You Bet!



Bruce Forsyth (1988-90)

Matthew Kelly (1991-95)

Darren Day (1996-97)


Ellis Ward (1988-91)

Diane Youdale (1996)

Sarah Matravers (1997)

Bobby Bragg (1996-97)


LWT for ITV, 20 February 1988 to 12 April 1997 (101 episodes in 10 series + 4 specials)


Well made and sometimes stunning stunt show.

File:Youbet-screen01.jpgSeems like this is going positively well.

Members of the public bet they can do a particularly whacky, impressive or just plain dangerous feat. 100 members of the audience bet on whether they think they can do it, as do a panel of celebrities. The celebs try to guess the correct outcome, thus earning points, which are later turned into pounds for charity, mate.

File:Youbet-screen02.jpgThe odds are looking...decent.

The challenges on the show can be categorized into stunts (doing a wheelie in a truck for 1 mile), memory tests (identifying a Madonna song from 5 seconds of the backing track), and skill games (scoring 50 basketball hoops while riding on a motorcycle). The reward for a successful challenge was awarded a trophy (called the "Betsy" in early series). The outside challenges were filmed during the summer months and slotted in, everyone involved in the filming having sworn on their grandmother's grave that they wouldn't say the result.

File:Youbet-screen03.jpgNow we know why series 19 of The Krypton Factor didn't go ahead.

Bruce's Big Bet

So, where do we start? From the beginning of course. The original German version began in 1981 where it was a variety show that featured a mix of chat, music, comedy, performances and of course games. The show ran for approximately 3 hours, when LWT made their own version in 1988, they had to condense it to an hour by just focusing on the game part of the show.

Unlike the original German version, which was a series of one-off specials, the UK version was given a six week pilot run during the winter months on Saturday nights.

The game format of the show is quite similar to the original German version but there were a panel of three celebrity guests and four challenges in each show. On each challenge, the celebrity would back the challenger(s) they were sponsoring and if they failed their challenge, the celebrity would have to do a forfeit that they have chosen themselves before the start of the show, which is either recorded on location to be shown on the next show or right here, right now in the studio.

So, you're probably thinking right now "Four challenges? But there are three celebrity guests backing three challenges." A-ha! This is where we bring out the host of the show Bruce Forsyth plucked straight out of his comfort zone from Play Your Cards Right. Now remember when we said that the celebrity guests had to do a forfeit if the challenger(s) failed? Well, it's a little different with Bruce because the audience have the power to decide his fate and the one with the highest percentage, Bruce will always go with the higher percentage of the audience vote. If the one with the highest audience percentage gets it wrong (and yes, even if the challenger(s) succeeded), Bruce would have to do a forfeit. However, unlike the three celebrity guests who pick their forfeits before the show, Bruce pulls out three envelopes and then picks out a member of the audience to pick one, Bruce doesn't know what the forfeit is going to be in the envelope until he opens it up and reads it out loud.

Bruce warming up the audience for the You Bet! rap.

The first series was received so well with audiences, it was given an extended run of ten episodes the following year as audiences were blown away by the variety of challenges that ordinary members of the public were challenging themselves to do, but elderly viewers just watched it because of Brucie being the Bruciest he's ever Bruce'd the Bruce.

As always with Bruce at the helm, he had to have a female co-host with him and her name is Ellis Ward. Ellis was hired to host the pre-recorded outdoor challenges on location whenever a challenge was too big to perform in the studio and she did a really fine job doing it.

When the year 1990 came, Bruce was called by the BBC to host the revival of The Generation Game, which was filmed around the same time as You Bet! meaning he would no longer host the show.

Annabel Croft smiling in hoping she will replace a sulky Forsyth.

The Kelly Years

Perhaps the host many viewers associate with the show is Mr. Game for a Laugh himself Matthew Kelly.

The show went through a number of changes when Matthew took over hosting:

  • For any challenger(s) that failed their challenge would now get a scroll for taking part in the show, which is a positive step up from when Bruce hosted it because they weren't awarded anything at all if they failed their challenge.
  • The celebrity guest that failed to back their challenge they were sponsoring would now have to choose a forfeit from a list of six very cryptic clues written on the screen and Matthew would then reveal what the forfeit is.
  • Matthew's fate for when he is backing a challenge he was sponsoring got the same treatment as the celebrity guests as in he would do a forfeit if the challenge he was backing failed.
  • The challenges were increased from four to five, which meant that Ellis Ward also got in the act of doing a forfeit if a challenge she backs fails.
  • Matthew also got involved with filming outdoor challenges as well as Ellis, but Ellis only got to film some outdoor challenges if she was backing a challenge.

