Game Show

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Posted by bender 03/05/2009 @ 22:08

Tags : game show, tv, entertainment

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Pyramid (game show)


Pyramid is the collective name of a series of American television game shows where contestants tried to guess a series of words or phrases, based on descriptions that were given to them by their teammates. The title refers to the show's game board, featuring six categories arranged in a pyramid. Most different versions of the show included the various dollar values of their top prize in their titles, e.g., The $100,000 Pyramid. As a whole, series won nine Daytime Emmys for Outstanding Game Show, second only to Jeopardy!, which has won 11.

The original concept which creator Bob Stewart presented to CBS was a rough pilot presentation titled Cash on the Line taped at CBS's Ed Sullivan Theater on February 2, 1973. It was said the programming executives at the network only liked the second part of the proposed program's format, and suggested that Stewart rework that part into another game. This would eventually become the main game portion of Pyramid, featuring two celebrity-civilian partnered teams.

Stewart then reworked the game and presented another version to CBS, with a bonus round that featured a giant pyramid board and a top $10,000 cash prize which could be won in one minute. He made the point that offering such a large amount of money in such a quick fashion had not been done before on television. There was no second pilot episode taped, but a run-through presentation was made in front of the network executives, with Peggy Cass and Bill Cullen as the celebrities demonstrating the new Pyramid game format.

The $10,000 Pyramid, with host Dick Clark, made its network debut on March 26, 1973 and was a ratings hit, sustaining its ratings even when episodes were delayed or preempted by the Watergate hearings. A year later, the ratings temporarily declined and CBS canceled it. The show was quickly picked up by ABC, and its run there began May 6, 1974. As per CBS custom at the time with celebrity game shows, three weeks of CBS' run were taped in Hollywood; not until 1982 would any version of Pyramid return to California.

The first thirty episodes (six weeks) which aired on ABC were taped at CBS's Ed Sullivan Theater while a replica set was built at ABC's smaller Elysee Theater, known also as Studio TV-15. One reason may have been the size of the set (including the giant Pyramid board itself), and Pyramid historian William Padron also states that the CBS union staff objected to seeing their creations moved to an ABC studio. The first episode taped at ABC was broadcast on June 17, 1974 with June Lockhart and William Shatner.

A weekly syndicated nighttime version, known as The $25,000 Pyramid and hosted by Bill Cullen, made its debut in September 1974, seen mostly on network-affiliated stations during the prime access time slot. This edition lasted until September 1979.

The network daytime version was a ratings success for ABC, usually ranked #3 among daytime game shows. On January 19, 1976, the show increased its top prize and was renamed The $20,000 Pyramid. However, ratings later began to slide, and ABC canceled the show on June 27, 1980.

For a five-week period from October 1 to November 9, 1979, the series became Junior Partner Pyramid, with the traditional celebrity-civilian pairings scrapped in favor of children playing with a parent or other adult relative.

From January 26, 1981 to September 4, 1981, the program returned to daily first-run syndication as The $50,000 Pyramid, with Clark as host.

On September 20, 1982, the series returned to the CBS daytime lineup as The $25,000 Pyramid, again with Clark as host, but now taped in Los Angeles. The word 'New' was added to the title early on to prevent viewers from thinking the shows were reruns of Cullen's version, but was dropped in early 1985. It quickly became a hit, and a new nightly syndicated version, The $100,000 Pyramid, also with Clark, was added in 1985. CBS canceled the daytime version on December 31, 1987, but returned it for an additional 13 weeks of episodes in the spring of 1988 when its replacement, Blackout, failed. The $25,000 version ended on July 1, 1988, and the $100,000 version on September 2, 1988.

Later versions included a short-lived 1991 revival of The $100,000 Pyramid, hosted by John Davidson, and a 21st century version, the first to be simply be titled Pyramid, hosted by Donny Osmond, which ran from 2002 to 2004.

Even on versions where he didn't host, Dick Clark was still involved. He appeared on the Cullen and Osmond versions as a celebrity player, and offered pre-taped well wishes to Davidson on his version's premiere episode. At the time, Clark was hosting The Challengers, which prevented him from returning for this version.

The Pyramid's game boards, both in the main game and in the Winner's Circle bonus round, featured six categories arranged in a pyramid, with three categories on the bottom row, two on the middle row, and one on the top. In the main game, a category's position on the board was not an indicator of its difficulty. In the Winner's Circle, categories became progressively more difficult the higher they were on the board.

The game featured two teams, each composed of a celebrity and a "civilian" contestant. At the beginning of the game, the teams were shown six categories, whose titles gave vague clues to their possible meaning (e.g., "I'm All Wet" might pertain to things found in the water). Once the category was chosen, its exact meaning was given (except in certain bonus situations where the meaning was not given and a cash bonus won for completing all the clues). For up to 30 seconds, one player would convey to the other clues to a series of items belonging to a category. One point was scored for each item correctly guessed. If a word was passed, the giver could not go back to that word, but if the receiver knew the word later on and guessed it, the team still earned a point. On the Osmond version, a team that passed on any words could return to them if time permitted.

Originally, on the CBS version, there were eight possible items in a category. This was reduced to seven when the show moved to ABC, and reduced again to six (in 20 seconds) for the Osmond-hosted version. The short-lived Junior Partner Pyramid format kept the seven words, but increased the time limit to 35 seconds. Using any part of the answer in giving a clue resulting in the item being disqualified with a "cuckoo" (or a "burble" on the Osmond version) sound effect. Originally, the celebrity gave the clues in the first and third rounds, and the civilian contestant in the second round. Eventually, the team was given the opportunity to choose which player would give the clues in the third round. The teams alternated in the first two rounds, and the team with the lower score played first in the third round. Whoever had the higher score after three rounds played the "Winner's Circle" at center stage for a cash bonus.

From 1976 to 1980, any player who scored a perfect 21 points received a $1,000 bonus on the daytime $20,000 Pyramid and a $2,100 bonus on the nighttime $25,000 Pyramid during the 1977-1978 season. Towards the end of the daytime edition, 21 points won a bonus prize (a color TV on the final episode).

If there was a tie score at the end of the third round, a tie breaking round was played. One team was given the chance to choose to use things that began with one of two letters of the alphabet (e.g. "Things that begin with the letter M or the letter G"). The other team would use whichever letter the first team did not pick. In the 1970s, the objective was to score as many words as possible within 30 seconds, with the score added onto the team's initial main game score and play continuing until the tie was broken, leading to rare occasions when a team's score passed the 40-point mark.

