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|Genre||Comedy panel game|
|Presented by||Terry Wogan (1979–83)
Les Dawson (1984–90)
Lily Savage (1997–2002)
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||17|
|No. of episodes||266 (inc. 12 christmas specials & 8 unaired)|
|Running time||30mins (BBC One)
40mins (inc. adverts) (ITV)
|Production company(s)||Fremantle (UK) (1997–1998)
|Original network||BBC One (1979–1999)
|Picture format||4:3 (1979–1998)
|Original release||18 January 1979– 10 August 2002|
Blankety Blank (later called Lily Savage's Blankety Blank) was a British comedy game show based on the 1977–79 Australian game show Blankety Blanks (which was in turn based on the American game show Match Game).
The British version ran from 18 January 1979 to 12 March 1990 on BBC One, hosted first by Terry Wogan from 1979 until 1983 followed by Les Dawson from 1984 until 1990. Regular members of the celebrity panel on this version included Kenny Everett, Lorraine Chase, Gareth Hunt, Gary Davies, and Cheryl Baker.
A revival hosted by Paul O'Grady (as Lily Savage) was produced by the BBC from 26 December 1997 to 28 December 1999, followed by ITV from 7 January 2001 to 10 August 2002. This version was produced by the Reg Grundy Organisation (producers of the Australian version), then Thames Television.
Two contestants competed. The contestants were always a man and a woman or two women; at no point did two men compete head-to-head. The object was to match the answers of as many of the six celebrity panelists as possible on fill-in-the-blank statements.
The main game was played in two rounds. The contestant was given a choice of two statements labelled either "A" or "B". The host then read the statement. When Les Dawson became the host the programme did away with the A or B choice but this was reinstated when Lily Savage became the host.
Frequently, the statements were written with comedic, double entendre answers in mind. A classic example: "Did you catch a glimpse of that girl on the corner? She has the world's biggest 'blank'."
While the contestant pondered his/her answer, the six celebrities wrote their answers on index cards. After they finished, the contestant was asked for his/her answer. Frequently, the audience responded appropriately as the host critiqued the contestant's answer (for the "world's biggest" question, the host might compliment an answer such as "boobs" or "rear end", while expressing disdain to an answer such as "fingers" or "bag").
The host then asked each celebrity – one at a time, beginning with #1 in the upper left hand corner – to give his/her response. The contestant earned one point for each celebrity who wrote down the same answer (or reasonably similar as determined by the judges) up to a maximum of six points for matching everyone.
After play was completed on the contestant's question, the host read the statement on the other card for the challenger and play was identical.
The challenger again began Round 2, with two new questions, unless he/she matched everyone in the first round. Only celebrities that a contestant didn't match could play this round.
Tiebreaker rounds: If the players had the same score at the end of "regulation", a tiebreaker was used that reversed the game play. The contestants would write their answers first on a card in secret, then the celebrities were canvassed to give their answers. The first celebrity response to match a contestant's answer gave that contestant the victory; if there were still no match (which was rare), the round was replayed with a new question.
A fill-in-the-blank phrase was given, and it was up to the contestant to choose the most common response based on a studio audience survey. After consulting with three celebrities on the panel for help the contestant had to choose an answer. The answers were revealed after that; the most popular answer in the survey was worth 150 Blanks, the second-most popular 100 Blanks, and the third most popular 50. If a contestant failed to match any of the three answers, the bonus round ended.
Another game was played with two new players, and the one who amassed the most from the Supermatch won the game (and if the two winners got the same it would go to sudden death, using the same tiebreaker as in the main game). Here, they could win a better prize (doubling their blanks or a holiday). The player chose one of the celebrities who would write down their answer to a "word BLANK" phrase. The player would then give their answer, if they matched, they won and if not they didn't.
Prizes on British game shows of the 1980s seem very poor by modern standards. The Independent Broadcasting Authority restricted prize values on ITV shows, and BBC-programme prizes were worth even less because the Corporation felt it inappropriate to spend licence payers' money on such things. As a result, the poor-quality prizes became a running joke throughout the show's various runs, particularly during the Dawson era. Dawson drew attention to the fact that the prizes were less-than-mediocre, not pretending that the show had "fabulous prizes" as others did, but making a joke of it, such as referring to them as "fire salvaged" prizes.
Dawson affectionately ridiculed the show with dialogue such as "And for the benefit of anyone who hasn't got an Argos Catalogue, here's some of the rubbish you might be saddled with tonight.". On one memorable occasion, the 300 Blanks star prize was a trip on Concorde. As the audience (expecting the usual cheap prizes) clapped and cheered appreciatively, Les waved them down with "Don't get excited—it goes to the end of the runway and back."
