All-time Poll

2002 was a momentous year in many ways. Apple introduced the Windows iPod. Fred Perry beat Bjorn Borg to win his eighth Wimbledon title. Antarctica celebrated its 800th birthday. And Queen Victoria invented jam.

2002 was also the year that first posed the vitally important question: just what the chuff is the greatest UK game show of all time? But that was four years ago, and four years is an awful long time in television. Not as long as eight years, admittedly, but certainly longer than two. And to celebrate hitting the big time, we felt it was time to test the barometer again.

You voted, and here it is - the 2006 Best Shows of All Time list!

If you can imagine the most exciting Eurovision voting ever and then multiply it by seven, you'd only have half the excitement provided by watching this poll. So you should multiply it by 14, really. Put on your best Gary Davies-style jacket, stick on The Wizard by Paul Hardcastle and prepare to get excited as we tell you what our survey said.

In the last poll our little descriptions concentrated on what makes a show good. This time round, we're quite interested in what's happened to the show since the last chart and why a show might have placed where in comparison to last time. To this end, you might be interested to know that the top 30 includes ten shows going up, twelve going down, one non-mover and ten new entries. Of those ten new entries, only two weren't around when we last conducted the poll in 2002. Have we reached a bit of a stagnant industry?


30 - Telly Addicts

UP 5 places on the last chart, we wonder if the recent Noel influence has prompted a few more people to vote for it. Nevertheless, let us not forget it was a very solid television quiz right up until the point they stopped wanting to be quite so cosy in 1998.

29 - The Price is Right

DOWN 9 places which is possibly surprising given a triumphant return on Gameshow Marathon and with news that Joe Pasquale is hosting an afternoon daily version. As much as we love Brucie, we wish Challenge would buy up some of the older Crowther episodes. Come on Challenge - give us what we want!

28 - University Challenge

DOWN 17 places with a complete collapse of the quiz vote (Mastermind, for example, finished in 60th - down 50 places). This is despite strong regular showings on Monday nights and a critical resurgence following a few years in the bad-question mire.

27 - Wanted

DOWN 18 places, this show rather remains ahead of its time and suspect it'd be much bigger in today's reality friendly climate. The lack of phone boxes these days would force a complete rethink on the exciting live endgame. Since the last chart, it was almost bought back for a week as a charity show for Children in Need but it fell through and a similar show invented by film stars Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, The Runner, may be airing in downloadable form on Yahoo soon. And Swedish funsters Strix have made something which sounds spookily similar recently.

26 - Have I Got News for You

Another faller, DOWN 5 places. Since the last chart, Angus Deayton was sacked and his role has been replaced by a series of guest hosts. This has held the ratings up as people are keen to see how good someone is at hosting the show, but critics would seem to prefer the show to go back to having one regular host, and preferably Deayton.

25 - Eurovision Song Contest

Ha! Our first New Entry is probably the oldest show of the lot. Many people mourn the lack of variety in the songs these days (which tend towards dancy things sung in English) and that the eastern bloc have far too much power. But Terry Wogan is still as amusing as ever, and his protege Paddy O' Connell commentates the semi-finals with a certain charm. The Eurovision is also the top gameshow social event of the year, with only the Big Brother Final coming close.

24 - Catchphrase

UP 16 places, which is perhaps surprising given how lifeless the daily version with Mark Curry felt (along with its cunning plan of not mentioning the words "pounds" or "points" anywhere to make people think it was still big money). However, repeats of the imperial Roy Walker era on Challenge have rated well, and since last year they've been showing unneccessary but alright Nick Weir episodes as well.

23 - Jungle Run

New Entry, the history of which is a bit like an allegory of The Ugly Duckling. When it began it was a Crystal Maze rip-off which hadn't quite thought its ideas through properly, now it's a Crystal Maze rip- off done with a lot of style and elan. Clever ideas in cause and effect (there's no more locking people in open bits of jungle, now we have sophisticated Heath Robinson-esque security systems, water that gets too hot to swim in, exploding petrol cans and so on), neat takes on older ideas (like the maze with moving walls) and Michael Underwood hosts it superbly, caring but just detached enough to be able to criticize in an amusing manner.

