|Created by||Roger Medcalf
|Presented by||Jim Davidson
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||14|
|No. of episodes||222 (inc. 17 specials)|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Picture format||4:3 (1991–2000)
|Original release||30 April 1991– 9 October 2002|
Big Break is a British game show featuring the game of snooker, mixed with traditional game show elements. It was broadcast on BBC1 between 30 April 1991 and 9 October 2002. It influenced a later golf-themed game show for the network called Full Swing, and itself was in part influenced by ITV's long-running darts quiz Bullseye.[original research?]
Format of the show
The show was presented by comedian Jim Davidson and former snooker player, later commentator, John Virgo, who was known for being the butt of many of Davidson's jokes. The show's theme song is The Snooker Song, from the musical The Hunting of the Snark composed by Mike Batt and performed by Captain Sensible.
The show was renowned for its light-hearted and comedic tone for many reasons. One of which was the chemistry between Davidson and Virgo, in which Davidson would frequently mock Virgo for his dress-sense or personality. This made many viewers sympathetic for Virgo. However, Virgo would occasionally come back with wisecracks and insults, one example involved Davidson telling Virgo he would talk very slow because Virgo was a northerner, before Virgo said "Well, Jim, I know you're a southerner, so I'm not going to listen.". Other comic aspects were the occasional contestant who failed to understand many of the questions they were asked, and the light-hearted personality of snooker players, most notably Dennis Taylor.
The show's set consisted of a snooker table and three pairs of chairs at the side of the studio, with Virgo standing on the opposite side of the snooker table and the question board which would be revealed in the second round. The show began with Davidson giving a short monologue and then introducing Virgo who would enter the set with a bag of snooker balls which would be used in the first round.
All contestants would go home with at least a Big Break trophy and a Snooker cue (although this was referred to as a "Snooker Bat" or "Old Stick" by Davidson) regardless of the outcome.
After introducing and chatting to each contestant, they would randomly select a ball from a bag Davidson was holding. The bag contained a red ball, a yellow ball and a blue ball, which Davidson once described as "the thing you get on a colour TV" even though the colours on a TV screen are red, blue and *green* not yellow. Each coloured ball represented a professional snooker player who Virgo would introduce. (Virgo could have randomly chosen a player himself as players had no indication what colour they were. However, he could occasionally be seen holding a card which could possibly have noted which colours the players represented.)
After introducing the players, the first round, Red Hot, would be played. It would begin with a player having ten seconds added to a clock, and being asked three questions to gain ten seconds for each question answered correctly. The questions were usually riddles or trick questions, with the second question often asking the contestant which two words sound the same by answering clues. (For example, a number (four), and the opposite of against (for).)
In later series, each player started Red Hot with 40 seconds, and lost five seconds for each of the three questions that they answered incorrectly, increasing the minimum playing time (when all questions were answered incorrectly) from ten to 25 seconds.
After the questions were answered, the snooker players had the rewarded amount of time to pot ten red snooker balls, which Davidson and Virgo described as being very complicated rules. Virgo's deadpan delivery of the line "Pot as many balls as you can" became a series catchphrase.
The contestant whose player potted the fewest balls would be out of the game and play the next round for a consolation prize.
Virgo's trick shot
This mini-game consisted of Virgo setting up a trick shot for the losing contestant. After demonstrating the shot, Virgo would set the shot up again for the player to attempt. Prizes included binoculars, clock radios and champagne.
If they completed the shot successfully, they won the prize. If the contestant came close to winning but failed, Davidson or Virgo would often knock the snooker ball into the pocket. However, if the player lost, which was very rare, Davidson would offer an old record by an unpopular artist whom the contestant wouldn't recognise.
In the first episode of Big Break, Virgo performed the trick shot dressed as Willie Thorne and missed the pot, while the contestant got it in. He would also occasionally mock various other players, including Jimmy White.
Outtakes of Virgo's failed attempts at some trick shots were frequently seen on Auntie's Bloomers.
In the next round, contestants would have the chance of winning money. Each snooker player had to play by traditional snooker rules for ninety seconds with the snooker balls being worth amounts of money. Each red ball was worth £10 when potted, with each coloured ball being worth £10 times the regulation point value of that ball, up to £70 for the black ball. In addition, each pocket had a designated colour; If the player potted a coloured ball in the same colour pocket, the amount would be doubled for that pot.
If the player missed, the contestant would have to answer a question on a specific subject, depending on what ball was missed. Categories included Pot Luck (Red), Past (Yellow), Music (Green), Places (Brown), People (Blue), Sports (Pink) and Screen (Black). If answered correctly, Davidson would shout "Play!" so the snooker player would continue. If the contestant answered incorrectly, Davidson would have to ask another question. If the contestant continually answered wrongly, Davidson would either give the contestant clues, over-articulate the right answer or, if he got lost with the questions, give up and shout "Play!" anyway.
Each contestant won the amount of money the snooker player gained, and the contestant with the most money went on to play the final round.
Make or Break?
In Make or Break?, contestants could win a variety of prizes. First of all the snooker player would do a breakshot of the 6 red balls. Contestants would be given ninety seconds to answer five general knowledge questions asked by Davidson. Each correct answer allowed the snooker player to remove one red ball from the table. Once the questions have been asked, the snooker player and Virgo, discuss which of the red balls to discard, based on their positions after the breakshot and therefore ease to pot them. After the questions were answered, the remaining time was given to the snooker player to clear the snooker table with six reds minus one for each question answered correctly on the table. One red ball and each coloured ball represented a prize, ranging from champagne, short breaks, televisions, computers and games consoles. The black ball represented the Mystery Star Prize, often a holiday, though on occasion a booby prize.
The snooker player would play by traditional rules to clear the table, with the support of having red balls removed. The player had the remaining time, left from when the contestant answered his or her questions, to pot all the balls. The first red potted won the player the first prize. However, the contestant could not win any more prizes until the player cleared all the reds from the table, and began potting the yellow ball up to the black ball.
At the end of the programme, there is usually another familiar catchphrase – Davidson says "Say good night, JV.", to which Virgo replies, "Good night, JV."
|Series||Start date||End date||Episodes|
|1||30 April 1991||16 July 1991||12|
|2||11 January 1992||4 April 1992||13|
|3||12 September 1992||19 December 1992||15|
|4||4 September 1993||26 March 1994||27|
|5||9 September 1994||28 October 1994||8|
|6||7 January 1995||20 May 1995||19|
|7||2 September 1995||14 October 1995||7|
|8||2 March 1996||19 July 1996||20|
|9||3 January 1997||14 July 1997||20|
|10||9 January 1998||18 July 1998||19|
|11||13 February 1999||24 July 1999||19|
|12||4 December 1999||31 March 2000||23|
|13||28 April 2001||18 August 2001||12|
|14||22 June 2002||9 October 2002||8|
|24 December 1991||Christmas Special|
|26 December 1992||Christmas Special|
|27 December 1993||Christmas Special|
|27 December 1994||Christmas Special|
|22 August 1995||Trick Shot Special|
|29 August 1995||Trick Shot Special|
|19 October 1995||Trick Shot Special|
|28 December 1995||Christmas Special|
|3 August 1996||Trick Shot Special|
|29 August 1996||Trick Shot Special|
|27 December 1996||Christmas Special|
|27 June 1997||Trick Shot Special|
|4 July 1997||Trick Shot Special|
|26 December 1997||Christmas Special|
|28 December 1998||Christmas Special|
|23 December 1999||Trick Shot Special|
|3 January 2000||Snooker Scrapbook|