On Reflection: The Joy of 3-2-1

A look at the bafflingly popular Yorkshire Television quiz show which ran for ten years

Before the 29 July 1978, Saturdays in front of the television meant World of Sport or Grandstand. Then a peek at the latest imported programme at teatime (something like The Man From Atlantis). Encroaching into the prime time slot, there was one inalienable truth for many viewers: the BBC had the best variety and light entertainment programmes.

Bruce Forsyth and The Generation Game was a ratings juggernaut for the Beeb. There was also variety type showcases featuring one singer and a few guests. At teatime, there was also some wish fulfilment themed programming headed by (as we found in later years) a paedophile.

By Summer 1978, the BBC were reeling from the news that London Weekend Television had wooed Brucie to the ‘other side’. The result of which would be seen in Autumn of the same year. Over in Kirkstall Road, Leeds, Yorkshire Television plotted the course of what could become a ratings smash for ITV. Its host would be a chirpy London comedian; there would be quizzes, speciality acts and singers; some indecipherable clues; and a dustbin. The idea seemed quintessentially English, but its origins were Spanish.

Un, Dos, Tres to 3-2-1

Whilst on holiday in Spain, Duncan Wood, Head of Light Entertainment for Yorkshire Television did a bit of homework. Watching television. As you would do if you’re a TV executive looking for the Next Big Thing to topple your channel’s non-commercial rival. On holiday, he came across a TV show known as Un, Dos, Tres.

Un, Dos, Tres… was the creation of Narciso Ibanez Serrador. Born in Montevideo, Uruguay, he moved to Spain with his family in 1947, at the age of twelve. In 1963, he worked in Spanish television and later did feature films. One film was La Residencia (or The House That Screamed). Released in 1969, it co-starred Lilli Palmer and Cristina Galbo. Five years later, Ms. Galbo would co-star in The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue.

In spite of his contribution to Spanish cinema, his best known work was Un, Dos, Tres… The first episode went out on the 24 April 1972 on TVE – Spain’s equivalent to BBC One. The triplicate theme was established: the question round; the elimination round; and the auction. From three couples, only one couple could walk away with any one of six prizes. Each episode had a running theme; for example, Cruise Ships or The 1960s.

The first part consisted of quiz questions, where contestants could win a life-changing amount. He or she would name a number of items from a given subject and be awarded 25 pesetas a question. Then the total per correct answer of the total amount from the first round, and the total per question from the second round. Winning contestants of that round were invited to the following week’s episode. The remaining two couples would go on to the Elimination Round, where they would play a themed game. The winning couple went on to the Auction round. Solving a series of clues, they try to guess which prize is hidden in the clue. Then they decide which ones to reject, and which one to keep.

There was also a mascot: from 1976 to 1983, and 1991 to 2004, Ruperta the Pumpkin. The pumpkin also sung and danced his way through the opening titles. In 1983 and 1984, this was replaced by Botilde the Boot, followed by El Chollo and El Antichollo from 1984 to 1986. Before Ruperta returned for the 1991series, El Boom and El Crack.

Throughout its lengthy run, its host was supported by a group of stereotypical secretaries. From 1972 to 1980, it was presented by Kiko Ledgard. His presenting career was cut short by a near-fatal accident, which led to him surviving but suffering from brain damage. He was replaced by Mayra Gomez Kemp. In 1991, her replacements were Jordi Estadella and Miriam Diaz Aroca. In 1993, José Maria Bachs took over, with Luis Roderas presenting its 2004 revival.

There would also be a ‘negative cast’, a band of hecklers. They would stop the contestants from getting the star prize. Its show’s mascot was used as the booby prize.

Shortly after Un, Dos, Tres‘ second run (finishing on the 27 January 1978), filming and casting calls for contestants began for Britain’s response. Within seven months, Yorkshire Television’s 3-2-1 was born. On the 29 July 1978, at 8pm, it was up against Seaside Special on BBC One and a documentary of Edward VII on BBC Two. In Greater Manchester, it would be up against Magic Music with Steve Penk on Piccadilly Radio. The programme was an immediate hit.

The basic premise of the Spanish original was present in YTV’s version though with some changes. Firstly, there was no ‘negative cast’: this might have made the programme less family friendly. Instead, comedians heckled contestants in the most British way possible (by means of telling a Christmas cracker style joke). This occurred when the couple repeated an answer or made a mistake in the first round. Secondly, each clue was referred to as a MacGuffin – a prop.