Later in the 1970s syndicated run and on all subsequent versions, a "best of seven" tiebreaker was used. The earlier main game score was erased, and if the first team guessed all seven words within their allotted time, the opposing team had to guess seven words within the time it took the first team to get all seven, which meant tiebreakers almost always took just one round to complete (if both teams tied with less than 7, the score was again wiped clean and a new tiebreaker was played, though this rarely happened). Beginning in mid-1984, if the teams tied with a perfect score of 21-21, whoever broke the tie won a new car. By that fall, this bonus was changed to $5,000 cash, which also carried over to the first syndicated $100,000 Pyramid.

A number of bonus games were used during the front games, offering cash or a prize if the team correctly guessed all of the answers in a particular category. During the 1970s daytime version, one category each day hid the Big 7, which was originally worth a trip, but soon changed to $500. The Cullen-hosted version originally used the Big 7 with a payoff of $1,000. This was replaced the following season with a Big Money Card worth a random amount from $1,000-$5,000. During the final season of this version, the Big 7 returned and was played for a new car.

During the short-lived Junior Partner Pyramid format, there was no Big 7; rather, each team would choose one category during either of the day's two games to designate as their Bonus 7, which otherwise worked the same way as the Big 7, right down to the $500 payoff. One notable difference, however, was that the bonus money counted towards a team's final total for the day, the only time in Pyramid history when that occurred.

No bonuses were used on the $50,000 Pyramid, however, a trip was given to the player who achieved the fastest main game time during the course of the week.

Starting in the 1980s CBS version, a Mystery 7 was played in game two and won the contestant a bonus prize for guessing all seven words without being told the category until the end. For the first two years, it was shown in plain view, but was later concealed behind one of the categories. Several months into its run, a 7-11 bonus debuted, played in game one for a cash bonus of $1,100 (originally, contestants could either go for the money or "play it safe" and take $50 per word. Few teams chose this option, and it was finally dropped in early 1985). Both bonuses were carried over to the syndicated "$100,000 Pyramid" show.

In February 1983, the Mystery 7 was dropped in favor of a Player of the Week format, where a player who guessed all seven answers in the fastest time during the week received a trip to Greece (much like the $50,000 version). This was dropped after three weeks when it was realized a champion would have to be disqualified from this competition if their reign carried over from one week to another.

In the 1990s, a Double Trouble game was added, with contestants winning $500 for guessing seven two-word phrases in 45 seconds. In games where this appeared, there were two such categories in one game, and each team was required to play one of them. The 1990s version also included Gamble for a Grand (also played as Gamble for a Trip), in which a contestant could choose to give up time in one round and try to guess all seven clues in only 25 seconds, for a $1,000 bonus or vacation if successful. The 2002 Osmond revival had a Super Six in each half of the show, with a bonus prize awarded for a successful round.

The Winner's Circle included a larger pyramid, also composed of six boxes. Each box contained a category, such as "Things You Plan" or "Why You Exercise", and would be revealed one at a time. One player (usually the celebrity, though the contestant always had the option to give or receive, except in the first season of Donny Osmond's version) gave a list of items to the other player, who attempted to guess the category to which all of the described items belonged. Each category was worth a small amount of money. Correctly guessing all six categories in 60 seconds earned the cash bonus.

An illegal clue would disqualify the category and end the player's chance to win the large bonus. However, if other categories remained in the game, the smaller amounts could still be won and play would continue until time ran out or until all the remaining categories had been guessed. Illegal clues included giving a clue that was "the essence of the category" (i.e., the category itself or a direct synonym), describing the category itself rather than listing or naming items, clues that did not fit the category and made-up expressions. When The $10,000 Pyramid moved to ABC, hand gestures became illegal (the clue giver had arm straps attached to his/her chair to discourage this). Prepositional phrases and overly descriptive sentences were legal clues until The New $25,000 Pyramid revised its rules in 1982.

The cash bonus format for a successful trip to the Winner's Circle varied on different versions of the show. On The $10,000 Pyramid, a successful player won that amount of money and retired from the game. On The $20,000 Pyramid, a player's first trip to the Winner's Circle was for a possible $10,000, the second for $15,000, and third and subsequent trips for $20,000. A player who lost the main game left the show; thus, at least one new player would be introduced for the second game of each episode. A game with a Winner's Circle win in the first half would bring two new players to the show for the second half.

During the Junior Partner Pyramid format, two teams competed in two games each day, with $2,500 being the payoff for winning the day's first Winner's Circle, and if the same team made it to the second one, it would be worth $5,000. The team with the highest total, including $500 for a successful Bonus 7 category, were the champions and returned the next day. The All-Star Junior Pyramid special awarded $10,000 for clearing the Pyramid.

On the short-lived $50,000 Pyramid, two contestants also competed for the entire show. The first Winner's Circle was worth $5,000, and regardless of whether if it was won or not, if the same player made it to the day's second Winner's Circle, it would be worth $10,000.

Originally, if there was no time for the second Winner's Circle, it would be played at the top of the next show. On the week-ending Friday episode, if the second game ended in a tie and time was running short, the celebrities would team up to play the Winner's Circle and if won, their contestant partners split $5,000 between them (this procedure may have been instituted following a Monday show that started with a Winner's Circle in which the previous week's celebrity, Nipsey Russell, returned just to play that round and then left). By the 1980s, games no longer straddled. Every episode contained two main games and two Winner's Circles.

On The $25,000 Pyramid from the 1970s, if time was running short after the second game, the winning contestant received an additional $2,500. By the final season, the aforementioned "best of 7" main game tiebreaker had been instituted, thus eliminating the need for that rule.

On the 1970s daytime version, contestants were allowed to remain on the show until they were defeated or won the Winner's Circle. Under the $10,000 format, a player who won the Winner's Circle was allowed to keep all earlier winnings. Under the $20,000 format, the player's total was merely augmented to the amount won in the Winner's Circle. The syndicated versions featured no returning champions prior to 1985.

On the $25,000 and $100,000 versions of the show, the same two contestants competed for both halves of the episode. A player who won one of the two games on the episode played the Winner's Circle for $10,000. A player who won both games played the second Winner's Circle for a total of $25,000 (thus a second successful Winner's Circle trip actually added only $15,000 to the player's score). On all versions from 1982 to 1991, a player who won both games of an episode became the champion and returned on the next show. If each player won one game, the player with the higher total in the Winner's Circle became champion (cash won in the various front-game bonuses did not count). If the two players won equal amounts of money in the Winner's Circle, both returned on the next show.

Contestants on all 1982-1991 versions were allowed to remain on the show until defeated, lasting the maximum of five shows or (on the daytime version) exceeding the CBS winnings limit. This was originally $25,000, increased to $50,000 in early 1984, and again to $75,000 in 1986. Players were allowed to keep a maximum of $25,000 in excess of the limit.