The format tweaks and Matthew's own fresh unique style of hosting have certainly helped make the show must watch television. The show was given an Autumn series six months later, but this time in a new time slot of Friday nights at 8pm.

Sadly, the Autumn 1991 series would be the last series we see Ellis Ward co-hosting as the following series in 1992, Matthew would be filming all of the outdoor challenges, the celebrity guest panel was increased from three to four and the forfeits were now held by six chosen members of the studio audience and they would have to read out what the celebrity guest or Matthew would have to do for their forfeit. Also, every challenger from now on got a medal no matter what outcome of the challenge was.

A typical celebrity panel from the Kelly years. Sandi Toksvig, Andrew O'Connor, Gareth Marriott and an audience member impersonating as Meryl Streep (They were a guest short).
File:Youbet matthewkelly withcontestant.jpgMatthew Kelly and Linda Lusardi with a contestant after he successfully completed his challenge.

The 1993 series was given a bumper commission of sixteen episodes due to how popular the show was becoming and the amount of challengers wanting to show off their unique skills and talents. The forfeits were now concealed inside six envelopes guarded by Matthew himself and they all have the letters Y-O-U-B-E-T printed on them. The 1993 series was originally supposed to have a continuous run from September up until Christmas Eve where the Celebrity Special would be shown, but was taken off the schedules after the seventh episode and was replaced by a new series of Beadle's About. During that time, Matthew was hosting another ITV show, this time from Granada called Stars in Their Eyes. He was initially hired as a caretaker for Leslie Crowther who had a car accident the year before, we'll get back to that later. The remaining episodes of the 1993 series were shown during the spring of 1994 back on Saturday nights and for some reason were sponsored by the Daily Mirror, but they quickly dropped after the remaining episodes of the seventh series aired.

The 1994 series was filmed during the Autumn and shown during Spring 1995. This series had a couple of massive changes to the format, the first big change was that the celebrity guests and Matthew would no longer be backing challenges they were sponsoring, which meant that there are "no more forfeits", instead the celebrity guest that scored the lowest on the panel would have to do a challenge themselves and the outcome would be shown the following week, the second big change is that during the celebrity challenge, there would be a phone-in vote for viewers at home to predict whether the celebrity would succeed or fail their challenge and one lucky winner picked at random would be donating £1,000, by the production team, for the charity of their choice. And for this series only, the challenger(s) that succeeded were given a special trophy called "The Kelly", which is a silver model of Matthew Kelly on a black podium with the You Bet! logo below it.

But sadly after the completion of filming for series 8, Leslie Crowther announced that he would be retiring from showbusiness and Matthew was made a full-time host of Stars in Their Eyes, meaning that the eighth series of You Bet! would be his last, which is quite sad because Matthew was really dedicated to hosting the show both in the studio and on location, he was very entertaining to watch as host and he was always fascinated about the challengers backstories on their skills and talents, especially with challengers who were children because he asked them questions the same way as he did with the adults.

"What do you mean?" you ask? We'll explain. Let's have a look at how Bruce chatted to the kids, he would always ask them questions where they would always give them a one word answer (which is "Yes" or "No"), which is quite off-putting because we know that there are some children out there who are smart and are on the same level as adults, which is where Matthew did a better job in chatting to the kids than Bruce did where he would ask them questions where they would have to answer in a sentence because Matthew's very open-minded and interested in what the kids were saying as well as adults.

Viewers would often call the Kelly years the defining era for the show and we agree on that, which is more than we can say for his successor the next year.

Darren's Bad Day

After Matthew left for full-time duties on Stars in Their Eyes, West End actor and singer Darren Day filled in his shoes, and to follow on from Matthew...they were pretty big to fill.

File:You bet youdale with darren.jpgDarren and his flying concorde.

The ninth series was pretty much back to where we started when Bruce hosted it. In other words, we've come full circle.

The celebrity guest panel was decreased from four to three, the forfeits returned but this time they were chosen by the production team for the lowest scoring celebrity guest to perform at the end of the show, and the addition of a co-host was reinstated to film the outdoor challenges, which were this time carried out by former Gladiators star Diane Youdale (a.k.a. - Jet). Oh, and the scroll was discontinued from this series onwards for any failed challenger(s), which meant that they would get just a medal.

File:You bet panel.jpgA typical celebrity panel from the Day years.

