It's a Knockout

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It's a Knockout
GenreGame show
Created byGuy Lux
Based onIntervilles
Presented byMcDonald Hobley (1966)
David Vine (1967–1971)
Stuart Hall (1972–1988; 1993–1994)
Bernie Clifton (1990)
Iestyn Garlick & Nia Chiswell (1991–1994)
Keith Chegwin & Lucy Alexander (1999–2001)
StarringTed Ray & Charlie Chester (1966)
McDonald Hobley (1967)
Katie Boyle (1968)
Eddie Waring (1969–1981)
Arthur Edward Ellis (referee: 1969–1982)
Frank Bruno (referee: 1999–2001)
Nell McAndrew (scorekeeper: 1999–2001)
Opening theme"Bean Bag"
Ending theme"Bean Bag"
ComposerHerb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of series17 (BBC1)
4 (S4C)
2 (Channel 5)
No. of episodes272 (BBC1)
1 (ITV)
45 (S4C)
24 (Channel 5)
Running time30–120 minutes
Production companiesBBC Manchester (BBC)
Ronin TV (Channel 5)
Original release
NetworkBBC1 (1966–1988)
ITV (1990)
S4C (1991–1994)
Channel 5 (1999–2001)
Release7 August 1966 (1966-08-07) –
6 January 2001 (2001-01-06)
Jeux sans frontières
It's a Knockout (Australia)
Top Town

It's a Knockout! is a British game show first broadcast in 1966. It was adapted from the French show Intervilles, and was part of the international Jeux sans frontières franchise.


The series was broadcast on BBC1 from 7 August 1966 to 30 July 1982; thereafter a number of specials were broadcast until 25 December 1988. An episode was made by TVS for ITV which aired on 28 May 1990 as part of its ITV Telethon that year with Bernie Clifton as the host.

Welsh version[edit]

A Welsh version, Gemau Heb Ffiniau (Games without Frontiers), was broadcast from 3 August 1991 to 24 December 1994 on S4C. It had Welsh teams battling against European contestants dressed in pink colours. Nia Chiswell and Iestyn Garlick presented. Locations included Bodelwyddan Castle, with Nia dressed as Alice in Wonderland. The series won a BAFTA Cymru award in 1994.[1]

The series was later re-dubbed into English by Stuart Hall and broadcast on The Family Channel, from 1993 to 1994.

Channel 5 version[edit]

In April 1999, Channel 5 bought the rights to the show,[2] and started filming on 15 August in Reading, Berkshire with new presenters Keith Chegwin and Lucy Alexander, alongside referee Frank Bruno and scorekeeper Nell McAndrew.[3]

The series returned from 3 September 1999 to 6 January 2001 for two series, produced by Richard Hearsey and Ronin Entertainment, and used consultants and games from the French production. It was developed for Channel 5 with Alan Nixon, and the first show featured Stuart Hall tied up with rope in his garage wishing the new presenters well with the series. As in the previous versions, the theme tune was "Bean Bag" by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.

On 20 April 2001, it was announced that a third series would not be produced and that it would be replaced by two new challenge game shows, The Desert Forges and Under Pressure.[4]


Teams representing a town or city complete tasks in absurd games, often dressed in large foam rubber suits. Games were played in the home town's park, with weather often turning grassland into mud. The team scoring most points would advance to the next stage. Teams could double points in one round by choosing to "play their Joker". The games were originally refereed by Rugby League's Eddie Waring but eventually refereed by former international football referee Arthur Ellis from 1969 to 1982.

The games[edit]

The games were described as school sports day for adults. For example, teams would carry buckets of water over greasy poles or rolling logs. Other teams would interfere, squirting water cannons or throwing custard pies. Limited budgets meant games were often a variation on what could be done with a long piece of elastic, a lot of water, a portable swimming pool and a roundabout.

In its earliest form, the show emphasised skill or organisation applied in a bizarre way, for instance picking up eggs with an industrial excavator, as well as traditional village sports such as climbing a greasy pole. Games of strength were included, for example, carrying a Mini Moke without wheels. From the beginning, a "mini-marathon" would run the length of the programme, with updates on progress between shorter contests. The shift to spectacular displays, with or without costumes, came later, to improve audience appeal and to follow continental traditions.

A recurring event in early episodes was "piano smashing" where the teams had to break up an old upright piano with sledgehammers into small enough pieces to push through an aperture shaped like a large letterbox. The event drew regular complaints from viewers who did not like to see pianos end in this way.[5] The complaints eventually drove the managing director of BBC Television Huw Weldon to have the event withdrawn.[6]

The winning team in each event scored three points, the second-place finisher scored two, and the third-place team scored one. Each team was given a joker card, which they could play before any one event to double the points they scored for it.