22 - Fun House

Another New Entry - kids shows have done very well this time round, and seeing as that's where most of the original and inventive ideas are at the moment, quite right too. We'd still like a go in the Funhouse. We have reason to believe that the show's cancellation had little to do with ratings and everything to do with ITV trying to get away with not paying the licensing money which the original creators didn't know about for ten years - it would certainly explain the similar-but-not-nearly-as-good Twister which followed soon after. Since Finders Keepers has made a successful return, isn't it not time to bring back Pat, Melanie and Martina (who must be in their thirties now) for another go?

21 - Chain Letters

Bafflingly UP 9 places on the last chart despite having no televisual representation whatsoever. Clearly there's something enduring about its simple game mechanic and regular changing of hosts.

20 - Survivor

DOWN 2 places for the daddy of modern reality television. Back in the day it would pull in 5-6 million viewers and be considered a disappointment. These days, 5-6 million viewers counts as an ITV megahit. For fear of asking for more reality television, we do wonder if it's worth another bash, seeing as Press Ganged is probably never going to see the light of day. And we'd hope they'd make it a little more pacey.

19 - Bullseye

A New Entry and you'd definitely have to think it's the big winner of the recent Peter Kay nostalgia boom. Recently bought back (in a quite dull fashion, actually) for an episode of Gameshow Marathon, it had actually been broadcast on a nightly post-pub basis on Granada Plus (now ITV 2 or 3, we forget) for ages beforehand and now finds itself doing great guns in the ratings on Challenge. So much so that they're making entirely original episodes with Tony Green but without Jim Bowen. The mind boggles.

18 - The Apprentice

New Entry. 2005 was a big year for business-based gameshows on television with this and Dragons' Den providing a lot of food for thought and ratings for BBC2. Our version of Donald Trump was Alan Sugar (we're not quite sure they have the same cultural equivilency, but we'll let it pass for now) who appears to have done quite well out of it - we thought the show would flop horribly, but it was a grower as it turns out.

17 - Family Fortunes

DOWN 2 places. Eh-errrr! There's still a lot of love around for the enduring survey quiz which has done quite well in the chart despite a lack of coverage - Challenge TV has gone from a 24 hour Family Fortunes channel to a 24 Hour Bullseye channel these days. However, it was certainly one of the better episodes of Gameshow Marathon, and Vernon Kay's bringing it back in celebrity form sometime in 2006.

16 - Fifteen-to-One

DOWN 9 places. Hard quiz which was bought to an end after fifteen years in 2003 and it's taken years for Channel4 to find a decent replacement, and it's interesting that that show isn't a hard quiz at all but pure light entertainment in the form of Deal or No Deal. We could probably do with a few more hard quizzes, really.

15 - Big Brother

DOWN 7 places. I bet you weren't expecting that, were you? The show that's pretty much single-handedly justifying E4 has had a bit of a wild ride these last few years - everyone thought BB4 was a bit dull, everyone thought BB5 was really great, everyone thought BB6 was a bit too bitchy... given the up-down-up-down nature of Big Brother's, BB7 and BB9 should be the best yet in theory, with BB8 relying a bit too much on the ideas of BB7. Has been irking the purists in recent years as the focus has shifted substantially from being a straight personality contest to throwing many different situations at our contestants and seeing how they deal with them as a group and as individuals.

14 - Winning Lines

UP 24 places - but it's not this year's highest climber! Solid Saturday night performer that's easily the best of the National Lottery quizzes but sadly seems to have been replaced by Millionaire Manor, or Jet Set On The Cheap. The Wonderwall is still one of the best endgames ever. Still, at least Philip Schofield is still on Saturday night telly with Dancing on Ice, eh?

13 - Interceptor

A non-mover! The fanbase holds it up despite not having been on television in fifteen years. To be honest, we'd dread a remake of this. Since the last chart it's been repeated on Challenge TV numerous times, usually at weekends. Sean O' Kane has been most recently spotted in Taggart.

