Scrapheap Challenge

Scrapheap Challenge is another one of those shows that seemed to be on air just as I was hitting the right age for it. It’s also another one of those programme that does exactly what’s on the tin.

In this case the challenge was to build some sort of device, weapon or contraption using scrap found in the scrapyard.

Robert Llewellyn standing on some scrap.

Two teams went head to head to compete in a competition of some sorts. For example building an amphibious vehicle. The winner then went on towards the finals.

Each team had someone who could be considered an expert, usually some kind of engineer and then two others from a more mundane walk of life.

After initially planning out their ideas, helpfully illustrated for us with some graphics the teams then split to head off on quad bikes to find what they think they need from the scrapheap.

In almost every episode someone would find something not on their list that they think will be really useful that they return to their teammates enthusiastically only to find blank expressions.

The hosts. Robert never lost his enthusiasm.

Presented by Robert Llewlyn (better known as Kryten in Red Dwarf) who seems to hold endless enthusiasm for everything going on. He was joined originally by Cathy Rogers who was actually an executive at RDF who made the programme, in later series Lisa Rogers (no relation) replaced her.

The show also made it over to America but they prefer to call their scrapheap Junkyards and their challenges Wars.

Robot Wars

Probably a firm favourite of many and unnoticed by everyone else. I was slap-bang in the target audience for the show. Airing at 6pm on BBC 2 back when the BBC didn’t have the rights for enough episodes of The Simpsons to air it every night.

The premise of the programme was simple. Robots fighting against each other. No AI involved, they were all remote controlled. At least I think they all were. Those that controlled the ‘House Robots’ to the best of my recollection were never talked about or seen.

Those House Robots had names like Sir Kilalot and Matilda or my favourite at the time Roadblock – don’t ask me why it was my favourite but this fighting machine was made from a Road Closed sign, witty stuff.

Yes, watching a cheese shaped roadsign was how we entertained ourselves in the new Millennium!

Going against the House Robots were the competitors. These robots were built by members of the public. There were some expert teams but also sometimes teams consisting of father and sons which was probably half the appeal of someone my age at the time.

The robots were no soft-touch. There were saw blades, flame cutters and many spikes and jagged edges. But everything took place inside a perspex walled arena so no health and safety concerns here.

The arena where it all took place.

The action in the arena was hosted, for the first series by Jeremy Clarkson. He was probably the perfect host but at the time was a lot more marmite and less popular he was ousted for the following series in favour of Craig Charles.

Jeremy/Craig were joined by Phillipa Forrester (and probably others during various series) as backstage reporters. They would interview the teams and ask questions like ‘do you think you can fix it?’ When the team had suffered at the house robots.

The battles were entertaining to watch. Sometimes they’d be over quickly and the House Robots would make a show of their victories, circling around before placing the immobilised opponent into the kill zone (a small drop in the arena floor). Occasionally too robots would basically commit suicide or simply never get going.

It was all exciting enough but ramped up more by Jonathon Pearce and his massively over the top commentary style. In many ways Jonathon made the programme. You could switch most of the elements but his commentary was essential.

After a few series I became bored, so did the BBC so it was dropped before being picked up by Channel 5. It was then revived briefly by BBC 2 in more recent times.

To Me… To You…

BBC 1, 1996 – 1998

So someone had the idea of creating a gameshow for the Chuckle Brothers and you know what, it wasn’t actually that bad.

Set on Chuckle Island (you better there were lots of Chuckle names in this show), it was actually more like a board game than a gameshow (roll the Chuckle dice).

The game board was semi-circular with the start space in the middle. The Chuckle Dice would be rolled by each team and then move the prize trolley. Any prizes won, either by answering a question or playing a mini game stayed on the trolley until a team reached the home Square and won all the prizes.

That wasn’t the end of the game everything was reset and more prizes would be earned. Along with this Coconuts were earned and the team with the most at the end won. All good fun.

For a show named after the Chuckle’s most famous catchphrase you bet there was plenty of the usual shtick with Paul and Barry… oh dear oh dear. There were also some new gags like the space on the board where you could steal a coconut, Knickers naturally.

Each show featured a CBBC celebrity and at the time there was a huge pool to choose from. There were one or two sketches but on the whole it was done as a straight forward kids gameshow.

While ChuckleVision will be remembered by many as a bit cheesy and naff, although we all at one point must have found it amazingly funny, I think it is a shame more people won’t remember this.

It’s three series do the fact that Paul and Barry held it together no justice at all. To support kids, present a quiz show and never break character is no mean feat.

Fun House

It’s Wacky, It’s Fun, It’s outrageous! What kid didn’t want to get up close to Pat Sharp’s mullet and play Fun House.

Usually airing on CITV on Fridays, you knew it was the weekend when Fun House was on. The main draw of the show was meant to be the big fun House (think of a giant soft play centre) but as far as I was concerned it was the Fun Cart Grand Prix.

But before either of those rounds were reached there were various games, they usually involved gunge and sliding about in ridiculous costumes – classic children’s gameshow stuff, seach separated by general knowledge questions.

There were always two teams, sometimes it was girls vs boys. The team colours were yellow and blue. Something a little unusual was that there were two cheerleaders, one supporting each team. The kind of over the top American bubblegum cheerleaders that could only come out of the late 1980s, along with Pat’s mullet.

Had they just been pure cheese then the cheerleaders could have easily been ditched after a couple of series. But their bubbly personality, coupled with them being twins gave Melanie and Martina something unique.

They worked well with Pat and did play a semi useful role supporting the contestants in the games and helping with the ‘pit-stop’ changeovers during the Grand Prix.

Pat was an over enthusiastic host. If you ever get a chance to see the show as an adult then I think you will find his jokes terrible but it was marginally less cheesy back then.