The winner of each edition was awarded an It's a Knockout! trophy and a chance to represent the UK in Jeux sans frontières. Three local teams appeared in the UK show, with around 6 to 8 countries competing in the European finals.

In other countries[edit]


The format of It's a Knockout! was used in many European countries, with each version forwarding teams for the international version, Jeux sans frontières.

In the United Kingdom, participants came from the heats of It's a Knockout. The original presenter was McDonald Hobley, but he stayed for just one series before handing over to Katie Boyle, who in turn was replaced by David Vine and Eddie Waring. It was not until 1971 that the presenter most associated with the role, Stuart Hall, took over presenting the UK heats and also provided the British commentary for the international version along with Waring, who was better known as the BBC's Rugby League commentator.

Wales had its own team between 1991 and 1994 and the programme was broadcast on S4C in Welsh by Iestyn Garlick and Nia Chiswell.


Almost Anything Goes! aired in Australia from 1976 to 1978. It was hosted by Tim Evans and Brendan Edwards and featured Sean Kramer and Australian Rules player Ron Barassi. It was filmed in Melbourne. The 1976 season featured two complete competitions with initial heats and finals, while the 1977 and 1978 seasons featured only one each. Following the 1977 grand final, the season finale featured a competition between the top two teams from the grand final and a team representing New Zealand.

An Australian version of It's a Knockout! ran on Network Ten from 1985 to 1987. The teams were divided into the Australian states: New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia. The show was hosted by Billy J. Smith, along with Fiona MacDonald for the duration that it aired in Australia. They would arrive to the show in a golf buggy. The show was filmed in a field in Dural, New South Wales, but due to numerous complaints from local residents, the show was dropped in 1987.[7] This version aired in Mexico on the TV Cable Network Multivisión and was a success in 1992, and also in the U.S. on KCAL-TV in Los Angeles & WWOR-TV in New York in 1990–91. It was also adapted and shown in Argentina as Supermatch. This version was heavily edited, and the anchors were replaced by off-screen commentators.

In October 2011, it was announced that Channel 10 Australia would re-launch a new version of It's a Knockout! for its 2011–12 summer programming line-up hosted by HG Nelson, Charli Robinson and Brad McEwan. Due to insurance costs, the show was filmed in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and ran for eight 1-hour episodes between December 2011 and January 2012 and featured teams of 15 from each state of Australia.[8]

New Zealand[edit]

In New Zealand, a series based on It's a Knockout! called Top Town ran from 1976 to 1990, and was revived in 2009.

United States: Almost Anything Goes![edit]

The American version of It's a Knockout!, re-titled Almost Anything Goes!, aired on ABC in the United States from 31 July to 28 August 1975. It won the time slot on Thursday nights against reruns of The Waltons on CBS and a short-lived Ben Vereen variety show (Comin' at Ya!) on NBC.

In the first season, there were four regional events (North, East, South, and West); each had teams representing cities with populations of 20,000 or smaller from three different states, and each city had to be within 200 miles of the other two. The four winners then met in a national final. The second season consisted of 14 episodes, broken up into nine episodes where all three cities were from a particular state, three regional finals (East, South, and West – there was no North regional in the second season) consisting of three state winners, a national final consisting of the three regional winners, and a "Supergames" where the second season winner competed against the first season winner and a team of celebrities representing Hollywood.

For its second season (24 January to 2 May 1976), AAG! moved to Saturday nights after the cancellation of the short-lived Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell variety show. Sports announcers Charlie Jones and Lynn Shackelford were the play-by-play and color men on this version which featured small towns across America playing the games. Sam Riddle, who was one of the producers, served as field reporter in 1975 along with Dick Whittington, the latter being replaced by Regis Philbin in 1976.

Boulder City, Nevada, won the 1975 series and Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, won the 1976 series. In a showdown, Boulder City beat Chambersburg and a celebrity all-star team. However, it was up against The Jeffersons and Doc on CBS and Emergency! on NBC, and was shortly cancelled thereafter due to low ratings.

A children's version, called Junior Almost Anything Goes! and hosted by Soupy Sales, ran on Saturday mornings from 11 September 1976 to 4 September 1977. A syndicated celebrity version (All Star Anything Goes!) hosted by Bill Boggs ran from 16 September 1977 to September 1978. Tony DeFranco of The DeFranco Family performed the theme song for the All Star Anything Goes syndicated show.

Charity specials[edit]

Two charity specials were made in the 1980s. The Grand Knockout Tournament of 1987 featured four teams of celebrities, each figureheaded by a member of the British royal family. The event, held at the Alton Towers theme park, was widely derided as a failure, particularly in terms of public perception of the royal family.

