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Gunge as it is known in the United Kingdom, or slime as it is known in the United States and most English-speaking areas of the world, is a thick, gooey, yet runny substance with a consistency somewhere between that of paint and custard. It has been a feature on many children's programmes for many years around the world and has made appearances in game shows as well as other programming. While gunge mostly appears on television, it can also be used as a fundraising tool for charities, youth and religious groups. Gunge tanks have appeared at nightclubs and Fun Days. The British charities Comic Relief and Children in Need, supported by the BBC, have used gunge for fundraising in the past. In the U.S., slime is sometimes associated with Nickelodeon, even having several game shows revolving around it, such as Slime Time Live.
The gunge that is widely used on television is an industrial powder thickener hydroxyethyl cellulose, mainly used in production of the sauce for apple pies. Alternatively, other items can be used for "gunge", for example eggs, sauces, as well as other messy items. In many cases, the gunging occurs in a gunge tank, a transparent booth with a means for storing and releasing the gunge. Due to source ingredients uses as food thickeners in soups and stews, gunge is often safe to eat, provided the colouring is also non-toxic. Other ingredients used in gunge can be Oobleck, a mixture of cornstarch and water, and Xanthan gum, another food additive.
The iconic green slime of the Canadian television series You Can't Do That on Television was developed by accident, according to producer Roger Price - the original idea had been to dump a barrel of food leftovers on a young boy chained in a dungeon, but before it could be used, the contents of the barrel had turned green with mold. The noxious mixture was dumped on the young boy anyway, and overnight the series had its trademark gag. The show subsequently went through several different slime recipes incorporating ingredients such as lime gelatin dessert powder, flour, oatmeal or Cream of Wheat, baby shampoo, and even cottage cheese (not all necessarily at the same time). On the show (and subsequently on Nickelodeon since then), the composition of the slime was treated as a closely guarded secret, and some episodes revolved around the cast members trying to discern what the slime was made of.
Today gunge or slime features on many television shows around the world; however, since the 2000s the focus has changed from mainstream shows to children's and teenager's television programmes like Nickelodeon's Figure It Out. In fact, thanks largely to the popularity of Nickelodeon shows, slime and gunge have typically been associated with children's programming in North America since the 1980s. In addition to its use on television and as a fundraiser, gunge in tanks sometimes features in nightclubs. Youth groups such as church groups and scouting movements also make use of gunge to "gunge the leaders" as well as the children.
History of gunge on television
In the UK the popular BBC show Not Only... But Also featured a closing sketch called "Poet's Corner" in which that week's guest would be challenged to an improvisational poetry contest against Peter Cook, with Dudley Moore acting as referee. Each contestant would sit at the corner of a square tank of "BBC Gunge" on a rigged seat that could be triggered so as to catapult the occupant into the tank. The referee would sit at one of the other corners in a similar chair. Any use of repetition, hesitation or deviation from the challenge theme would precipitate the offender into the tank. The sketch always ended with all three personalities in the tank, chest deep in slime and reciting poetry.
The UK Saturday morning children's show Tiswas used the concept of gunge in abundance. Having already established messy slapstick humour through custard pies and buckets of water being thrown over presenters and guests, Tiswas had taken to locking up adult volunteers into a cage. Once inside the cage, the inhabitants would normally be soaked with buckets of water at random points in the show. Where gunge became involved, was thanks to the tin bath perched on top the Cage. Through a handle, this tub could be tilted, dropping its messy contents onto the people below, While famous for its custard pie humour, it would not be unusual for Tiswas to have buckets of food and imitation mud/horse manure poured over people. Custard and baked beans were popular choices.
In North America, You Can't Do That on Television, a Canadian children's show popular on Nickelodeon developed by a British TV producer, Roger Price, routinely subjected its characters to "slime" (usually green, but sometimes in other colours), usually when they said, "I don't know." It became a staple of the show where other actors would try to encourage their peers to say a phrase to get them slimed. A sliming scene from a 1982 episode of You Can't Do That on Television was also used in the opening of the 1987 film Fatal Attraction, and references to the series have been used in mainstream U.S. television series ranging from NewsRadio to Family Guy. This aspect of the cult show later became iconized in Nickelodeon's slime logo, subsequent game shows such as Double Dare, What Would You Do?, Figure It Out, and BrainSurge revolving around slime, pies in the face, and other forms of mess, and live events in which participants (including celebrities, particularly at the annual Kids' Choice Awards) would be offered the chance to get slimed or publicly humiliated. In the late 1980s, Nickelodeon and its Canadian counterpart, YTV, even held write-in contests in which the grand prize was a trip to the YCDTOTV set in Ottawa, Ontario, to be slimed. The popularity of Nickelodeon's slime shows spawned imitators such as the short-lived 1988 syndicated game show Slime Time (no relation to Nickelodeon's later Slime Time Live), in which schoolteachers were the victims of green gungings.