The 2000s revival featured no returning champions. Each trip to the Winner's Circle was for $10,000, unless a player completed the Winner's Circle in the first game and then won the second game. In that case, the second trip was for a total of $25,000, as well as a spot in the $100,000 tournament. Note that a player on earlier versions did not have to win the earlier attempt at the Winner's Circle to play for the larger bonus in the later game.

On The $50,000 Pyramid, the player with the fastest time in the front game during that week qualified for the $50,000 tournament. The quarterfinals were played on Monday and Tuesday. The winner of each game would advance to the semifinals after playing the Pyramid for $5,000. On Wednesday and Thursday, each match would have two semifinalists playing two games against each other with players winning one game playing for $5,000, and players winning both games in the same show playing for $10,000. Whomever won the most money would compete in the finals. The losing players from the semifinals competed in a 'wild card' match. Starting the following Monday, two finalists played one game and the winner played the Winner's Circle for $50,000. If the grand prize was not won, that player played the next game against the finalist who sat out the previous game.

On both versions of The $100,000 Pyramid, the three players who won the Winner's Circle in the shortest time during a given period of shows (usually 13 weeks) returned on later episodes to compete in a tournament. The players alternated in a round-robin, with two players competing each day and the third player replacing the loser of that episode in the next one, if neither player won the Winner's Circle that day (in the event of a tie, a coin toss was used to determine who returned on the next show). The first player to win the Winner's Circle won $100,000 and ended the tournament. If a $100,000 win happened in the first game of the show, the two remaining players played the second game for a possible $10,000. No bonus cards were in play during a tournament, although the $5,000 bonus for a 21-21 tie remained intact on the 1980s version.

On the recent Osmond version, the tournament was played between either four or six players who won $25,000 in their initial appearance, with two tournaments played each season. During a six-player tournament, each contestant's first attempt at the Winner's Circle was worth $25,000. If $25,000 was won in the first half and the same player returned to the Winner's Circle, that contestant played for an additional $75,000 and the tournament title. If the tournament ended with no players able to win both Winner's Circles in one show, either the contestant who won $25,000 in the fastest time or the player who won the most money would have his or her tournament winnings augmented to $100,000. In a four-player tournament, contested competed in a single elimination, with the first two semifinalists competing on day one and the other two semifinalists on day two. Each attempt at the Winner's Circle worth $25,000. The top two winners then returned to compete in the finals, where each Winner's Circle victory that day was worth an additional $50,000.

The $50,000 Pyramid was unusual in that the clock in its main game counted up, from 00 to 30 (to facilitate "Time of the Week" scoring). It was also the first Pyramid version to use a fully electronic display for the main-game clock (using a vane-display clock), rather than a chromakeyed Solari board display. During regular game play, the Winner's Circle clock was also vane-display, with it starting at "1 00" and counting down from there. The Solari boards were used for the clock during tournament play, going as before (counting down from "30" and "60").

When Pyramid returned to CBS, the clock and score displays were all vane displays (each digit using seven flipper pieces to display numbers). However, during the Winner's Circle, the player receiving the clues and host Dick Clark would see an eggcrate-display clock to indicate how much time is left. In close wins, home viewers were sometimes shown this eggcrate clock after the win to further prove how little time remained. Sometimes, when time ran short when the next to last subject or the last subject was being guessed, Clark would advise to the clue giver "Hurry!".

For more information, please see this article.

The focal point of the set was a large pyramid at center stage. As the name of the show and top prize evolved, the flashing amount at the top of the pyramid changed from $10,000 to $20,000, $25,000, $50,000 and $100,000.

In front of the pyramid at center stage was the Winner's Circle. The host's podium and a smaller pyramid with each round's categories was located stage right. The contestants' desks were located stage left on a raised platform.

June Lockhart and Rob Reiner were the first celebrity guests on the debut week of CBS' The $10,000 Pyramid in 1973. On the premiere episode, Reiner won his contestant $10,000 in the very first playing of the Winner's Circle, but a clip used of the show's second win (also done by Reiner) from the first week was seen in opening montages thereafter. Lockhart was frequently seen as a guest during the 1970s, and Reiner later appeared on two episodes of Cullen's show during its first season.

Several game show hosts and future hosts appeared as panelists, including Bill Cullen, Geoff Edwards, Nipsey Russell, Betty White and Henry Polic II. Clark and Cullen appeared as celebrity guests on each other's shows, and Clark also appeared on three episodes of the Osmond version.

Billy Crystal holds the record for the fastest Winner's Circle win at 26 seconds, in an episode aired on December 2, 1977. Though the episode itself was destroyed, a clip of Crystal's entire record-breaking round was later shown on a 1979 episode that featured him and his Soap co-star, Sal Viscuso. The second fastest time was 27 seconds, held by two celebrities: Barry Jenner in 1987 (resulting in a $100,000 win), and Kelly Packard in 2002 (the fastest win in the Osmond era).

On one episode of The $25,000 Pyramid in 1986, Tom Poston and contestant Kris Mallory set a new record by winning no money in the Winner's Circle. Poston received the clues from Mallory.

Lois Nettleton and Bill Cullen were guests on the final episode of the ABC version on Friday, June 27, 1980. The episode also featured, during its closing segment, a joke Winner's Circle board featuring categories that might have been used if the producers "wanted to save the money". The "subjects" were as follows: "Used Car Dealers You Can Trust", "Hit Shows on NBC-TV" (NBC was at a distant third place in ratings), "Oil Companies in Bankruptcy", "Famous Japanese Rabbis", "Things Kissinger Did Not Foul Up", and "Famous Italian TV Directors" (they came up with Mike Gargiulo--the show's director).

William Shatner had played both the network and syndicated editions of Pyramid during the 1970's many times, with some very notable incidents. One occurrence was when he facetiously played the Winner's Circle by himself on an episode aired on June 27, 1975, on the $10K version (he did not win the money, but the producers gave it to him anyway). Another notable incident occurred on the $20K version on an episode aired on September 14, 1977, when he accidentally blurted "The blessed..." as a clue for "Things that are blessed," (costing his partner the $20,000 grand prize) and threw his chair out of the Winner's Circle in anger, breaking it. Dick then approached Shatner with the broken chair and showed a clip of the now-infamous incident the next day. Shatner rarely appeared on any version of the show after that.

Several contestants later returned to the show after becoming celebrities. These include David Graf of the Police Academy film series, who won $10,000 with his partner, Patty Duke, in 1979. When the two were reunited as celebrities for a week in 1985, a clip of the big win was shown.

Constance McCashin appeared as a contestant on the Cullen version. She later made frequent appearances on the show as a celebrity guest in the 1980s, including the debut week of the CBS version of The $25,000 Pyramid with Robert Mandan in 1982.

Mel Harris appeared on Pyramid as a contestant in 1979 on the ABC daytime version, and again in 1985 on the syndicated $100,000 version, before finding success as an actress. She later appeared as a celebrity on the Davidson version in 1991 (and a clip of her winning big on the mid-1980s version was shown during the Monday episode of that week).

