Bullseye (British game show)

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GenreGame show
Created byAndrew Wood
Norman Vaughan
Presented byJim Bowen (1981–1995)
Dave Spikey (2006)
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series16
No. of episodes354 (inc. 11 Christmas specials)
Running time30 minutes (inc. adverts)
Production company(s)ATV (1981)
Central (1982–1995)
Granada Yorkshire (2006)
DistributorITV Studios
Original networkITV (1981–95)
Challenge (2006)
Picture format4:3 (1981–1995)
16:9 (2006)
Original release28 September 1981 (1981-09-28) –
28 July 2006 (2006-07-28)
Related showsOne Hundred and Eighty

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

The show had an animated mascot named Bully - an anthropomorphic, large, brown bull - who wore a red/white striped shirt and blue trousers.


Bullseye was created and owned by Andrew Wood (with comedian Norman Vaughan), who came up with the idea after research into aspects of game shows with mass appeal.[2] Programme associates on the show were Mickey Brennan and Roger Edwards.

The series was centred on darts. Three pairs of contestants (each pair with one person to answer questions and one darts player) were pitted against one another to win prizes ranging from major prizes (such as a new car, a speedboat, a caravan or a luxury holiday) to 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 was produced by ATV. In 1982, Bullseye was moved to Sunday afternoons, and a new co-host, Tony Green, a professional darts referee and commentator, was brought in to keep track of the scores; this helped to achieve around 17 million viewers. Green (who appeared in the first series as a charity thrower) was initially brought in merely to act as a scorekeeper and commentator, but over the years his role grew: by the time the show ended he was essentially the co-host.

Bullseye was moved from Sunday afternoons to Saturday afternoons from 1993 to 1995. A 15th series was planned in 1996; however this was cancelled after Andrew Wood deemed that various changes and additions that the ITV network centre was pressing for to update and 'modernise' the show to be unsuitable for the series and he believed it would lose its appeal as a result.[2] After an eleven-year hiatus, Bullseye was revived for a new series, which was recorded for the digital channel Challenge. It was produced by Granada at Yorkshire Television in the Leeds Studios, and was hosted by Dave Spikey.

On screen, the show evolved as follows:

The first three series had the players throwing (from the point of view of the viewers and the audience) towards the right for the first round and to the left for all subsequent rounds. From the fourth series, all three boards in use rotated on a single pillar, and all throws were to the audience's right. The first four series featured opening titles of Bully jumping out of a sign and walking into a pub to play darts; this was shortened from series 2 onwards, with new theme music and musical beds from series 4. The opening credits of series 1, much longer than the version used from series 2 onwards, although containing numerous elements of what would become the show's familiar theme, feature a noticeably different arrangement of the theme tune.

From series 5, the entire set was essentially inverted. The studio audience would now be seen in shot throughout the show, and the viewers would see all darts being thrown to the left. From the studio audience's point of view, everybody continued to throw to the right. Series 5 also saw Bully driving the team bus in the opening titles and ejecting himself from the driver's seat to ride a flying dart. These titles also featured cartoon depictions of Bowen at the front of the coach, and Eric Bristow, John Lowe, Dave Whitcombe, Keith Deller, Cliff Lazarenko, Bob Anderson, Jocky Wilson and Mike Gregory at the back.[3] This same title sequence was used for the revived series, but featuring depictions of presenter Dave Spikey at the front of the coach and professional darts players of the 2000s at the back.

A new set was introduced in the 11th series, with Bowen - who since the second series had opened the show by coming through the audience - now making his entrance through the opening that would then drop a panel behind which the star prize would be hidden. In the 13th series, the opening titles consisted of Bully jumping out of the logo at the back of the studio and charging about to cause chaos on the set.

