The Generation Game
|The Generation Game|
Bruce Forsyth's Generation Game logo (1990-4)
|Presented by||Bruce Forsyth (1971–1977; 1990-1994; 2007: Now & Then)
Roy Castle (1975; stand-in)
Larry Grayson (1978–1982)
Jim Davidson (1994; stand-in, 1995–2002)
(2005: Generation Fame)
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||24|
|No. of episodes||371 (inc. 46 specials)|
|Running time||60 minutes|
|Original channel||BBC1 (1971–1982, 1990-2002, 2005)
UKTV Gold (2007)
|Picture format||4:3 (1971–1982, 1990-2001)
16:9 (2001–2002, 2005, 2007)
|Original run||2 October 1971– 20 December 2007|
The Generation Game was a British game show produced by the BBC in which four teams of two (people from the same family, but different generations, hence the title of the show) competed to win prizes. The programme was first broadcast in 1971 under the title Bruce Forsyth and the Generation Game and ran until 1982, and again from 1990 until 2002.
The show was based on the Dutch TV show Een van de acht, "One of the Eight", the format devised in 1969 by Theo Uittenbogaard for VARA Television. Mrs. Mies Bouwman - a popular Dutch talk show host and presenter of the show - came up with the idea of the conveyor belt. She had seen it on a German programme and wanted to incorporate it into the show.
Another antecedent for the gameshow was 'Sunday Night at the London Palladium' on ATV, which had a game called Beat the Clock, taken from an American gameshow. It featured married couples playing silly games within a certain time to win prize money. This was hosted by Bruce Forsyth from 1958, and he took the idea with him when he went over to the BBC.
During the 1970s, gameshows became more popular and started to replace expensive variety shows. Creating new studio shows was cheaper than hiring a theatre and paying for long rehearsals and a large orchestra, and could secure a similar number of viewers. With less money for their own productions, a gameshow seemed the obvious idea for ITV. As a result many variety performers were recruited for gameshows. The BBC, suffering poor ratings, decided to make its own gameshow. Bill Cotton, the BBC's Head of Light Entertainment, believed that Bruce Forsyth was best for the job. For years, The Generation Game was one of the strong shows in the BBC's Saturday night line-up, and became the number one gameshow on British television during the 1970s, regularly gaining over 21 million viewers. However, things were about to change. LWT, desperate to end the BBC's long-running ratings success on a Saturday night, offered Forsyth a chance to change channel to host The Big Night.
Alan Boyd, producer of The Generation Game at the time, remembers that there were many proposals as to who should take over. However, he felt he did not want the new programme to be comparable to Forsyth's Generation Game (he did not want the audience to be able to compare the two shows to think that Bruce was better or that the new host was better), so he cast Larry Grayson to take over, with a new theme tune and scenery, and a new co-host, Isla St Clair. It worked, as The Big Night failed to beat The Generation Game and was off the air within three months.
The show reached its peak under Grayson, with an audience of 25 million. (It should be pointed out that its highest figures in 1979 were due to a strike that blacked out the ITV network, meaning the two BBC channels were the only ones the public could watch). Grayson was loved for his apparent incompetence and inability to remember what was going on — all of which was carefully contrived.
A special edition of The Generation Game with Vernon Kay hosting aired on 5 March 2011 in aid of Comic Relief during the BBC's 24 Hour Panel People. David Walliams competed with his mother Kathleen. The other team consisted of Miranda Hart and Patricia Hodge, who play mother and daughter in the sitcom Miranda.
The game 
There were always eight competitors, hence the catchphrase "Let's meet the eight who are going to generate" used in earlier series by Bruce Forsyth. In the first two rounds, two couples would compete against each other in two games. One game usually involved first seeing a skilled professional construct or perform something, such as pottery or dancing. The contestants would then attempt to do the same, and a score would be given by the professional. The other game usually involved more of a quiz element, such as identifying pieces of music. At the end of each of the first two rounds, the couple with the lowest score was eliminated.
The two highest-scoring couples then competed against each other in the final (or End Game as Larry Grayson called it). This was often a big set-piece performance; in the series presented by Bruce Forsyth it was usually a drama or farce, in later programmes a musical or dance performance. The couple that scored the highest went through to the final 'conveyor belt'.
At the end of the show, one member (or in later series both members) of the victorious team watched prizes pass on a conveyor belt, and then won as many as could be recalled in a set time. A trademark of the show was that a cuddly toy was always among the prizes. This led to an affectionate joke: "Dinner service...fondue set...Cuddly toy! Cuddly toy!", which is often quoted whenever the show is mentioned. The audience would shout out the names of the prizes, allowing the contestants to carry away large numbers of items.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (August 2010)|
The show introduced a number of catchphrases, famously Bruce Forsyth's "Didn't he/she/they do well?", "Let's meet the eight who are going to generate", "Let's have a look at the old scoreboard" (later, when the show was revived, Forsyth's assistant was Rosemarie Ford, so the catchphrase was amended to "What's on the board, Miss Ford?") Most famously, Forsyth always opened the show with "Nice to see you, to see you ..." to which the audience would shout "Nice!", a catchphrase that Forsyth retains. Others included "Good game, good game," "I hope you're playing this at home," and "Give us a twirl," which was said to hostess Anthea Redfern to show off her dress.
Grayson supplied his own catchphrases, notably "Shut that door!", "What a gay day!" and "Seems like a nice boy!" Scores were preceded by "What are the scores on the doors?" to which St Clair would reply "The names in the frames say..." before announcing them. After the conveyor belt finale, Grayson would say "What a lot you've got... you have got a lot!" but he abandoned this after his second season as it did not register with the public. Grayson and St Clair apparently had a strong bond; Grayson always introduced her at the start of each show as "my lovely Isla" and "my favourite girl, my Saturday girl." Whenever St Clair speaks of Grayson, who died in 1995, it is with affection. She once referred to them as being "like a couple of naughty sisters."
