The Great Egg Race
Brian Cant and Charlotte Allen (1979)
Johnny Ball (1980)
Hilary Henson (1980-1)
Charlotte Allen (1982)
Heinz Wolff (1983-6)
Lesley Judd (1984)
Howard Stableford (guest presenter)
Head judge: Heinz Wolff
BBC2, 2 January 1979 to 12 September 1986 (68 episodes in 8 series)
The Great Egg Race Rides Again BBC Choice, 1 April to 8 July 2000 (13 re-edited episodes)
Teams of university boffins would create weird and frequently Heath-Robinson gadgets out of shockingly scant apparatus in order to crack problems like building bridges to support someone's weight, burglar alarm detectors that people couldn't avoid triggering, or indeed the weekly challenge of transporting an egg over some great distance without breaking it.
The programme went through a number of different formats. Originally it was studio based and featured teams trying to race home-made machines as fast as possible without cracking their egg-like cargo.
Meanwhile, Professor Heinz Wolff would set three other teams challenges to solve. Over the years, the egg racing was dropped and it became a purely challenge-based programme. Later series broke out of the studio, with challenges varying from building a wave machine to taking a photograph of an oil rig using a kite.
Overall, this show was a small-scale triumph, mainly due to presence of miscellaneous dear heart and general populariser of science Professor Heinz Wolff. He brought a sense of humour to the show, not to mention his distinctive Germanic vowels. Each episode was marked by him and a guest judge using a ludicrously back-of-the-envelope marking scheme. In the later series he hosted the show as well.
Essentially, this was the grand daddy of later shows such as Scrapheap. Remastered 15-minute editions ran for a while on BBC Choice.
Once, the teams had to build a combination lock for a door. One team built a lock that was so complex that even they couldn't crack it...
A music clip is available from the TV Cream site.
On one episode, Heinz was surprised by Tomorrow's World presenter Howard Stableford. Heinz was made one of the team members for a "boffin's team" that was required because that particular programme required four teams (rather than the usual three) in a knockout competition.
Thirteen episodes can be viewed online as part of the BBC Archive (UK only)