Paul Daniels (1994-7)
Bob Monkhouse (1998-2002)
Kara Noble (1994-5),
Charles Nove (1995-7),
George Layton (1998),
Tom Edwards (1998-2002)
Action Time for BBC 1, 25 May 1994 to 3 January 1997 (72 episodes in 3 series)
Action Time and BBC Manchester for BBC One, 16 February 1998 to 3 December 2002 (423 episodes in 6 series)
It's on the BBC, it's a light-hearted quiz game involving three teams, ergo it must be presented by P. Daniels esquire.
Actually, our Paul is a canny lad and knows a thing or two about trivia. So he was well-suited to this engaging format that offered something to the general audience and pub quiz bores alike.
A screen of sixteen possible answers (to a question such as "Which of these inventions were discovered by accident?") were shown - eleven were correct, the first awarding £10, then £20, etc. up to £110 for the last answer. The other five answers were incorrect, and hitting one of these so-called "Wipeouts" lost all your money from the whole game. Ouch. On their turn, a player must have at least one go at picking an answer from the board. If they manage to avoid a Wipeout, they can continue picking answers for as long as they wish, until they either hit a Wipeout and lose their entire score, or pass control to the next player, thereby protecting their loot (at least until their next turn). Play continues until only Wipeouts or only correct answers remain on the board. Three boards are played in round 1.
During the Paul Daniels-era, there were also prizes to be won - these could either be decent prizes hidden behind correct answers, or booby-prizes hidden behind the "Wipeouts". Every booby-prize was relevant in some way to the incorrect answer. (For example, a contestant who thought that The Grand Canal was a part of the body was given a Cornetto, a contestant who thought that Noel Edmonds was born on Christmas Day was given an inflatable Mr Blobby - poor thing! and one male contestant who thought Timmy Mallett had never had a No.1 hit won a Itsy Bitsy Teensy Weensy Yellow Polkadot Bikini!) This was a nice touch and it was a shame that it was ditched when Bob Monkhouse took over the show. Otherwise, losing contestants went away with a Wipeout paperweight or umbrella ("a brolly, by golly!", as Daniels used to say), depending on the series.
The two contestants with the most money at the end of round 1 went on to play in the Wipeout Auction. From 12 options, players bid on how many correct answers they could pick out (up to the maximum of 8). Hitting a wipeout allowed your opponent to steal the frame if they could find just one correct answer. Winning two frames got you through to the final.
In a pleasantly active end game, the finalist had to select 6 correct answers from the 12 options offered within 60 seconds in order to win a holiday (or 'Your Wipeout Wings', as Daniels would call it). Like one of the famous games in the The Price is Right (the 'Race Game') the contestant could hit a button to make the computer reveal how many correct answers they had until either they ran out of time or found all six. Paul Daniels did the running on the contestant's behalf on several occasions, such as once, when they had a wheelchair-bound winner, and another, when the winner was pregnant and therefore preferred not to risk running. The contestants were told in advance where the holiday would be during the Daniels-era, but when Monkhouse took over, they could choose where they wanted to go - provided that it was within Europe.
In an act of pure television terrorism, the show was given a quite dreadful "new look" in 1998 to make sure that it looked cheap enough to justify its presence on afternoon telly. Gone was the boogie-woogie music, and in came a non-specific synth-fest which sounded like someone had added just one too many beats into the percussion machine. Gone was the lovely blue and yellow logo, to be replaced by bog-standard ticks and crosses for the correct and wrong answers. Gone was part of the first round (and, with it, the quick pace of the format), only to be replaced with inane, time-wasting chat. Also, due to the colour-scheme, the new board was very difficult (for viewers at least) to read - a problem that had never occurred during the Daniels-era.
If further evidence of the cheapening of the show were needed, this was the first time Bob Monkhouse in his 2-zillion year career had done a daytime show. His presence here was as slick as ever, but far too often he annoyingly gave the answers away before the computer screen revealed them. Some celebrity shows were later shown, but these were not enough to excuse a messed-up revamp on this grand a scale.
