TV Cream

TV: G is for...

Generation Game, The

QUITE SIMPLY, one of the finest programmes ever ever made. The jewel in small screen’s light entertainment crown, this was absolutely essential viewing for, hey, a generation, and anyone who thinks otherwise ought to be tied to a conveyor belt for eternity, preferably one moving through a never-ending Jim Davidson stand-up routine, whose tenure at the helm of this institution we’re obviously not counting because a) he fucked up all the games b) he had fucking Mr Blobby on every week c) he fucking gunged the contestants at the end and d) he was just fucking shit.

Anyway, we’re dealing with two distinct but equally imperial eras here.

PART ONE: THE BRUCIE YEARS. “Life,” croons Bruce, “is the name of the game, and I want to play the game with you.” Sequence of stills show our host pulling variety of comedy faces (mock-horror, mock-shame, mock-amusement). Curtain rises. Brucie strikes “thinker” pose at back of stage then shimmies towards camera. “Ladies, gentleman, children, nice to see you, to see you…” Gags about weather/what’s on the other side/old woman in front row before ANTHEA REDFERN comes on in a giant smock (“Give us a twirl!”). Two pairs of contestants ushered into shot (mother and son-in-law; old man and daughter). Bruce interrogates them in a manner to imply they’re idiots/drunks/both (“I’ll just make a note of that”) with much wry aside glances to camera. “Watching” game ensues, involving contestants identifying mystery objects/people/places. Answers recorded on giant clipboards. “I’ve got ‘Richard Baker’ written down here!” “Doing” game follows, involving contestants observing demonstration of ludicrously difficult vocation (pottery making, formating dancing, campanology) then copying it. Bruce joins in to further imply contestants stupidity/score more easy gags, but hey, “didn’t they do well?!” Next, the playlet, wherein contestants assume famous historical roles in comic pageant co-starring Bruce and surprise celebrities. Contestants never able to deliver lines properly, despite script in front of their nose. Celebrities screw up and interrupt Brucie. “I’m in charge!” he howls. Finally, conveyor belt memory test for winning pair: steak knives, plate warmer, teas-maid, cuddly toy etc. “The decanter, don’t forget the decanter.” Audience blatantly shout out answers. Then everyone – and that’s everyone, including all earlier formation dancers/pottery throwers, plus complete haul of prizes positioned on giant display stands – return to wave at camera while Bruce promises to see us all again next week. Roll credits and extended theme (“life can be terribly tame…”).

"What's in store?..." "...the best of relations is our aim"

PART TWO: THE LARRY YEARS. It’s 1978. With Brucie off to ITV for his Big Night, Beeb cast around frantically for a replacement. Genius idea forms to pick someone the polar opposite of the Forsyth saga. Call goes out to Lal, who casts frantically around for his spectacles, packs his best beige three-piece suit and heads for BBC Television Theatre. Theme tune gets stylish makeover: “Shut! That! Door!” chirp close harmony choir, “and enjoy the Generation Game/What’s in store?/The best of relations is our aim!/Larry Grayson is heeeeere to play/soooooooooooooo….” Larry interrupts. “Shut that door!” Second “Lal” theme kicks in (“Der da da der-der, der da-da da-da der-der”) as host leaps through false frontispiece. Meaningless anecdote follows (“I said to Everard, you don’t want to put it out in this weather”). ISLA ST CLAIR (“My very best girl”) sashays on to keep things ticking over. Lal spends next 50 minutes mithering and mooching, while Isla ensures games actually take place. “Scores on the doors”. Celebrities turn up for no reason (usually Rod Hull and Emu). Contestants try hand at “doing” game. Larry tries and fails. “What a gay day!” Contestants try hand at “watching game”. Larry tries and fails. “Ooh, I’ve come over all queer.” Celebrities appear from behind sliding doors. Musical-based finale sees contestants having to become instant ballerinas/morris dancers/snake charmers. Winning pair decided by half-arsed yes or no trivia question. Conveyor belt. “Now keep thinking, keep thinking.” Contestant sits in giant wicker chair. “The music centre, don’t forget the music centre!” Audience blatantly shout out answers. Then everyone returns to bid goodbye and wave throughout extended theme (“That’s! Your! Lot!”).

EPILOGUE: Show dumped in panic at success of GAME FOR A LAUGH; revived brilliantly in 1990 with all flags flying (Brucie, Rosemary Ford, celebs, playlets, Bruce teaching the nation how to do the lambada).




  1. Glenn A

    July 10, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    Regularly pulled in 19 million viewers 30 years ago. Such huge Saturday night audience figures were not to be achieved again until this year when Britain’s Got Talent attracted 18.5 million viewers.

  2. Mike

    April 12, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    It is a classic. We are currently making our own conveyor belt effort for an anniversary party. Major effort but I am sure it will be well worth it


  3. Laura

    August 10, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    does anyone know where i can view a clip of the lambada on the generation game? Think it was 1989, thank you

  4. tellycabbage

    January 31, 2011 at 10:15 am

    40 years young this year, come on BBC!