Thirdly, the secretaries from the original were referred to as The Gentle Secs and the 3-2-1 Girls. As for the mascot, Dusty Bin. You couldn’t get more British than a dustbin. Especially for a booby prize. If anyone had the misfortune of being left with Dusty Bin, the prize was a brand new dustbin. In Spain with Ruperta, it was a pumpkin.

3-2-1 was hailed on the 29 July 1978 edition of the Glasgow Herald as “ITV’s answer to the Generation Game”.

The Spanish original outlived its British equivalent by sixteen years. Where it differed from the Leeds production was its use of advertisers. The second elimination game was a sponsored feature. Contestants were encouraged to spell the name of its sponsors. They persisted with the secretaries till the very last series. From 1978 to 1988 subtle changes were made to 3-2-1’s format, alongside changes to the set and its opening and closing titles.

Running order

The Quiz

The first part of the programme – after Dusty Bin’s appearance – was the quiz element. Similar to Spanish original, contestants had to name items from a given subject area, with hostesses handing the couple their questions. There was three rounds, starting in the original series at £1.00 per question. Then £10 per question if you got all ten right, and £100 a question if you did the same in the second round.

Winners of the quiz round would return to the following week’s episode. The remaining two couples would go on to the Game element. This was also known as the Elimination Game.

The Game

The second round was similar in nature to any of The Generation Game’s challenges. Each game was based on that week’s episode theme. This could take the form of an observational round or playing quoits. In 1981, this was replaced by a Breakout style computer game.

By 1983, the top two couples would go on to the auction part of the programme. The couple with the least points went home. The Auction part of 3-2-1 was notorious for the clues. They were so cryptic, that even Alan Turing would have had ended up with the bin. What may have sounded like a clue for the 3-2-1 Holiday could have been for a set of silver cutlery.

As for the prizes? Well, the big ticket items were the car or the holiday. In its early years, there were some prizes which wouldn’t be given away today. One prize on the very first episode was a St. Bernard dog (a real one!) with a supply of Brandy. Other prizes included cigars, speedboats (not so unusual – was good enough for Bullseye), and a share in a Greyhound. The one to avoid? Dusty Bin of course, which meant a brand new dustbin.

At the end of the show, the couple’s prize was revealed. Rejected prizes were shown to the couple, a move that predated Bullseye’s “let’s have a look at what you could have won” by three years.

Fortune and Fame

The Fortune and Fame element were the guest stars. In the midst of the auction element was a revue of that week’s theme. In some episodes, this was referred to as Take It Or Leave It, or Ted’s Table. For example, songs based around sailing with the bridge of HMS Yorkshire, or QE3-2-1 facing the studio audience. This was interspersed with songs, sketches, stand-up routines, speciality acts, and puppets.

In the very first episode, Duggie Brown and Emlyn Hughes were the guest stars. Other stars included Ken Dodd, Professor Stanley Unwin, and George Mellie. Each guest would bring a MacGuffin to the table in the last round, after finishing their piece.

The mascot

Throughout its entire run, Dusty Bin was the booby prize mascot. Its presence added child appeal to the show due to its outfits and adorable nature. The bin was made by Ian Rowley at Rowley Workshops in nearby Rodley and built with 73 microprocessors. On some occasions, his dog appeared. Known as Garbage, it was the love child of Bob Carolgees’ Spit the Dog and K9 from Doctor Who.

Dusty Bin’s popularity was so great that it spawned spin-off merchandise – official and unofficial. Tebro manufactured a toy box which looked as if Dusty let himself go. There was ceramic Dusty Bins galore, some of which were given away as souvenirs for the contestants. There was even a 7″ single released by Yorkshire Television entitled Dusty Bin. Since the first series, toy Dusty Bins appeared, many of which made in Hong Kong for Marx Toys.

The presenter

No mention of 3-2-1 is complete without Ted Rogers. Born on the 20 July 1935 in Kennington, London, his boyhood idol was Danny Kaye. He impersonated the singer as a youngster at a holiday camp. He put that side of his career on hold for National Service.

After National Service, he made his name in stand up comedy and had a stint as a Butlins Redcoat. He was the last presenter of ATV’s Sunday Night at the London Palladium. Besides 3-2-1, he was well known for his topical jokes, and sought after as an after-dinner speaker.

By 1992, he went bankrupt after investing his fortune into a failed business venture. He moved from Little Chalfont to a more modest house in Haslemere. On the 02 May 2001, after having open heart surgery, he died at St. Thomas’ Hospital, whilst having a heart valve replaced.

In his personal life, he had two wives: Marge, his childhood sweetheart; and Marion, the second one who survived him. In a 1987 episode, Marion appeared with his baby daughter, Canna. The name is taken from one of the Inner Hebridean islands, alongside Rum and Eigg.