For Comic Relief in March 1993, a special crossover between Bullseye and the BBC's snooker-based game show Big Break (the creation of which had been partly influenced by Bullseye) was planned, with guest comedians as contestants, and with Bowen and Big Break host Jim Davidson, along with scorers Tony Green and Big Breaks John Virgo, effectively taking their counterpart's role within the game for humorous effect. Bowen and Davidson were both very enthusiastic about the idea; however the proposal never came to fruition, reportedly after ITV wanted the rights to repeat broadcasts as a self-contained programme, to which the BBC declined.

Bowen once described Bullseye as "the second-best darts-based game-show on television". There were no others at the time.[4]


The revived series presenter Dave Spikey had appeared as a contestant on the show in the 1980s.[5]

In 1989, John Cooper appeared on the show. He was later 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.[6]


Bully's Category Board[edit]

A dartboard divided into 10 sectors was used, each representing a different category and further subdivided into outer, middle and inner areas. Three rounds were played, with every team receiving one turn in each. On a team's turn, the darts player threw one dart and attempted to hit either the bullseye or a category chosen by their partner. Doing so awarded a cash bonus to the team and allowed the partner to answer a question in the chosen category. However, if the dart hit a different category that was still in play, no bonus was awarded and the partner had to answer a question in that category instead. Hitting a category that was out of play or failing to hit the board at all forfeited the team's turn. Questions were worth £30 each in Round 1, £50 in Round 2, and £100 in Round 3. The values on the board (working inward from the edge) were £30, £50, and £100; the bullseye awarded £200 and was always in play. In the first series, these values, working inward, were £20, £10, and £30, with the Bullseye worth £50. Categories were removed from play after one question had been asked. In the first series, hitting the bullseye entitled the non-darts player to select any value of question to be asked for a value of £50.

Starting in series 3, if the contestant in control missed the question, the first opponent to buzz-in could answer and attempt to steal the money. In early series, the opponents could silently buzz-in during the question and/or while the contestant was thinking, but were only asked for a response if the contestant missed. Later, they could only buzz-in after a miss, triggering an audible signal. If neither opponent buzzed-in, or if the first to do so also missed, the host gave the correct answer and the game continued.

For the first seven series, the lowest-scoring team was eliminated from the game after the third round. In the event of a tie for low score, the darts players for the tied teams each threw three darts at a standard matchplay board and the high scorer's team advanced. From series 8 on, all three teams continued to the next portion of the game.

The names listed for Bully's Category Board in alphabetical order were:

Pounds for Points[edit]

Each darts player threw three darts at a standard matchplay board, and the one who achieved the highest score won control of a question for their partner. Starting in series 2, an incorrect response passed the question to the team with the second-highest score, then the third if necessary; the first team to respond correctly won £1 per point scored by their darts player. After three questions, the team with the highest cash total from the first two rounds went through to play Bully's Prize Board. All three teams received their accumulated cash totals, as well as show-themed souvenirs that included darts, pens, patches, tankards (or goblets for female contestants), and "Bendy Bully" rubber dolls in the likeness of the show's mascot.

Initially, if two or more darts players achieved the same total, a re-throw was held and the high scorer won control of the question, for the value of the original throw. Later, the re-throw was eliminated and the question was played on the buzzer by the tied partners.

Charity interlude[edit]

At the beginning of part two, a professional darts player (or occasionally a celebrity during the first four series and the 2006 revival) would throw nine darts at the matchplay board. The show donated £1 per point scored to a charity of the winning team's choice, or £2 per point if the total was 301 or higher. Celebrity players were given a 60-point head start, but often performed badly and would contribute some of their own money to the donation.

One episode of series four originally broadcast on 3 December 1984, featured comedienne Carol Lee Scott as the celebrity guest darts thrower.[7] Bowen and Scott had known each other for many years prior after both having appeared on the same bill at various working clubs. However, as mentioned in Bowen's 1998 biography From a Bundle of Rags: Autobiography of Jim Bowen,[8] the pair had a backstage exchange after filming of the episode, with Bowen commenting on Scott's performance which led to the pair trading several offhand comments, after which they refused to ever speak again.

