Televisual Gems of the 1980s: Connections

Granada Television’s forgotten teatime quiz show

There hasn’t been a Televisual Gems of the 1980s post for a while on East of the M60. To commemorate ITV’s departure from Quay Street, our second entry came from Granadaland.

Connections was a teatime quiz show hosted by Sue Robbie. Her previous roles at Granada Television included continuity announcements and voiceover work for schools’ programmes. She also presented First Post and co-hosted TX with Tony Slattery. The latter was launched in September 1985 as a Saturday morning autumn replacement for Number 73 and lasted till December the same year.

Connections on the other hand was more successful than Granada’s last attempt at Saturday morning television. It ran for five years, from the Spring of 1985. Whilst Blockbusters had a break, it would occupy the 5.15pm slot prior to ITN’s News At 5.45. It wasn’t fully networked by ITV till 1989, by which time Sue Robbie had been replaced by Britain’s favourite Ali G impersonator [Richard Madeley]. Simon Potter would present the last two seasons.

There was two contestants, mainly people in their late teens. Later episodes featured adult contestants. Before Simon Potter took over, winning contestants would give their prize money to a charity of their choice. Both contestants would take a Connections camera or a Connections Goody Bag home as a souvenir.

After Simon Potter took over, contestants would play for a cash prize (originally £1,000, later £400). The runners-up prize was a pocket TV.

Originally filmed at Granada’s Quay Street studios, later episodes were produced by Action Time and filmed at their Kearsley studios.

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‘Connections’ (1985 – 1990)

  • Production Companies: Granada Television, Granada Television/Action Time;
  • Seasons: 8;
  • Parts: 298 x 25 minute episodes;
  • Presenters: Sue Robbie (1985 – 1988), Richard Madeley (1988 – 1989), Simon Potter (1989 – 1990);
  • Music: Bill Connor (1985 – 1988 episodes), Richie Close (1988? – 1990 episodes);
  • Voiceover: Charles Foster.

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About Connections

From a nine-part video wall, contestants had to answer general knowledge questions. On unveiling each window, he or she would have to make a connection. There was four different games, two of which within The Bonus Game.

Connect The Clues: on correctly answering a question, the video wall would show a picture of a given subject forming the connection. For example, one of Manchester Piccadilly railway station, then another one of Birmingham New Street, Lichfield Trent Valley and Hull Paragon. Therefore the connection between the pictures would be ‘UK Railway Stations’. Bonus points would be given for making the right connection.

Find The Figure: again after answering each question correctly, any one of the outer eight video screens would display a number or mathematical sign. On the eighth screen, he or she would have to solve the sum hidden behind the middle screen.

Link The Letters: in early episodes of Connections, contestants would try to solve an eight letter word. A random letter within the outer screens would appear once a question was answered correctly, continuing till the eighth screen. He or she would have to solve the puzzle, Countdown Conundrum style in 50 seconds.

The Final Connection: later episodes eschewed the Link The Letters round in favour of this one. The winning contestant would be given the first and last picture, and make the connection between the two.

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Trivia:

  • The typeface used on the original series of Connections for its titles and set graphics was Futura Stencil ICG. This was also used on some of Granada’s continuity graphics and Crass’ albums;
  • Bill Connor’s signature tune also featured on the long-deleted Granada Studios Tour Souvenir LP. His other credits included the Albion Market signature tune which also appeared on the same album.

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I found the Sue Robbie and Richard Madeley presented series of Connections most enjoyable. The series began when I approached my sixth birthday. As well as trying to answer the questions, I loved the state-of-the-art graphics. Needless to say, I could never do the maths round. Connect The Clue was my favourite and strongest round.

There’s also another reason why I remember the 1985 to 1988 episodes best. A certain Australian soap would become essential viewing at Chez Vall, and that would clash with the aforementioned quiz.

S.V., 19 June 2013.

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