BOB! LINDA! DON! KIM! MICHAEL! DORA! ADRIAN! DOREEN! ARE ALL HERE TO PLAY LARRY GRAYSON'S GENERATION GAME!
Shut That Door...
With Bruce Forsyth tempted to the rival side of ITV for Bruce Forsyth's Big Night variety show, the BBC were left in a quandary. Who do they get to replace their hugely successful host and carry on that level of success?
Roy Castle was a name thrown into the hat, having deputised for Bruce in November 1975 when he was off ill. The eventual choice, however, was a marked contrast to Bruce's confident, boisterous hosting style.
Larry Grayson had only recently become a big star in his late 40's on ITV in the early 1970s, providing his own brand of comedy. This was to be his first presenting gig, and the BBC had actually done a dummy run with a pilot in June 1978. The test run wasn't a smooth process by any means with fluffed lines, missed marks and wobbly camera zoom-ins a plenty. You can even spot the stage hands frantically throwing the prizes onto the conveyor belt at one point.
But the Beeb clearly saw potential in Larry's more goofy, bumbling take on presenting duties, and with a brand new theme tune, titles and a few minor tweaks to the format, the gamble worked with the show bringing in even more viewers and seeing off Bruce's short-lived rival show.
After the cheesy opening theme in which a close-harmony vocal group chirp about how the “best of relations is our aim” and a spotlight scans over the new Generation Game logo, Larry comes on stage to rapturous applause, telling everyone that he's “cock a hoop” to be here. One of the key differences between the Bruce Forsyth version and Larry's is that more prominence is given to the hostess, the “lovely girl from Troon, Miss Isla St Clair”.
Isla gets more duties than Anthea used to. As well as ushering contestants on and off, Isla gets to introduce each of the games and explain what they are all about. She's also there to join in with some of the games along with Larry – and to generally help him out when he gets flustered in the games (which is quite a lot).
So with the new faces on the block, it's time to meet the first batch of contestants!
Robert Crozier and Linda Crawford (father and daughter)
Robert: Has come dressed for the occasion in his native kilt (Robert lives in Edinburgh). He's married to Jean and has been for 32 years – they have two kids and two grandkids. Robert's a force to be reckoned with, being a police sergeant for a living and an international boxing referee in his spare time.
Linda: Robert's daughter Linda has been married for two years to Brian and is a teacher from Touch. Linda pronounces this “tooth” which is apt, given that she lost one of her front teeth (which has since been capped).
Don Flatman and Kim Morgan (uncle and niece)
Don: Having been in the RAF (and stationed in locations such as Burma), Don is now the headteacher of Bunwell School – although apparently one of his classes walked out after seeing a current affairs programme on strikes. I wonder if they teach kids about the horrors of Br**it these days?
Kim: Receptionist for a barley wheat seed company, Kim spent part of her honeymoon being interviewed for The Generation Game!
Bwah hah hah!
The first game takes the contestants to the Chamber of Horrors. Don't worry, it's not as spooky as it sounds. What the quartet have to do is to work out which celebrity is dressed up as one of the classic horror movie characters. Some are easier to work out than others, as Ronnie Hazlehurst (still with the show) plays some ominous-sounding music over five close-ups of each of the disguised celebrities.
Now whether or not you can play along at home depends on your age. Old gits like me can probably stand a better chance of working out who's who, since I remember seeing most of the celebrities on telly when I was a kid. Younger whiffersnappers may be at a disadvantage though, unless they have been swotting up on their 1970s TV history.
Nevertheless, who is... Frankenstein? The Wolfman? Dracula? Dr Jekyll? The Mummy? As a blaring car alarm sounds to signal the end of guessing time (the klaxon noise would be tweaked from the following episode to make it a series of rapid, scattergun beeps), Larry and Isla read out each of the pairs' guesses.
Both Robert and Linda and Don and Kim get off to a good start by working out that Frankenstein (or Frankenstein's monster) is astrologer Patrick Moore, who delivers a few grunting noises to show how “scary” he is (not very). On the other hand, the identity of the Wolfman eludes both sets of contestants. Don and Kim claim that it's Ronnie Corbett (causing the Wolfman to amusingly get down on his knees to reduce the height) and Robert and Linda suggest that it's Mick McManus. It is, in fact, Willie Rushton, who from my foggy memory used to appear on lots of game shows and Jackanory in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Don and Kim fare better with Dracula, but this isn't Robert and Linda's life as they wrongly guess that it's Eamonn Andrews. Don and Kim's correct guess is I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue and Sale Of The Century legend, Nicholas Parsons. The tables are turned with the next one. Don and Kim get the identity of Dr Jekyll wrong with Father Dear Father star, Patrick Cargill, but Robert and Linda rightly suss out that it's jazz musician, Kenny Ball. Luckily, both contestants spot that the Mummy is Crossroads actress Noele Gordon.
