Bullseye (UK game show)

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Not to be confused with an American game show of the same name with a different premise. See Bullseye (US game show) for details.
Bullseye
Format Game show
Created by Andrew Wood
Norman Vaughan
Presented by Jim Bowen (1981–95)
Dave Spikey (2006)
Starring Tony Green (Referee: 1982–95, 2006)
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 16
Production
Running time 30mins (inc. adverts)
Production company(s) ATV (1981)
Central (1982–1995)
Granada Yorkshire (2006)
Distributor ITV Studios
Broadcast
Original channel ITV (28 September 1981 – 8 July 1995)
Challenge (17 April – 22 September 2006)
Picture format 4:3 (1981–1995)
16:9 (2006)
Original run First run:
28 September 1981 – 8 July 1995
Second run:
17 April – 22 September 2006

Bullseye is a British television programme. It was first made for the ITV network by ATV in 1981, then by Central from 1982 until 1995, and was hosted by Jim Bowen.[1]

History[edit]

Bullseye was created and owned by Andrew Wood, who came up with the idea after doing research into aspects which created mass appeal for all viewers in a gameshow.[2] The series centred around darts, which placed three pairs of contestants (each team with one person to answer questions and one darts player) against one another to win prizes ranging from a new car, a speedboat, a caravan or a luxury holiday to the consolation prizes of a set of darts, a tankard (for male contestants), a silver goblet (for female contestants) and a 'Bendy Bully' a rubber model of the show's mascot.

The show originally aired on Monday nights in September 1981 and produced by ATV. In 1982, Bullseye was moved to Sunday afternoons, with a new co-host, Tony Green, a professional darts commentator, being brought in to keep track of the scores, and it helped to achieve around 17 million viewers.

Bullseye was moved from its traditional Sunday afternoons to Saturday afternoons from 1994 to 1995. A fifteenth series was planned in 1996, but Andrew Wood refused since it required new conditions by the ITV network centre, and he believed it would lose its appeal.[2] After an eleven-year hiatus, Bullseye was revived for a new series, which was recorded for the digital channel Challenge produced by Granada at Yorkshire Television in the Leeds Studios and was hosted by Dave Spikey.

The character 'Bully' was ambidextrous. In the opening credits of the show, he was shown to throw his darts with his right hand; however, prior to the advert break midway through the show, he can be seen to write "End of part one" using his left hand.

Jim Bowen once described Bullseye as "the second-best darts-based game-show on television". There are no others.[3]

Contestants[edit]

The revived series presenter Dave Spikey had appeared as a contestant on the show in the 1980s versions.[4]

In 1989, John Cooper appeared on the show. He would later be convicted of multiple burglaries, armed robberies, and, in 2011, following advances in forensic science, two double murders, one rape, and another sexual assault. Footage of his appearance on the show was later used by the prosecution to match him to witness reports at the time.[5] Programme associates on the show were Mickey Brennan and Roger Edwards.

Rounds[edit]

Category round[edit]

In round 1, the darts players threw one dart at a board in which each segment represented a different category of question (such as Pot Luck, Faces, Places, Sport, Showbiz, Affairs, History, Books, Words, Britain, Spelling). The first set of questions were worth £30 each, the next set (more difficult) were worth £50, and the final set (more difficult still) were worth £100. The cash prize for hitting the board varied depending on what part of the board was hit; the easiest part of the board to hit won £30, a slightly harder part won £50, a narrow and difficult-to-reach part won £100, and hitting the bullseye won the maximum cash prize of £200 (£150 from 2006). If contestants hit a category which they had not chosen, they would win no money for the throw, and could only win money through answering the question if a question on the category had not already been asked. If a contestant hit a category which had already turned up on that programme, the host would say "The category's gone, so we can't ask the question" and carry on. Another catchphrase would occur when the questions were asked. If a contestant wasn't sure about the answer and said "Is it..." followed by the answer, Bowen would ask "Are you asking me or telling me?". Up to and including series 7, the lowest-scoring couple would be eliminated at the end of the first round, but from series 8 onward, all three couples would stay in the game for the second round.

The dartboard segments in Series 1 in 1981 had lower values - (In order of moving into the board) £30, £10, £20 and the Bullseye was worth £50 (which also give the team the chance to answer any question on the board). The teams earned money by getting the question right to where the dart lands in the corresponding value. It was also preceded by an on-screen "order of play" tournament, which was done off-screen in later series.

Pounds for Points[edit]

In round 2, the darts players threw three darts at a time at a traditional matchplay dartboard, with the highest scoring team given the chance to convert the number of points scored to pounds by answering a general knowledge question. An incorrect answer caused the question to be passed in turn to the second-highest and lowest scoring teams. After three rounds of play the pair with the highest total winnings went through to the next round. The other pairs received a set of darts, a tankard (silver goblet for female contestants), a 'Bendy Bully' and the money that they had won from the two rounds, which was counted during the ad break, with Jim advising the viewers that counting the money would "take me two minutes". He would then say "See you in a couple of throws!" (instead of "See you in a couple of minutes").

In the first series the "pounds for points" didn't apply. Whichever team scored the most from throwing three darts, each time would get the chance to answer a choice of a question valued for £25, £50 or £101.