Bronze Bully Trophy[edit]

During series 5 through 13 (1985 to 1994), the professional who recorded the highest score in the charity interlude over the course of an individual series won a Bronze Bully Trophy. The winners:

Bully's Prize Board[edit]

The team with the highest cash total from both rounds faced a board divided into eight pairs of alternating narrow red and wide black sectors, with a bullseye at the centre. The red sectors were numbered 1 through 8, each corresponding to a different prize, and the bullseye represented a larger item, "Bully's Special Prize." The team threw nine darts, the first and last three by the darts player and the middle three by their partner, and won the prizes for all red sectors they hit. Black sectors awarded nothing, and hitting the same red sector twice forfeited that prize—hence the show's catchphrase, "Keep out of the black and in the red, nothing in this game for two in a bed." However, hitting that same sector a third time won that prize back.

For most of the programme's original run, prize values were restricted by the Independent Broadcasting Authority, which may explain the perceived poor quality of prizes on offer. 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 show-themed Fruit Machine.

Bully's Star Prize Gamble[edit]

After throwing their nine darts at Bully's Prize Board, the winning team had to decide whether to risk their prizes for a chance at "Bully's Star Prize," a large mystery prize hidden behind a screen in the studio. For the first ten series, the money they had won for themselves was not at risk; beginning with series 11, they had to put up both their money and prizes in order to play. (The team's souvenirs and the money won by the professional for their charity were never at risk.) If they chose to try for the Star Prize, they were given six darts (three per person; non-darts player throwing first) to score 101 points or more on a standard matchplay dartboard. If they succeeded, they received the Star Prize and kept their previous winnings; if not, they lost all cash/prizes they had risked. When money was at stake during Bowen's tenure as host, he would tell the team that they would receive only their "BFH" (bus fare home) if they lost.

If the winning team declined to play, the second-place team had the option to risk their money and try to win the prize; if this pair also declined, the third-place team was given the same choice. The actual prize was only revealed after a team had played the round, win or lose, or if all three teams chose not to play.

Bully's 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. In an episode from 1987, the Star Prize was a £2,000 fashion spree.

From series 8 onwards, if the second- and third-place teams had the same total, both were asked if they wanted to gamble. If both said yes, the two darts players threw three darts each at the matchplay board and the higher score won the right to play for the Star Prize.

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.

Series 1 differences[edit]

The first series included several differences in its rules and format, as described below.

  • To determine the order of play in Bully's Category Board, the darts players each threw one dart at a board of concentric rings; the one closest to the bull played first.
  • In Bully's Category Board, the values (working inwards from the edge) were £20, £10 and £30, with £50 for a bullseye. Instead of awarding a cash bonus, the darts player's throw determined the value and category of a question that the partner had to answer unopposed. Hitting the bullseye allowed the partner to take any available question for £50.
  • Question values in the second portion of the game were not determined by the throwers' totals. Instead, the partner of the highest scorer could choose a question unopposed for £25, £50 or £101. If two players got the same score, a single tie-breaking throw was held and the one who hit closer to the bull won control. The team with the most winnings for that round went through.
  • Bully's Prize Board had a red/green colour scheme, and Bowen often interrupted the game after a non-winning throw to state that the team had won a booby prize, such as a bag of crisps or a trip on the Titanic.
  • Jim Bowen was solely responsible for reading the scores, since Tony Green, who later became the scorer and co-host was not present in Series 1, except for a single appearance as a charity thrower.


Series 1[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 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, Granada decided that a new series of Bullseye would be produced early the following year, on Challenge and that the show was to be hosted by comedian Dave Spikey. Bully was also redesigned for the new series, albeit very similar to the Bully used in the original series.

The new series of Bullseye returned on Challenge in April 2006. The show maintained the style of prizes from the original, bar white goods— none of the cash prizes had increased in value since the second series in 1982, 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...".

