The Generation Game

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The Generation Game
Bruce Forsyth's Generation Game 1993 titlecard.jpg
Genre Game show
Presented by Bruce Forsyth (1971–1977; 1990-1994; 2007: Now & Then)
Roy Castle (1975; stand-in)
Larry Grayson (1978–1982)
Jim Davidson (1994; stand-in, 1995–2002)
Graham Norton
(2005: Generation Fame)
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of series 24
No. of episodes 371 (inc. 46 specials)
Running time 60 minutes
Original channel BBC1 (1971–1982, 1990–2002, 2005)
UKTV Gold (2007)
Picture format 4:3 (1971–1982, 1990–2001)
16:9 (2001–02, 2005, 2007)
Original release 2 October 1971 (1971-10-02) – 20 December 2007 (2007-12-20)

The Generation Game is a British game show produced by the BBC in which four teams of two people from the same family, but different generations, competed to win prizes. The programme was first broadcast in 1971 under the title Bruce Forsyth and the Generation Game and ran until 1982, and again from 1990 until 2002.


The show was based on the Dutch TV show Één van de acht ("One of the Eight"), the format devised in 1969 by Theo Uittenbogaard for VARA Television. Mies Bouwman, a Dutch talk show host and presenter of the show, came up with the idea of the conveyor belt. She had seen it on a German programme and wanted to incorporate it into the show.

Another antecedent for the game show was Sunday Night at the London Palladium on ATV, which had a game called Beat the Clock, taken from an American game show. It featured married couples playing silly games within a certain time to win prize money. This was hosted by Bruce Forsyth from 1958, and he took the idea with him when he went over to the BBC.

During the 1970s, game shows became more popular and started to replace expensive variety shows. Creating new studio shows was cheaper than hiring a theatre and paying for long rehearsals and a large orchestra, and could secure a similar number of viewers. With less money for their own productions, a game show seemed the obvious idea for ITV. As a result, many variety performers were recruited for game shows. The BBC, suffering poor ratings, decided to make its own game show. Bill Cotton, the BBC's Head of Light Entertainment, believed that Forsyth was best for the job. For years, The Generation Game was one of the strongest shows in the BBC's Saturday night line-up, and became the number-one game show on British television during the 1970s, regularly gaining over 21 million viewers. However, things were about to change. LWT, desperate to end the BBC's long-running ratings success on a Saturday night, offered Forsyth a chance to change channel to host The Big Night.

Alan Boyd, producer of The Generation Game at the time, remembers that there were many proposals as to who should take over. However, he felt he did not want the new programme to be comparable to Forsyth's Generation Game (he did not want the audience to be able to compare the two shows to think that Bruce was better or that the new host was better), so he cast Larry Grayson to take over, with a new theme tune and scenery, and a new co-host, Isla St Clair. It worked, as The Big Night failed to beat The Generation Game and was off the air within three months.

The show reached its peak under Grayson. It attracted an audience of 25 million on one occasion, when a strike blacked out the ITV network, meaning the two BBC channels were the only ones the public could watch. Grayson's apparent incompetence and inability to remember what was going on was carefully contrived.

A special edition of The Generation Game with Vernon Kay hosting aired on 5 March 2011 in aid of Comic Relief during the BBC's 24 Hour Panel People. David Walliams competed with his mother Kathleen. The other team consisted of Miranda Hart and Patricia Hodge, who play mother and daughter in the sitcom Miranda.

The game[edit]

There were eight competitors, hence the catchphrase "Let's meet the eight who are going to generate" used in earlier series by Bruce Forsyth. In the first two rounds, two couples would compete against each other in two games. One game usually involved first seeing a skilled professional construct or perform something, such as pottery or dancing. The contestants would then attempt to do the same, and a score would be given by the professional. The other game usually involved more of a quiz element, such as identifying pieces of music. At the end of each of the first two rounds, the couple with the lower score was eliminated.

The two highest-scoring couples then competed against each other in the final (or End Game as Larry Grayson called it). This was often a big set-piece performance; in the series presented by Bruce Forsyth it was usually a drama or farce, in later programmes a musical or dance performance. The couple that scored the highest went through to the final 'conveyor belt'.

At the end of the show, one member (or in later series both members) of the victorious team watched prizes pass on a conveyor belt, and then won as many as could be recalled in a set time. A trademark of the show was that a cuddly toy was always among the prizes. This led to an affectionate joke: "Dinner service...fondue set...Cuddly toy! Cuddly toy!", which is often quoted whenever the show is mentioned. The audience would shout out the names of the prizes, allowing the contestants to carry away large numbers of items.


