Big Break

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Big Break
GenreSports game show
Created byRoger Medcalf
Mike Kemp
Terry Mardell
Presented byJim Davidson
StarringJohn Virgo
Voices ofColin Ward Lewis (1991–96)
Zora Suleman (1997)
Charles Nove (1998 & 2001)
Theme music composer"The Snooker Song" by Captain Sensible
Composer(s)Mike Batt
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series14
No. of episodes222 (inc. 17 specials)
Production
Production location(s)BBC Elstree Centre (1991–93)[1]
BBC Television Centre (1994–2001)
Running time30 minutes
Release
Original networkBBC1
Picture format4:3 (1991–2001)
16:9 (2001–2)
Original release30 April 1991 (1991-04-30) –
9 October 2002 (2002-10-09)
Chronology
Related showsBullseye
Full Swing

Big Break was 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. The show was hosted by comedian Jim Davidson and professional snooker player John Virgo.

Format[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. An unbroadcast pilot filmed in May 1990 had Mike Read as host in place of Davidson and a near identical set to the familiar broadcast version and saw snooker player and commentator John Parrott as co-host in place of Virgo. The BBC's Director-General at the time, Sir Michael Checkland, turned down this pilot as he felt the rounds and scoring structure was too close to that of ITV's Bullseye, which had helped influence the concept of the series but which the BBC were keen to not draw too many comparisons with. Parrott was also deemed to not quite have the right 'double-act' relationship with Davidson for what the producers were looking for. The second pilot filmed later that year, now with Virgo in place of Parrott, would later become the first broadcast episode, although was originally filmed as a 45-minute 'special' pilot intended for broadcast over the 1990 Christmas/New Year period with extra rounds - hence sharper eyed viewers can notice the scoring in the final edited half-hour version of the first episode is slightly inconsistent at points.

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. The snooker player would either receive a cheque or donation made in their name given to a charity of their choice. The donation matched the cash prize collected by the contestant on their team. Most snooker players also received a fee for appearing, although some would waive it, or ask for it to be added to the donation instead.

Red Hot[edit]

After introducing and chatting with 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 whom Virgo would introduce.

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 exit the game, but would also play "Virgo's trick shot" (See below).

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.

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 (Double yellow £40, double green £60, double brown £80, double blue £100, double pink £120 and double black £140).

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.

Tie-Break[edit]

This round is only played when two (or all three) teams have the lowest score after Red Hot or Pocket Money. The contestant on each team must play this at the same time. In one attempt, they must strike the cue ball so that it travels the length of the table and rebounds off the furthest cushion. The winner is the contestant who causes their ball to return the closest to them. The winning contestant's team moves on to the next round, while the losing contestant's team is eliminated.

Make or Break?[edit]

In Make or Break?, contestants could win a variety of prizes. First of all the snooker player would break off 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 break-off and so leaving those easier to pot. After the questions were answered, the remaining time was given over to the snooker player to clear the snooker table of the six reds minus those discarded. 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 colours in sequence, from yellow to black.

At the end of the programme, there is usually another familiar catchphrase exchange: Davidson says "Say good night, JV.", to which Virgo replies, "Good night, JV."

Transmissions[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]