Hidden Gems of Channel Five: 100%

They do exist! Such as this long forgotten quiz show

Channel 5. Or Five, or just the number five, was Britain’s last nationwide terrestrial channel to have started out on the 625-line PAL format. Launched on the 30 March 1997 with The Spice Girls and that oh-so-1990s phrase “gimme five”, it has established itself as the nation’s fifth channel. (Unless you’re Rupert Murdoch or Kelvin MacKenzie and think Sky One is more deserving of that tag).

Among Channel 5’s earliest programmes was Family Affairs, the channel’s short-lived soap opera. There was Turnstyle, the channel’s very first attempt at sports coverage a la Sky Sports Centre. Its first live match was England versus Poland (with Capital Radio’s Jonathan Pearce behind the mike). Hospital!, a sitcom based in (guess?) was an attempt at bringing Police Squad style humour to the hospital ward.

Amid the rather asinine schedule of its first year was this nifty teatime quiz, known as 100%. Its novelties included the lack of a quizmaster, multiple choice questions, three contestants, and the winner carrying on until he or she lost that night. Fingers on buzzers for our next round.

Question 1: 100% was voiced by:

  • a) Robin Cook;
  • b) Robin Houston;
  • c) Whitney Houston.

Robin Houston, late of Thames Television provided voiceover for the long-running quiz programme. 100% commanded respectable ratings, at least for Channel Five standards. He had also been the voiceover artiste for LWT’s Surprise Surprise. The programme went out at 5.30pm on weekdays prior to Whittle, Tim Vine’s retread of Everyone’s Equal. In later years, episodes would be shown in mid-afternoons.

Question 2: A round of 100% had:

  • a) 100 questions;
  • b) 10 questions;
  • c) 10,000 questions.

Throughout its 25 minutes, each show had 100 questions. Within a block of ten questions, there was eight multiple choice questions with three choices, and two True or False questions (for the fifth and tenth questions). At the end of each block of ten, each of the three contestants’ scores were shown on screen. In later editions, there would be a change of subject after ten questions.

The halfway point of the quiz would be a cue for the ad break. Scores were mentioned after 10, 30, 50, 60, 80, and 100 questions. If there was a change in the lead, Mr. Houston would say “the lead has changed”.

The early episodes had no break in subject area, though this was changed later on. Another great joy of the quiz was the daft third option of the multiple choice questions. For example, with the 1980s special, a question on Arthur Scargill had for c), [The National Union of] Combovers. (The correct answer being Mineworkers of course).

Question 3: 100% was billed as:

  • a) The quiz show that replaced Rentaghost;
  • b) The quiz show filmed on the coast;
  • c) The quiz show without a host.

Its unique selling point was also an economy measure as well as a novelty. Teddington Lock Studios wasn’t exactly on the coast, but the banks of the River Thames was close enough. The nearest that 100% ever got to emulating Rentaghost was a 1997 Hallowe’en Special, as seen in this clip below.

Question 4: The most you could win on 100% per night was:

  • a) 100 pence;
  • b) £100;
  • c) One hundred grand.

For 1997, £100 was quite a puny amount for a day’s work. One year later, you would get that for answering the first question on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Whereas Chris Tarrant’s show had a set number of questions towards the jackpot, winners of each heat would continue till they were beaten. This could last for weeks or months. In the first series, Ralph won an earlier episode and was on the best part of a week. He was unseated by David Webb, a Forensic Accountant who was on for weeks.

For most of the programme, the unseen Robin Houston would be the only voice you would hear. The only time you heard the contestants was at the start of the quiz. Then the victorious contestant in response to Robin Houston’s question, as seen below.

“<victor’s name>, congratulations, you have won £100. Will you appear on the next edition of 100% with two new contenders?”
“Yes, I will…”
“Thank you for taking part…”

Citing the example of David Webb’s stint, he said “yes I will” with different levels of prosody as each night progressed.

As for the losing contestants, a more terse…

“<contestant one>, goodbye… <contestant two> goodbye… thank you both for taking part.”

As the series matured, the terse goodbyes were replaced with a more friendlier “your scores weren’t high enough, though thank you for taking part”.

Question 5: 100% was done by the same production company as Going for Gold (True or False?).

True. Grundy Productions did 100% and Going for Gold. Its co-producers, Pearson, owned Thames Television at the time (who previously employed Robin Houston as a voiceover artiste and newsreader). Going for Gold was also a co-production with Super Channel and the BBC (through their Manchester studios at New Broadcasting House, Oxford Road).

100% specials and spin-offs

Besides the bog-standard episodes, there was a number of specials. They were special editions with questions on nothing but, for example, Bad Girls or James Bond films. The first special was based on Prisoner: Cell Block ‘H’, aired on the 29 June 1997. Each special’s airing would coincide with a notable event, such as the release of a new film. The last special was entitled Magic, with a ton of questions on Paul Daniels, Penn and Teller, David Nixon et al. This was aired on Christmas Eve.

As well as the above, there was also 100% Gold (with older contestants). Also 100% Sex (with more risqué questions). Both programmes had special editions of their own.

100%: goodbye…

In spite of respectable rankings, 100% disappeared from our screens in 2002. Some might have said the format had ran its course. It was said that Channel Five was in the midst of rebranding. In other words, a spot of brand repositioning that would see the channel move upmarket. This phase was short lived when Northern and Shell’s Richard Desmond took the channel downmarket.

Today, owned by Viacom, there are fewer quiz shows on Channel 5. Human interest documentaries of a reticent hotelier and benefit claimant nature dominates the present schedules. Robin Houston is still a voiceover artiste to this day. His voice can also be heard in audiobooks as well as corporate videos.

100% made for good viewing over teatime, especially with some of the daft options for ‘c’. Perhaps it could have gone on for another year, but I think it finished at the right time.

S.V., 04 August 2016.

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