Game Show Spoofs

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Guide 9 - Game show spoofs in film and TV


Whenever you're doing a sketch show, the easy fallback position is to target the game show. So easy to parody, the laughs almost write themselves. Er, quite. Here is our own half-assed attempt to catalogue some of the finer moments of British comedy masquerading as incisive comment. Also listed are other places and references where you might not otherwise expect game show action to pop up.

Spoofs of real game shows

  • Ask the Family - Not The Nine O'Clock News re-imagined this as a contest between the Brainies and the Smaughtarses, two "perfectly ordinary" families of quantity surveyors. Watch the clip
  • Bargain Hunt - Taken off by the Dead Ringers impersonation team, and Harry Hill.
  • Big Brother - Virtually every show under the sun's taken this off. Graham Norton and SM:TV Live and to name just two.
  • Blankety Blank - Done by Have I Got News for You as Blunketty Blunk and Dick and Dom in Da Bungalow as (you guessed it) Muckety Muck.
  • Bruce's Price is Right - A clip of this features in the film Little Voice. Also, the Lenny Henry Show spoofed this with The Price is Correct.
  • The Chair - Parodied on SM:TV Live
  • Countdown - Yes, yes, we all know the Fry and Laurie sketch with Simon Sad (SLOBLOCK doesn't even have 9 letters!) but did you spot a snatch of the show in the film About A Boy, and thusly the accompanying video for Something to Talk About by Badly Drawn Boy? The Big Breakfast did Countdown Under (see what they did there?)
  • The Crystal Maze - Three of note here: Steve Punt gurning as a skullcapped Richard O'Brien inviting teams to do the Making a Cup of Tea game in The Mary Whitehouse Experience. The Adam & Joe Show, RO'B was played by Yoda who accompanied a load of Star Wars toys. And in Tony Robinson's Maid Marian and her Merry Men it featured in the entire last half of one episode, featuring Wayne Morris as Robin Hood doing a spookily accurate version of RO'B.
  • Deal or No Deal - Impressively, this was spoofed by at least three shows in its first year on air. Dick and Dom had Muck or No Muck with Ian Kirkby donning the beard, as did Rory Bremner and Jon Culshaw in the spoofs in their shows (Bremner, Bird and Fortune and Dead Ringers), neither sounding much like Noel Edmonds, but it was nice of them to try. Culshaw even appeared on DOND itself for the first birthday special, in his Edmonds guise.
  • Double Your Money - Spoofed by That Was The Week That Was with David Frost as a Russian Hughie Green and Lance Percival as the "normal" Hughie Green.
  • Family Fortunes - Appeared on an episode of sitcom Barbara and, when Les Dennis was on it, Celebrity Big Brother series 2.
  • Going for a Song was spoofed by Do Not Adjust Your Set.
  • The Golden Shot was parodied on The Benny Hill Show as The Golden Shoot, with Hill impersonating then-host Bob Monkhouse (during the latter's first stint); Bernie the Bolt was changed to Barney the Bolt.
  • Hard Spell - As Muck Spell, this was one of Dick and Dom's more successful games.
  • The Krypton Factor - the lesser-known of the A Bit of Fry and Laurie take-offs.
  • Lose a Million, staggeringly, was deemed worthy enough to appear in the Brit horror flick Shallow Grave. Answers on a postcard...
  • Mastermind - Again, too many to mention really, but the stand-out must shurely go to the Two Ronnies' Sketch, specialist subject: Answering the Question Before Last. On the Benny Hill Show it was Masterbrane, Paul Hogan's show did Thickhead and Lenny Henry's show did (it says here) Masterbonk. Even Magnus Magnusson himself once hosted a spoof version which appeared out of the blue during an edition of Wogan on April Fool's Day 1987 . There was also Strip Masterbrain, at which point we draw a veil.