The show introduced a number of catchphrases, including Bruce Forsyth's "Didn't he/she/they do well?", "Let's meet the eight who are going to generate", and "Let's have a look at the old scoreboard". Later, when the show was revived, Forsyth's assistant was Rosemarie Ford, so the catchphrase was amended to "What's on the board, Miss Ford?". Forsyth always opened the show with "Nice to see you, to see you ..." to which the audience would shout "Nice!", a catchphrase that Forsyth retains. Others included "Good game, good game," "I hope you're playing this at home," and "Give us a twirl," which was said to hostess Anthea Redfern to show off her dress.

Grayson supplied his own catchphrases, including "Shut that door!", "What a gay day!" and "Seems like a nice boy!" Scores were preceded by "What are the scores on the doors?" to which St Clair would reply "The names in the frames say..." before announcing them. After the conveyor belt finale, Grayson would say "What a lot you've got... you have got a lot!" but he abandoned this after his second season as it did not register with the public. Grayson and St Clair apparently had a strong bond; Grayson always introduced her at the start of each show as "my lovely Isla" and "my favourite girl, my Saturday girl." She once referred to them as being "like a couple of naughty sisters."[citation needed]


Each host of The Generation Game was joined by a female hostess, who brought the contestants on stage, handed out the prizes and often joined in the games. The first was Anthea Redfern also known as Lin Li, who began an affair with host Forsyth and married him during the series' run. When she was absent on maternity leave, actress Jenny Lee Wright stood in for a number of shows. Isla St. Clair was Grayson's hostess throughout his tenure on the show. Rosemarie Ford supported Forsyth on his second stint as host. Sally Meen, Melanie Stace and Leah Christiansen were Davidson's hostesses.


Board Games[edit]

(Strawberry Fayre era)

In 1975, Strawberry Fayre and Denys Fisher published a board game (simply called Generation Game with host Bruce Forsyth on the cover) featuring a three-dimensional diorama of the set, a working countdown clock and the famous sliding doors.

(Rainbow Games era)

In 1990, Rainbow Games published another board game (only this time as Bruce Forsyth's Generation Game still with host Bruce Forsyth on the cover) Featuring 20 fun packed games with over 150 variations for all the family. featuring: Caught in the Act, Making Faces, Quick Draw and The Grand Prize Game with a chance to win Bruce's Surprise.


(Vermilion era)

in 1992, a book called Bruce Forsyth's Generation Game Book: Games, Quizzes, and D-I-Y (Do It Yourself) Fun for All the Family was published by Vermillion. Where it takes the reader on an intriguing behind-the-scenes tour in this book of the programme. Also included is a varied selection of the best games, quizzes and DIY ideas which have been featured on the show including how to do the ballroom dance, make an origami butterfly, identify unusual objects and guess the celebrity in disguise.


The BBC were planning on reviving the show with Paul O'Grady as its new presenter in 2004.[1] Filming two non-broadcast pilot episodes in 2003, both O'Grady and the production team were unhappy with the result, with O'Grady leaving the project.[2] Graham Norton hosted a one-off special at Christmas 2005 featuring celebrity contestants - this was titled "Generation Fame". At the time it was widely suggested that this was being treated as the pilot for a potential series; however, only the one edition has to date been screened.

The Generation Game returned in 2007 under the title Brucie's Generation Game: Now and Then broadcast on UKTV Gold. This version was a retrospective of earlier editions, similar to the digital channel's Wogan and Jim'll Fix It revivals around the same time.

The Generation Game returned another time in 2011 for Comic Relief in 24 Hour Panel People with Miranda Hart on one team and David Walliams on the other team; Vernon Kay was the host of that one, starting the show with Brucie's trademark pose and catchphrase.

On 20 April 2014, it was announced that comedian Miranda Hart (who appeared on the 2011 charity special) was in "early talks" with the BBC about hosting a revived version of the show.[3] A pilot episode was filmed before Christmas that year but the controller of the channel, Charlotte Moore, revealed in August 2015 that the project was “very much on hold" due to Hart wanting to concentrate on her acting and writing career.[4]

International versions[edit]

In addition to the original Dutch version and long-running British version, in 2008 a South African version of the show was made, hosted by comedian Barry Hilton together with actress/presenter Cindy Nkabinde on channel SABC 2.

There was also a Swedish version, Tjocka Släkten, presented by Lasse Berghagen and Inga Gill.