12 - The Weakest Link

DOWN 8 places. Reaching the real meat of the chart now, last time round Weakest Link lost out to Millionaire by a single vote - this time round Millionaire received more than double Link's votes. Despite the fact its star isn't really in the ascendancy any more, it remains one of BBC2's most popular shows, outpointing every other channel in the 5:15 timeslot. It's influence appears to be on the wane also with nasty hosts and voting out losing popularity with warmth and "old school" ideas being very "in" at the moment. Nonetheless, one of the most influential shows of the early 2000s.

11 - Fort Boyard

UP 3 places. This came as a bit of a surprise. Since our last poll the show finished on Channel 5 and made a surprising and successful visit to Challenge TV, a twenty episode run which nobdy saw coming and a wonderful entertainment documentary series in Fort Boyard Takes On The World with Tim Vine, which was one of the funniest shows of 2004 which nobody watched. At the time of writing it's still going in its native France, but the amount of countries filming there is dwindling - in being one of the first European shows to utilize fear as a legitimate game mechanic it was years ahead of the game, but whereas other shows have come along and been more extreme, Fort Boyard has stayed resolutely on the level. Perhaps we're due another go soon.

10 - Gladiators

Did this really not make the list last time? This is probably the Highest Old New Entry then. Doubtless not hindered by recent prime time repeats on Challenge, nonetheless this was one of ITV's most important Saturday night shows during the nineties, and despite the fact it's been the best part of ten years since new episodes were made on terrestrial television, people would still get the references. It was always quite comforting to know it was on, even though we stopped watching it during the last couple of years. And it's still terrifically exciting to see someone get a red ball during Swing Shot. Was quite recently remade in Sweden, of all places.

9 - Treasure Hunt

UP 19 places which is quite interesting in that we can't refer to the Challenge Effect for this show, despite it being a mainstay of the channel during its early years. The recent-ish BBC2 remake was a critical success even if it didn't quite get the viewers to match. Shame, really.

8 - Countdown

UP 4 places. Of all the shows in the top thirty, this is the one which has had the most turbulent time of it in the last four years - first of all increasing to forty-five minutes in length, which despite some people thinking is a bit too much, doesn't seem to have the hurt the show really (although we wish they'd use the old Final (and French) style formula of two letters games then a numbers game as the current system is rather unbalanced). Complete unexpected tragedy when host for 23 years, Richard Whiteley, sadly died in 2005. For a lot of people, Whiteley was pretty symbiotic with the show itself so they took their time in deciding on Desmond Lynam to replace him as host, which despite a bumpy start appears to have settled in nicely. Possibly thanks in part to Deal or No Deal as well as the new host, Countdown appears to be in the ascendancy and it's now rating in the Channel 4 Top 30 for the first time in years. It's also now on Saturdays!

7 - Knightmare

DOWN 1 place but still a very good showing for the kid's classic. As ever, there's always lots of talk of a remake, particularly using Televirtual's new Virtual Reality technology. But critics who saw the pilot floating round the net didn't think the graphics had nearly the charm of the hand-drawn originals, that aiming it for the younger end of the market lost a lot of the show's atmosphere and that the new gameplay mechanic of having the Dungeoneer being able to see took away the entire communication aspect of the game which was so important to the original.

6 - Blockbusters

UP 36 places, it's our highest climber! This very nearly finished in the top three as well, but a flurry of votes near the closing date pushed it back a bit. Clearly, has the Challenge Effect going for it. We're not quite sure what else to say.

5 - Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

DOWN 2 places. This really hasn't done too badly for a show many consider to be a bit stagnant. It's importance to the television world is extraordinary, since significantly ramping up the prizemoney, other shows had to find a gimmick of their own to compete which, along with Survivor, has rather changed the nature of television a bit. In the last four years we've had the Ingram scandal and several new millionaires, and now props up ITV's Saturday evening schedule with steady, if unspectacular ratings.

4 - The Krypton Factor

UP 1 place. Yay! Surely it's time for a remake now? Everyone got very excited in 2005 when (as he was then) the BBC's Wayne Garvie suggested it should be bought back after the success of "old school" formats like Strictly come Dancing. There hasn't been a show on television to measure all round ability to touch it since it was last on our screens over ten years ago now.