Each host of The Generation Game was joined by a female hostess, who brought the contestants on stage, handed out the prizes and often joined in the games. The first was Anthea Redfern, who began an affair with host Forsyth and married him during the series' run. When she was absent on maternity leave, actress Jenny Lee Wright stood in for a number of shows. Isla St. Clair was Grayson's hostess throughout his tenure on the show. Rosemarie Ford supported Forsyth on his second stint as host. Sally Meen, Melanie Stace and Leah Christiansen were Davidson's hostesses.
Graham Norton hosted a one-off special at Christmas 2005 featuring celebrity contestants - this was titled "Generation Fame". At the time it was widely suggested that this was being treated as the pilot for a potential series; however, only the one edition has to date been screened.
The Generation Game returned in 2007 under the title Brucie's Generation Game: Now and Then broadcast on UKTV Gold. This version was a retrospective of earlier editions, similar to the digital channel's Wogan and Jim'll Fix It revivals around the same time.
International versions 
In addition to the original Dutch version and long-running British version, in 2008 a South African version of the show was made, hosted by comedian Barry Hilton together with actress/presenter Cindy Nkabinde on channel SABC 2.
In popular culture 
- In the third Harry Potter film, during the dinner scene with the Dursleys, Dudley Dursley is watching this show on television.
- In the 1993 UK top 40 single "You're in a Bad Way" by Saint Etienne, a reference is made to someone who gets their "kicks watching Bruce on the old Generation Game".
- DI Alex Drake briefly watches Larry Grayson's The Generation Game at the start of episode 1.3 of Ashes to Ashes.
- In Horrible Histories, in the Victorian inventions song near the end, a conveyor belt is going along and a teddy bear is on it (although stating it was made in 1902, the year after Victoria died).
- Forsyth's catchphrase "Let's have a look at the old scoreboard" is frequently used by New Zealand television sports presenter Andrew Saville in an apparent reference to the show.
- Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour was well known for wearing a t-shirt with the catchphrase "Didn't They Do Well" on stage in the 70s. Although he no longer wears the shirt the bass player in his band, Guy Pratt, can often be seen wearing a similar shirt.
|Series||Start date||End date||Episodes|
|1||2 October 1971||30 October 1971||5|
|2||16 September 1972||1 January 1973||15|
|3||15 September 1973||26 January 1974||19|
|4||14 September 1974||1 February 1975||21|
|5||27 September 1975||1 January 1976||14|
|6||11 September 1976||18 December 1976||15|
|7||10 September 1977||31 December 1977||16|
|8||23 September 1978||16 December 1978||13|
|9||1 September 1979||15 December 1979||15|
|10||30 August 1980||13 December 1980||16|
|11||5 September 1981||19 December 1981||16|
|12||7 September 1990||7 December 1990||13|
|13||14 September 1991||21 December 1991||15|
|14||19 September 1992||2 January 1993||14|
|15||9 September 1993||18 December 1993||14|
|16||10 September 1994||17 December 1994||15|
|17||21 October 1995||10 February 1996||17|
|18||31 August 1996||14 December 1996||16|
|19||18 October 1997||7 March 1998||19|
|20||5 September 1998||23 January 1999||20|
|21||4 September 1999||5 February 2000||19|
|22||7 October 2000||24 February 2001||20|
|23||8 September 2001||13 April 2002||18|
|24||22 November 2007||20 December 2007||5|
|9 September 1972||Series 1 Compilation|
|25 December 1972||Christmas Special|
|9 September 1973||Series 2 Compilation|
|25 December 1973||Christmas Special|
|29 December 1973||Series 3 Compilation|
|25 December 1974||Christmas Special|
|20 September 1975||Series 4 Compilation|
|25 December 1975||Christmas Special|
|4 September 1976||Series 5 Compilation|
|25 December 1976||Christmas Special|
|3 September 1977||Series 6 Compilation|
|25 December 1977||Christmas Special|
|5 January 1978||Bruce's Choice|
|25 December 1978||Christmas Special|
|31 December 1978||Series 8 Compilation|
|16 April 1979||Easter Special|
|25 December 1979||Christmas Special|
|31 December 1979||Series 9 Compilation|
|7 April 1980||Easter Special|
|25 December 1980||Christmas Special|
|31 December 1980||Series 10 Compilation|
|20 April 1981||Easter Special|
|25 December 1981||Christmas Special|
|3 January 1982||Series 11 Compilation|
|25 December 1990||Christmas Special|
|7 September 1991||Series 12 Compilation|
|25 December 1991||Christmas Special|
|5 September 1992||Series 13 Compilation|
|25 December 1992||Christmas Special|
|3 September 1993||Series 14 Compilation|
|24 December 1993||Christmas Special|
|3 September 1994||Series 15 Compilation|
|24 December 1994||Christmas Special|
|21 December 1996||Christmas Special|
|20 December 1997||Christmas Special|
|14 March 1998||Series 18 Compilation|
|21 March 1998||Series 19 Compilation|
|30 January 1999||Series 20 Compilation|
|1 September 1999||Cuddly Toys and Conveyor Belts|
|24 December 1999||Christmas Special|
|31 December 1999||Millenium Special|
|1 January 2000||New Year Special|
|1 July 2000||Series 21 Compilation|
|26 May 2001||Series 22 Compilation|
|23 December 2001||Christmas Special|
|20 April 2002||Series 23 Compilation|
|31 December 2005||Generation Fame|