Blankety Blank – The Dawson era

les blank

Recently I’ve been watching far too much Blankety Blank (well, it keeps me off the streets). Having exhausted all the available Wogan editions I’ve now moved onto the Les Dawson era.

For those in the UK, Challenge have just begun rescreening a selection of Dawson editions – there’s also a fair few scattered about YouTube.

Blankety Blank was a format tailor-made for Dawson, although there’s nothing he does (mocking the contestants, panellists, prizes, questions, etc) which Terry Wogan didn’t do first. I love Les, but I have to confess that my Blankety Blank heart remains with Terry.

There’s a few little wrinkles I noticed during the Dawson years – most notably now it’s always ladies first and the contestants no longer have a choice of either A or B. That lack of a random factor could be open to abuse (although I find it hard to believe anybody seriously rigged the show).  Also, the female contestants tend to be younger (very rare that an old dear pops up).

Below is a link to Les’ first show – complete with the snapping of Terry’s iconic microphone!

Superteams (1979)

Having spent some time recently watching Superstars, I’ve now moved onto Superteams. The formula remains the same, except – of course – this time around the sporting greats compete in teams rather than as individuals.

Superstars could often get quite competitive, but the 1979 Superteams was in a whole different league.  Today it’s Athletes against Footballers, with David Vine, Ron Pickering and Barry Davies on mic duty.

A large dollop of the intensity came from Geoff Capes, the captain of the Athletes. The highlight (or flashpoint) has to be the basketball match – which turns into a grudge match very, very quickly.  The Footballers delight in running rings around the Athletes for most of this one, much to the displeasure of Capes, who struggles to keep his anger in check ….

Sadly there’s no dips or squat thrusts, but the obstacle course is good fun.  It’s fascinating to see just how much it means to everybody – this is no light-hearted stroll in the park.

It’s in sharp contrast to Superstars, where more often than not there was a strong sense of camaraderie mixed in with the desire to win.  Or maybe this one was just especially tetchy (the 1980 Superteams is also on YT so I think I’ll be checking that out next).

The final challenge – tug of war – did seem to favour Capes’ side (he’s a formidable anchor man) but the result was in the balance right until the end. With everybody, especially the trio of commentators, taking it very seriously (plus the interaction of the locals who – at times – literally find the events occurring on their doorsteps) this is good fun and, at times, quite gripping.


Just A Minute (2012)


Just A Minute – the evergreen radio panel game – has made the transition to television on several occasions.  Following two unscreened pilots in 1969 and 1981, the next attempt (in the mid nineties) was rather more substantial. Two series both of fourteen episodes aired on Carlton, although the purist in me slightly recoiled from the various changes made to the format. In 1999 the BBC got in on the act with a run of twenty episodes (this was better, although it did have the gimmick of displaying an on-screen clock).

The last television incarnation to date was also broadcast on the BBC. Ten episodes, aired in 2012, were made to celebrate the programme’s 45th anniversary (a slightly strange birthday to mark).  There were, thankfully, no format changes – this was pure unadulterated JAM.

What do we gain with the visuals? Not a great deal – although the set (which changes colour when the clock starts) looks very nice and Nicholas Parsons’ range of jackets and blazers are also highly noteworthy. Possibly the most interesting part of the television version is that we have the ability to study the four players of the game. Some – like Julian Clary – listen very intently when somebody else is speaking.

Pretty much all of the regulars and semi-regulars from the radio incarnation at the time made the transition. Paul Merton – always entertaining, especially when he’s on Parsons-baiting form – is great value, as are many others including Stephen Fry, Josie Lawrence and Gyles Brandreth. A few newcomers – such as Russell Tovey – were also thrown into the fray.  Most newbies tend to struggle and Tovey was no exception (delightfully, Nicholas Parsons attempts to offer him some sage advice as the episode wears on – such as sitting up straight!).

Given how good these episodes are, it’s surprising that more weren’t made, although it is fair to say that television isn’t exactly short of panel games at the moment. All ten episodes from the 2012 incarnation are knocking about on YouTube and they – along with the radio original – are well worth checking out.