Thanks to the repeats on Challenge TV, I’m enjoying seeing Bob Monkhouse in top form on his game show Bob’s Full House. Monkhouse got an unfair reputation for being smarmy during the eighties and nineties, but his love of the format shines through, and he’s brilliant in his role as host. It should go without saying that he’s hilarious too.
It has me wondering though, what happened to all the contestants? Did they enjoy their hampers? How did their free holidays pan out? Do they still own their colour televisions with built in teletexts?
So I did something I never thought possible. I got in touch with a few of them.
On this Saturday’s repeat (I’m sure they cut out the whole of Bob’s opening monologue), we met Marc, a student from Oxford, who announced on the show that he was about to emigrate to New Zealand. When it aired, this would have been the first his mother would know of it.
I now want this board game more than anything else in the world.
Marc started off a bit rubbish, offering up some odd answers to seemingly easy questions, and when it came to the final round, he had most of his bingo card still to light up. But in a stunning display of general knowledge, he came through to win a chance on the Monkhouse Mastercard.
He knew he was trying to uncover the letters that spelled out the destination of New York, but he fell apart again on the final three questions, and ran out of time.
Along the way though, he had won a bonus prize – a bunch of flowers on his birthday for the next five years. Bob generously suggested the flowers should be delivered to Marc’s mother instead, and the silver-suited student agreed.
But when I spoke to Marc about it all, he said that the flowers dried up after two years. It took us a moment to clear up the ambiguity; he didn’t mean the actual flowers had dried up after two years, that would be fine, he meant the deliveries had.
It confused his mother a lot, as did her son’s disappearance. She hadn’t watched Bob’s Full House that night, because true to form, Marc had failed to tell her he was going to be on it. The first she knew of the whole affair was when the flowers turned up on Marc’s birthday with a note written by Bob Monkhouse himself.
Look, it’s got pencils and everything.
A week earlier, a contestant called Eleanor had won a holiday to Montreal with one second to spare. When I asked her if she had enjoyed her trip, she was ambivalent about the whole thing.
“It was a bit odd that Monkhouse insisted on coming with us. He set up a podium in the hotel room, which he stood behind the whole fortnight, and kept asking us question after question after question. In all fairness though, he did put the final bill on his Mastercard.”
And here’s a screenshot from the Commodore 64 computer game.
Obviously neither of these stories is true, not least because I don’t have the wherewithal to do any actual research. But wouldn’t it be great if someone did make a documentary about some of the contestants from shows like Bullseye and Strike It Lucky, telling their stories of life with their prizes? I’d watch that.
Here’s the first part of the 1984 Boxing Day special.
And here’s Shane Richie’s 1990s reboot of the format. It was called Lucky Numbers:
You know those little cards that post-people poo through your door? The ones that tell you they knocked, waited six seconds, then left? The ones that promise wonders wrapped in brown cardboard if you ever get the chance to go to the depot? I got one of those the other day, and today was the first chance I had to go and collect my prize.
And it was this magnificent beast:
I once coveted this so much, but I never found myself with the opportunity to actually buy it. Then it went out of print and most of it got put up on the BBC Comedy site, but it’s never the same as thumbing through the listings with a nice cup of tea by your side.
Then I read a great blog by Louis Barfe, which reminded me I always wanted this, so off I went in search of it, and was pleased to find the 1998 edition, which means I don’t have to look at Ricky Gervais every time I want a read of it. Plus it’s got a foreword by Ronnie Barker.
The Gingerbread Girl, an ITV sitcom made by Yorkshire Television in 1993. It was on on Fridays at 8.30pm, and starred Janet Dibley.
The writer was Alex Shearer. Apparently Dibley wanted to work with Shearer again after their other sitcom The Two Of Us ended. The star suggested this new show be about single parenting. Mark Lewisohn concludes:
While it had its moments, and tried to blend punchlines with poignancy, The Gingerbread Girl lacked bite and was not renewed for a second series.
So, now I have to go and read about The Two Of Us, which I remember Nicholas Lyndhurst being in. But first I’m going to read something else on page 272, a nice long entry about Girls On Top, which I’ve mentioned before.
I was watching In The Shadow Of The Moon the other night, and it made me grin throughout. The NASA footage of the Apollo 11 launch was breathtaking. And towards the end, the Apollo-nauts began to talk about how their trips to the moon had given them a uniquely planetary outlook in their lives.
It reminded me of a scene I wrote for a BBC Radio pilot:
World leaders are not chosen by public votes, they are predetermined by shadowy men in darkened rooms.
Ah, you refer to the Bildeberg Group theories of extremists?
No, I refer to the fact the World is run by Buzz Aldrin.
Oh come on, Buzz Aldrin runs the world?
He did this year. The Apollo 11 crew take it in turns to run the planet. Buzz and Neil are allowed to run it for two years at a time. Michael Collins is only allowed to run it on a single year basis.
And why is that?
He’s a moron. Michael Collins is single handedly responsible for Vietnam, Aristotle Onassis and Reality Television. Armstrong on the other wrist can take credit for Perestroika, the collapse of the Berlin Wall and Teresa May.
I see. And what has Buzz Aldrin contributed?
Ok then sir, who decided that these
(scoffs the word)
“astronauts” could run the world?
They did. When they splashed down, they immediately demanded an audience with Nixon. During a heated argument in the Oval Office, the I Am Not A Crook’d One made a critical error, and accidentally handed them power. The triumvirate of moon walkers asked for the reigns. Nixon asked why they deserved it. They replied, they’d walked on the moon. Nixon was flummoxed and relented. In a rage he ordered the Watergate break in. Astronauts bought down Nixon in more ways than one.
I actually quite like the idea of the Moonwalkers being allowed to run the planet, even if they are privileged white guys, because I think they would have had a broader socio-political spectrum than most parochial leaders.
I haven’t had a Cadbury’s Fuse bar since 2006. And do you know what? Neither have you. That’s because they were discontinued, even after 40 million of them were sold in the first week alone, and 82% of people rated it as excellent, and 83% said they would buy it again.
I want this, now
And now, more than anything else today, I want a Fuse.
I don’t want a Spira though. I seem to remember the chocolate was not nice.
Anyway, the Fuse was launched as part of a MASSIVE marketing campaign, that included adverts like this:
That actually makes me want a Fuse less now.
According to this case study, Cadbury’s set two important objectives for the Fuse. One, to grow the market for chocolate confectionery And two, to increase Cadbury’s share of the snacking sector. I’m fairly sure that’s the same goal stated twice.
The ‘Fuse’ concept was developed after market research identified the growth of snacking and a definite gap in the market for a more chocolatey snack.
Having a catchy ‘hook’ for a new launch helps to make consumers notice the product. Cadbury and its trade customers managed the first availability of Fuse around one day, Tuesday 24th September, aptly christened ‘Fuseday’.
This is making me bilious now.
I no longer want a Fuse.
Proof, if proof be need be, that marketing has ruined the world.