Gameshow Losers



Harry Hill (narrator)


Olav Bjortomt and Stuart Maconie


Gary John Hughes


Yorkshire Television for ITV1, 8 September 2002


This one-hour documentary, aired on a Sunday afternoon in autumn 2002, had started life as a clip show about people who had appeared on game shows. During production, it took on a slant towards those who had tried and failed. The premise was never properly developed, as this potted guide shows.

Part 1: Duncan Bickley returns to Millionaire, where two years earlier he had lost £218,000 on a question about Amy Johnson's plane. "If I'd not guessed and been right, I wouldn't have forgiven myself... It brings you down. Not for losing the money, but because it's the end of the run."

Part 2: Barbara Galloway and her friend Eileen have appeared on every game show they can - from Going for Gold to Lucky Ladders. Though they've not won many prizes, they now tour the north-east, displaying their prizes and talking about life on a game show. One of Barbara's shows was Family Fortunes, which gives an excuse to see the man who answered "Turkey! Ha ha ha" to every question, and Mia and Matt from the Harris family. Not only did they fail to win a penny on the programme, but they botched the family prize section, and won prizes they didn't want. To add insult to injury, their opponents won the top prize, worth almost £20,000. And if that wasn't enough, the story of their appearance was filmed for It Shouldn't Happen to a Game Show Host, an LWT documentary from 2000.

David Webb sees other contestants as "people who stand in the way of you winning." We see him on Tarby's Frame Game, and he tells how he spotted the flaw in the second round of Raise the Roof. Bid a quid through the game, and you can't lose. Bob Holness was surprised that anyone was able to work it out.

David Stainer found that Win Beadle's Money could make him money, and he's been playing games ever since - Fifteen-to-One, The Weakest Link, and £64,000 on Millionaire.

Kevin and Ross played The Waiting Game, and thought they had a winning plan. Ross would buzz on 9 seconds if he knew, Kevin if he didn't. But on the final question, Kevin forgot to count, Ross didn't buzz in, and £16,000 went a-begging. They had to re-shoot the ending to get a take without expletives...

Part 3. Mastermind's devisor, Bill Wright, tells of his nightmare facing the Spanish inquisition, telling just name, rank, and number. Susan Reynolds, who lost the 1974 final, tells of how she had knocked herself out in the hotel room before the recording, but pressed on anyway.

John Brookes failed to score at all on Countdown - his nerves went after going down 18-0 in the opening round. And he had to put up with Gyles Brandereth (and Della Thompson, the Susie Dent of the 1980s.)

Inevitably, New Hall Cambridge's drubbing on University Challenge puts in an appearance. Abby Coleman and Sarah Davies recall their abject failure at the hands of Nottingham.

Part 4. Discussing Weakest Link, and Barbara Galloway says Anne Robinson makes Jeremy Paxman look like a pussycat. Mike Briggs, creator of Millionaire, says that Link is a show "dedicated to failure, with a bit of success at the end." Marcus Berkmann reckons it's like being hauled before the headmistress, and the Rev. David Smith had a bit of a grump after being kicked off the winners' special, then was surprised to see himself on the front of the papers. To add insult to the mix, the BBC offered him - a Reverend in the Church of England - counselling.

We see some of the classic errors they couldn't shoe-horn in anywhere else - "Handel", "The princess and the porker", and "Orgasm". The final contributor was Patrick Hoey, who left the Irish version of Millionaire with nothing, after asking the audience what a female rabbit was. Even host Gay Byrne was taken aback.


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