Music

The soundtrack to 3-2-1 was composed by Johnny Pearson. His other credits include Heavy Action, better known as the signature tune for Superstars, and Sleepy Shores, the signature theme for Owen M.D. In early episodes, there was a background music bed during Ted Rogers’ links. ‘Special music’ – as noted in the closing credits – included the various themes for prizes, the booby prize, and the star prize. Also the incidental music for losing the elimination round.

From 1985, the original soundtrack was tweaked with a beefier and most bombastic tone. A more strident and decadent tone in keeping with the 1980s. This remained so till 1987, when a more electronic sound was added to the Johnny Pearson tune.

Graphics

Throughout its run, the opening titles of each episode began with a flying Yorkshire TV chevron. From 1978 to 1983, the ‘Y’ flew into Dusty Bin. The first episodes had Dusty Bin as a nondescript bin, before becoming a walking dustbin. In 1978, the animated sequence saw him heading to a studio, interrupted by the premise of 3-2-1, thus detailed in that order:

  • [3] It’s a quiz;
  • [2] It’s a game;
  • [1] It’s fortune and fame.

Cue the credits for the creator and Ted himself, then a shot of the audience in YTV Studios. In late 1980, the animated scene was updated on the closing credits. The closing credits weren’t short on detail either. In 1978, they depicted each role and that episode’s theme (in a similar style to David McKee’s end credits of Mr Benn). By 1983, that level of detail was superfluous; it was ditched in favour of a dancing Dusty Bin, holding onto a picture of the happy or not-so-happy couple.

1985 saw a major change to the opening and closing titles. The animation was fully computerised. The Yorkshire Television chevron didn’t fly into the bin. Instead, a version of the Yorkshire Television ident was placed on Dusty Bin’s nose. Rudimentary by today’s standards, the CGI effects were pretty groundbreaking for ’85.

By 1986, the new look was sleek. Dusty was still animated, but thanks to the wonders of state-of-the-art computer graphics, the bin was pretty dapper. The graphics had a more upmarket look by 1987, contemporaneous with that era.

 

Hostesses and comedians

In the first two series of 3-2-1, the team of hostesses were known in their collective form as The Gentle Secs, a nod to the secretaries in the Spanish original. From 1980 and 1981, as The 3-2-1 Girls. The turnover of actors playing the hostesses changed with each series

The most famous of the hostesses was Caroline Munro. Before 3-2-1, she also appeared in the Hammer House of Horror films, on the strength of her appearance on a Lambs Navy Rum poster. She was also Naomi in The Spy Who Loved Me, the 1977 James Bond film. In 1982, she was the prim reporter in the promo video of Adam Ant’s Goody Two Shoes. Well, in the clip, she was prim till a certain Mr. Goddard came onto the scene (we shan’t spoil your enjoyment of the video).

There was also Tula, probably one of the first transgender actors to have been seen on ITV. Born as Barry Kenneth Cossey, he became Caroline ‘Tula’ Cossey in 1974. After 3-2-1, she became an extra in For Your Eyes Only and fought for transgender rights.

Annie St. John, after being a mahout, got her televisual break in the Leeds studios. By 1980, she became a continuity announcer for HTV West. Sadly, she left us early in her life in 1990, after committing suicide. Jenny Leyland (or Layland as she was known on the credits), was no stranger to Leeds. In 1976, she appeared as a performer in The Good Old Days at the Leeds City Varieties Hall.

Throughout most of its run as a resident comedian was Chris Emmett. Born in Nuneaton, he is also noted for his appearances in radio comedies. Particularly Week Ending and The Burkiss Way. The latter led to its televisual equivalent, End of Part One (both written by Andrew Marshall and David Renwick). Most recently, he is noted for his work on The News Huddlines.

There was also Mike Newman. Born as Michael Tomkins, his son (Mike Newman Junior) followed his father onto the comedy circuit. Debbie Arnold, seen in the first series, continued her career further. She later appeared as an actor on Hollyoaks, Coronation Street, Emmerdale, Doctors, Holby City, and EastEnders. Debbie is now a presenter on Soho Radio, a London-based internet radio station.

Felix Bowness was associated with 3-2-1. Other than his most famous role as Fred Quilley in Hi-de-Hi!, he also worked as a warm-up man. As a warm-up man, among his famous assignments was on the last part of the 1996 Christmas special of Only Fools and Horses.