The revived series was strikingly similar to the original series. Whilst refreshed, the show maintained the original theme music and stings and used a remade version of the original's second title sequence, Bully driving the team bus. A cartoon version of Dave Spikey replaced Jim's in the titles. The Challenge revival ran for thirty episodes.

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. Jim 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!"

On 23 February 2018, it was announced that Bullseye could be revived for Channel 5 due to the success of the reboot of Blind Date hosted by Paul O'Grady and it could be presented by Bradley Walsh.[22]

On 1 March 2018, it was rumored that Vernon Kay was "desperate to kickstart his ailing career" as the new host of the reboot of Bullseye.[23] However, he later denied that he was fronting the new reboot of Bullseye.[24] In June 2019 it was announced that Bullseye, as one of the country's five all-time favourite game shows, was to be "supersized and rebooted" in new series Alan Carr's Epic Gameshow for broadcast later in 2019. Commissioned by ITV, the series will be filmed at Dock10 at MediaCityUK and presented by Alan Carr.[25]

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 first series, whilst containing elements of what would become the familiar theme, featured a notably different, and much longer, arrangement of the theme. This evolved over the next couple of series into the standard and recognised arrangement of the opening theme tune.

The show was unusual in having two (in fact, three) 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, on some occurrences, nobody took the gamble. The seldom heard third version was used on some (but not all) of the rare occasions when none of the three teams chose to take the final gamble; this was a carnival-like version of the theme with similarities to the "winning" version, but with occasional minor key elements added, to reflect the "neither winning or losing" outcome of that edition. The show was into its fourth series when all three teams declined to take the gamble (and thus was the first use of this rare third version).


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.



Series Start date End date Episodes Presenter
1 28 September 1981[9] 21 December 1981[21] 13 Jim Bowen
2 10 October 1982 23 January 1983 16
3 27 November 1983[26] 3 June 1984[27] 26[27]
4 2 September 1984[28] 21 April 1985[29] 29[29]
5 1 September 1985[30] 16 March 1986[31] 26[31]
6 31 August 1986[32] 8 March 1987 27
7 13 September 1987[33] 13 March 1988[34] 26[34]
8 18 September 1988[35] 30 April 1989[36] 26[36]
9 29 October 1989[37] 13 May 1990[38] 26[38]
10 2 September 1990[39] 17 March 1991[40] 26[40]
11 1 September 1991[41] 8 March 1992[42] 25[42]
12 6 September 1992[43] 28 February 1993[44] 25[44]
13 26 March 1994[45] 23 July 1994[46] 18[46]
14 1 April 1995[47] 8 July 1995 13
15 17 April 2006[48] 28 July 2006[49] 30[49] Dave Spikey

Christmas Specials[edit]

Date Presenter
26 December 1982 Jim Bowen
25 December 1983[50]
23 December 1984[51]
28 December 1986
27 December 1987[52]
25 December 1988[53]
24 December 1989[54]
23 December 1990[55]
22 December 1991[56]
27 December 1992[57]