Nothing much to say about this series, it's pretty much the same show as usual but with different host...actually, that's the main problem with this series, the host himself. Darren, apart from a dodgy 90s haircut, wasn't really the right choice to host an extravaganza of a show like this. Darren did take an interest in the challengers backstories, but he quite frequently was very deadpan about it and just sounded like he was memorizing a script to get a quick pay check, which did put a massive dent in the ratings. Oh, and the annoying overuse of canned encouragement from a taped audience during the outdoor challenges, which is something that was never done during Bruce and Matthew's tenures.

But unfortunately, Darren was called back to host another series, which would evidently be the show's last. To use whatever steam the show had left, a new co-host was introduced for the final series, who was Sarah Matravers. Viewers will recognise Sarah as one of Des O'Connor's gong girls from Take Your Pick and yes, she did the majority of the location work for this series. The celebrity challenge also returned from the eighth series, but this time, the audience had to choose from two cryptic clues on the screen chosen by the production team and the one with the highest percentage would be the challenge the celebrity with the losing score would have to perform at the end of the show. And the last addition to this series was for the celebrity guests and it was called the "Bonus Card", which means if the celebrity correctly guessed the outcome of the challenge, the corresponding audience percentage they score will be doubled, however, they can only play it once.

And that appears to be it for the show as a whole because the following year, it was replaced by a new show called Don't Try This at Home!, which was more extreme than You Bet! and went on for a few series. Darren Day was transferred to host the show alongside Davina McCall, but he only lasted one series.

What's the lesson we've all learnt?

Choose the right host for a show with such calibre and niche. Bruce gave it a good game, but viewers saw through past his Brucieness. Matthew defined a golden era for the show with his Lancashire charm, even when the production team were getting rid of a winning formula during his final series. Darren just killed

Key moments

The two types of fanfare for the end of the challenge: the "happy happy" one and the "oh dear, it's all gone pear-shaped" one.

In an outtake eventually shown on Alright on the Night's Cockup Trip, while Matthew Kelly was filming a trailer explaining the rules for the Celebrity Challenge phone-in competition, he got tongue tied on some of the words and accidentally blurted out an expletive - to his own visible shock.

A fan of The Bill claims she can identify twenty-five characters from the show by just seeing a small area of their face in two and a half minutes, but only got three right and passed on one in twenty-one seconds.

What a shame!

The Red Devils were memorable challengers on the show, mainly because they failed three challenges in a row. They did however finally complete their fourth challenge.

Ooh, so close and yet so far

At last, we can now celebrate

Two memorable forfeits from Matthew Kelly when he had to do one that involved sumo wrestling and one that involved a tight rope walk.

Ain't he 'Game for a Laugh'


Brucie got the show off to a strong start, despite the decidedly un-streetwise "You Bet Rap", dropped after series 3 but recorded here for posterity:

Bruce: You wanna bet on it?
Audience: You Bet!
Bruce: When you better get on it?
Audience: You Bet!
Bruce: So don't fret, get set, are you ready?
Audience: You Bet!

Another Brucie quote went: "You're now betting for the fate of Forsyth in the form of a forfeit. If you're right - I'm alright, but if you're wrong - I'm right in it!"

Before the ad break, Brucie used to say "We'll be back in a bit, you can bet on it!". Matthew Kelly changed this to "See you in a bit. Ta-ra!". Which isn't as good, but he did redeem himself by improving on the next one...

"Make your bet!", which was changed to "Place your bets now!" when Matthew Kelly took over.


Based on an idea by Frank Elstner. it was originally a German show called Wetten dass...? See the ZDF web site for more information.

Theme music

1988: Alan Lisk

1989-96: Jonathan Sorrell

1997: Simon Webb


11 years after its UK swansong, Ant & Dec took the format to the States with their presenting debut, Wanna Bet?.

Before they were famous, Alexander Armstrong and Ben Miller took part in a challenge during the Matthew Kelly years, where the two of them alongside My Parents Are Aliens star Tony Gardner each took several roles in the same play, and had to speed dress whilst off stage so that they could come back as the relevant character without missing a beat. They succeeded!

Malandra Burrows was the show's highest celebrity guest scorer. She appeared during the final series and scored 401.

Annabel Giles was the most frequent celebrity guest, appearing five times.

Although most series were filmed at Shepperton Studios, the second series was filmed at Limehouse Studios in Wembley Park (now called Fountain Studios) while the ninth series was filmed at Pinewood Studios and the tenth series was filmed in the London Arena.

Web links

Wikipedia entry


A celebrity panel from the Christmas special. Kriss Akabusi, Judi Spiers, Annabel Giles and Andrew O'Connor (again).


An episode from 1995


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