Just before the final round came that Fun Cart Grand Prix. Basically petrol go-carts but it was the most exciting bit of the show, for me at least. The kids would have to go round and pick up tokens or in later series hit buttons. Each token was worth either 50 or 25 points.

Like so many gameshows with this kind of game it kinda rendered everything that went before it pointless as you might get lucky and get more tokens, i think some series let the team in the lead start first. As a kid though it was exciting to watch.

As I’ve already mentioned, for me the Grand Prix was the best bit but the final game was the Fun House itself. The idea was to play in the Fun House and collect tags which had prizes on it.

The majority of the prizes were as I remember, fairly pants. I’m pretty sure they even gave away a school stationary set once. There were some better prizes in the mix too and a power prize which when grabbed (it always was even though the kids never knew which prize it was) gave them the chance to win a really big prize like a trip to America etc.

As kids gameshows go it was definitely fun. To me it always felt like a short show, maybe only 20 minutes long but seeing how much they crammed in written down it must have been longer. Running for a decade with virtually no changes – minus the mullet going – it has to be up there as one of the greatest.

It was based on an America show but I guarantee that won’t have lasted as long and certainly won’t have had as good a themetune.

The Krypton Factor

I remember loving The Krypton Factor when I was a kid. The show was about finding the fittest and smartest person, or Super Person of the Year in host Gordon Burns’ own words.

There were four contestants who each wore their own clothes but in their ‘team’ colour. There were several rounds each designed to test a certain strength.

The opening round as I remember it was an assault course, it wasn’t glamorous but it looked like it would be huge fun. The female contestants always had a slight head start to keep it balanced. In particular the ‘s’ bend sticks in my mind because it was a series of twists created from wooden logs and looked claustrophobic.

Getting wet tackling the assault course

There was an observation round where there would be a short scene, sometimes this was be an ongoing drama. There would be an intelligence test, usually some sort of physical puzzle.

The show would end with a general knowledge round, the answers of which would lead into the following question. This was something lost on me when I saw the series originally but I picked up on it when the series was repeated years later on Freeview channel Ftn.

The highlight was the semi-finals which saw an aircraft simulator which at the time was very exciting but I imagine would look a bit laughable now. I’m fairly certain there were a fair few crashes.

I loved the show as a kid even if I didnt fully understand it. As a child I could easily work out the puzzles and cheer on an obstacle course.

Nice try, but no.

The whole show was relaunched in the mid nineties and was nowhere as good. No surprise that after one series it was axed. ITV attempted a revival in the 2000s but it didn’t really work or feel as good as the original, it was all a bit generic.

Supermarket Sweep

This show meant one thing growing up – it was a day off school, either through sickness or teacher training. What’s not to love about a show set in a supermarket it looked so much fun – working in one proved not quite as much fun.

The first part of the show featured games and puzzles based around groceries and shopping. The podiums the ‘shoppers’ stood at were shapped like shopping baskets.

But nobody really cared about the first part of the show it was all about the second part where the contestants went ‘wild in the aisles’. During the opening rounds time was earnt for the ‘sweep’.

This round involved grabbing a shopping trolley and chucking everything you possibly could into it including giant inflatable bananas. There were rules but as a kid you just watched them running around taking what they liked.

What a big bouncy bonus

The winning team then did a sort of treasure hunt sweep finding clues to win a £2000 cash prize. Personally I would have preferred to keep the goods in my trolley.

Camp as anything, Dale Winton was the perfect host for the show. In fact it is difficult to imagine there was another host who could have handled it any better.

Blockbusters

I was a bit young to fully enjoy Blockbuster. I would have struggled to answer a question like “What ‘O’ is the generic word for any living animal or plant, including bacteria and viruses?”.

That question was answered incorrectly with “Orgasm” during a famous outtake, that cheeky sense of humour ran throughout and then there was the host, Bob Holness. His response to the above was to cooly but knowingly say “There are reasons I can’t accept that particular answer”.

A grey haired headmaster-type seems an unusual choice of host for a show that was only one place above a children’s programme. The contestants were sixth-formers. But Bob made for the perfect host.

The gameplay was simple. There was a board with yellow hexagons with letters on which would be the first letter of the answer.

The winner of each game would go through to the Gold Run which had more complicated answers. As a kid I was always hoping the contestant wouldn’t complete the Gold Run so I could hear the (suitable) bad luck music.

There was even a boardgame brought out, which in pre-technology days used bits of cardboard and plastic to recreate the game board. Imagine my excitement when about ten years later (long after the series bit the dust) I got to play it!.

When the series ended in the early 90s it was much missed, not just by me, when BBC2 relaunched it I remember tuning in. Now hosted by Micheal Aspel and with adult contestants it was boring which proves that such a simple format needed the right host to be successful.

I’ll have a P please Bob.

Fun House

It’s wacky, it’s fun, it’s outrageous… well actually I’m not sure if it was outrageous but that’s what the opening lines of the theme tune said. Starting at the end of the 80s and through the 90s, Fun House was possibly the gameshow kids wanted to be on the most.

It had slime and gunge, a grand prix with real petrol go-carts and the final round in a giant fun house – OK so it was essentially a giant Wacky Warehouse. But it had prizes, it had twins and it had Pat Sharp.

Pat was the host, his sidekick was his dodgy mullet hair cut until he saw sense and chopped it off. The twins were Melanie and Martina and seemed to be constantly hyper on sugar. They were the cheerleaders and score keepers.

Pat and the twins

Although the kids going through the fun house was meant to be the grand finale (understandable given that was the title of the show) it was the go-carts or the Fun Cart Grand Prix that I certainly enjoyed watching it for.

Let’s rerun the fun as Pat would cheesily say…

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