The Balloon Game



William McElwee (1953-4)

Magnus Magnusson (1975-6)


Robert McKenzie (head judge, 1975-6)


BBC-tv, 23 October 1953 to 10 March 1954 (4? episodes)

BBC2, 23 May 1975 to 2 August 1976 (13 episodes in 2 series)


H-h-hold the phone! Yes folks, it's the balloon debate on TV! That must have saved a few quid on format fees.

For those of you that don't know, this is a traditional debating game where people from history are said to be in a deflating balloon that can only withstand the weight of one person. Each balloonist (member of the public representing a giant from history) must justify their existence based on their achievements to date. A vote is taken and the loser is chucked out of the balloon. Repeat until one person remains.

The series used debators from schools and colleges.


Notional occupants of the balloon in the 1976 series included Beowulf, Robespierre and Abraham Lincoln; W.G. Grace, Nell Gwyn and Rasputin; Lord Byron, Geoffrey Chaucer and Oscar Wilde; and Flora MacDonald, Robert Owen and William McGonagall.


1970s version produced by Mastermind devisor Bill Wright.

See also

A Word in Your Era


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