Terry Wogan (1979-83)
Les Dawson (1984-90)
"Lily Savage" (Paul O'Grady) (1997-2002)
Vernon Kay (2007 special)
Paul O'Grady (again, 2011 special)
BBC1, 18 January 1979 to 12 March 1990 (209 episodes in 12 series + 10 specials)
Fremantle for BBC One, 26 December 1997 to 19 September 1998 (13 episodes in 1 series + 1 special)
as Lily Savage's Blankety Blank
Grundy for BBC One, 26 June to 28 December 1999 (12 episodes in 1 series + 1 special)
Grundy for ITV, 7 January to 17 June 2001 (20 episodes in 1 series)
Thames for ITV1, 4 May to 10 August 2002 (12 episodes in 1 series + 8 unaired)
ITV Productions and TalkbackThames for ITV1, 21 April 2007 (Gameshow Marathon one-off)
bbc.co.uk webcast, 5 to 6 March 2011 (24 Hour Panel People)
"Blankety Blank was very _______"
Several words you could fit in that blank, but it was up to the contestants to try and match their answers to the celebrities playing alongside them. Yes! This was Blankety Blank! Cheap and tackiness for the masses.
And it all started with *that* theme tune, the one that went "Blankety Blank, Blankety Blank (Boom Boom), Blankety Blank, Blankety Blank (Boom Boom)" for about five years which we suppose was dead handy if you suffered from amnesia and forgot which programme you were currently watching.
The tackiness continued with the set which was cheap and the prizes which were cheaper. We're talking low budget here. Except in the more recent Lily Savage revived version they were actually not bad, when there was a holiday for a grand prize and things that actually worked.
The host introduced us to the celebrities and then we met the players (to the theme tune). The player who won the toss got to pick from one of two questions. The host read the statement out and then the six celebrities wrote down the answer that they think would fit the blanks. There was usually a tenuous clue within the statement for the celebs and players to pick up on.
Once all the celebs had written something, the player gave their answer. The host then went into the celebs and read out what they put. If the answers matched, the player scored a point (and the celeb got a little mark indicating that they'd matched with that player) and if they didn't match they didn't. The other player then got a go.
If after this first round a player had matched with all six celebs they won the game. If not, the player with the lowest score went first in Round 2, but they only played with the people whom they didn't match with in round 1.
If there wasn't a winner after Round 2 they did sudden death. The players wrote down an answer to the statement and then the celebs each gave answers in turn. The first one to match won.
The loser didn't go away empty handed because they won... a Blankety Blank Chequebook and Pen! It took us ages to realise this was a pun ("blank cheque", y'see) but then we were very young at the time.
The winner went through to the Supermatch Game (with the appropriate "Supermatch Game" theme tune, which was nearly as inane as the "Blankety Blank" one). The legend was revealed revealing a two word phrase with one word blanked out. Wogan used to ask some unseen bloke (originally Eugene, later Eamonn - they just had to be Irish names, didn't they?) to reveal the legend, while Dawson would usually say, "Please reveal the leg-end, Alf."
Before the show, the whole audience were polled as to what word should fill in the blank of the Supermatch phrase, and the three most popular answers were hidden away on the board. The winning player was allowed to ask three of the celebs as to what they thought the most popular filler was and afterwards the player was allowed to take one of their words or come up with one of their own. The words on the board were worth 50, 100 and 150 Blanks depending on popularity and more blanks meant better prizes (although I've already told you that didn't mean much...).
The game was then played again with two new contestants, and whoever had the most Blanks in the Supermatch Game went forward to the head to head (and if the two winners got the same it would go to sudden death). Here, they could win a better prize (doubling their blanks or a holiday). The player chose one of the celebrities who would write down their answer to a "word BLANK" phrase. The player would then give their answer, if they matched, they won and if not they didn't.
And that's it really, apart from the hosts. First, there was Irishman DJ Terry Wogan where part of the fun was him trying (and failing) to keep the celebrities in check. Then there was the late Les Dawson who had no respect for the format - and that's what made it funny.