In popular culture[edit]

  • In the third Harry Potter film, during the dinner scene with the Dursleys, Dudley Dursley is watching this show on television.
  • In the 1993 UK top 40 single "You're in a Bad Way" by Saint Etienne, a reference is made to someone who gets their "kicks watching Bruce on the old Generation Game".
  • DI Alex Drake briefly watches Larry Grayson's The Generation Game at the start of episode 1.3 of Ashes to Ashes.
  • In Horrible Histories, in the Victorian inventions song near the end, a conveyor belt is going along and a teddy bear is on it (although stating it was made in 1902, the year after Victoria died).
  • Forsyth's catchphrase "Let's have a look at the old scoreboard" is frequently used by New Zealand television sports presenter Andrew Saville in an apparent reference to the show.
  • Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour was well known for wearing a T-shirt with the catchphrase "Didn't They Do Well" on stage in the 70s. Although he no longer wears the shirt the bass player in his band, Guy Pratt, can often be seen wearing a similar shirt.



Series Start date End date Episodes
Bruce Forsyth and the Generation Game
1 2 October 1971 30 October 1971 5
2 16 September 1972 1 January 1973 15
3 15 September 1973 26 January 1974 19
4 14 September 1974 1 February 1975 21
5 27 September 1975 1 January 1976 14
6 11 September 1976 18 December 1976 15
7 10 September 1977 31 December 1977 16
Larry Grayson's Generation Game
8 23 September 1978 16 December 1978 13
9 1 September 1979 15 December 1979 15
10 30 August 1980 13 December 1980 16
11 5 September 1981 19 December 1981 16
Bruce Forsyth's Generation Game
12 7 September 1990 7 December 1990 13
13 14 September 1991 21 December 1991 15
14 19 September 1992 2 January 1993 14
15 9 September 1993 18 December 1993 14
16 10 September 1994 17 December 1994 15
Jim Davidson's Generation Game
17 21 October 1995 10 February 1996 17
18 31 August 1996 14 December 1996 16
19 18 October 1997 7 March 1998 19
20 5 September 1998 23 January 1999 20
21 4 September 1999 5 February 2000 19
22 7 October 2000 24 February 2001 20
23 8 September 2001 13 April 2002 18
Brucie's Generation Game - Now and Then
24 22 November 2007 20 December 2007 5


Date Entitle
9 September 1972 Series 1 Compilation
25 December 1972 Christmas Special
9 September 1973 Series 2 Compilation
25 December 1973 Christmas Special
29 December 1973 Series 3 Compilation
25 December 1974 Christmas Special
20 September 1975 Series 4 Compilation
25 December 1975 Christmas Special
4 September 1976 Series 5 Compilation
25 December 1976 Christmas Special
3 September 1977 Series 6 Compilation
25 December 1977 Christmas Special
5 January 1978 Bruce's Choice
25 December 1978 Christmas Special
31 December 1978 Series 8 Compilation
16 April 1979 Easter Special
25 December 1979 Christmas Special
31 December 1979 Series 9 Compilation
7 April 1980 Easter Special
25 December 1980 Christmas Special
31 December 1980 Series 10 Compilation
20 April 1981 Easter Special
25 December 1981 Christmas Special
3 January 1982 Series 11 Compilation
25 December 1990 Christmas Special
7 September 1991 Series 12 Compilation
25 December 1991 Christmas Special
5 September 1992 Series 13 Compilation
25 December 1992 Christmas Special
3 September 1993 Series 14 Compilation
24 December 1993 Christmas Special
3 September 1994 Series 15 Compilation
24 December 1994 Christmas Special
21 December 1996 Christmas Special
20 December 1997 Christmas Special
14 March 1998 Series 18 Compilation
21 March 1998 Series 19 Compilation
30 January 1999 Series 20 Compilation
1 September 1999 Cuddly Toys and Conveyor Belts
24 December 1999 Christmas Special
31 December 1999 Millenium Special
1 January 2000 New Year Special
1 July 2000 Series 21 Compilation
26 May 2001 Series 22 Compilation
23 December 2001 Christmas Special
20 April 2002 Series 23 Compilation
31 December 2005 Generation Fame


  1. ^ "O'Grady for Generation pilot". BBC News. 29 September 2003. Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  2. ^ Simpson 2008, pp. 208–209.
  3. ^ "Miranda Hart 'in talks to host Generation Game'". BBC News. Retrieved 20 April 2014. 
  4. ^ "Next-gen Generation Game with Miranda Hart ‘very much on hold’". The Guardian. 26 August 2015. Retrieved 30 August 2015. 


Simpson, Neil (2008). Paul O'Grady: The Biography. London: John Blake Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84454-417-2. 

External links[edit]