Roy Walker (1986-99)
Nick Weir (2000-2)
Mark Curry (2002)
Stephen Mulhern (2013-)
TVS in association with Action Time for ITV, 12 January 1986 to 24 October 1992 (149 episodes in 8 series + 4 specials)
Meridian in association with Action Time for ITV, 30 October 1993 to 29 January 1994 (12 episodes in 1 series)
Action Time and Carlton for ITV, 30 September 1994 to 19 December 2002 (186 episodes in 8 series)
STV Productions in association with DRG for ITV, 7 April 2013 to present
Two people attempted to solve Catchphrases (picture puzzles which revealed a phrase, saying, title, whatever - think Dingbats) to win money.
Before each round one person stopped the flashing light and that determined how much money each one in this round was worth. Then, a puzzle came on screen which, after the bell but not before, it was first on the buzzers. If they were right they won the money.
One of the most distinctive things about Catchphrase was that it was one of the first shows to use proper computer animations as part of the game, and even by the end it remained pretty cutting edge. Many of the animations featured a robot called Mr. Chips.
After each puzzle, that person got a chance at the Bonus Catchphrase. This was covered by nine squares. One was picked at random and removed then they were allowed a guess. If they got it right, they won whatever was in the Bonus Bank (originally a flat 100+(round number x 50), eventually turning into 100+ round number times 50, take away 10 for every square already uncovered, plus the number of letters in the month etc...). If wrong, they did another puzzle and so on until someone got it. Repeat as required, sprinkle liberally with extra money for each round.
After the break, there was always the faster-moving Ready Money Round where there was no bell. Which was nice. Incidentally, we're told that one of the reasons that the show had a bell was to slow down the rate that money was earnt, the show gave away potentially large cash prizes and back in the day there were limits TV companies had to adhere to in the prizes they gave away.
The person with the most money at the end of the show went forth to the Super Catchphrase. A grid of 25 lettered squares flashed up. Behind each one was a Catchphrase. If they got 5, they won an extra £50 (or £500 from 1997). However, if they did that by going through the 'M' square (which they claimed to be the "difficult" one but we personally didn't believe that for a moment) they won a lovely holiday in somewhere exotic like Bali! PLUS! Spending money.
Popular show that very rarely had an exciting finish to it - one player nearly always dominated the other. But it still lasted a zillion series. Oh, and the answer is "dishing the dirt".
Catchphrase for The New Millennium
Someone had the sense to give the show a complete re-vamp for its 2000 series. The graphics engine was made sexier and given a new cartoon style. The bonus game was covered by nine shapes as usual, but they weren't necessarily squares. The Ready Money Round was replaced by the Cash Countdown, and the end game was now a Blockbusters-style "get to the other end of the board" thingy, using the same 5x5 letter grid.
Walker was replaced by Nick Weir, who broke his leg during the recording of the first series (in true Matthew Kelly Game for a Laugh style) - and, on his return, welcomed us all to 'Crutchphrase'. He sometimes gave away too many hints, but his performance was much improved since his debut on Waffle.
This package of changes gave the idea a new lease of life, but we weren't sure about the spot prizes, though.
But this relaunch completely bombed with the public, who simply missed Walker, and even a last ditch attempt in 2002 to save the show by moving it to daytime (with new host Mark Curry, who invented a running joke about not having any catchphrases of his own) didn't help. The 'Catchphrase Countdown' just didn't quite have the same ring to it... in fact, they tried avoid any references to cash and points as far as they could and left the viewer to fill in the blanks, in a hilarious and unsuccessful bid to fool slow-witted viewers that it still was a big money gameshow, presumably.
See also: Family Catchphrase, which started as a one-off special of the main show before spinning off into its own series on a different channel.
Catchphrase for the Toy Story generation
And there we thought the story would end. Oh, Catchphrase remained popular on the gameshow rerun channel Challenge, and Chris Moyles had the long-running "Carpark Catchphrase" feature on his Radio 1 Breakfast Show. But the last thing we expected for spring 2013 was a new run of episodes, this time presented by Stephen Mulhern.