At the end of the round, it's a draw as both Robert and Linda and Don and Kim are on six points apiece!
Game Two requires the contestants to “Fight The Cushion”.
This doesn't involve a punch-up with a furious cushion, but instead involves stuffing a cushion into a cover in as neat a fashion as possible. Janet Crossley is something of an expert on the matter, as on average, she fills 100 cushions a day. She demonstrates how to create the perfect stuffed T-shirt-shaped cushion – think of accurately stuffing a duvet into its cover, only more difficult. While Larry claims that Janet would make a “good wrestler”, the cushion-filling expert wraps up the task in quick time with perfect results.
As for the contestants? In only one minute, the results are inevitably going to be clumsier, as each of the four grapple and wrestle with the cushions, making it look like they are having furious arguments with waxwork dummy torsos.
Mind you, Robert's efforts are not half bad. He also manages to zip up the cushion, creating quite a neat result: “Marvellous!” is the verdict as Bob gets a very respectable 4/5. Linda's isn't quite so good, with a bit of twisting. The zip's not done up either, but Janet deems her efforts worthy of a 3/5. Bet they don't teach this sort of thing in Linda's school.
Unfortunately, Kim's got in a bit of a pickle, with her cushion looking “like a child” according to Larry. Kim's cushion cover is only half on, so she gets a measly 2/5. Don's cushion is marginally better, although it's laddered and the zip's not done up properly. It's still “quite good” though, according to Janet, so she awards the headmaster a 3/5.
Could do better. B-.
As a result, that puts Robert and Linda into the qualifying end game. Don and Kim do leave with a consolation prize of a shut that door trophy with their names engraved on the souvenir.
Dora Murray and Michael Hooper (mother and son)
Dora: Comes from Wheatley in Oxfordshire, and is a housewife with five kids and a mighty 15 grandkids. Dora's allergic to feather birds, apparently.
Michael: Heavy goods driver Michael used to be a member of a stunt team. Today, he is married with children, and has done a very good turn for the local senior citizens in his area by inventing a warning system gadget that lets off a loud alarm if any of them are in trouble (earning respectful applause from the audience).
Doreen Arnold and Adrian Russell (mother in law and son in law)
Doreen: 'Bullseye Arnold' earned her nickname from her love of darts. Probably not from her experience with a bike pedal up her nose.
Adrian: Married to Pat and has four kids. He comes from Weymouth, where he runs a pet shop. Hapless Adrian and equally hapless Pat broke the same finger on the same day after coming to respective grief with a spanner and a spin dryer.
Appropriately, Game Three is called 'Shut That Door'.
Six doors are shown, each of which contains a famous address. All Dora, Michael, Doreen and Adrian have to do is to work out who lives there. So who does live at 221B Baker Street? Gatcombe Park? Pooh Corner? Clarence House? 23 Railway Cuttings? And 32 Windsor Gardens?
No idea for the first one, as Adrian and Doreen pass on the answer. Dora and Michael suggest that it's the “man who murdered that solicitor”. It's not Dr Crippen, but Sherlock Holmes (the right answer) could have taken on such a case. Luckily, both identify the first of those royal scoundrels to be featured in this game, spotting that Princess Anne enjoys tea and scones at Gatcombe Park.
Answer Three is a bit of a trick question, since it's not actually Pooh Bear (as both sets of contestants answer) but Eyore. Both, however, do know their royal family stuff, as Mrs Maj's mum lives at Clarence House. Probably with about five million servants to do her bidding.
Laughter and applause greet Doreen's and Adrian's answer of the Minister of Transport living at 23 Railway Cuttings. It ain't the Railway Children either, as Dora and Michael respond – in fact, it's Tony Hancock. In a game that's so far given even answers to be royals, both contestants try and make it three in a row with the Duke of Windsor and the Duke of Kent. Neither eat marmalade sandwiches though, unlike the real occupant of 32 Windsor Gardens. Much as I liked Paddington Bear on telly as a kid, that creepy bloke in a Paddington costume would probably have given me the frights.
After the doors have closed, it's four-all to both teams.
That's the fourth game title, as Isla showcases a swan and cockerel made entirely out of chocolate. The clever chocolate chappy to make these is Peter Luder, who has been making such confectionery animals for 12 years.
Peter provides a quick demonstration of what the contestants will be up to. Taking a piece of white chocolate, he dabs a little blob of chocolate on the base. Next, he takes an egg shape and brushes it with chocolate, putting the egg on the platform. Next comes the chocolate head, and then for wings, two half eggs are placed on either side. Fill in the smaller details such as the eyes and a beak, and voila! You have your own choccy chick!
