Mike Reid (1975-76, 78-81)

Leslie Crowther (1977)

Stan Boardman (1977-78)

Bill Oddie (The Saturday Banana inserts - 1978-79)

Metal Mickey (one episode in 1980)

Gary Crowley (Poparound)

Johnny Vegas (2002 special)


On-screen adjudicators:
Jude Hackett (1975-78, 79)
Bill Gamon (1979)
Tim Edmunds (1980-81)
Garry Rice (Poparound, also question-setter)

James Montgomery (1975-78)
Christine Webber (1978)
Bill Gamon (1979)
Eve Thomas (1980-81)


Southern for ITV, 2 September 1975 to 7 September 1981 (100 episodes in 12 series + 3 specials)

as Poparound: Central for ITV, 19 June 1985 to 4 June 1986 (12 episodes in 2 series)

BBC One, 13 July 2002 (as part of Sport Relief)


Runaround was a very fast moving quiz with eye-searingly bright set.

At the start of the show, we were introduced to the ten children in the game, with the usual kiddie's mini-CV of name, age, where from, hobbies and interests, complete with a cheesy "thumbs up" to the camera usually. Five of the children came from one school, the other five from another. Roughly half the audience came from each school, ensuring there was a loud rivalry throughout the game.

Would you buy a used car from this man? It's Mike Reid

The host would read out a general knowledge question, to which there were three answers offered on panels at the back of the studio, written in a glorious curvy 1970s font. He would then say "G-g-g-g-go!!", which meant that the kids could run from their little semi-circular home base across to one of three big circles on the floor.

1, 2 or 3 - come on, bet bet bet!

Very straightforward so far, but here's the clever bit. Having made their choice, they would have a couple of seconds (at the most) to "Runaround" by leaping into one of the adjacent circles should they wish to do so. Hence, you could "give your opponents the runaround", in case you think someone is just trying to follow what you did. During this bit, the lights would dim right down, and the correct answer was then revealed by the appropriate arrow lighting up. There was also an almighty computer-ish sound effect which said the correct answer, which sounded like a sound engineer had accidentally left all the echo and reverb knobs on full blast ("One-ne-ne, one-ne-ne")

Three's a charm

Right answers gained you one point (indicated by a yellow ball), unless you were the only person in the correct circle (in which case you got a red, two-point ball).

A wrong answer meant you had to go into the dungeon and stay there until only one child was left. The balls were placed in clear tubes beside each contestant's semi-circular pod.

The set of Runaround

Apart from the usual Q&A stuff, guests were brought into the studio to either do a little performance (e.g. a Chinese Dragon troupe) or show off a whizzy bit of kit (sports cars etc.) Further questions would be based around what you'd just seen. In later series these usually included a musical performance.

At the end of the game, the balls would be counted up, and the child with the most was given the first choice at the prize stand (usually the star prize of a bike or some such).

The show was proud to be unpolished. Bad camera angles, confusing shot direction, contributors walking through the shots, and they had lots of smoky vehicles to choke the studio audience. Mike Reid could never read what was on his question cards, and had to be corrected by the adjudicator on almost every episode. The show's quality control was exemplified by its last ever question: how many episodes of Runaround have there been? They said 94: our research says 103.

Key moments

The excruciating wind-up merry-go-round music they used over the credits and while they were bringing things on to the set during early series.

The Christmas Special from 1980 was set on a special plastic surface meant to replicate a skating rink, with the contestants on ice skates. It came complete with a penguin, reindeer, Madness, and - of course - Big Daddy. When the episode was repeated by TalkingPictures TV, it was prefaced with a warning that it included "outdated racial representation".

A special episode from 1981 was a Techno Special with Metal Mickey as co-host, from The Metal Mickey Show and made early use of an early form of Steadicam, especially hired in by Southern's engineers for the occasion.



"Runaround... now!"


Merrill Heatter, who the credits misspelled as Merril Heatter, and Bob Quigley.

Theme music

Jugg Music

Opening titles


Questions verified by Encyclopedia Britannica.

According to Mike Reid in the 2004 book The Dream Factory, Southern brought the American format, recorded and broadcast the first episode within just eight weeks.

Recording on the first show began at 4pm and ended five and a half hours later owing to many problems, particularly with the animal guests (namely a horse and fifty sheep). It was after this first show that Reid and director Colin Nutley decided the programme should be shot in one continuous take. Thus, many Runaround recordings took just half an hour to complete.

At one point, the production team recorded up to 21 programmes per week.

Gary Crowley (yes, the bloke who presented The Beat) hosted a spin-off called Poparound based on music questions, and using gold and silver disks as the scoring tokens.

One of the directors was J. Nigel Pickard, later a supremo at Children's BBC and later grown-up telly on ITV.

At one point, Runaround claimed a 74% share of the viewing audience; its typical opposition was an Open University programme on BBC2, and a badly-dubbed European drama on BBC1.

By the time Runaround had its second anniversary on air, it was already into its fifth series.

Host Mike Reid was criticised for being nasty to children who shouted out the answers. He said in 2006, "I had to keep them quiet, otherwise we wouldn't have a show. I was aggressive. I was not nice to the kids, but that was just part of me being Mike Reid the comedian, because when I was growing up, there was all the skinheads about and everything, and as a compere I had to shut-up everyone in the audience before we could put the show on."

TV Brain tells us that many of the episodes have been wiped from the archives with 33 of them surviving. These are the episodes that survived:

  • Series 8: Episode 4
  • Series 9: Episodes 5 & 9
  • The 1979 Christmas Special
  • Series 10: Episodes 1, 3-5, 7-8 & 10-13
  • Series 11: Episodes 1-7 & 9-14
  • Series 12: All 6 episodes

A shortened version of the game was usually played live on The Saturday Banana, Southern's Bill Oddie-fronted Saturday morning kids show, which ran for one-and-a-half series in certain regions (the second delayed by the prolonged ITV strike of 1979 and shown only on Southern and Anglia). Likewise, just one full edition of The Saturday Banana - including its shortened version of Runaround - from November 1978 is known to exist.

From July 2020, Talking Pictures TV (who own most of the Southern Television archive) - having first aired the two Christmas Specials in December 2017 - aired the surviving episodes, with a disclaimer that "Please be advised the following episode has been classified as a PG." Surely if they were happy for the kids to take part


Runaround annuals and quiz books were published.

Web links

Watched It!

Wikipedia entry

See also

Weaver's Week takes a close look at Runaround on Ice, the 1980 Christmas special.


A Runaround contestant (with scoring tube in background).
Contestants about to give their opponents the runaround
The correct contestants pick up a yellow ball.
The pile of prizes
The kid chooses the expensive telly. No surprise there.


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