  1. ^ Education. "Think Britain hasn't dumbed down? Just watch Bullseye". Telegraph. Retrieved 27 December 2012.
  2. ^ a b "Bullseye TV Game Show - The History of Bullseye". Bullseye TV Gameshow.
  3. ^ Episode 12 of series 9 of Bullseye, mentioned in Jim Bowen's opening remarks
  4. ^ "Jim Bowen brings Bullseye back at Blackburn club".
  5. ^ "Dave Spikey keeps his eye on the Bullseye (From The Bolton News)". Theboltonnews.co.uk. 13 April 2006. Retrieved 27 December 2012.
  6. ^ John William Cooper Gets Four Life Sentences For Double Murders After Cops Use Bullseye Footage Sky News Article, 26 May 2011
  7. ^ https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2277890/?ref_=ttep_ep14
  8. ^ Bowen, Jim (1998). From a Bundle of Rags: Autobiography of Jim Bowen. Robson Books. p. 256. ISBN 978-0860519010.
  9. ^ a b "28 September 1981, 24". Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  10. ^ "5 October 1981, 30". Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  11. ^ "12 October 1981, 22". Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  12. ^ "19 October 1981, 30". Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  13. ^ "26 October 1981, 22". Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  14. ^ "2 November 1981, 20". Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  15. ^ "9 November 1981, 20". Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  16. ^ "16 November 1981, 20". Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  17. ^ "23 November 1981, 18". Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  18. ^ "30 November 1981, 22". Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  19. ^ "7 December 1981, 20". Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  20. ^ "14 December 1981, 24". Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  21. ^ a b "21 December 1981, 18". Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  22. ^ Halls, Andy (23 February 2018). "100 AND GREATY TV classic Bullseye could be back on our screens as Channel 5 consider revival after Blind Date success" – via The Sun.
  23. ^ Pearce, Tilly (1 March 2018). "BULLY'S SPECIAL PRIZE Vernon Kay 'desperate to kickstart his ailing career as host of Bullseye reboot'" – via The Sun.
  24. ^ Deen, Sarah (1 March 2018). "Vernon Kay denies he's fronting new Bullseye remake" – via Metro.
  25. ^ "ITV orders reboot of five classic gameshows from Talkback". Televisual. 13 June 2019.
  26. ^ "BULLSEYE (Series 3, Episode 1)". ITN Source. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  27. ^ a b "BULLSEYE (Series 3, Episode 26)". ITN Source. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  28. ^ "BULLSEYE (Series 4, Episode 1)". ITN Source. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  29. ^ a b "BULLSEYE (Series 4, Episode 29)". ITN Source. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  30. ^ "BULLSEYE (Series 5, Episode 1)". ITN Source. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  31. ^ a b "BULLSEYE (Series 4, Episode 26)". ITN Source. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  32. ^ "BULLSEYE (Series 6, Episode 1)". ITN Source. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  33. ^ "BULLSEYE (Series 7, Episode 1)". ITN Source. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  34. ^ a b "BULLSEYE (Series 7, Episode 26)". ITN Source. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  35. ^ "BULLSEYE (Series 8, Episode 1)". ITN Source. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  36. ^ a b "BULLSEYE (Series 8, Episode 26)". ITN Source. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  37. ^ "BULLSEYE (Series 9, Episode 1)". ITN Source. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  38. ^ a b "BULLSEYE (Series 9, Episode 26)". ITN Source. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  39. ^ "BULLSEYE (Series 10, Episode 1)". ITN Source. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  40. ^ a b "BULLSEYE (Series 10, Episode 26)". ITN Source. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  41. ^ "BULLSEYE (Series 11, Episode 1)". ITN Source. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  42. ^ a b "BULLSEYE (Series 11, Episode 25)". ITN Source. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  43. ^ "BULLSEYE (Series 12, Episode 1)". ITN Source. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  44. ^ a b "BULLSEYE (Series 12, Episode 25)". ITN Source. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  45. ^ "BULLSEYE (Series 13, Episode 1)". ITN Source. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  46. ^ a b "BULLSEYE (Series 13, Episode 18)". ITN Source. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  47. ^ "BULLSEYE (Series 14, Episode 1)". ITN Source. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  48. ^ "BULLSEYE (Series 15, Episode 1)". ITN Source. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  49. ^ a b "BULLSEYE (Series 15, Episode 30)". ITN Source. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  50. ^ "BULLSEYE (Christmas Special)". ITN Source. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  51. ^ "BULLSEYE (Celebrity Christmas Special)". ITN Source. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  52. ^ "BULLSEYE (Xmas Special)". ITN Source. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  53. ^ "BULLSEYE (Christmas Special)". ITN Source. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  54. ^ "BULLSEYE (Christmas Special)". ITN Source. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  55. ^ "BULLSEYE (Christmas Special)". ITN Source. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  56. ^ "BULLSEYE (Christmas Special)". ITN Source. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  57. ^ "BULLSEYE (Christmas Special)". ITN Source. Retrieved 18 May 2014.

External links[edit]