A contestant once missed out on completing the endgame by about an eighth of a second - she'd got all six correct answers but didn't quite get to the button in time. It was so close, they had to prove it by showing a freeze-frame of the player's hand just above the button with the clock showing 00 behind her.
The programme made a considerable effort to include disabled contestants. A sign language interpreter was alongside Paul on one episode for the benefit of a contestant who could speak but was deaf. Another wheelchair-bound contestant went on to win the holiday with Paul running to push the button for him. Paul also stood in as the runner when the contestant was pregnant, had an injury or was otherwise a bit doddery to run 5 yards. This never seemed to occur during the Monkhouse-era - one suspects that Bob would have been unable to do the running, as he was in poor health at the time - so presumably, they would have drafted in a studio runner had it been necessary.
Some of the more technical rounds used props to explain the answers. Barbie dolls were used to explain ballet moves and ice skating, while a bloke in a suit of armour allowed us to see what a gorget and vambrace look like. Paul also donned hairstyle wigs and hats for rounds on those topics. In addition, Paul used talking cuddly parrots and toucans for certain rounds, as he had previously done on Every Second Counts. The cuddly birds could always be relied on to (deliberately, no doubt) keep on talking when they shouldn't have.
The bloke who won the holiday with 56 seconds left on the clock, after an easy-peasy question on Charles Dickens novels. It might have been 57 seconds had he not needed to press one button twice.
It was always dead exciting when a player racked up hundreds of pounds without hitting a single Wipeout. One contestant in the Daniels era got as far as £1,110 (by the end she was passing after every single answer) but inevitably failed to win the holiday.
Bob Monkhouse, after meeting the contestants, would say to the audience: "Would you please make my guests feel at home?" (ie give them a round of applause).
Monkhouse used to end every show with a 'Monkhouse Motto' (a witty quotation), finishing with: "That just wipes me out! 'Til next time!"
Paul Daniels (talking about the holiday): "You've got a minute to win it" and, when explaining the end game: "Deselect before you reselect - switch one off before you switch one on".
Monkhouse (during the Wipeout Auction): "Away with the wipeouts!"
Monkhouse (just before the end game): "Would you please join me at the game control? Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of (whoever)"
Daniels (on certain series): "You've won a brolly, by golly!"
Based on an American show of the same name.
1994-7: David Arch
1998-2002: Simon Etchell
Bob Monkhouse, who was not in the best of health at the time, found the five-a-day recording schedule somewhat hectic. At the end of the first day of recording, in his diary he wrote: I am wiped out.'
For the end game, Monkhouse used to call the time-limit "The Monkhouse Minute" and the button the contestants had to hit "Bob's Button". This was, if anything, rather unnecessarily gimmicky - after all, Daniels didn't see fit to 'personalise' those features himself, so there wasn't really much reason for Monkhouse to do so - however much the public may have loved him. Having said that, though, Daniels did call the holiday tickets that the contestants were playing for 'Your Wipeout Wings', but that seemed far more appropriate.
In the last few years of the Monkhouse daytime version of the programme, it was not filmed in front of a live studio audience. In fact, as well as canned laughter they once added a digital audience to the opening shots. The effect was rumbled when someone wrote in to Points of View to say how remarkably similar the audience was on every show...
The poor quality but interesting clip below comes from the US original. This contestant has a hack for the end game which won't work perfectly in all circumstances but it's certainly a very clear and straightforward way of trying all the necessary combinations:
US bonus game hack
The answers to the picture questions: TROT and SPIDER can be prefixed by "Dog". Kenneth Baker never advertised anything on television - the correct answers were Heath, Steel, Gormley, and Brown. And Mel Blanc's work includes Messrs. Bunny, Spaceley, Rubble, Caveman, Gonzales, Coyote, Woodpecker, Martian, and Fudd.
The show is not to be confused with the more recent (and far wackier) show, Total Wipeout.
First few minutes of the very first episode (The Challenge TV cutdown version)
Part 1 of a 1994 episode (The full BBC version)