TV Cream

It's Saturday Night

76. There’s good news for perplexed fans of 3-2-1!



1987 would herald the departure of one of ITV’s longest running and most successful game shows. Produced by Yorkshire Television, and based on the Spanish game show Un, Dos, Tres, 3-2-1 had run very successfully since 1978. Unarguably a large part of the programme’s popularity was attributable to its likeable host, Ted Rogers. A former Red Coat and presenter of Sunday Night at the London Palladium, prior to 3-2-1Rogers had failed to secure a successful television programme of his very own. Yet from day one it seemed impossible to imagine the Yorkshire television series hosted by anyone else.

The programme’s earliest years were a bit ramshackle and the three part format (hence the title) overly complicated. However, Rogers along with trusty sidekick (and booby prize), Dusty Bin somehow managed to navigate the viewer through each edition. Each week, a number of contestants would have to compete in a quiz, before the victors got to sit through sketches and songs by performers such as Fascinating Aida, Frankie Howerd, Vince Hill and Stan Boardman; after which they had to attempt to decipher some of the most wilfully obscure cryptic clues ever seen on a television show. The object of this part of the game was to try and identify the clue associated with that week’s star prize. In addition, the contestants also had to weed out which cryptic quizzer was linked to Dusty Bin.

The production team continued to refine the format almost until the series’ demise and minor changes were made throughout the series’ long run. However, in 1985 a dramatic overhaul was on the cards. It was reported at the time that “there’s good news for perplexed fans of 3-2-1! The hugely popular game show is back, and it’s better than ever. Better, that is, if you are one of those who found the ITV game a little hard to follow. The show … has been streamlined for the new series … in such a way as to make it even easier to follow. The prizes will be revealed at the start of each show. Out go the sketches, to be replaced most weeks, by a variety bill with a theme … There will also be new sets and a new style quiz too.”

To the bemusement of Yorkshire Television (whose constant tinkering of the format betrayed a lack of trust in the series), 3-2-1consistently pulled in large ratings. The first series attracted up to 16.5 million viewers, and subsequent years never failed to peak at 12 million or above. 3-2-1’s final Christmas special (broadcast on 19 December 1987) attracted 12.5 million viewers, so why it was subsequently cancelled remains a mystery. Perhaps like Opportunity Knocks, the IBA felt that the show had run for long enough, or perhaps Yorkshire felt the series was becoming irrevocably outdated (which it undeniably was). Its demise was greeted by many with sadness. Ted Rogers himself found it difficult to find further television work and in 1992, he apparently lost his most of his savings during the recession. He did however continue to appear in numerous pantomimes right up until his death in 2001, doubtless making great play of his famous hand gesture that used to open each edition of 3-2-1.

Next Monday: 1988 – Taking on Blind Date would be a real challenge



  1. richardpd

    February 25, 2019 at 1:19 pm

    I heard that 3-2-1 was a victim of ITV clearing out programming they felt was too old & working class, though I always thought it would be too Middle England to be working class.

    Supposedly Ted Rogers wasn’t pleased, claiming that ITV had too many “university boys” running the channel.

  2. Glenn Aylett

    February 25, 2019 at 10:15 pm

    I always wondered where 3-2-1 was as it was one of ITV’s few Saturday night hits in the late seventies and seemed to have a steady following on Saturdays until it was cancelled in 1987.
    Perhaps 3-2-1 had run its course after nine years, and was facing serious competition from Casualty, but sadly did leave Ted Rogers with no other work and he lost everything for reasons mentioned above.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To Top