Kathy Najimy appeared as a contestant in 1985 and later returned as a celebrity on the Osmond version. In a similar fashion, Diane Amos was also a contestant in 1985 and returned as a celebrity on a special "Commercial Stars" episode of the Osmond version.

Bob Clayton was the show's main announcer until he died of cardiac arrest in 1979, although Jack Clark announced many episodes of the $10,000 version during the CBS era in the early '70s. Other New York-based announcers, usually filling in on occasion whenever Clayton was absent, were Alan Kalter, Fred Foy, John Causier, Dick Heatherton, Ed Jordan and Scott Vincent. By 1980, Steve O'Brien was hired as the show's principal announcer for the ABC network daytime edition (as The $20,000 Pyramid), and O'Brien and Kalter then rotated announcing duties until 1981 when the last New York broadcast was produced and aired in syndication (as The $50,000 Pyramid).

When the show moved to Los Angeles in 1982, Jack Clark announced until 1985, with Rod Roddy, Johnny Gilbert, Jerry Bishop, and Charlie Tuna substituting on occasion. From then on, Gilbert, Bob Hilton, and Charlie O'Donnell rotated the announcing position, with Dean Goss also serving as occasional substitute. O'Donnell served as primary announcer for The $100,000 Pyramid after Clark's departure.

Gilbert was the regular announcer on Davidson's version, although Goss and Henry Polic II both filled in for him for several weeks during the first season. John Cramer announced for all of Osmond's version.

Milton Bradley made eight editions of the CBS/ABC versions starting in 1974. The dollar values in the MB editions changed over the years as the TV show did (even releasing the 3rd edition in both $10,000 and $20,000 versions), with the eighth edition titled The $50,000 Pyramid, which is now rare.

The "Winner's Circle" portion of the Milton Bradley home versions was totally unlike that of the TV show. In the home version, the "Winner's Circle" was almost exactly like the previous round, where one player would describe a single word to the other rather than the more familiar list of listing items in a category. Bob Stewart later said that this was because there were a limited number of possible "Winner's Circle" categories--indeed, there are repeated categories in "Winner's Circle" games throughout the various runs of Pyramid--and they didn't want potential contestants to practice with the home game and then see the same categories on the real show.

Cardinal Games created the first $25,000 Pyramid game in 1986, with a picture of Dick Clark on the box. The game had the correct version of the "Winner's Circle" round in the game and also had the option of playing it as The $100,000 Pyramid.

Endless Games created a similar (to the Cardinal edition) version in 2000, still calling it The $25,000 Pyramid with a second edition based on Osmond's Pyramid in 2003. A third edition--released as part of their Quick Picks travel game series--titled The $1,000,000 Pyramid, was released in 2008. This version came packaged in a small tin with no game board; only cards with the categories, a red-film viewer and a sand timer. The tin's graphics were modeled after their first $25,000 edition rather than mirroring those for the Osmond-based edition.

The first computer version of The $100,000 Pyramid was released in 1987 for MS-DOS, Commodore 64 and Apple II computers by Box Office Software. Sierra Entertainment released a version from 2001 for the PC, which is mostly based on the 1985 version with some elements of the 1991 version. In 2006, MGA Games released a DVD game of The $100,000 Pyramid with gameplay somewhat different from the 80s version.

Most daytime episodes prior to 1978 are believed to be erased, with all episodes afterward existing. A 1973 CBS episode, three episodes from 1976, a full week of shows from October 1977 with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, and three early 1978 episodes circulate among private collectors.

Three episodes of the original CBS run exist in the UCLA Film and Television Archive (including the third episode), and 14 episodes taped in 1973 originating from CBS Television City in Hollywood have aired on GSN. GSN has also aired the last two seasons of The $20,000 Pyramid, approximately 350 of the 1,404 episodes of the CBS $25,000 Pyramid, and all 550 episodes of the 1980s $100,000 Pyramid. These versions occasionally air on the network, mainly on every December 31 in honor of Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve. On March 30, 2009, both 1980s versions will return to GSN's regular lineup.

Reruns of both 1980s versions previously aired on USA Network: The (New) $25,000 Pyramid (October 17, 1988 to November 4, 1994) and The $100,000 Pyramid (December 28, 1992 to September 8, 1995; no episodes were aired from February 13 to April 14, 1995).

CBS Television Distribution (originally Viacom) owns the rights to the versions hosted by Bill Cullen and John Davidson, the latter in partnership with StudioCanal via the latter's acquisition of syndicator Orbis Communications. Reruns of The $50,000 Pyramid aired in 1982 on the CBN Cable Network, shortly before the premiere of the CBS revival. None of these versions have aired on GSN.

On July 21, 2008, GSN began airing the Osmond version.

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Countdown (game show)

Richard "Twice Nightly" Whiteley: The show's original presenter.

Countdown is a British game show made by ITV Productions (originally made by ITV regional broadcaster Yorkshire Television) and broadcast on Channel 4. It is currently presented by Jeff Stelling and Rachel Riley, with regular lexicographer Susie Dent. It was the first programme aired on Channel 4, and over fifty series have been broadcast since its debut on 2 November 1982. With over 4,000 episodes, it is one of the longest-running game shows in the world. The original French version Des chiffres et des lettres has been running on French television continuously since 1965.

The programme was presented by Richard Whiteley for over twenty years, until his death in June 2005. His position was taken over by Des Lynam, who retired from the show in December 2006 and was replaced by Des O'Connor on 2 January 2007. Both O'Connor and Carol Vorderman, the show's co-host who had been on the programme since it began, left the show in December 2008.

A celebrity guest features in every programme, and provides a brief interlude before the first advertisement break. The two contestants in each episode compete in three disciplines: eleven letters rounds, in which the contestants attempt to make the longest word from nine randomly chosen letters; three numbers rounds, in which the contestants must use arithmetic to make a random target number from six other numbers; and the conundrum, a buzzer round in which the contestants try to be first to solve a nine-letter anagram. During the series heats, the winning contestant returns the next day until he or she loses or has accumulated eight wins. The best contestants are invited back for the series finals, which are decided in knockout format. Contestants of exceptional skill have received national media coverage, and the programme as a whole is widely recognised and parodied within British culture.

Countdown is based on the French game show Des chiffres et des lettres (Numbers and Letters), created by Armand Jammot. The format was brought to Britain by Marcel Stellman, a Belgian record executive, who had watched the French show and believed it could be popular overseas. Yorkshire Television purchased the format and commissioned a series of eight shows under the title Calendar Countdown, which were to be part of their regional news programme Calendar. As the presenter of Calendar, Richard Whiteley was the natural choice to present Calendar Countdown - his daily appearances on both shows earned him the nickname "Twice Nightly". These shows were only broadcast in the Yorkshire area.

