchphrases per edition and b) of the sheer genius of Bruce Forsyth. After 25 minutes in his company, a 2-door Vauxhall Nova Merit as displayed by the ‘Dolly Dealers’ seemed like the most desirable vehicle on earth.