BBC 1, 30 March to 28 June 1991 (14 episodes)
They're friends! They're fast! They're Fast Friends!
Thankfully, it's not a Formula One race where the participants are the cast of the obviously hilarious American comedy Friends but a game show with Les Dawson in it - and plenty of small but noticeable similarities to later shows! Two teams of thirty people are in their little dens. Les asks who they have elected as their team captain and the captains duly come up on stage.
Each captain has got thirty seconds in order to select which four people are going to be in their team. The catch is, the captain has got to split the thirty seconds into four different time limits and must choose which friend will answer the question. If they're wrong, they'll have to select someone else. Quickly. If they do it within the time limit that friend gets to be on the team.
In the next round, the 'friends' and captains are all asked individual multi-choice questions. If the friends are right, they stay on the team, but if they are wrong, they are sent, as Les puts it, "off to the dump dock" - an early take on the Losers' Bench in Dog Eat Dog. (At first glance, it looked suspiciously as though there was a gunge tank above the seat concerned, but fortunately, the programme-makers had thought better of going down that route, which would only have increased the show's tackiness.) However, a lifeline is offered, whereby if the captain gets the answer right, the friend stays. The captain is never sent to the Dump Dock, but if he/she gets a question wrong, he/she has to select a friend to send there - rather like The Syndicate. The first captain to lose all his/her friends loses the game, but everyone gets a Fast Friends address book to take home.
In the final round, the winning captain is joined by all his/her friends once again and they are given a selection of answers to a question on the video wall. Only one of the answers is incorrect and this must be avoided in order to ensure victory. (Shades of Wipeout here.) Each of the friends suggests an answer and the captain decides whether to go with it or choose an alternative answer. If the team succeeds, the captain wins a holiday, while everyone wins a mini-TV and of course the address book. The mediocre prizes (especially the address book.) were obviously a take on Blankety Blank.
One amusing moment occurred on the show when a 'friend' was asked a question concerning a famous pianist. One of her three options was 'Les Dawson', so she said kindly, "Well, I'd like to say you, Les, but...", only for the adjudicator to accept that as her (incorrect) answer. Fortunately, once she had pointed out that she had meant to give a different answer, she was allowed to try again and thus got it right.
Fast Friends was quite a neat idea - indeed, the concept of teams being formed only at the time of the show was probably quite a novel one in the early 1990's, years before similar shows, such as Perfect Strangers and Who Dares Wins. Unfortunately, it never really worked, mainly because it was handled in a very cheap and tacky way, especially in terms of the set and prizes and this worked against the show as a whole. Also, while the first round was quite pleasantly active, the other two rounds were not very imaginative and had little to hold the attention - indeed, they amounted to little more than answering questions. Perhaps the cheapness of the show (in addition to choosing Les Dawson as host) was an attempt by the BBC to create a new version of Blankety Blank, but Fast Friends did not have enough going for it to achieve this. It's certainly fair to say that it wasn't much of a career move for Les!
(At the beginning of the show, to each of the teams in turn): "Who have you elected as your team leader?"
(to 'friends' who gave incorrect answers): "Alas - begone - off to the dump dock!"
"You've won .... a 'Fast Friends' address book!"
Based on a US format piloted in 1984. You can read about that version at the Game Show Pilot Light.