At Terry Wogan?s passing, Suzanne Baum recalls memories of his best TV show!
As a child of the Seventies, I reached double figures during the Golden Age of TV gameshows. The Eighties was the heyday of amazing family shows offering chances for contestants to win everything from a cheap carriage clock to a toilet roll holder and everything as tacky in between.
This genre of gameshow television provided a backdrop to family life as we joined in with the contrived games and quizzes and watched in awe as the lucky contestants walked off with a prize of their dreams!
Alongside Terry Wogan, it was stars including Bob Monkhouse, Cilla Black and Michael Parkinson who came into our living room week after week-those were the good old days of television where the contestants had to work really hard to win a prize unlike today where even viewers can win prizes simply by sending a text message to an on-screen number. For as naff as they were, the game show consolation prizes of the Eighties TV shows were highly coveted.
As a kid, I wanted a Blankety Blank chequebook and pen as much as I craved a bicycle! I was one of the estimated 23 million that regularly tuned into the British version of the show-hosted by Terry Wogan in the 1980?s. Looking back through today?s lens, the fill-in-the-blanks game feels as naff as some of the star prizes ? yet it was the consolation prize of that chequebook and pen that we secretly wanted to get our hands on.
There may in theory be an estimated 400 chequebook-and-pen sets from the Terry Wogan/Les Dawson era out there but trying to get my hands on one proved to be a real challenge. The classic chequebook is solid silver and sits on a plinth with the pen nestling beneath and the contestant?s name lovingly embossed on the front. One was reportedly sold on Ebay for £280 in 2009. With news of Terry Wogan?s sad passing yesterday, there was a flurry of activity on the Internet as people tried to track one down. I eventually found a lovely gentleman who was prepared to lend one to me temporarily; I felt triumphant when I picked it up from his warehouse having traipsed to the other side of London.
Other retro game-show consolation prizes may currently lie in the chequebook and pen?s shadow right now but they proved so popular back in the day that contestants sometimes seemed satisfied going home with one instead of a pair of ladies and gents? matching dress watches or a crystal decanter!
The famous Blockbusters show first came onto our screens in 1983, with many believing it wouldn?t last. As it turned out, it has been revived more times than we can remember-this is partly due to its wacky student contestants and its various prizes, most notably the gold-embossed Blockbusters dictionary.
?When I was 16, I actually won a competition to design the t-shirt you got when you lost on Blockbusters,? explained Jenny Wood. ?I got an Encyclopaedia not a dictionary ? I know, because Bob Holness signed mine ? and it?s one of my proudest possessions! I even went on the programme to show off my design. Watching the tape now, I look SO awkward and embarrassed.?
With the Crystal Maze soon opening as a live immersive experience, I have to give mention to the shows consolation prize-a crystal with engraving ?I cracked the crystal maze? and the year the episode was made. The Nineties tea-time favourite ? that ran on Channel 4 from 1990 to 1995, pitted teams of track-suited contestants against various mental and physical challenges staged in themed zones ? Medieval, Future, Aztec and Industrial ? the last of which was replaced by an ?Ocean? zone.
?My partner was so excited when he won a Crystal Maze trophy,? writer Kaye M McIntosh told me. ?People still come up and tell him they?ve seen the episode ? I think it lives forever on the outer reaches of cable and satellite series.?
Game show prizes may be the ultimate in kitsch but after finally getting my hands on a Blankety Blank chequebook and pen I felt that I had fulfilled a childhood dream- even if it took me 30 years to do so!
About Suzanne Baum
Suzanne has worked in journalism for nearly 20 years and specialises in real life, parenting and family travel features. After a five-year job as section editor for the Jewish Chronicle newspaper, she went into freelance writing, where she has had work published regularly in the Daily Mail, the Mirror, the Sun, the Times, Red, Junior, Practical Parenting, Mother & Baby, Take a Break, FHM, Men’s Health, Zest, Conde Naste Traveller, Best and Bella. A former shopping editor for Your Family magazine and features editor on The Jewish News, she now specialises in writing on family travel and is a product reviewer for Babyworld, MadeforMums and Healthista.