  • Mr and Mrs / Sion a Sian - Rob Brydon loves this format so much, he's sent it up in at least two of his shows. A version of the quiz was a regular feature of the first series of The Keith Barrett Show, and an extract from the original series provided one of the better items in the generally disappointing Directors Commentary. Do you think he might be angling for a job?
  • Name That Tune was another target for the Benny Hill Show.
  • Opportunity Knocks, in the Bob Monkhouse incarnation, was sent up and knocked down by the cast of Radio Active, in the 1987 episode Mike Says... Here's a Bit of Talent.
  • Play Your Cards Right - Played with Brucie as part of Have I Got News for You but using the Iraq War playing cards instead. "Please, this is satire!" Priceless. Also, the Lenny Henry Show did Bonk Your Cards Right. We must have been out that evening. Like at the knitting club or something.
  • Runaround - appeared on The Big Breakfast as Punaround.
  • Sale of the Century - The Benny Hill Show spoofed this with Sale of the Half-Century. Ho ho! You may stop laughing now.
  • Take Your Pick - apparently taken off by Tony Hancock and John Junkin on an episode of the variety programme The Blackpool Show in 1966.
  • Telly Addicts - appears on the video for Blur's It Could Be You.
  • University Challenge - memorably demolished by The Young Ones, with real-life UC contestant Stephen Fry among the guest stars, and Griff Rhys-Jones providing the definitive "interpretation" of the Bamber Gascoigne role. Griff also gave us his Bamber in a Not The Nine O'Clock News sketch involving a supergrass being quizzed UC-style. The 2006 film Starter for Ten revolved around the lives and loves of a 1980s University Challenge team and featured a turn by Mark Gatiss as Bamber.
  • Ultra Quiz - also fell victim to the Radio Active team, in the 1984 episode Gigantaquiz.
  • The Weakest Link - most people will give the props to Frank Skinner for this one (for kicking a Maureen when she's down), but 2d:TV had a line in Anne Robinson sketches. Children in Need did a Doctor Who Dead Ringers Weakest Link. Live & Kicking did a parody called "The Leakiest Sink" with Sarah Cawood as Anne Robinson. Mitchell and Webb spoofed it (far too late - 2006 is hardly the zeitgeist, chaps) as Hole in the Ring.
  • Wheel of Fortune - spoofed by Alexei Sayle's Stuff, complete with the Up the Chimney bonus round. Also featured in the Tony Wilson biopic 24 Hour Party People.
  • Who Wants to be a Millionaire? - okay, so we've had Who Wants to Be A Foreign Millionaire?, Who Wants to Win a Mini On Air? (The Big Breakfast), Someone's Going to be a Millionaire (TFI Friday), Who Wants To Sing Walking In The Air?, and Who Wants To Die On Air? And that's just the made-up formats.
  • Win, Lose or Draw - Dick and Dom again...
  • The whole lot: The 2005 Doctor Who episode "Bad Wolf" was based on the premise of a broadcaster in the far future plucking people from Earth and forcing them to take part in futuristic - and generally deadly - versions of current gameshows and makeover programmes. We got to see their versions of The Weakest Link (hosted by the "Anne Droid"), Big Brother and What Not To Wear; other shows broadcast by the Bad Wolf Corporation included "Call My Bluff with real guns, Countdown where you've got 30 seconds to stop the bomb going off, Ground Force which is a nasty one, you get turned into compost, Wipeout speaks for itself, oh, and Stars in Their Eyes... if you don't sing you get blinded."

