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Photo clippage special: Chris Tarrant – the wilderness years

EVERYBODY’S EQUAL (Thames, 1989)
We quite liked this, and it ran for a couple of series. Two hundred contestants – though annoyingly they often seemed to be braying City types – were ferried in en masse and announced as such by Chris. Multiple choice questions whittled them down to a winner, at least one contestant selecting the one “silly” option and being identified and humiliated by Chris. Produced by Celador, we think, with a couple of proto-‘Naire touches: keypads for the audience, multiple choice questions with four answers, and the end round with ten contestants answering timed questions was surely the genesis of Fastest Finger First. Revived by C5 as Whittle with the great Tim Vine and yellow facemasks.

STARS IN THEIR EYES (Granada, 1989)
This didn’t even manage to get screened. Tarrant compered the unbroadcast pilot for the interminable Crowther/Kelly/M***** “tonight-I’m-going-to-be” karaokefest. The crucial difference between this try-out and the finished product was that the contestants had to frenetically assemble their own costume from frocks, hats and feather boas hanging on rails on stage, thereby rendering the effect less a glossy Las Vagas tribute show, more the final round of Crackerjack.

CLUEDO (Granada, 1991)
Poor old Chris hated doing this, and we don’t blame him. Hopeless whimsical “dramatised” quiz version of the Waddington’s in-the-library-with-the-lead-piping Christmas staple. Your suspects: Michael “Mustard” Jayston, Rula “Peacock” Lenska, David “Plum” McCallum, Koo “Scarlet” Stark, Mollie “White” Sugden and Richard “Green” Wilson. The major flaw was that there were six suspects, six programmes and every character was guilty once. So when you got to episode six…

Perhaps the only television game show ever to be devised by an Australian footballer (Craig “The Anfield Rap” Johnston) – until Harry Kewell’s Lucky Lines gets commissioned, that is. Another one series only effort for Chris, which involved celebrities in the studio joining in games like, erm, charades with the competing families in their living rooms. Celebrities of the calibre of Gordon Honeycombe, mark you. Practically every round appeared to be nicked off other game shows.

LOSE A MILLION (Carlton, 1994)
Ah, the irony! Years before Chris struck gold with a quiz that gave away a million quid, he did this short-lived effort wherein the contestants started with a “notional” million quid and had to get rid of it as sharpish as possible. How they did this is far too complex to explain here. One series only, we reckon, the only other point of interest being that the flatmates in Shallow Grave were depicted watching it, for some bizarre reason, when they could have been out celebrating the death of Keith Allen instead.

MAN O MAN (Anglia, 1996)
How this kept getting recommissioned, we have no idea. It was made by Anglia, for god’s sake! Hideous Saturday night hen party “entertainment”, involving a baying crowd of 400 awful Lambrini girls “selecting” the “best” man out of a row of 10 sub-Blind Date cretins by subjecting them to various votes, tests and quizzes, and then pushing them in a swimming pool. Gah. Chris didn’t help by annoyingly walking around with his hand in his pocket at all times.



  1. gw

    March 5, 2010 at 11:32 am

    I’m sure most people watching ‘Shallow Grave’ assume ‘Lose a Million’ is a spoof gameshow akin to the one Dale Winton hosts in ‘Trainspotting’.

    Tarrant also made a dog’s dinner out of hosting ITV’s 50th birthday extravanganza. (stick TARRANT and BASSEY into YouTube to see a train-wreck that surprisingly hasn’t had an airing on those TV Hell-type clips shows. I think the Welsh warbler is only 60{30e2395aaf6397fd02d2c79d91a1fe7cbb73158454674890018aee9c53a0cb96} to blame. )

    Tarrant also hosted a naff late-80s ITV studio-based ‘How Do They Do That’-type show that was mentioned in the ‘Day in the Life of Television’ book…..does anyone remember it?

  2. MartS

    March 5, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    Does anyone remember PSI – an d-list celeb panelled word based daytime gameshow he did for ITV.?

    Anyway, minor degression ends..

    ‘The Wilderness years’. Interesting sub-title, given that to upwards of 3 million Londoners during his period of ‘host without format portfolio’ he was waking them up on Captial FM’s Breakfast show. So he was hardly out of work, looking for something to do between hosting one series wonders and the occasional passing pilot.

    There are only two shows in that list that I liked – Everybodys Equal – a format that with the right host, and prize money level could still hold it’s own in the schedule today.

    Loose a Million. It had a wonderfully Partridge-esque bigger than it needed to be set, and great theme tune and an air of ‘is this actually real’ about it. Tarrant played on this brilliantly, and in my mind is still the only good thing that Carlton commissioned for the ITV Network.

  3. Nick Gates

    March 5, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    Was it called ‘Prove It!’ My memories of it are very, very vague.

    Tarrant also did You’ve Been Framed years before Beadle on Sky’s Secret Video Show.

  4. Nick Gates

    March 5, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    There are only two shows in that list that I liked – Everybodys Equal – a format that with the right host, and prize money level could still hold it’s own in the schedule today.

    Up to three grand an episode? Are you sure?

  5. Glenn A

    March 5, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    Shows how little impact these shows made as I can only remember Man O Man. It sort of proves that between the glorious failure of OTT, which gained headlines for all the wrong reasons, and the Tarrant rebirth with Tarrant on TV and Millionaire these were his wilderness years. It was kind of like Wogan during his first stint as a breakfast show host getting television jobs hosting quiz shows for Grampian Television.

  6. Pearlyman

    March 6, 2010 at 7:42 am

    Ah, someone beat me to PSI. Those kind of ‘comparison’ quizzes were all the rage in magazines for five seconds. I think, like Cluedo, the show may have been based on a board game. Standard of panellists on the one show I remember = Nina Myskow, Michael Groth, Jenny Hanley…

  7. MartS

    March 6, 2010 at 8:30 am

    Nick, the point I was trying to make with Everybody’s Equal and the prize money, is that with the right prize money inflation scale today – the format could still work. Having a £3,000 pot on a primetime ITV gameshow these days and it would really be sunk.

  8. Nick Gates

    March 7, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    Ah ha, I get you, yes.

    It ran as a daily show in France for aaaaages, and I’m pretty sure I heard something on the grapevine a while ago about a revival.

  9. fl3m

    March 7, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    Does the Bassetts Liquorice Allsorts advert count as Wilderness era?

  10. Martin M

    March 14, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    ‘Somebody said they could do some kind of near-impossible task – we asked them to ‘Prove It!’ Loads of Golden Retreivers in the studio is the only thing that sticks in my mind about it.

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