Big Break

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For The Golf Channel reality show, see The Big Break.
Big Break
Created by Roger Medcalf
Mike Kemp
Terry Mardell
Presented by Jim Davidson
John Virgo
Theme music composer "The Snooker Song" by Captain Sensible
Composer(s) Mike Batt
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 14
No. of episodes 222 (inc. 17 specials)
Running time 30 minutes
Original network BBC1
Picture format 4:3 (1991–2000)
16:9 (2001–02)
Audio format Mono (1991–1995)
Stereo (1996–2002)
Original release 30 April 1991 (1991-04-30) – 9 October 2002 (2002-10-09)
Related shows Bullseye
Full Swing

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[edit]

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'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.

Red Hot[edit]

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. 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[edit]

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 would not recognise.

In the first episode of Big Break, Virgo performed a 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.

Pocket Money[edit]

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 hole had a designated colour; If the player potted a coloured ball in the same coloured pocket hole, 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?[edit]

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.

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 8 January 1995 21 May 1995 19
7 2 September 1995 14 October 1995 7
8 3 March 1996 21 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


Date Entitle
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

External links[edit]