Charity interlude[edit]

Immediately at the start of part 2, a professional darts player or other celebrity threw nine darts, with the score converted to money for the charity of the final contestant's choice. A score of 301 or over was doubled. At the end of the series, (Series 5 onward) the darts player who got the highest score in the series received a 'Bronze Bully' trophy. In the earlier years of the show (up to and including series 4) celebrity players were given a 60 head-start; between then and series 14, the charity segment was exclusive to professional dart players. Celebrity players invariably performed poorly. Such stars would usually offer to 'add some of their own money' to increase the prize fund from, say, 20 pounds, to 80 pounds or so. Officially the highest score is 401 held by Alan Evans and the lowest was 95 by Cliff Lazarenko. The first player on the show to achieve 301 or more with nine darts, was professional darts player Linda Batton, who scored 304 on the second show of the first series.

Two known outtakes occurred in the Charity interlude: one with Bobby George, where he failed to hear Jim Bowen addressing him (with Bowen quipping to the camera, "He's pissin' deaf!"), and another with Ray Farrell, where Bowen referred to him as being "on the game" (while he obviously meant that Farrell was on the show, it also sounded as if Bowen was labeling Farrell as a male prostitute).

Bully's Prize Board[edit]

In this round the final pair were faced with a large prize board containing large black segments, smaller red segments and a large red bullseye. They threw nine darts (three for the non-dart player and six for the dart player) and won a prize for each red segment they hit (however, if they hit a red segment twice, the prize was lost – hence the catchphrase "Keep out of the black, and in the red; there's nothing in this game for two in a bed". However, they could win the prize back by hitting it again). Sometimes though, in special charity episodes, contestants did win the prize twice. The bullseye represented 'Bully's Special Prize'.

The prize board has become the butt of jokes since the programme's original demise because of the perceived poor quality of prizes on offer, but it should be pointed out that for most of the programme's original run prize values were restricted by the Independent Broadcasting Authority. Although some prizes (such as a remote-controlled toy car or legendary "TV with wired remote control") were laughed at by the studio audience even then, smaller prizes were taken for granted at the time, and they seemed relatively lavish compared to those on offer in BBC game shows such as Blankety Blank. In a 2006 episode, Bully's Special Prize was a fully functional Bullseye Fruit Machine, quite possibly the most valuable prize in the show's history not to be the mystery Star Prize – however the contestants promptly lost it after doing badly in the final round.

During series 1, the black segments were green.

In the 1991 Christmas special of the show, Dennis Priestley and John McCririck playing as a professional darts player/celebrity guest combination managed a 100% record with their nine collective darts taking out all eight main prizes and Bully's special prize, all of which went to nominated charities across the UK.

Bully's Star Prize gamble[edit]

Having completed Bully's Prize Board, the winning pair had "the time it takes the board to revolve" to decide whether to gamble their winnings from the prize board for the mystery Star Prize hidden behind a screen in the studio. From series 11 onward, they also had to gamble the money they had won earlier in the show (it was at this point that the phrase "all you'll win is your BFH – Bus Fare Home" came about). If they gambled, they then had to score 101 or more on a standard matchplay dart board with six darts (three darts each & non dart-player first - i.e. the question answerer). Contestants who failed to reach 101 were then invited to "come and have a look at what you could have won", by Jim. Jim's assistants would then wheel out the Star Prize from behind a screen to the sounds of a remixed "sad" version of the theme music, while the audience enjoyed the losing contestants' astonished faces of despair.

If the couple who took part in Bully's Prize Board refused to gamble (inevitably ducking out claiming that they'd already had a "smashing day, Jim" and would like "to give the others a chance"), the second-placed couple from the second round was asked to gamble their money. If the second couple declined, the third couple was asked. On the rare occasions that no couple took up the gamble - (this happened for the very first time in Series 7), the Star Prize was revealed and the show ended. The Star Prize was usually a holiday (especially in later series), a car, a caravan or a speedboat. Sometimes in the earlier series, less lavish Star Prizes (fitted kitchens and the like) were given away so as to fit within the IBA's prize limits. In the last two series, after prize limits had been lifted, the Star Prize would sometimes be "Bully's Treasure Chest" of £5,000.

If in the rare case that both the second and third place couples had tied on equal points (prior to series 7), then both would be asked if they wanted to gamble. If both said yes, then the dart players would each throw three darts at the standard dartboard, the higher scorer winning.

On the show, it was never made clear if the two winning contestants had to share the Star Prize or if they got one each.

Out takes[edit]

Normally, Bowen would ask the audience what the dart player would win if he/she hit the bullseye, and the audience would chorus "£200!". In one outtake, on the first episode of a new series, Bowen accidentally said "What does the bullseye get if it hits the dart player?" and followed it up with "Bollocks, I got it wrong!"

In another, Bowen had difficulties asking the specific question, "Which pop duo split up in 1986 and gave their farewell concert at Wembley Stadium?", accidentally saying "conference" instead of "concert" more than once. Eventually, when Bowen finally asked the question correctly, nobody knew the answer (Wham!), and Bowen's response to the "Moo" noise was "Shut up, you up there!".

