Small Talk




Ronnie Corbett


Reg Grundy Productions for BBC1, 24 July 1994 to 18 December 1996 (52 episodes in 4 series)


A bit like Child's Play in that adults attempt to guess how the children would respond to questions. Cute and p'rhaps a little bit sickly. The children were all featured on a 9-image video wall, playing either from their homes or their schools.

The first series was somewhat illogical because the contestants had to make predictions about the kids while they barely knew them. This was tweaked in later series so that a clip of the kid was shown first and then the contestant made a prediction before the answer was revealed.

In most of the series, the adults had to make a prediction as to whether or not most of the children knew the answer to a certain question - 10 points for whoever made the correct prediction. The adults then had choose a child in turn, and, after hearing said child's take on the overall subject matter, decide whether or not the child got the answer right. After each adult had chosen two children and been proved right or otherwise, the lowest-scoring adult was eliminated and went away with a 'Small Talk' trophy - "crafted by my own fair hand", according to Corbett - make of that what you will!

The second round continued in similar vein, except without the initial prediction of whether or not most of the children got the answer right. Once again, the lower-scoring adult was eliminated and they would win a BBC hamper - cue the inevitable jokes from Corbett about food from the BBC canteen.

After the second round, with only one adult contestant left, it was time for the endgame, in which Corbett asked said contestant to choose 5 out of the 9 children to 'play with', as he put it. The children would all have different questions asked of them and the adult would once again have to predict their answers with a view to making at least 500 points and thus win the big prize, i.e. a romantic weekend somewhere in Europe, such as Paris, Amsterdam or Rome.

How was this achieved? Well, all the children were concealing a card showing a certain number of points, mostly around the 50 or 100 mark, but there was one worth 250 points, and, even better, one worth the full 500. Inevitably, the children would have to reveal the points that the contestant failed to win in the event of answering incorrectly, usually with some comment along the lines of, "Boo hoo - you missed out on 100 points!" - but then the children whose responses had been correctly predicted would reveal the points the contestant had won, and it could only be hoped that our finalists had managed to find at least one of the top amounts, especially bearing in mind that four children were not being used in this round and there was every chance that two of them could have been concealing said high scores.

Anyway, if the contestant did achieve the 500 points, they would win the holiday. If not, at least there was a decent consolation prize: a night in a luxury London hotel for two, together with tickets to a top West End theatrical production and a slap-up dinner.

Key moments

The little girl who thought that the man on top of the column in Trafalgar Square was Nelson Mandela.

The child who thought an asp was a small snake that once bit Cleo Laine.

The girl who thought a "typhoon" was something posh people used to make calls.

The things the children used to call Corbett, such as "Mr Corset", "Mr Carpet" and "Mr Courgette".

The little Scottish boy who, after introducing himself, declared proudly, "I'm ten in England and I'm ten in Scotland - 'cos there's no time-difference!"


"And here's the star of the show... me!" - or, "And here's the man in!"

"Hello, boys and girls!" and, at the end of the show, "Bye, bye, boys and girls!"

(The children): "Hello, Mr Corbett!" and, "Bye, bye, Mr Corbett!"

"...And these children, our class for today, will either help or hinder our contestants in scoring points..."

"So let's meet the three contestants ready to challenge the Notorious Nine!"

"...So there they are, a glamorous and intelligent bunch - or are they?" (the adjectives were frequently varied).

"To all nine children, we asked the same simple question..."

"...We hate to lose you, but lose you we must..."

"So it's goodnight from me and it's goodnight from them!"

Not forgetting the most tortuous sign-off in game show history: "That's it from the big show with small people, where small words mean big rewards." (There were a number of variations on this catchphrase).


Based on a show that was hosted by Wil Shriner and aired on the US cable network The Family Channel (now ABC Family).

Theme music

Rick Turk


Reader Katie Sampford writes:

I was on Small Talk. They did something very cheeky and asked me when filming where I went on holiday, to which I said "Weymouth". They then changed it around and asked the question on the TV show as "What is the capital of France?"... to which I replied "Weymouth!"

Cheeky is understating it bigtime, wethinks.

Rather bizarrely, the children were not always, as Corbett used to call them, 'The Notorious Nine' as such, because there were quite often two of them on one screen, i.e. 'Richard and Simon' and 'Stephanie and Stephanie'. On some occasions, the kids concerned were twins, which was logical enough, but why did they otherwise have to have two kids operating as one, even if they were close friends? The logic (or otherwise) of this system could certainly have been called into question on at least one occasion, whereby one of the two gave the right answer, but was persuaded to change their mind by the other one - it seemed highly unfair to get the contestant's hopes up, only to immediately dash them.

The first and second series aired on Sundays at 7pm. The BBC originally had a schedule plan for the first series in which after the first six episodes, there would be a two week break before the last six episodes (18 September to 23 October 1994, we reckon). The best-laid plans of mice and schedulers went awry, the show came back after just one week away - and promptly went off air after episode 9 on 25 September 1994. The last three episodes of the first series were shown directly after the second series, eventually going out from 6 to 20 August 1995.

The third and fourth series were screened back-to-back on Wednesdays at 7pm with a very different show, namely Mastermind and the BBC produced an amusing trailer for both shows as a result. Magnus Magnusson's voice would be heard saying, "May I have our first contender, please?" and a little boy would appear and announce, "My name's Jamie, I'm six years old and I'm a genius". Magnus would then ask, "Occupation?" and a little girl would say, "I can do a magic trick - watch!" (This 'trick' was putting a pencil on her top lip as a moustache - and the pencil duly fell off, surprise, surprise!) Finally, Magnus would ask, "And your chosen specialised subject?" and a rather serious little boy would say, "Er - I'm not sure about that question." A clever way of trailering two very contrasting shows and certainly a cut above the average BBC trailer.

Web links

Wikipedia entry

Opening titles from the BBC Motion Graphics Archive


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