The quartet have 90 seconds to come up with a similar creation to the best of their ability, and it's up to Peter to judge their efforts. Michael reasonably impresses Peter with his chocolate concoction, even though it's missing a complete face, instead resembling a “one-eyed monster”. Although it's incomplete, Michael's choccy chick still gets a decent 3/5. Dora's, however, is a “bit grotesque” and so nabs only two points.
Doreen and Adrian prove to be better at this chocolate chick making lark, despite the messiness and the fact that Adrian's chick has no beak. But hey! 4/5! Which means that Doreen and Adrian chirp their way to the qualifying end game as their 12 points beats Dora's and Michael's 9.
In the first of many movement and dance-based end games (or final games, depending on what Larry calls it each week), Isla introduces the girls from the Lochiel Marching Team all the way from New Zealand.
This “very spectacular” routine sees the girls march in precise time – almost to the point where you'd think that a dozen or so robots have actually been swapped in their place. But you can't argue with the fact that each of the girls has paid their own air fare to come and be in Blighty for this show and the recent Edinburgh Tattoo event. Colleen Williamson, the leader of this troupe, promises to come back and mark the finalists' efforts.
To establish who wants to go first and second, Doreen and Linda get to draw straws, with Doreen getting the longer straw. As Doreen and Adrian choose to go first, Robert and Linda get to wait in Larry's room, which this week, contains a very obvious CSO picture of a massive posh living room.
Doreen and Adrian get the task over and done with, and in Doreen's expression, you can sense that she's wondering what the hell she's let herself in for. Doreen frequently bumps into Adrian, with both making the best of a near-impossible task to keep in time. Once the routine's over, Larry can tell by Doreen's “Thank God that's over” face that someone should get her a brandy.
Robert and Linda are better, although at one point, Bob looks like he's just worked out how to get his knees to work. Linda also hops around like a kangaroo on a bouncy castle. But overall, both of them have better rhythm, and with that in mind, Colleen announces that in a “very close” call, Robert and Linda just have the edge – earning 18/20 compared to Doreen and Adrian's 17.
The end game marks the tradition of Larry wanting to have a go at the task himself. Inviting “Aggis Alice” Isla to join him, Larry thinks that the whistle blowing girl has the whistle in her mouth all the time. Following on from this, the other tradition is that Larry inevitably makes a complete hash of the task, making Doreen and Adrian look like professionals. Tired out, Larry has to stop the routine, despite yells of protests from the audience.
Once recovered, Larry and Isla say goodbye to Doreen and Adrian, who march off with a cassette radio player, heated hair rollers and trophies.
Slightly easier questions than some of the Bruce Forsyth era ones. It's Linda who gets right in there by answering correctly that Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and that Valentine's Day is celebrated on 14th February.
Larry doesn't quite twig at first that Linda's got the required two to go through to the Conveyor Belt – but Robert doesn't wander home empty handed, taking with him a digital clock and the Generation Game trophy.
The Route To The Loot
Ronnie's orchestra blares over Larry before he can announce that it's conveyor belt time – causing the host to look momentarily “Uhhh... what do I say now?” “Well... uh, here we go,” he quickly improvises, leading Linda to the “room with the loot” (he'll introduce this phrase from the next episode).
New conveyor belt music as the prizes pass, which is a jazzy, instrumental version of the new theme tune.
So on Linda's conveyor belt tonight, we have... A barbecue set... A cuddly Paddington Bear... A picnic hamper... A cerebrum of champagne... A morning tea making alarm... A radio cassette recorder... A bone china coffee set... An electric crock pot... An infra-red lamp... A set of six crystal sherry glasses... A set of bathroom scales... A coffee maker... A soda making machine... An instant colour camera... A silver candelabra... A cuddly camel... An electric drill and bits... A kiddies' tricycle... A two-tier box of chocolates... A jigsaw puzzle... And two books and guides.
What A Lot You Got?
As Larry leads Linda to “Lillian Gish's chair”, it's slightly different from the previous entries as the contestant gets the chance to gather his or her thoughts while sitting down. Although they've got rid of the leather chair from the previous three Bruce Forsyth-era series, and have replaced it with a white, high-backed kitchen chair. But still with the lights dimmed and a spotlight looming over the contestant for extra pressure.
A very good attempt from Linda though, who's only missing the tricycle (I used to have one exactly like that – maybe the Beeb pinched it temporarily and returned it when I wasn't looking) and the books. Larry's “What a lot she's got... she has got a lot!” replaces Bruce's “Didn't they do well?”
Overall, a successful first show for the Grayson era of The Generation Game. I wonder if Bruce was starting to get cold feet if he caught this two weeks before attending his Big Night?