Revival[edit]

Bullseye was one of several game shows to be released as an interactive DVD game for Christmas 2005, although the game did not feature the voice of Jim Bowen, and 'Bully' was redesigned. A Bullseye board game was made around the same time. A 'Classic Bullseye' DVD game was released the following year, which featured the voices of both Jim Bowen and Tony Green and also classic footage from the show. A second edition of the board game was also released in 2006.

In 2005, it was announced that programme creator Andrew Wood had signed a contract with Granada Media for Granada to produce a one-hour long celebrity special Bullseye show to be hosted by Ant & Dec. This Bullseye special was part of Ant & Dec's Gameshow Marathon, in turn part of ITV’s 50th anniversary celebrations, and was aired on ITV on 22 October 2005. Vernon Kay and Coronation Street star William Roache were the contestants, accompanied by professional darts players Eric Bristow and Andy Fordham, while Tony Green reprised his role as co-host.

Subsequently, as part of a six-month exclusive option agreement signed by Wood, Granada decided that a new series of Bullseye would be produced early the following year. On 25 January 2006, it was announced that Challenge had won the rights to show the new series. On 14 March 2006, it was announced that the show was to be hosted by comedian Dave Spikey, despite tabloid rumours that it would be presented by Ant & Dec or Peter Kay. Bully was also redesigned for the new series, albeit very similar to the Bully used in the original series.

Bullseye returned to the UK on Challenge at 10pm on 17 April 2006. The show maintained the style of prizes from the original — none of the cash prizes had increased in value since the first show, although the bullseye on the category board had decreased to £150 from the £200 of the original series. Some of the prizes from Bully's Prize Board were of more modern gameshow standard, such as a TFT television and an MP3 player. Dave Spikey and Tony Green commented on BBC Radio 1's Colin and Edith show on 19 April 2006: "...[Bullseye is] The only gameshow on the television in which the prizes get a round of applause..." then joked around about some of the more "naff" prizes on the show.

The revived series was, unlike many other game show revivals in the UK, strikingly similar to the original series. Whilst refreshed, the show maintained the original theme music and stings and used a near-identical set of opening titles to the original series, which sees Bully driving a bus before ejecting his seat and holding onto a flying dart. A cartoon version of Dave Spikey replaced Jim's in the titles.

The first series of the Challenge revival ran for fifteen episodes (one each weeknight) until 5 May 2006. The second series began on 4 September 2006, also running for fifteen episodes (again one each weeknight). However, there was no further production afterwards.

On 19 May 2007, another one-hour long celebrity special was aired on ITV, this time as part of Vernon Kay's Gameshow Marathon. This time the contestants were newsreader Andrea Catherwood, footballer Graeme Le Saux and another Coronation Street star, Michael Le Vell, paired with professional darts players Martin Adams, Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld respectively. Once again, Tony Green reprised his co-host role. Strangely, Bowen did not appear on the Bullseye episode; instead, he appeared on the marathon's remake of The Golden Shot, acting as "Bowen the Bolt" (instead of "Bernie the Bolt"). At one point, he did make the comment to Kay, "Vernon, this is a bit like Bullseye used to be...throwing arrows for prizes!"

Theme music[edit]

The theme music for the show was written by John Patrick, who was Head of music department at ATV and Central .

The show was unusual in having two different closing theme tune arrangements — a rapid, upbeat version (in the style of Spike Jones, complete with comical sound effects) played when the contestants won the Star Prize, and a more bluesy one in a minor key played when they lost or nobody took the gamble.

Transmissions[edit]

Series Start date End date Episodes
1 28 September 1981[6] 21 December 1981[6] 13[6]
2 10 October 1982[6] 23 January 1983[6] 16[6]
3 27 November 1983[6] 1984  ??
4 2 September 1984[6] 1985  ??
5 1 September 1985[6] 1986 26
6 31 August 1986[6] 1987  ??
7 13 September 1987[6] 1988 25 [7]
8 18 September 1988[6] 1989 24[8]
9 29 October 1989[6] 1990  ??
10 1990 17 March 1991 25 [9]
11 1 September 1991  ?? 23 [10]
12 6 September 1992  ?? 23 [11]
13 26 March 1994 30 July 1994 18
14 1 April 1995 8 July 1995 15
15 17 April 2006 5 May 2006 15
16 4 September 2006 22 September 2006 15

Four Episodes from Series 1, and six episodes from Series 2 are lost. From Series 1 to 9, the show was recorded at ATV/Central House in Broad Street, Birmingham. In Series 10, it moved to Central's purpose-built studios at Lenton Lane in Nottingham, where it remained until its first demise in 1995. The Challenge revival was recorded at the Yorkshire Television studios in Leeds, and the Gameshow Marathon one-offs were produced at the London Studios.

Repeats[edit]

Bullseye was repeated on UK Gold from 1996 to 2000, then it was repeated on Granada Plus from 2000 until the channel closed in 2004 and it was then moved to Challenge which is where it remains today. It was also repeated occasionally on defunct channels Ftn and Virgin1 (later Channel One).

References[edit]

External links[edit]