TVS for ITV, 1989-90
The game segment for Saturday morning kids show Motormouth. Actually, segments really as the game was played four times a show.
The show was set up in a dungeon and it was played by four teams of two kids. One half of each pair would sit on a gantry, the other half would be the unwilling victims of torture. Well not really, but this eight year old writer was terrified of it at the time!
Johnson asked the kids questions alternately between the kids on the gantry and kids facing torture. These were first on the buzzer questions, and the first one to buzz in had their team colour boomed out from on high. If they got it correct then all the other kids moved one step closer to "torture" - the giant fist would lower, the conveyor belt would move one step closer to the crushing machine, the vat with the kid trapped inside would fill up with custard, whatever. If you buzzed and got it wrong, you moved yourself closer to oblivion.
After four losses the kid would be tortured (crushed by a roller, plunge into a vat of custard, that sort of thing). Their partner "upstairs" would be invited to close the visor on their Knightmare-style helmet, to a call of "shut your face".
The winners of each round went on to win some prizes. One player would sit on the hot seat (hot because it was ostensibly over burning coals). They'd have a bucket lowered on their head and it would filled with the recorded sound of Big Fun or Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers. The other was in the stocks, and would be asked a simple Mr and Mrs-style question. If the players matched their answers, they'd win autographed prizes from the week's star guest; everyone got Motormouth goodies.
The final It's Torture segment of each show - and the climax to the whole Motormouth episode - was Gunge 'Em In The Dungeon. This was introduced by one child getting revenge on their sibling or friend by dropping gunge on them. The winners of the earlier segments then played for the weekly prize.
Again, questions alternated between team members on the buzzers, and each team had a certain amount of "weights". Correct or wrong answers meant taking or losing weights from other people or from the game, but if a team lost all of their weights than one team member does get their revenge after all, their partner gets dirty and they're eliminated from the game. The last one standing won a prize.
After twelve heats, the weekly winners came back to play again on the Christmas special, for the top prize of a week's skiing in the Alps.
Following the Christmas break, the producers changed tack, dropping It's Torture and promoting a highly modified Gunge 'Em In The Dungeon to full-time status. This began with two teams of four in two cages and buckets of gunge in the middle. Johnson asked buzz in questions, a correct answer meant earning one of two keys to open their cage. Opening their cage meant they could chuck the gunge at the kids in the other cage, and they all moved onto part two.
In part two the team now played against each other. Typically they would see a bunch of objects go past on a conveyor belt. Afterwards, Johnson pulled a big lever and the Hand of Gunge would randomly stop above one of the kids. If they could name one of the things from the belt, the hand would move on to the next person, and this would continue until somebody repeated an item, said something that wasn't there or ran out of time (this was usually accompanied by a The Moment of Truth style ticking clock and Johnson saying "The clock's on you!"). You can probably guess what happens then. The remaining kids would get a new list, and the game would repeat until there was one winner who won... something.
Gunge 'Em In The Dungeon had some brilliant sound effects. That is all.
Steve Johnson brought a manic energy to the quiz, a fast-talking evil-doing villain in a bright suit. Did he pause for breath? Not on this show. The children were not the stars of this game.
"Shut your face!"
"Ratchet, take him away."
Mousetrap which followed a year later. It couldn't be more different, and yet was absolutely ace.