In 1988 brought It's a Charity Knockout!. Games took place around Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, US, and featured celebrity teams representing Australia, UK and US.

Pop culture[edit]

Jeux sans frontières was the inspiration for Peter Gabriel's hit song "Games Without Frontiers". The words "Jeux Sans Frontieres" are repeated as the chorus of the song by Kate Bush, and the phrase "it's a knockout!" is used in the song as well.

The show was also featured prominently in The Goodies and the Beanstalk as a motive for the Goodies to climb the giant beanstalk; the grand prize was 5,000 puppies.



Series Start date End date Episodes
1 7 August 1966 18 September 1966 7
2 14 May 1967 6 September 1967 12
3 12 May 1968 13 September 1968 13
4 14 May 1969 3 September 1969 11
5 30 April 1970 18 September 1970 14
6 21 April 1971 24 September 1971 14
7 19 May 1972 29 September 1972 14
8 18 May 1973 14 September 1973 14
9 3 May 1974 20 September 1974 13
10 23 May 1975 15 October 1975 15
11 21 May 1976 1 October 1976 16
12 22 April 1977 2 November 1977 16
13 21 April 1978 8 November 1978 16
14 11 May 1979 6 November 1979 17
15 9 May 1980 10 October 1980 17
16 29 May 1981 6 November 1981 15
17 28 May 1982 29 October 1982 15


Date Title
26 December 1970 It's a Christmas Knockout! 1
8 May 1971 It's a Cup Final Knockout! 1
27 December 1971 It's a Christmas Knockout! 2
6 May 1972 It's a Cup Final Knockout! 2
26 December 1972 It's a Christmas Knockout! 3
5 May 1973 It's a Cup Final Knockout! 3
26 December 1973 It's a Christmas Knockout! 4
4 May 1974 It's a Cup Final Knockout! 4
23 December 1974 It's a Christmas Knockout! 5
3 May 1975 It's a Cup Final Knockout! 5
11 July 1975 It's a Celebrity Knockout! 1
26 December 1975 It's a Christmas Knockout! 6
1 May 1976 It's a Cup Final Knockout! 6
9 July 1976 It's a Celebrity Knockout! 2
26 December 1976 It's a Christmas Knockout! 7
21 May 1977 It's a Cup Final Knockout! 7
16 August 1977 It's a Celebrity Knockout! 3
26 December 1977 It's a Christmas Knockout! 8
14 April 1978 It's a Miners' Knockout!
21 August 1978 It's a Celebrity Knockout! 4
26 December 1978 It's a Christmas Knockout! 9
29 August 1979 It's a Celebrity Knockout! 5
24 December 1979 It's a Christmas Knockout! 10
11 July 1980 It's a Celebrity Knockout! 6
27 December 1980 It's a Christmas Knockout! 11
31 August 1981 It's a Celebrity Knockout! 7
2 January 1982 It's a Christmas Knockout! 12
30 August 1982 The Knockout Star Gala 1
29 August 1983 The Knockout Star Gala 2
27 December 1983 It's a Christmas Knockout! 13
28 December 1984 It's a Christmas Knockout! 14
19 June 1987 The Grand Knockout Tournament
25 December 1988 It's a Charity Knockout from Walt Disney World!


Date Title
28 May 1990 It's a Telethon Knockout!


Series Start date End date Episodes
1 3 August 1991 19 October 1991 11
2 18 July 1992 3 October 1992 11
3 26 June 1993 25 September 1993 11
4 6 August 1994 29 October 1994 11


Date Title
24 December 1994 25th Anniversary Knockout!

Channel 5[edit]

Series Start date End date Episodes
1 3 September 1999 6 November 1999 11
2 14 October 2000 6 January 2001 13

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "1994 Cymru Lighting: Studio or Location | BAFTA Awards". Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  2. ^ "BBC News | Entertainment | It's a Knockout! returns". BBC News. 27 April 1999. Retrieved 3 May 2020.
  3. ^ "BBC News | Entertainment | Channel 5's knockout comeback". BBC News. 16 August 1999. Retrieved 3 May 2020.
  4. ^ "It's a Knockout! out for the count". 20 April 2001. Retrieved 3 May 2020 – via BBC News.
  5. ^ David Huckvale, Pianos in Film, p. 32, McFarland, 2022 ISBN 1476643881.
  6. ^ Lord's Taverners, Theatrical Digs: Tales from the Green Room, p. 117, David & Charles, 1987 ISBN 0715389823.
  7. ^ Hicks, Robin (16 October 2011). "It's A Knockout to return to Australia". Mumbrella. Retrieved 25 February 2020.
  8. ^ Geoff Shearer (17 October 2011). "Ten sets up knockout blast from past". The Courier-Mail.

External links[edit]