3 - Deal or No Deal

Highest New Entry! We know that whenever there's a poll for the "best ever" anything, recent breakout hits tend to do really well - possibly a bit too well. We're somehat relived this hasn't gone straight to number one after three months on air, it will be interesting to see how it does in the next game show general election in 2010. Part reality, part mathematics, part psychology - all Deal or No Deal! Simultaneously the most brainless game on the television ("it's all luck!"), and yet also the game that lends itself best to hard mathematical and statistical analysis, despite the fact that it's not about maths at all and really about people. It's provided a massive fillip to the Channel 4 schedule and appears to be pulling Countdown up with it.

2 - The Mole

DOWN 1 place. Ooh, so close, and in its defence it polled a far higher proportion of top marks in the people who voted for it than the show that beat it this time round. Our first taste of Mole action was actually Hugill and Davey trying to drum up support for it on The Big Breakfast and Johnny and Denise not quite "getting" it. But we got it, and it will always be remembered as Channel 5's greatest shows, even if it was more of a critical success than a commercial one. Whatsmore, the Brit show is probably more responsible for having more of its game ideas nicked by other countries than any other version other than the original Belgian, which isn't bad for a show which only lasted two series. It's not been repeated since it was first broadcast which possibly makes its high position even more remarkable. It is only ever spoken about in hushed tones these days.

1 - The Crystal Maze

UP 1 place. This was always going to be there or thereabouts, wasn't it? Today a backbone of the Challenge schedule, more people put this in their lists than any other show. We're not quite sure what else there is to say, really - it's been the clear influence on a number of shows on this list (despite itself being influenced by Fort Boyard). Was almost remade as a Children's ITV/Challenge TV co-production but apparently fell through when CITV decided they wanted to change their focus. And now it's been voted the best UK game show ever!

Bubbling under

They weren't quite good enough for the top 30, but here's a salute to the also-rans. The not-quites. The almosts.

31 - NE QI
32 - NE Ask the Family (original version, natch)
33 - NE The Generation Game
34 - NE Challenge Anneka
35 - NE Strictly Come Dancing
36 - NE The Adventure Game
37 - Down 21 The People Versus
38 - NE Raven
39 - NE Brainteaser
40 - NE You Bet!
41 - NE Pop Idol
42 - Down 25 The Vault
43 - Down 9 Sale of the Century
44 - NE Finders Keepers
45 - Down 9 Play Your Cards Right
46 - NE I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!
47 - Down 10 Going for Gold
48 - NE Show me the Money
49 - NE Now Get Out of That
50 - NE 19 Keys

Results of top 50 by primary channel

And finally, which is the top game show channel of the moment?

Scoring system: 10/9/8/7/6 points for 1st/2nd/3rd/4th/5th place, 5 points for top 10, 4 points for top 15, 3 points for top 20, 2 points for top 30, 1 point for top 50.

The scoring for our previous poll in 2002 is given alongside the current results. The Eurovision Song Contest is not allocated to any channel.

Channel Points scored (Points in 2002)
ITV 54 (50)
Channel 4 38 (40)
five 15 (16)
BBC ONE 14 (19)
BBC TWO 12 (14)
Challenge 0 (1)

And what do we conclude? ITV maintain their healthy lead over all the others, although some of the heavy scoring comes from their healthy pedigree in childrens programming during the 1980s. There is some playoff here as they've just announced plans to cut back on kids shows to bring back The Price is Right. So some quid pro quo there, whatever that means.

But isn't it a bit sad to see the supposed nation's favourite channel, BBC ONE, slip to a lowly fourth position? Documentaries and reality shows are virtually killing off all signs of gameshowdom on Auntie, with only the in-vogue variety programmes keeping a grip on the points. C'mon BBC, let's have the 7pm quizzers back and at least a good lunchtime game. And maybe a partner to give The Weakest Link a rest from time to time might be no bad thing, no?

See also

If frankly you haven't got enough of this polling malarkey, there's always the latest results from the Poll of the Year, not to mention (except we will) the All Time Top 30 Hosts. Avante!


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