Invented game shows

A few nods to game shows that didn't really exist, even if some of them sounded rather promising:

  • Monty Python's Flying Circus did a number of game show spoofs, the most complete of which was probably Blackmail whereby a well-known politician had to ring in and stop the money clock before too many compromising details were, er, compromised. Others included Spot The Braincell (a reworking of At Last The 1948 Show's "Nosmo Claphanger Show" - see below), Stake Your Claim and The World Forum Trivia Game (shurely one for the National Geographic channel?)
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set featured a game show so complicated that by the time the rules had been explained, there was no time for the actual game. This sketch (penned by Eric Idle) had previously appeared on radio in I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again and was later redone by the Python team on the LP Monty Python's Previous Record. If you have Flash, you can hear the ISIRTA version on the SOTCAA Python Pages - scroll down to point 4.
  • 2DTV suggested Paper in the Bin.
  • In The New Statesman, the Honorable Member for Haltemprice, Alan B'Stard, featured on a quiz game called What's the Question? hosted by Nicholas Parsons.
  • At Last The 1948 Show amalgamated The Golden Shot, Double Your Money and Take Your Pick into The Nosmo Claphanger Show with John Cleese as an amalgam of all the worst aspects of Bob Monkhouse, Hughie Green and Michael Miles.
  • Only Fools And Horses featured the incomprehensible Goldrush, hosted by Jonathan Ross, though only because ITV wouldn't let them use Who Wants to be a Millionaire?. They're actually using the set at the BBC centre for people who come in on tours!
  • Tyneside children's drama Byker Grove featured Ritual Humiliation. And that wasn't just Ant and Dec's haircuts. Oi!
  • Father Ted gave us Morning Quiz hosted by closet alcoholic Henry Sellers and The Eoin McLove Show on which Ted's specialist subject was William Shatner's Tek Wars.
  • Yes, Quizzlestick! OK, it wasn't real, but between you and us... nobody's noticed. Or they have and they don't care. Adam and Joe also did a spoof of 100% called 200%, but that's less well remembered.
  • One with something other than a comedic purpose was The Great Big Giveaway Show, hosted by Neil and Christine Hamilton, which was actually part of a police sting operation filmed for a Channel 5 documentary. Seventeen fine-dodgers were lured to Portsmouth Guildhall, supposedly to take part in a big money gameshow - and were promptly nicked. So remember, if you're on the run from the law and you get an invitation to take part in a gameshow you never applied for, held in a location that isn't a TV studio and hosted by people you could never in a million years imagine fronting a big money quiz, it may be a trap. Interestingly, a couple of years later Donal MacIntyre pulled the very same stunt in Leeds on his series MacIntyre's Big Sting, which just goes to show... something or other.
  • Also making a serious point was the one-off Come On Down and Out, a spoof produced for Channel 4's Gimme Shelter season in 1993, in which homeless people (played by actors) competed to win a house. It was hosted by Andrew O'Connor and Anabel Giles.
  • Dale Winton challenges Renton to 'Take the Test' in the film Trainspotting.
  • In 2005, the Beeb's speculative docu-drama If... TV Goes Down The Tube featured The Cage, a boring reality show of 2015 in which some people are, er, locked in a cage, and one of them commits suicide on air.
  • Quickfire, the quiz game hosted by Bob Martin in the comedy drama of the same name. (The title character host was played by Michael Barrymore, who co-wrote the script with Bob Mills.)
  • I'm Alan Partridge contained numerous references to Skirmish, a military quiz Alan apparently hosted on that well-known cable TV station, UK Conquest. At one point there were plans to actually make an episode of this show as a one-off, but they came to nothing, alas.
  • One of the regular features of Channel 4's not-very-funny comedy series Balls of Steel was presenter Alex Zane duping real members of the public into taking part in various unfair game shows, such as "Alex Zane's Buzzing Game" (with a dodgy buzzer that wouldn't buzz when it was supposed to, and did when it wasn't), "Alex Zane's Lying Game" in which contestants were hooked up to a "lie detector" (actually an air-conditioning unit with bicycle lights attached) and "Alex Zane's Cleverness Game", a Mastermind-like quiz with a lot of incorrect answers. Generic catchphrase: "Nice to see you - yes it is."
  • It's a Shame! was a recurring skit on a late series of Going Live!. Hosts Trevor and Simon hosted a show with no budget, no prizes, no shame, and no respite from their silliness.
  • Victoria Wood's character in BBC's dinnerladies, Bren, appeared on "Totally Trivial", which was hosted by Henry Kelly.
  • Remember short-lived 90s sketch show The A Force, with its regular dating show spoof "Get It On"? No, us neither.
  • The last episode of Jonathan Creek (which incidentally featured Bamber Gascoigne in a cameo) satirised celebrity reality shows with a sub-plot involving the programme Animal Farm, in which minor celebs lived in a pig sty, with pigs. Eyebrows were raised when, mere weeks after this episode first aired, Five announced they were making The Farm. (Thing of note: many years earlier, Creek creator/writer David Renwick also penned the Two Ronnies' "Mastermind" sketch.)
  • For BBC Three's Mischief, Danny Robins devised a deliberately bad taste reality show, Let's Make A Baby (a.k.a. IMPREGnation) in which thirteen strangers would share a house and the first couple to conceive would win a hundred grand each. Robins and David Brook (the man behind Quiz Nation) then toted it around the international formats fair in Cannes to see if anyone would go for it. Which quite a few did.
  • The comedy show Rob Brydon's Annually Retentive featured Brydon playing himself (or at least an approximation thereof) as host of the invented game show Annually Retentive, a celebrity panel game about years gone by, which shamelessly steals rounds from Have I Got News for You, Never Mind the Buzzcocks and the like. The programme cuts between the panel show (which is recorded as a real show) and its production meetings and suchlike (which are scripted).
  • That Mitchell and Webb Sound/Look gave us the maths quiz that EVERYONE is talking about - NumberWang! The writers have suggested that it's the opposite joke to Quizzlestick.
  • And finally, who could forget Spitting Image's ultimate Paul Daniels hosted game show: Knock Your Odd Block Mr Family Price Lines-2-1?


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