UK Game Show Records

This Good Game Guide lists various UK game show records. If you have a question that you think should be included, feel free to contact us.



First UK-produced radio game show: Not known

First TV game show: Spelling Bee, shown by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on 31st May 1938, transmitted live from Alexandra Palace.

First TV game show offering cash prizes: Take Your Pick, broadcast on 23rd September 1955 by Associated-Rediffusion.

Broadcasting records

Longest running

All-time longest-running game show (TV): Come Dancing, which ran in its knockout format from 1953 to 1995. Though there were a few years within that span when it wasn't produced, that's still around 40 years in total. It's debatable whether Strictly Come Dancing counts as the same format despite its clear heritage to the original series.

All-time longest-running game show (radio):Round Britain Quiz ran from 1947 to 2005, a 58-year span.

Longest-running current game show (TV): University Challenge with over 39 different years clocked up since 1962. Not far behind are A Question of Sport which has run since 1970, and Mastermind which has been going since 1972, albeit with a few years' break in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Credit must also be given to Call My Bluff, which ran for 23 years originally, and another nine in the revival.

Longest-running current game show (radio): Brain of Britain is the clear winner here, the programme of that title dating from 1967, and the contest itself stretching back to 1953 when it was part of What Do You Know?.

Longest-running game show broadcast in UK (TV): Technically, it's A Song for Europe, which first aired in 1957, and annually since 1959 (sometimes under different titles). The Eurovision Song Contest has been broadcast annually since 1956, but is not usually a UK production.

Most episodes produced: Countdown with 4000 as of 3 January 2006, and counting.


Most successful UK format export: Who Wants to be a Millionaire? has been licensed to at least 106 territories including Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, the Caribbean, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Latvia, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, Middle East, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, Ukraine, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Vietnam. The Weakest Link is not far behind with at least 80 territories licensed.


Longest serving hosts

Longest tenure by time (TV): Counting only regular series, Magnus Magnusson's span as host of Mastermind lasted ten days short of 25 years, beating Bamber Gascoigne's tenure on University Challenge by eight days. However, if you count the 1987 International University Challenge specials which followed the end of the regular series, then Bamber's run is extended by nearly four months. You could extend it even further by including Bamber's appearances on the 1992 one-off, and 1998's Red Dwarf special, but then you'd also have to count Geoffrey Wheeler's technical 44-year span on Television Top of the Form, which beats all comers. In any case, it will be a long time before anyone comes close to challenging these two giants of the genre - since the death of Richard Whiteley in 2005 (after a third-placed 23 years on Countdown), the longest-serving current host is Gascoigne's successor, Jeremy Paxman, who's "only" been doing it since 1994.

Longest tenure by time (radio): Nicholas Parsons has presented nearly every programme of Just a Minute since 1967. However, as Parsons very occasionally lets guest hosts take the chair, Humphrey Lyttelton is possibly the host with the longest unbroken spell as he's been sitting on Samantha's left hand since 1972.

Longest tenure by on-air time (TV): With 30 or 45 minutes of exposure almost every weekday for 23 years, Countdown host Richard Whiteley is the out-and-out winner here. It is estimated that up to his death he was the second-most frequently seen face on British television, second only to the test card girl Carol Hersee.

Most formats hosted

Host of the most UK game shows: Crumbs, this is complicated because of the fly-by-night nature of some of the jobs entailed. This "medal table", if you will, should help the matter:

Host As main host As guest, co-host or regular One-offs or pilots
Bob Monkhouse 14 2 0
Chris Tarrant 13 (a) 0 0
Noel Edmonds 11 0 2
Paul Ross 11 0 0
Bruce Forsyth 10 0 1
Julian Clary 9 4 1
Dale Winton 9 1 1
Davina McCall 9 1 0
Carol Vorderman 8 5 1
Gyles Brandreth 8 3 0
Terry Wogan 8 2 1
Paul Coia 8 1 0
Ant & Dec 8 (b) 0 0
Ulrika Jonsson 7 3 1
  • Data correct as of 12th March 2007.
  • This table doesn't include unaired pilots as these cannot be accurately ascertained.
  • (a) However, PSI and Crazy Comparisons were just different titles for the same show.
  • (b) This number would go down by 1, but the "One-offs" column would rise by several, if you counted Gameshow Marathon as a series of individual shows rather than its own format.


Most successful (£): Sarah Lang is known to have won at least £1,033,100 on game shows, including £1m on PokerFace (16th July 2006), plus appearances on In It to Win It and Wipeout.

Most successful (programmes won): Ian Lygo won 75 consecutive shows of 100%, without defeat, in 1998.

Most successful (different formats): In terms of different programmes on which a contestant won, Daphne Fowler is possibly the most successful.

Longest serving contestant/panellist (TV): Can anyone beat Frank Muir, who was a team captain on Call My Bluff for 30 years (1965-94)?