An additional pilot episode was made, with a refined format, although it was never broadcast. A new British television channel, Channel 4, was due to launch in November 1982, and bought the newly-renamed Countdown on the strength of this additional episode. Countdown was the first programme to be broadcast on the new channel.

Calendar Countdown was presented by Richard Whiteley, with Cathy Hytner and Denise McFarland-Cruickshanks managing the numbers and letters rounds respectively. When Countdown was commissioned for Channel 4 the number of hostesses expanded further: Cathy Hytner and Beverley Isherwood selected the letters and numbers tiles respectively, and calculations in the numbers rounds were checked by Linda Barrett or Carol Vorderman. Vorderman, a Cambridge graduate and member of Mensa, was appointed as one of the numbers experts after responding to an advertisement in a national newspaper which asked for a young woman who would like to become a game show hostess; unlike almost any other game show hostess of the time, however, the advertisement also made it clear that the applicants' appearance would be less important than their being a talented mathematician. Gradually the tasks performed by the extra presenters were taken over by Carol Vorderman, whose role within the show essentially became that of co-presenter.

The show was briefly taken off air following Whiteley's death from pneumonia in June 2005, but reappeared in October 2005 with Des Lynam as the main presenter. On 30 September 2006, Lynam said that he had decided to leave the programme after Christmas 2006.

Lynam's departure was due to travel requirements for the demanding filming schedule, with the show recorded in Leeds and Lynam living 250 miles away in Worthing, West Sussex. Channel 4 had tried an extra programme on Saturday in early 2006 which Lynam had agreed to, subject to part of the filming schedule being moved nearer to his home. However, viewers reacted angrily to the idea of the show leaving Leeds and, when Lynam found out that a move would cause considerable disruption for many of the programme's camera crew, he decided to leave.

On 7 November 2006, it was announced that Des O'Connor would succeed Lynam as host. Lynam's final show as Countdown presenter was broadcast on 22 December 2006. O'Connor first presented Countdown at the start of 2007.

Note: the numbers board and the letters board are both the same board and turn around for the appropriate round, as of the new series.

The other studio mainstay is Dictionary Corner, which houses a lexicographer and that week's celebrity guest (AKA "GoD" or "Guardian of the Dictionaries"). Initially farmer & broadcaster Ted Moult was on hand for verification. The role of the lexicographer is to verify the words offered by the contestants (see Letters round rules) and point out any longer or otherwise interesting words available. The lexicographer is aided in finding these words by the show's producers, currently Michael Wylie and Damian Eadie. The production team is insistent, however, that no computer program is used in this role, and that the words suggested in Dictionary Corner have been found manually.

Many lexicographers have appeared over the years, but since her debut in 1992, Susie Dent has become synonymous with the role, and has now made over a thousand appearances. The celebrity guest, sometimes known as the "Dictionary Dweller", also contributes words, and provides a short interlude at the end of the first section of the show. Dwellers have included Jo Brand, Martin Jarvis, Richard Digance, Geoffrey Durham, Gyles Brandreth, Ken Bruce and John Sergeant providing poems, anecdotes, puzzles and magic tricks. Alison Heard replaced Susie Dent over the winter of 2007–08, whilst Dent was on maternity leave; however, Susie Dent returned to Countdown on 6 February 2008.

It was announced in July 2008 that Des O'Connor would be stepping down as host from the end of the current series in December 2008. In the same month it became apparent that long-serving presenter and number-cruncher Carol Vorderman would also leave the gameshow at the same time.

On 21 November, 2008, Jeff Stelling was confirmed as the new host, with Oxford graduate Rachel Riley in the Vorderman role.

Countdown quickly established cult status within British television – an image which it maintains today, despite numerous changes of rules and personnel. The programme's audience comprises mainly students, housewives and pensioners, due to the "teatime" broadcast slot and inclusive appeal of its format and presentation. Countdown has been one of Channel 4's most-watched programmes for over twenty years, but has never won a major television award. In its mid-afternoon broadcast slot, the show draws about 1.7 million viewers every day — around half a million fewer than with Richard Whiteley presenting — and the Series 54 final, on 26 May 2006, attracted 2.5 million viewers. Up to 2 million viewers had watched the show daily in its previous 4:15 p.m. slot. The drop in viewers following the scheduling change, coupled with the show's perceived educational benefits, even caused Labour MP Jonathan Shaw to table a motion in the UK Parliament, requesting that the show be returned to its later time. Minor scheduling changes have subsequently seen the show move from 3:15 to 3:30 to 3:25.

In keeping with the show's friendly nature, contestants compete not for money but the Countdown winner's teapot, which is custom-made and can only be obtained by winning a game on the programme. The prize for the series winner is a leather-bound copy of the twenty-volume Oxford English Dictionary, worth GB£4,000. However Series 31 winner David Acton refused this prize on account of his strict veganism, instead opting for a CD-ROM version of the dictionaries and donating the monetary difference to charity.

Since 2006, the series champion also receives the Richard Whiteley Memorial Trophy, in memory of the show's original presenter.

Though the style and colour scheme of the set has changed many times, the clock has always provided the centrepiece and, like the clock music composed by Alan Hawkshaw, is an enduring and well-recognised feature of Countdown. Executive producer John Meade once commissioned Hawkshaw to revise the music for extra intensity; after hundreds of complaints from viewers, the old tune was reinstated.

Countdown has occupied a tea-time broadcast slot since its inception. Currently an episode lasts around 45 minutes including advertising breaks. During the normal series, the winner of each game returns for the next day's show. If a player wins eight games, he is declared an "octochamp" and retires until the series finals. At the end of the series, the eight players with most wins (or the highest total score in the event of a tie) are invited back to compete in the series finals. They are seeded in a knockout tournament, with the first seed playing the eighth seed, the second playing the seventh, and so on. The winner of this knockout, which culminates in the Grand Final, becomes the series champion. Each series lasts around six months, with about 125 episodes.

Approximately every four series, a Champion of Champions tournament takes place. For this, sixteen of the best players to have appeared since the previous Championship are invited back for another knockout tournament. The producer, former contestant Damian Eadie, decides which players to include, but typically the tournament includes the series winners and other note-worthy contestants. Series 33 was designated a "Supreme Championship", in which 56 of the best contestants from all the previous series returned for another knockout tournament. Series 10 champion Harvey Freeman was declared Supreme Champion after beating Allan Saldanha in the final. There are also occasional special episodes, in which past contestants return for themed matches. For example, David Acton and Kenneth Michie returned for a rematch of their Series 31 final, while brothers and former contestants Sanjay and Sandeep Mazumder played off against each other on 20 December 2004.

