Chain Letters

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For other uses, see chain letter (disambiguation).
Chain Letters
Genre Game show
Created by Mark Maxwell-Smith
Presented by Jeremy Beadle (1987–8)
Andrew O'Connor (1988–9)
Allan Stewart (1989–90)
Ted Robbins (1995)
Vince Henderson (1996)
Dave Spikey (1997)
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 7
No. of episodes 336
Running time 30 minutes (inc. adverts)
Production company(s) Tyne Tees in association with Barry & Enright Productions (Columbia TriStar International Television) and Action Time
Distributor ITV Studios
Original network ITV
Picture format 4:3
Original release 7 September 1987 (1987-09-07) – 25 April 1997 (1997-04-25)

Chain Letters is a British television game show produced by Tyne Tees. The show was filmed at their City Road studios in Newcastle Upon Tyne and first broadcast on ITV in the United Kingdom from 7 September 1987 to 6 July 1990, then again from 2 January 1995 to 25 April 1997. The show itself was based on a failed 1985 American game show pilot of the same name hosted by Jim Peck.

Three contestants competed to win money by changing letters in words to form new words. Its original host was Jeremy Beadle, followed by Andrew O'Connor, Allan Stewart, Ted Robbins, Vince Henderson and Dave Spikey.


Round 1 - Chain Letters[edit]

The first round was entitled Chain Letters (Make a Chain in the final series). Each contestant was given a hidden four-letter word (from a choice of four) and 45 seconds to make as many changes as possible, with prize money of £5 offered for every new word made. All words in the Chambers English Dictionary were permitted (or the Longman Dictionary of the English Language in early series), though proper nouns and plurals were not. A contestant was not allowed to make two consecutive changes in the same letter position. For example, a contestant, having changed BALL to HALL, would then not be permitted to change HALL to CALL, FALL, et cetera.

Round 2 - Booby Trap[edit]

Round two was entitled the Booby Trap round. Each contestant was invited to choose one of four four-letter words, followed by a letter in the word that they would like to change. The opposing contestants would then secretly predict on an electronic pad the word that they think the contestant is going to change to. If the contestant in play changes into a word which none of their opponents have predicted, they win £10. The contestant then makes another change to another word, and so on - winning double the amount of the previous win (only £10 additional in latter series) with each subsequent change (Players may only make a maximum of 3 changes for a total of £40 (£30 in the last 2 series)). However, if a contestant is caught out with a word one of their opponents picked (the booby trap), that opponent wins the at-stakes money instead. In case of a tie or if the contestant in control gave an illegal word, both opponents get the money. The contestant in play could also choose to stop if they thought the word could not be changed any further or the next word would be the booby trap.

Round 3 (1995–1997)[edit]

A third round was added in the revival of Chain Letters in 1995 and would eventually involve two different formats.

Chaingang (1995)[edit]

One contestant was given a four-letter word and must change that word into a new word, which is then given to the next contestant in line who must change that word into another new word, and so on for one minute total time. £5 offered for every new word made and £5 lost if the new word was unacceptable. However, if the new word could not be changed by both opponents, the contestant who created the word won a £10 bonus and was given a new word.

Add a Letter (1996–1997)[edit]

Each contestant was given a three-letter word by Wordsworth, the computer. Each contestant must change that word into a new word using all the letters in the current word plus one new letter, in any position, at a time. £10 was offered for every new word made. (Players may make up to a maximum seven-letter word for a total of £40). If the new word was unacceptable, the contestant's turn ends. The contestant in play could also choose to stop if they thought the word could not be changed any further.

Final Round - Tie the Leader[edit]

The final round involved (in the initial set-up) a five-letter word with a plus sign (+) to the left side of the word and a minus sign (-) to the right side. The host then asked cryptic crossword-type clues to which the answer was a new word, with only one letter difference from the previous answer. Each letter needing to be changed was highlighted by Wordsworth. However, the answer would be a longer word (up to 5 letters) when the plus sign was highlighted, or a shorter word (down to 3 letters) when the minus sign was highlighted. Contestants competed on the buzzers to win £10, £20, £40 (£30 in the last 2 series), or tie the leader and match the leading player's score, depending on when the buzzer was pressed. If the answer was incorrect, the question was then offered to the opposing contestants.

Only the contestant with the highest amount of money at the end of the final round was declared the winner and went on to compete in the bonus round. The other contestants departed with the money they had accumulated up to that point.

Bonus Round - Superchain[edit]

In the Superchain, the show-winner was given a four-letter word and one minute of time. Wordsworth would highlight one of the letters within the word, inviting the show-winner to change the letter and make a new word. If the show-winner could not change the letter, they can say “pass” and the computer would highlight a different letter. Each acceptable change was worth £50, and ten changes within one minute won £1,000.


Series Start date End date Episodes Host
1 7 September 1987 22 February 1988 60 Jeremy Beadle
2 13 October 1988 30 March 1989 26 Andrew O'Connor
3 16 November 1989 16 January 1990 10 Allan Stewart
4 28 May 1990 6 July 1990 30
5 2 January 1995 28 April 1995 85 Ted Robbins
6 2 January 1996 1 May 1996 85 Vince Henderson
7 3 March 1997 25 April 1997 40 Dave Spikey

External links[edit]