    An special one-off please!

    Alan Carr, anyone?

  5. Richard Davies

    January 31, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    I think the one with the Lambada was a special for Comic Relief or Children In Need.

    I seem to remember Bob Holness was one of the contestants, or I’m confusing it with something else.

  6. Hedrick Owl

    April 19, 2012 at 9:29 am

    Conveyors are not be a very glamourous area, but in today’s busy world, we’d be lost if they weren’t there. Parcels would never get delivered, items would get broken as they were passed from person to person. And the thing is that not all conveyors are the same, and nor are the firms that manufacture them. I have been speaking to Rusmail in the UK and I can tell you that they know their subject!

  7. Glenn Aylett

    May 10, 2022 at 3:22 pm

    I felt sorry for Larry Grayson as he had created The Generation Game in his own image, early shows were even more popular than the Bruce Forsyth years, only to be defeated in the ratings by Game For A Laugh and cancelled in 1981, three years after Larry had taken over the show. Yet while Game For A Laugh died on its backside when moved to Sunday nights in 1985 and was quickly forgotten, such was the power of The Generation Game it returned in a blaze of glory in 1990 and lasted into the 21st century.

  8. Richardpd

    May 10, 2022 at 10:23 pm

    It was a smart move by the BBC to bring back Bruce Forsyth to present a revived Generation Game, especially as he needed something to revive his career after a few weak series on ITV in the mid 1980s. There was a dummy run on Hearts Of Gold of a spoof revival called Brucie On The Loosie used as a ruse to get someone into Television Centre to get their award.

    Some elements of Game For A Laugh lived on in Beadle’s About, even after it eventually ended some of the better pranks stuck in the public’s consciousness.

  9. Glenn Aylett

    May 11, 2022 at 3:27 pm

    @ Richardpd, The Generation Game was an iconic show and the early nineties revival did really well for Bruce, but again, he decided he wanted to move and went back to ITV before returning to BBC One with a show that has becpme the Corporation’s most successful entertainment show of the last 20 years.
    Game For A Laugh was OK, a sort of Candid Camera for the eighties, but when the panel was changed for the move to Sunday nights and a more demanding audience turned their backs on the show, it was axed in 1985 with little comment. Yet elements of it lived on in the vastly better Beadle’s About and another Beadle show, You’ve Been Framed, still appears on ITV when they’re short of programmes on a Saturday.

  10. Richardpd

    May 11, 2022 at 10:05 pm

    I guess the old saying “Go to the BBC to get famous, go to ITV to get rich” was a play there!

    • Glenn Aylett

      May 13, 2022 at 5:42 pm

      @ Richarpd, Brucie was lucky in that he could flit between broadcasters without a negative effect on his career. He did falter a bit with Big Night, but then found enormous success with Play Your Cards Right, then back to the BBC to revive his mostly fondly remembered show, then back to ITV to revive Cards. Also he found his last massive hit by reviving a quaint BBC dancing contest that had been written off in the nineties.

      • Richardpd

        May 13, 2022 at 10:53 pm

        He somehow managed to burn his bridges when swapping channels.

        Strictly Come Dancing was a great way to end his career on a high note, even if he was too ill to do a full series by the end.

  11. Droogie

    May 11, 2022 at 11:39 pm

    Larry Grayson was just as popular a Generation Game presenter as Bruce. The fact he wasn’t a polished song & dance man like Forsyth and awkward and clumsy only added to his appeal. I believe TV Cream added the scene with Larry and Isla attempting disco dancing to Saturday Night Fever as one of the greatest TV moments ever. They were not wrong.

  12. JakeyD

    July 17, 2022 at 1:46 am

    Very few have moved from BBC to ITV and made their careers better. There has been some big failures like Simon Dee, The Goodies and Morecambe and Wise to name but three.

  13. Glenn Aylett

    July 17, 2022 at 11:57 am

    @ Jakey D, in more recent years, Adrian Chiles and Christine Lampard, who had built up The One Show as a popular alternative to Emmerdale and Lampard was offered great things at the BBC, decided to go to ITV when they were offered the gig to present the replacement to the ailing GMTV. Daybreak was a flop, the chemistry between the two didn’t work at 7.00 in the morning, and Chiles looked bored presenting typical ITV morning items such as soap reviews. His career never recovered and Mrs Lampard is seen as a second division ITV daytime presenter, filling in for Lorraine and being on Loose Women once a week. A real shame as both could have been big sports anchors on the BBC and kept The One Show worth watching.

  14. Richardpd

    December 31, 2023 at 3:04 pm

    Like the glory days of Morecambe & Wise I was born a few years too young for the original Brucie & Larry eras of this show. Luckily the 1990s revival stuck quite closely to the original concept.

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