The game is split into three sections, separated by advertising breaks. The first two sections each contain four letters rounds and a numbers round, while the last section has three letters rounds, a numbers round and a final "Conundrum". At the end of the first two sections, Stelling poses an anagram with a cryptic clue for the viewers at home, called the Teatime Teaser - the solution is revealed at the start of the next section. When the Teatime Teaser was first introduced, the anagrams were seven letters long, but have since been extended to eight.

Letter tiles are arranged face-down into two piles; one all consonants, the other vowels. The contestant chooses a pile, and Riley reveals the top tile from that pile and places it on the board. A selection of nine tiles is generated in this way, and must contain at least three vowels and four consonants. Then, the clock is started and both contestants have thirty seconds to come up with the longest word they can make from the available letters. Each letter may be used only as often as it appears in the selection. The frequencies of the letters within each pile are weighted according to their frequency in natural English, in the same manner as Scrabble. For example, there are many Ns and Rs in the consonant pile, but only one Q.

Contestants write down the words they have found during the round, in case they have the same one. After the thirty seconds are up, the players declare the length of their chosen word, with the player who selected the letters declaring first. If either player has not written their word down in time, he or she must declare this also. The words are then revealed. If either player has not written their word down, that is revealed first; otherwise, the shorter word is shown first. Only the contestant with the longer word scores points; both score in the event of a tie. One point is scored per letter, except for nine-lettered words, which score eighteen points. If a contestant offers an invalid word then they score no points. If the second player reveals the same word as the first, this must be proved by showing the word to the other contestant. Finally, Dictionary Corner reveals the best word they could find from the selection, aided by the production team.

Any word which appears in the Oxford Dictionary of English is allowable, as well as some inflections. Standard inflections of nouns and verbs - for example, escapes, escaped and escaping - are accepted even though not explicitly stated in the dictionary. Comparative and superlative forms of monosyllabic adjectives - for example, greater and greatest - are valid although these too are not explicitly stated. For longer adjectives, the inflections must be stated explicitly. However, some words given in the dictionary are not permitted: proper nouns (Kurdistan), hyphenated words (re-embark), some plurals of mass noun (mankinds), and words that occur only in combination - for example, mistle is invalid as it is used only in mistle thrush. Also, only British spelling is permitted - American spellings and inflections, such as flavor and signaled, are invalid.

One contestant selects six of twenty-four shuffled tiles. The tiles are arranged into two groups: four "large numbers" (25, 50, 75 and 100) and the remainder "small numbers", which comprise two each of the numbers 1 to 10. The contestant dictates how many large numbers are in the selection; anywhere from none to all four. A random three-digit target is generated by an electronic machine, affectionately known as "CECIL" (which stands for Countdown Electronic Computer In Leeds). The contestants then have thirty seconds to get as near to the target as possible by combining the six numbers selected with addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Not all numbers need to be used. A number can be used as many times as it appears. Decimals and fractions are not allowed - only integers may be used at any stage of the calculation.

Points are awarded for the closest solution, and again both contestants score if the solutions are equally close. 10 points are given for an exact answer, 7 points for a non-exact solution up to 5 from the target, and 5 points for a solution between 6 and 10 from the target. If neither contestant can get within 10, no points are awarded.

For some games, there are many ways to reach the target exactly. However not all games are solvable, and for some selections it is impossible even to get within 10. There is a tactical element in selecting how many large numbers to include. One large and five small numbers is the most popular selection, despite two large numbers giving the best chance of the game being solvable exactly. Selections with zero or four large numbers are generally considered the hardest.

The final round of the game is the "Countdown Conundrum". A board revolves to reveal the "conundrum" - a nine-lettered anagram, usually arranged into the form of two condensed words (see example). The contestants have thirty seconds to find the word. The first contestant to buzz with the correct answer (the champion rings in with a bell, while the challenger rings in with a buzzer) is awarded ten points, but each contestant may guess only once. If neither contestant guesses correctly, the presenter asks if anyone in the audience knows the word, and if so, chooses someone to shout it out. Once a contestant guesses correctly or the time expires, a second board rotates to reveal the answer. Each conundrum is designed to have only one solution but if, unintentionally, the conundrum has two answers (e.g. CARTHORSE and ORCHESTRA) then either is accepted.

A "crucial Countdown conundrum" occurs if, before the conundrum, the leading contestant is ahead by ten points or fewer. The studio lights are dimmed and the first contestant to answer correctly wins the game. If the scores are level after the conundrum, additional conundrums are used until the match is decided.

The rules of Countdown are derived from those of Des chiffres et des lettres. Perhaps the biggest difference is the length of the round; DCedL's number rounds are each 45 seconds long to Countdown's 30 (letters are still 30 seconds and DUELS are as long as contestants require).DCedL has an alternative two rounds, called "duels", in which players compete to solve a mental arithmetic problem, extract two themed words, or spell a rare word. Other minor discrepancies include a different numbers scoring system (9 points for an exact solution, or 6 points for the closest inexact solution in DCedL) and the proportion of letters to numbers rounds (11 to 3 in Countdown, 8 to 4 in DCedL).

The pilot episode followed significantly different rules to the current ones. Most noticeably, only eight letters were selected for each letters round. If two contestants offered a word of the same length, or an equally close solution to a numbers game, then only the contestant who made the selection for that round was awarded points. Also, only five points were given for an exact numbers solution, three for a solution within 5, and one point for the closer solution, no matter how far away.

Until the end of Series 21, if the two contestants had equal scores after the first conundrum, the match was considered a draw and they both returned for the next show. A significant change in the format occurred in September 2001, when the show was expanded from nine rounds and 30 minutes to the current fifteen rounds and 45 minutes. The older format was split into two halves, each having three letters and one numbers game, with the conundrum at the end of the second half. When the format was expanded to fifteen rounds, Richard Whiteley jokingly continued to refer to the three segments of the show as "halves". Under the old format, Grand Finals were specially extended shows of fourteen rounds, but now all shows follow the same format.

The rules regarding which words are permitted have changed with time. American spelling was allowed until 2002, and more unspecified inflections were assumed to be valid.

As of 1991 , a spanish version of this show was released: 'Cifras y Letras' (numbers and letters). The show was originally presented by Elisenda Roca, along with a word expert and mathematician.

In September 2007 a new feature was added to the show in which, during a brief pause in the game after round nine, Susie Dent explains the origin of a word or phrase which she has been researching. For the short time Susie was on maternity leave this addition was not continued; however, when Susie returned on Wednesday 6 February 2008, she continued the feature once again.

The first episode of Countdown was repeated on 1 October 2007 on More4 and on 2 November 2007 on Channel 4, as part of Channel 4 at 25, a season of celebratory Channel 4 programmes as it celebrated its 25th birthday.