Most famously was the consolation prize—the Blankety Blank chequebook and pen, which Les would often call "The Blankety Blank chequepen and book!" The "chequebook" consisted of a cheap-looking silver trophy in the shape of a chequebook. When one contestant had won nothing, Les rolled his eyes and asked her "I bet you wish you'd've stopped at home and watched Crossroads—do you want me to lend you your bus fare home?" However, despite Les's constant jibing of the consolation prize ("Never mind love, you might have lost, but you'll never be short of something to prop your door open with now..."), the chequebook and pen are now worth a great deal, as they were never commercially available and only a limited number were made.
By the time of the 1990s revival, the IBA prize limits had been lifted, and the star prize was generally a holiday.
When he was host, Terry Wogan had an unusual stick-like microphone. It was modelled on the Sony ECM-51, Gene Rayburn's microphone from the 1973–1982 American version but was, in fact, an ECM-50 mounted on a car radio aerial. He always referred to it as "Wogan's Wand". On one memorable occasion, Kenny Everett bent it in half (with Wogan, obviously not expecting this, carrying on valiantly through the show with the wand at a 45-degree angle). This led to a running gag on Everett's subsequent appearances on the show, when he would come up with new ways of damaging the wand, such as attempting to cut it in half with shears. (This instance at least was visibly planned, as Wogan deliberately bent forward for him to grab it, and when the wand refused to break, Everett quipped "It worked in rehearsals".) In his very first show when he took over from Wogan, Les Dawson broke Wogan's Wand in half, muttering "Been wanting to do that for years." Wogan himself destroyed the wand on a Children in Need one-off special in the 2000s.
Blankety Blank returned to British screens as a one-off edition as part of the BBC's annual Children in Need telethon, in which Terry Wogan reprised his role as the host of the show, accompanied by his wand microphone. The contestants were impressionists Jon Culshaw and Jan Ravens from Dead Ringers.
In 2006, the show was brought back this time as an interactive DVD game, with Terry once again reprising his role of host and once again being accompanied by his magic wand-type microphone. However, the theme tune to the DVD game is not the original theme, but a version that was used for the ITV revival.
Another special edition of the programme was recorded, in aid of Comic Relief's 24 Hour Panel People, on 6 March 2011. The recording was broadcast live on the Red Nose Day website and, in an edited version, on BBC Three on 14 March. The panellists were Barbara Windsor, David Tennant, Stacey Solomon, David Walliams, George Lamb and Keith Harris & Orville. The contestants were Lee Ryan and Duncan James. Paul O'Grady returned as host, this time as himself.
Another spoof was shown in 2003 as part of Comic Relief, taking the form of a "lost" Wogan-era episode with Peter Serafinowicz as Wogan. The celebrities were Willie Rushton, Su Pollard, Johnny Rotten, Ruth Madoc, Freddie Starr, and Liza Goddard (played by Nick Frost, Matt Lucas, Martin Freeman, David Walliams, Simon Pegg, and Sarah Alexander). Stirling Gallacher and Kevin Eldon played the two contestants, while Paul Putner was the star prize of a chauffeur. The skit began with one of the Wogan-era opening sequences (using the theme from the era with a slightly-slower tempo), and featured an accurately-rebuilt set.
|Series||Start date||End date||Episodes||Host||Network|
|1||18 January 1979||10 May 1979||16||Terry Wogan||BBC One|
|2||6 September 1979||20 December 1979||15|
|3||4 September 1980||11 December 1980||15|
|4||3 September 1981||17 December 1981||16|
|5||4 September 1982||27 November 1982||13|
|6||3 September 1983||3 December 1983||14|
|7||7 September 1984||14 December 1984||13||Les Dawson|
|8||3 January 1985||26 March 1985||12|
|9||6 September 1985||7 February 1986||20|
|10||5 September 1986||3 April 1987||21|
|11||18 September 1987||26 February 1988||21|
|12||9 September 1988||16 December 1988||12|
|13||7 September 1989||12 March 1990||20|
|14||8 May 1998||19 September 1998||13||Lily Savage|
|15||26 June 1999||30 October 1999||12|
|16||7 January 2001||17 June 2001||20||ITV|
|17||4 May 2002||10 August 2002||12|
All the Christmas specials were aired on BBC One.
|25 December 1979||Terry Wogan|
|26 December 1980|
|26 December 1981|
|27 December 1982|
|25 December 1983|
|25 December 1984||Les Dawson|
|27 December 1985|
|26 December 1986|
|26 December 1987|
|27 December 1989|
|26 December 1997||Lily Savage|
|28 December 1999|
- "BBC—Red Nose Day 2011—Schedule". Retrieved 16 March 2011.
- "BBC—BBC Three Programmes—Comic Relief's 24 Hour Panel People, Episode 2". Retrieved 16 March 2011.