Blankety Blank left the screens in 1990, 3 years before Dawson's death, during which time he hosted an even more cheap and tacky show, Fast Friends. This was almost certainly an attempt at a new version of Blankety Blank, even giving away address books instead of cheque books and pens as consolation prizes, but Fast Friends flopped after only one series, since it had none of Blankety Blank's entertainment value - which was actually considerable, for all its unashamed tackiness! However, Blankety Blank was revived in 1998 with Lily Savage as the host. Acerbic Lily had little respect for the format and had no trouble at all with keeping people in check. That was the funny thing. Everyone thought she/he would be really bad at it but in fact she/he/it managed to pull quite an audience, and in fact the show was later renamed "Lily Savage's Blankety Blank" as a result, which was actually a rather dubious honour, but then she was a rather dubious character.
The problem with Lily Savage's humour is that a lot is fairly adult and as a result, about half the show (the funny half) had to be edited from recording to suit the audience. The program defected from the BBC to ITV in 2001, when it lasted a year. Judging by the first episode we wondered whether this was a wise thing to do...
Two 1987 specials featuring the cast of 'Allo 'Allo! and Hi-De-Hi making up the entire celebrity panel. Another one in the same year featured 3 weathermen (Michael Fish, John Kettley and Ian McCaskill) and the Beverley Sisters.
In a particularly memorable 1987 edition, the BBC had booked 2 sets of identical twins as contestants. Apparently, Les Dawson had not been told about this, so, after he had finished with 2 of the contestants, he had to do a double take, because there they were again and of course both sets of twins were identically dressed! It was very rare for Dawson to be caught on the hop like that. (The two male twins ended up playing each other in a head-to-head.) In the same year, Mastermind did something similar with the 'Hancock's Half-Hour' edition, in which the married couple Paul and Christine Hancock played against each other, right up to a sudden-death play-off - and they also appeared together on Masterteam.
In a 1990 edition, there was a wheelchair-bound contestant, who won her first game and Dawson took charge of wheeling her on and off set.
It's currently part of the National Curriculum for media students to study the classic microphone-bending antics of Kenny Everett during the Wogan years. Not really. But it should be. Incidentally, his microphone was nothing more than a prop with which to gesticulate - if you look carefully, he was working off a standard mic in his lapel. Everett's other antics on the show included dancing around with one of the prizes - a mug tree - and breaking most of the mugs, surprise, surprise! He also once produced a Spanish packet of peanuts called 'Bum' and, when Wogan would ask the celebrities to hold up 'Ready' cards when they had written their answers, Everett would hold up a massive, placard-sized one!
(Wogan and Dawson):
"Lights on when you're ready, please..."
"This is Supermatch. We held a poll with the studio audience to ascertain what they thought was a correct phrase or saying. Rising in popularity, we have 50 blanks, 100 blanks and 150 blanks - and these are the prizes you could be winning on Blankety Blank". (Dawson usually added in some little jibe about the quality (or lack of it!) of the prizes!)
"For 50 blanks, we have...!" and ditto for 100 and 150 blanks.
"Will you please join me for the Supermatch?"
(Wogan, if the contestant chose Card B instead of A at the beginning): "B it shall be!"
(Les Dawson era):
"Reveal the legend!" or, "Please reveal the leg-end, Alf!"
"Remember - the clue is in the question!"
(To panellists) "What have you got for meeeee?"
(To the contestants, in the event of a tiebreaker): "...And the first one to hold the card aloft will be deemed the winner!"
"But you're not going away empty-handed - no, by Jiminy, you're not! You're taking away with you" (pause for dramatic effect) - "a Blankety Blank cheque book and pen!" (followed by a stamp of his foot). (He sometimes changed it to, "A Blankety Blank cheque pen and book!")
"And for the benefit of our viewer, Arthur, in Cheltenham - good night, God bless!"
Based on the US Goodson-Todman show The Match Game (latterly known as simply Match Game).
Original music was by Ronnie Hazlehurst, and performed by Jason McDermid, Alison Jiear and David Bryant. So now you know.
All good things come to those who wait. So do long-lost episodes of Blankety Blank. 8 episodes of Lily Savage's 2002 series of the show were never shown on ITV. They emerged on the Challenge channel in 2005, then again in February 2011 and again in September 2016.
A board game was available.
Andy Walmsley designed no fewer than four different sets for various incarnations of this show, and you can see them all on his website.