On 2 November 2007, Countdown celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary and aired a special 'birthday episode'. The two players were 2006 winner Conor Travers and 2002 winner Chris Wills. However, for the rounds, VIP guests selected the letters and numbers. Guests included Gordon Brown, Amir Khan and Richard Attenborough. A statement from the French TV network France Télévisions was read out on air by Carol Vorderman to commend Channel 4 on its success of Countdown.

On 23 July 2008, it was announced that O'Connor would be leaving the show at the end of the 59th series in December 2008 to concentrate on other projects.

ITV Productions announced on 25 July 2008 that Carol Vorderman would also be leaving at the end of the same series.

The early favourite in the betting to replace Des O'Connor, Rory Bremner, ruled himself out. Later reports suggested Alexander Armstrong and Jeff Stelling as potential hosts, although Armstrong later revealed he had refused the job. Anthea Turner, Ulrika Johnson, and Myleene Klass were all linked with Vorderman's job; however, Channel 4 then began to search for a previously unknown male or female arithmetician with "charm and charisma". Eventually, on 21 November, 2008, after O'Connor and Vorderman had finished filming, it was confirmed that Stelling and Oxford maths graduate Rachel Riley would join the show, with Susie Dent continuing as resident lexicographer.

Since Countdown's debut in 1982, there have been over 4,000 televised games and 58 complete series. There have also been thirteen Champion of Champions tournaments, with the most recent starting in January 2009.

Several of Countdown's most successful contestants have received national media coverage. Teenager Julian Fell set a record score of 146 in December 2002. More recently, fourteen-year-old Conor Travers became the youngest series champion in the show's history, gaining wide newspaper interest. At eight years old, Tanmay Dixit was one of the youngest players ever to appear on the show when he achieved two wins in March 2005. He also received press attention for his offerings in the letters round, which included fannies and farted. A couple of former contestants have returned to Countdown as part of the production team: Mark Nyman (as producer, and occasional lexicographer in Dictionary Corner) and Damian Eadie (the current series producer).

In 1998, sixteen celebrities were invited to play Celebrity Countdown, a series of eight games broadcast every Thursday evening over the course of eight weeks. The celebrities included Whiteley's successor Des Lynam, who defeated Siân Lloyd. The highest and lowest scores were posted in the same game when Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall defeated Jilly Goolden 47-9.

Richard Whiteley and Carol Vorderman competed in another special episode on Christmas Day 1997. For this game, the presenter's chair was taken by William G. Stewart, the host of fellow Channel 4 game show Fifteen to One. Susie Dent took over Vorderman's duties, and Mark Nyman occupied Dictionary Corner. The game was close-fought, and decided only by the crucial Countdown conundrum mistletoe which Vorderman solved in two seconds.

Contestants who have or had become notable for other reasons include Nuts magazine editor-at-large Pete Cashmore, rugby player Ayoola Erinle, footballer Neil MacKenzie, musician Jon Marsh, musician Nick Saloman, and comedian Alex Horne.

Countdown is often referenced and parodied in British culture. In the 2002 film About a Boy, protagonist Will Freeman is a regular viewer of Countdown. Fairport Convention guitarist Simon Nicol named one of his solo records Consonant Please, Carol, echoing one of the show's most famous catchphrases. The programme is mentioned in an episode of Irish sitcom Father Ted entitled "The Old Grey Whistle Theft," Still Game (in the episode "Kill Wullie") and is also referenced in the very first episode of Little Britain from 2003. BBC impression sketch show, Dead Ringers, parodies Countdown numerous times, and another television programme, The Big Breakfast, parodied Countdown in a feature called "Countdown Under". Comedy show A Bit of Fry and Laurie further lampooned Countdown in a sketch entitled Countdown to Hell. Fry played Richard Whiteley, while Gyles Brandreth got the word sloblock — an anagram of bollocks. The show also has a fleeting reference in British sitcom The Office when Chris 'Finchy' Finch attempts to insult temporary worker Ricky when he explains he had a job to pay for his studies. Finchy states that it probably was 'professor in charge of watching Countdown every day', commenting on its student audience, and referring to the fact anyone watching Countdown during its 'hometime' time slot cannot be out at work.

Countdown has also generated a number of popular outtakes, with the letters producing the occasional word that was deemed unsuitable for the original broadcast. A round in which Dictionary Corner offered the word gobshite featured in TV's Finest Failures in 2001, and in one episode, contestants Gino Corr and Lawrence Pearse both declared the word wankers. This was edited out of the programme but has since appeared on many outtakes shows. When contestant Charlie Reams declared "wankers" on the 21 October 2008 edition, the declaration was kept in but the word itself was bleeped. Other incidents with only marginally rude words (including wanker, singular) have made it into the programme as they appeared, such as those with Tanmay Dixit referenced above, and a clip from a 2001 episode in which the word fart appeared on the letters board, which also featured on 100 Greatest TV Moments from Hell.

The format of the show has been parodied on Have I Got News for You. In 1999, when Richard was a guest, the numbers game was copied along with the famous clock music and at the end of the show was a conundrum, the conundrum was "PHANIOILS", to which the answer was IAN HISLOP. In 2004, when Carol was a guest one of the usual rounds was replaced with a conundrum round based on the week's news. When Carol hosted the show in 2006, one of the rounds was the "Spinning Conundrum Numbers Round", altering the "Spinning Headlines" round, by adding a number to a picture relating to the week's news, then at the end of the round the 6 numbers from the picture were used for a numbers game.

The Doctor Who episode "Bad Wolf" (2005) mentions a futuristic version of Countdown, in which the goal is to stop a bomb from exploding in 30 seconds. It was referenced again in a later series in "Last of the Time Lords" (2007), where Professor Docherty expresses a keen fondness for the show.

Richard Whiteley was the victim of a practical joke while presenting the show. The contestants and rounds had been planted as part of a "Gotcha!", a regular prank feature on the light entertainment show Noel's House Party. In the prank, the two contestants missed the word "something" from the letters OMETHINGS, and from another selection, one of the contestants declared "I've got diarrhoea" referring to the selection. In the numbers round that followed, the male contestant "answered" the puzzle by reading out the numbers. Whiteley did not uncover the joke until House Party presenter Noel Edmonds appeared on the set, having revealed the unusually shorter conundrum of HOGCAT to be "gotcha" at the end of the programme.

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Catchphrase (game show)

Catchphrase was a game show based on a short lived American game show of the same name. It ran on ITV in the United Kingdom between January 12, 1986 and December 19, 2002, it was originally hosted by Northern Irish Comedian Roy Walker.