Longest serving contestant/panellist (radio): Sir Clement Freud has been a regular, if not permanent, panellist on Just a Minute since 1967. Barry Cryer, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Graeme Garden have been continuous panellists on I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue since 1972. Irene Thomas was a regular contestant on Round Britain Quiz for approximately 30 years.


Cash prizes

Note: In this section, cash prize means money you are free to spend as you wish, and does not include business investments.

Highest cash prize won: £1 million in cash was first won on a UK game show on the Chris Evans radio show by Clare Barwick on the Someone's Going to be a Millionaire slot. On 24th December 1999, the same promotion - but this time on Channel 4's music show TFI Friday, Ian Woodley won the same amount.

Highest cash prize offered: The highest prize possible on Shafted was £2.5 million. This was an artificial cap as technically £102 million could have been won without it.

Highest cash prize won by a viewer: Karen Shand won £1 million by phoning into The Vault on 3rd August 2004.

Highest cash prize won on a BBC production: Eleri Owen won £100,000 on In It to Win It by answering 21 questions in a row. While the BBC's 1 vs 100 offered £250,000 but nobody took home a six-figure sum. Several investments of £250,000+ have been offered on the BBC's Dragons' Den making it technically the richest game show on the BBC. Although one suspects it didn't come out of the BBC's own budget, the £1m recording contract offered as part of the winner's package on Fame Academy is also worth a mention.

Daytime TV

Highest cash prize offered on daytime TV: Deal or No Deal has offered £250,000.

Highest cash prize won on daytime TV: Laura Pearce won the £250,000 on Deal or No Deal on 7th January 2007.

Non-cash prizes

Highest non-cash prize offered: £2 million in total was awarded as venture capital to two winners £1 million each on 16 July 2000 in The E-millionaire Show.

Most valuable tangible prize offered: In terms of objects given as prizes, the estimated £500,000+ house constructed and won on Building the Dream in 2004 is possibly the highest-value item ever given away. Nine years earlier, Raise the Roof offered £100,000+ houses as prizes.


Most expensive set: Undoubtedly The Crystal Maze set, which cost a few million pounds over its lifespan. Second place probably goes to Ice Warriors, which cost 1.5 million pounds.


Highest rated game show

This rather depends on who you ask and when you ask them. In 1992 Boxtree published 40 Years of British Television, which included as an appendix month-by-month top 20 TV listings charts.

From this we glean that during the final week of the 1979 ITV strike, the BBC mustered an audience of 23.9 million for Larry Grayson's Generation Game. That week's editions of Blankety Blank (23.3m) and Mastermind (21.9m) are the second and third highest-rating game shows.

The Generation Game was also the top-rating show under the pre-1977 ratings system (which counted households rather than individual viewers), 9.7 million households tuning in for a Christmas 1976 edition.

ITV's best rating for a game show came on 22nd December 1978 when an all-out strike at the BBC meant that 21.2 million viewers watched Sale of the Century.

This is all well and good, except that in 2005 Channel 4 broadcast a programme called Britain's Most Watched TV, for which the British Film Institute provided the lists (A top 20 for each of the 60s, 70s and 80s, and a top five for the 50s and 00s). Even though these lists drew on the same source material, they came out rather differently. It seems likely that the BFI disregarded high ratings that were attributable to a strike by "the other side", since otherwise there's a suspicious-looking hole in the autumn of 1979. Two other differences are pointed out by the BFI website: firstly, they multiplied "household" figures by 2.2 to produce an estimated audience in terms of individual viewers; and secondly the demands of the production company (Objective North) meant that "in some cases only the highest-rated example of similar programmes have been included to avoid repetition". This may account for the non-appearance of The Generation Game in their list. So according to the BFI, the top-rating game shows are:

1960s: Double Your Money, 8 November 1966 (19.47m); Take Your Pick, 2 Dec 1966 (19.36m). Top 20 cut-off: 19.14m
1970s: Eurovision Song Contest, 7 April 1973 (21.56m); Sale Of The Century, 24 Dec 1978 (21.15m). Top 20 cut-off: 20.57m
1980s: Mastermind, 9 Nov 1980 (19.15m); A Question Of Sport, 5 Feb 1987 (19.05m); Blankety Blank, 26 Dec 1980 (also 19.05m).
1990s: National Lottery Live, 19 November 1994 (20.17m); Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, 7 March 1999 (19.21m)
2000s (to 2004): Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, 19 January 2001 (15.9m); I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!, 9 February 2004 (14.99m); Pop Idol, 9 February 2002 (13.34m); Popstars, 3 February 2001 (12.36m).

It should be mentioned that for the 2000s, the Tonight with Trevor MacDonald special about the Ingram affair got an audience of 16.10m.

The BFI listing for the 1950s only includes shows from the last three months of 1959, presumably because figures for BBC shows are not available until then. Take Your Pick is the top-rating show for the period, with a peak audience of 13.16m.

The full top 20 lists can be found on the BFI website.


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