In Britain and Europe, in the early 1980s, children's gunge-based game shows were the norm. Particularly shows like How Dare You! on ITV and Crackerjack on the BBC ensured that the gunging element featured on shows for the decade to come. On How Dare You!, one of the main games was 'Teach Them a Lesson', where children got the opportunity to drench their teacher or representative from their school in gunge while sitting above a knee deep filled gunge tank. After this game the teachers were sometimes knocked off their perch by one of show's presenters and into the gunge tank. On Crackerjack, the two weekly celebrities, one male and one female, would compete against host Stu Francis in a gunge based gamed called "Take A Chance" to try to win points for their child contestant. Failure to answer questions correctly would lead to Francis and/or the celebrity guest being covered in gunge. Additionally, the male celebrity and Francis, even if they got a question correct would usually get gunged regardless as punishment for laughing at their opponent, although female contestants who answered correctly were generally allowed to laugh at Francis and get away with it.
Later in the 1980s, the BBC launched Double Dare, based on the US style format, but much sloppier than its U.S. counterpart. Also, gunge started to appear on mainstream shows such as Game for a Laugh on ITV and Noel Edmond's Saturday Roadshow on the BBC. Other countries in Europe also started to have gunge elements on mainstream shows. Un Dos Tres on TVE in Spain often had contestants throwing buckets of gunge at each other. Also, Donnerlippchen, a television show in Germany, had many messy games; the climax of the show was dunking the team's suited boss in a dunk tank and pouring custard down inside every team members pair of boxer shorts.
New Zealand children's show What Now has used gunge over the years since its launch in 1981. As of 2015 the show is still broadcasting on channel 2 each Sunday morning from 8 am. Various segments of the show using gunge include, tank of terror, gunge on the run, flushed away, frog in the bog and brain freeze.
In Noel's House Party, the public often voted to determine which celebrities on the television show would be gunged in the Gunge Tank. In later years, the Gunge Tank became the Gunge Train, and celebrities were forced to take a ride on the train and were covered in gunge throughout their journey. Celebrities usually returned with their suits or dresses ruined and faces unrecognizable. Sometimes audience members were gunged on the show for reasons of revenge by family members or friends.
The entertainment factor attached to the process of gunging was realised by the producers of the charity event Comic Relief, who held an event, in cooperation with the Guinness World Records at the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham where an attempt to set a record for the Most People Gunged Simultaneously took place on March 12, 1999. 184 gallons of gunge was splattered over 731 people. All across Europe television producers were ordering more gunge segments to be fitted into mainstream television shows due to its popularity with viewers. In Germany, on Sat.1, Halli galli, Glücksritter (RTL), Glücksspirale, plus the German version of NHP - Gottschalk's Haus-Party, all involved a high dose of gunge. Halli Galli had audience members plucked out of their seats and sent down a messy gunge slide and into a pool. Likewise, Glücksspirale on SAT1, Glücksritter RTL and Rache ist Süß Sat1, had contestants plucked out of the audience and gunged in the most spectacular ways. Towards the end of the 1990s, with the demise of Noel's House Party and the dwindling audience figures for other European shows, the gunge segment in many mainstream shows started to fade.
Throughout the 1990s, gunge became a focal feature in many children's television shows. Teenagers and celebrity guests are often seen competing in quizzes on Live & Kicking, and are gunged if they lose. Celebrities Lee Ryan, Ben Adams, Katy Hill, Lesley Waters, Katherine Merry, Heather Suttie and Victoria Hawkins were gunged on this show. Many other shows used gunge throughout - Fun House, Get Your Own Back, Run the Risk and Double Dare.
From 1997 to 2003, a Canadian show called Uh Oh! (game show), that ran on YTV, featured a punishment system that had the participant go inside a closet sized room and have green gunged dropped on them if their partner wasn't able to answer the question correctly.
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Gunge continues to feature in 2010 on children's TV in the UK and continuing the trend of the latter half of the 2000s, not as much as it once did. 101 Ways to Leave a Gameshow has used it in its Bonus Round. The host picks a random name and the first person to get the question he asks wrong gets lowered down a pipe and gets gunged. Wait For It and Keep Your Enemies Close. Basilchildren's Swap Shop returned minus the gunge gallery but introducing a new game with a western theme called Gold Rush. In this game, the two winning teams from the previous game (dunk beds) take part in the game set in a mine shaft where the aim is to fill up tubes with liquid sludge by tipping buckets with the slop into the tubes which are hidden (so the children do not know who is winning). At the end the four kids take cover in the now shuddering mine shaft. The winning team then receives gold (yellow gunge) while the losing team were initially covered in brown sludge however later episodes they remain dry.