There are lots of nods towards the classic era, such as the theme tune being a re-working of the original, a neon light set and all of the original buzzers and jingles still being used. As well as this, there are lots of things to keep the show fresh such as new 3D CGI animations for the catchphrases, a bigger prize and some changes to the rounds.
These round changes begin with a decider round. Three contestants have to guess quickfire catchphrases until the first two contestants have guessed three catchphrases correctly. They then proceed to the next round and the third contestant is sent home and has had a bit of a wasted journey.
The next round is the same as the original, the only difference being higher values of money for each correct catchphrase and if a contestant guesses a catchphrase wrong, they are frozen out of the game, allowing the other contestant to get it right.
The final round is as always The Super Catchphrase round, but with some changes to the format. Instead of it being a race to get six catchphrases correct in one minute and to get across a board of twenty five lettered squares, it now features the contestant guessing six catchphrases correctly and climbing up a pyramid consisting of fifteen numbered blocks. The contestant guessing one catchphrase correctly on each level, gaining more money each time, all within sixty seconds. The new 'M' Square is a star in the middle of the third level, if the catchphrase is guessed correctly here, the contestant can win a holiday and potentially £50,000 if they manage to guess the Catchphrase on the top level.
Despite the (rather minor) changes, the new version of Catchphrase works quite well and is a welcome comeback to ITV.
When a contestant said something really stupid, Walker still insisted, "It's good, but it's not right.". Come on, Roy, it quite blatantly wasn't. Why couldn't you have said "I'm sorry, that was rubbish. Never grace me with your voice again. Ever."?
"Say what you see" was a bonus catchphrase around 1998. Amazingly, no-one got it. Additionally, "Catchphrase" was a catchphrase once... they got that, though.
In one outtake, Roy was caught out with a polo mint in his mouth. "I swallowed it and it came back up!"
Walker gave the wrong answer to a catchphrase that neither contestant had identified. He claimed it was 'Columbo' when it fact it was 'Blue Heaven'. How he managed to confuse the two completely different phrases is anyone's guess.
That bonus catchphrase in 1994:
Ooh, Mr. Chips!
(At the beginning of the show): "And now - please welcome your host - Mr Catchphrase himself - Rooooy Waaalker!"
"Say what you see"
"If you see it, say it, and you'll win it"
"It's good, but it's not right"
"We're taking out the bell"
"It's fast and furious in the Ready Money Round"
"Five seconds... here we go"
"The M square, that's the difficult one"
"What's Mr Chips doing?", or, "There's Chips - what's he doing?"
"There's no such expression"
"Watch your screens... here we go!"
"Keep pressing and guessing!"
"You can't win if you don't buzz in!"
"Lots of time - a minute - and if you get stuck, just say 'pass' and we can come back to it - the best of luck - call me a letter"
"Right - next!"
Devised by Stephen Radosh.
1986-94: Ed Welch
The opening titles from 1991.
1994-2002: Simon Etchell
A remixed version of Etchell's theme was used for the Weir and Curry version.
The opening titles from 2002.
2013: Marc Sylvan & Richard Jacques
In the original US show, popular gameshow mascot Mr Chips is called Herbie.
Roy Walker once recounted the ancedote of the show once running out of catchphrases. The second of the four shows being recorded that day had got through a huge number of phrases that neither contestant knew. The computer files were being flown in on disc from the US, so a bike was rushing to the airport to pick them up. During the filming break, one of the contestants kept nipping back to his dressing room. It turned out that he was taking swigs of booze, and eventually became legless. The reserve contestant was telephoned, but he put the phone down not realising that they needed him immediately and went back to working on his allotment. So a car was dispatched to find him in the gardens and take him back to the studio. But then that car broke down causing a delay, and to cap it all the bike bringing back the catchphrases also broke down.
Nick Weir revealed in an interview that, after he broke his leg, "My TV career flashed before me", but as it happened, he needn't have worried, because the show's producer came to visit him in hospital and told him that, if he (Weir) was happy to carry on with the show, so were they. Thus, he was reprieved - a shame, then, that his version of the show didn't last very long.
There was also a Catchphrase puzzle book, board game and a video featuring 500 catchphrases.