Walker left Catchphrase in 1999 & was replaced by Nick Weir, who presented 3 series of the show from 2000 until 2002. In 2002 Weir left Catchphrase and gave way to ex-Blue Peter presenter Mark Curry, who presented the show for one series until its demise in December of the same year. Some episodes which Nick Weir filmed during 2001 were shown on the ITV network during 2003 & 2004 usually on a Sunday evening or Bank Holiday Monday.

It was originally made by TVS at their Northam studios in Southampton. The show was subsequently moved to their Maidstone facility, now known as The Maidstone Studios in Kent. After Television South lost their licence to broadcast, the show was put on hiatus towards the end of 1992 and all of 1993. In 1994, the format was picked up by Carlton Television and produced by Stephen Leahy's Action Time Productions, who had been involved in a consultative role on the TVS version.

In 1996 Catchphrase moved to Carlton (formerly Central Independent Television) Studios in Lenton Lane, Nottingham where it stayed until its demise in 2002.

Two contestants would have to identify the familiar phrase represented by a piece of animation, with the show's mascot — a golden robot called "Mr Chips" — often appearing.

Repeats of the show can currently be seen on Challenge.

In the main game, at the start of each round, one contestant stopped a randomizer which consisted of money amounts by hitting his/her button. The value that was landed would then be the amount for the normal catch phrases. On each normal catch phrase, the computer would draw it on the screen. When it was done, a bell would ring, signifying the contestants to buzz-in when they think they know the answer. A correct answer won the contestant the predetermined money amount, plus a chance to solve the Bonus Catchphrase which was hidden behind nine squares with the show's logo (or random shapes in the Nick Weir/Mark Curry era) on each. To choose a square, the contestant had to hit their button to stop a randomizer from flashing around the board after which the square was revealed, and they had a chance to guess. A correct answer won bonus money for the player. Unlike the US version there was also the Ready Money Round, in which contestants didn't have to wait for the bell to buzz-in and answer. When Nick Weir and Mark Curry hosted the series, this was replaced by the Cash Countdown, in which each catchphrase had a maximum prize of £500, which very quickly counted down towards zero. The quicker the contestant answered, the more money they could win.

The player with the most money won the game and played the Super Catchphrase.

The final round involved a game board with 25 lettered squares with catchphrases hidden behind each. The winning contestant had the task to capture five random squares in 60 seconds. If they could do that by identify five such phrases, that player won £50 for each square (later £100 1997 onwards), but if the winning player went through the centre "M" Square in either a Horizontal, Vertical, or Diagonal line, they won a Holiday.

In the Nick Weir/Mark Curry era, the Super Catchphrase was changed so that, in order to win, the contestant had to get from the left hand side of the screen to the right making adjoining moves (ala Blockbusters). Passing on a catchphrase meant that they were blocked and had to find an alternative path.

In 1994, the Family Channel (now Challenge) produced a spin-off called Family Catchphrase, hosted by Andrew O'Connor. The game was played by teams of 2 related players (normally parent and child) and featured slightly different rules to the normal game. The teams played for points rather than prizes, and the second round would feature the players taking alternative turns, rather than answering the phrases as a team. The Ready Money Round was renamed the Fast and Furious Round (as there was no money involved).

The Family Channel was fairly new at this time, and so the prizes weren't as expensive as they were on the main show although the M Square prize wasn't revealed unless it had actually been won. It wasn't uncommon to see prizes such as a Sega Master System or a daytrip to Thorpe Park given away as prizes.

Although produced in 1994, (and also produced by Action time) the graphics and music were taken from the TVS version of the show (The Family Channel owned the rights to it, as they brought over TVS library).

Although made in the same year as Carlton/Action Time-produced series for ITV there is no connection.

One episode of Family Catchphrase featured a guest appearance from Stephen Radosh - creator of Catchphrase. Another episode featured an appearance by the then unknown Simon Amstell & his Aunt as contestants. Amstell was only about 14 years old at the time and says on the show that he is a budding magician. He then shows one of his tricks to the presenter, Andrew O'Connor (who was also a magician himself!). Nowadays, Amstell is the current host of BBC2 pop quiz show, Never Mind The Buzzcocks. He shot to fame as one of the presenters of the Channel 4 pop music show, Popworld, which he appeared on from 2001 - 2006, alongside Miquita Oliver.

One of the most famous moments of the show's history included a bonus catchphrase where the answer to the puzzle was 'snake charmer'. The puzzle was revealed in such a way it appeared to show the partially-revealed Mr Chips masturbating, or perhaps being felated by the snake. This episode was broadcast on 18 November 1994. This moment can sometimes be seen on Challenge whenever Challenge show the 1994 series.

In homage to the show a popular radio spoof of Catchphrase, entitled Car Park Catchphrase was broadcast on The Chris Moyles Show on BBC Radio 1 from January 2004 until December 2005. It returned to the airwaves on 8 January 2007. It got taken off the air again because of the phone-in competitions being suspended. The format in comparison to the TV show changed slightly, and required callers to play from their cars and 'honk' their horns when they knew the catchphrase being described. Roy Walker himself recorded voice samples for the game.

The UK version's second host, Nick Weir, became more famous for falling down the studio steps and breaking his foot while recording his first series in 2000, than for actually hosting the show. Several episodes show him wearing a cast, and once on the programme they actually showed when it happened, he was running down to present when he fell and broke his leg.

A third host, Benjamin Horsely, was screen-tested for an ill-fated return series planned for 2003. The gimmick of the series was that Horsley could speak only in Catchphrases himself, but his inability to think of them fast enough meant that each show ran to over two hours duration. Excerpts from these tapes were shown on the Korean version of Tarrant On TV and can be found on internet video sites.

Catchphrase is now shown on the British television channel Challenge. However, these episodes are only the 1994-99 Roy Walker versions.

Between 1997 and 2000 Challenge repeated the 1986-1992 series.

Mark Curry made a point of the fact he didn't have a catchphrase when he was presenting, and made a different one up on each show.

Catchphrase's original theme tune and incidental music were composed by prolific television composer Ed Welch whose original version of the theme was used for the Television South incarnation of the show up until October 1992. It was also used on Family Catchphrase in 1994.

The show returned on September 30, 1994 with a brand new look and now being produced by Action Time for Carlton Television. The show's theme and incidental music was re-tuned, and was composed by Simon Etchell whose version was used from 1994-99.

From 2000-02 a third version of the Catchphrase theme music was used. It was a re-mixed and "jazzed-up" version of the previous theme, composed by Simon Etchell and was used alongside a revamped title sequence followed by a new studio set.

Catchphrase ended in August 2002 after 16 and a half years because of the declining ratings. Many viewers felt that Roy Walker's departure had seen the quality of the show suffer.

In November 2007, Walker returned to host an all new interactive DVD game of Catchphrase, complete with original theme music and Mr. Chips.

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Source : Wikipedia