In New Zealand kids television, What Now introduced a new gungey game the big breakfast and Splat Cave. Fe Fi Fo Yum has a challenge which sees two children go barefoot into a bowl of gunge to collect objects for their teammates such as letters/numbers or other items. The final game also makes use of the gunge bowl, where the last part involves wading in the pool and up a ramp in order to release their captive teammates. In 2014, a few new games such as Use Ya Head, Target Ya Teacher and Small Balls were added to What Now. In addition, the spin-off from Horrible Histories, Horrible Histories: Gory Games involved a physical challenge involving gunge. The three children in the quiz running barefoot across an inflatable collecting "poo" and depositing it in their tanks at the other end. Above the inflatable are three containers - one for each lane of the inflatable, storing gunge which is released at points in the game. A variation of this challenge sees the three contestants again running barefoot along an inflatable lane, in an all play game, throw pies into mouths attached to a bungee cord, in the second series, this has the added difficulty of "Garum sauce" falling onto the inflatable at a random point in the game causing the children to slip and slide thus increasing the difficulty of the challenge. As of series 3 the losing kids would go down a slide barefoot into a vat of brown gunge and have to crawl through it.. The British and Australian versions of Nickelodeon's Camp Orange also features challenges which involve getting gunged. Splatalot (in Dutch Spetterslot), a medieval themed game show, similar to Total Wipeout features gunge/slime is fired at the attackers by the defenders at random points in the challenges as a means to slow down the attackers.
Sam and Mark Big Friday Wind Up has started featuring gunge since 2014. The game was called rotation and two family teams were asked general knowledge questions while a gunge tank is being poured into, if they get the question right they spin and it is the other family's turn to answer a question. The team that is under the gunge when it is full gets gunged.
In 2016, rotation was replaced by another gungey game called Splat in the box. Two family teams were asked general knowledge questions. However many seconds they took to answer the question is however many turns they do on the handle on the box. for example if they took 3 seconds to answer they will have to turn the crank 3 times. if they get a question wrong or run out of time they will have to do the maximum of turns which is 10. A gunge monster was hiding in the box and a certain number of turns will open the box and whichever team is standing in front of the box gets gunged.
7two had a new gameshow with gunge in called Flushed. The losers of the previous round went into a gunge tank and got gunged with purple gunge or "Sludge" as they call it in the show. There were 2 rounds so each episode contained 2 gungings unless there was a tie in one of the rounds so that it was just one gunging.
In terms of prime time television, in the UK at least, gunge has made appearances in the ITV1 game show The Whole 19 Yards where two transparent spheres contained either pink or yellow gunge. In one of the many physical challenges, a contestant had to unscrew the bottom of the sphere of their colour resulting in the gunge falling onto them and the floor below in order to retrieve a key in the sphere which allowed them to complete the challenge. The Channel 5 version of Big Brother (both celebrity and normal version) features gunge in various tasks and as a way to nominate housemates.
At the 2014 Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Sports Awards, the Legend Award was given to soccer player David Beckham, who was slimed with gold slime rather than the traditional green. Baseball player Derek Jeter, who received the award the following year, was also slimed with a gold color. This tradition has continued with Kobe Bryant in 2016, Michael Phelps in 2017, and Danica Patrick in 2018. This sliming is notable not only for its unique gold look, but for the overwhelming fashion in which the individuals are covered with slime.
- Natrosol Hydroxyethylcellulose (HEC) is a non-ionic water-soluble cellulose ether, formed by reaction of cellulose with ethylene oxide.
- Bob McCabe - The Authorised Biography of Ronnie Barker 2004 "Barker - sat suspended over a tank of gunge, and attempted to speak in rhyming couplets.
- Roger Wilmut - From fringe to flying circus 1980 "Cook: 'We were poised on these chairs, and the first person not to rhyme fell into this terrible pool of gunge.."
- Quentin Falk, Ben Falk Television's Strangest Moments p116 - 2005 "In fact, gunge and water being thrown on people became the thrust of the show. And the Phantom was the king, kersplatting everyone from ..."
- Dominic Strinati, Stephen Wagg -Come on Down?: Popular Media Culture in Post-War Britain p167 1992 "..the 1970s ATV developed Tiswas, a children's magazine programme based on pop, irony and self-conscious mayhem. ... ran competitions wherein the losers (or even the winners) were variously slid into tanks of brightly coloured gunge"
- "Halli Galli | TV-Serie". wunschliste.de. 20 December 2007. Retrieved 1 August 2013.
-  Archived December 21, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
-  Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
- The dictionary definition of gunge at Wiktionary