The Brian Rogers Connection

Before 1983, the dance routines in 3-2-1 were choreographed by Libby Roberts, with the Lipstick troupe appearing in the last episode of the third series. From 1981, she was one of the hostesses. She took over from Jenny Layland, fellow hostess and choreographer, owing to her background in ballet dancing. The dance troupe, indelibly linked with 3-2-1 were The Brian Rogers Connection. Brian Rogers was previously involved in The Young Generation, whose members included Lesley Judd and Nigel Lythgoe.

The Brian Rogers Connection featured in the series till Christmas 1986, in the episode entitled Christmas at Toad Hall.  Brian is now a director of The Performers’ College in Stanford-le-Hope, Essex. His wife, also a director, Jan Rogers, appeared on 3-2-1 as singer Jani Z in the Continental Cabaret episode (1983).

Technical Credits

  • Questions: Deborah Sutherland (verified by Ward Lock Information Books);
  • Graphics: John Sunderland (1978 – 1980); Stuart Pearson (1978 – 1980), Michael Gilbert (1980 – 1984 and 1986 – 1988), Geoff Brayley (1985);
  • Clues/Programme Associate: John Bartlett.

Series by Series Synopsis

29 July – 20 October, and 25 December 1978

  • Episodes: 14.
  • TX: ITV/Yorkshire Television (all regions), Saturdays, 8.00pm; Christmas Day special, Monday, 2.00pm.
  • Hostesses (known as The Gentle Secs): Patsy Ann Scott, Tula, Jenny Layland, Mirielle Allonville, Holly Allen-Smith, Gail Playfair, Karen Palmer (as George the chauffeur), Annie St. John (from Ancient Rome episode, replacing Tula).

The first series was a runaway success with no expense spared on the guests. Prizes included a St. Bernard dog with a supply of brandy (and that was in the first episode) as well as the staple prizes of the show (the bin and the car). Other prizes included shares in a racehorse and a brand new wardrobe (£900 worth of clothing). This series saw the first airing of the original title sequence with Dusty Bin with illustrations on each card for the guests and technical credits.

Walking away with the silver tea set in the first episode was Trevor and Janice Long. Ms. Long, shortly after 3-2-1, became a BBC Radio One and a Top of the Pops co-presenter. Does she still have the tea set?

In the Christmas Special, a then present-day BBC presenter came away with the bin: Terry Wogan.

Episodes (guests in brackets):
  1. 29 July 1978: Cruising (Emlyn Hughes and Clive Dunn);
  2. 05 August 1978: Wild West (Beryl Reid, Mike Harding, Dave Ismay);
  3. 12 August 1978: Books (Margaret Powell, Maxton G. Beesley);
  4. 19 August 1978: Fairground (Miriam Karlin, Jackie Pallo, The Medini Brothers);
  5. 26 August 1978: Fairy Tales (Gemma Craven, Dr. Magnus Pyke, The Jean Pearce Children);
  6. 02 September 1978: Horror (Bill Simpson, Barry Sheene);
  7. 08 September 1978: Cartoons (Lewis Jones, Bill Tidy);
  8. 15 September 1978: Ancient Rome (Madeleine Smith, Acker Bilk);
  9. 22 September 1978: Paris (Derek Nimmo, Pierre Picton);
  10. 29 September 1978: Covent Garden (Bonnie Langford, Davy Kaye)
  11. 06 October 1978: Hollywood (Terry Hall (with Lenny the Lion), Maxton G. Beesley, Bert Gaunt);
  12. 13 October 1978: Crime (Pat Coombes, Norman Chappell, Maxton G. Beesley);
  13. 20 October 1978: Arabian Nights (John Hanson, Nat Jackley, Paul Luty);
  14. 25 December 1978: Christmas Show (Rachel Heyhoe-Flint, Mike Channon, Rusty Goffe, Jack Douglas, Honey Wheeler, Clodagh Rodgers, Terry Wogan).

24 October 1979 – 05 April 1980

  • Episodes: 15;
  • TX: ITV/Yorkshire Television (all regions), Fridays, 7.30pm (except 24 October 1979 (Wednesday, 8.00pm), Christmas Day (Monday, 5.15pm) and 05 April 1980 (Saturday, 7.00pm));
  • Hostesses (known as The 3-2-1 Girls): Patsy Ann Scott, Jenny Layland, Mirelle Allonville, Karen Palmer (as George the chauffeur), Annie St. John, Zoe Spink (on Law and Disorder episode, replacing Mireille Arronville), Laraine Humphrys (from British Empire episode), Elaine Duffet (from Folk Legends episode), Trish Roberts (from The Jungle episode).

The second series of 3-2-1 was originally going to start on the 19 October at 7.30pm, on Fridays instead of Saturdays. In the summer of 1979, there was the small matter of a 75-day long technicians’ strike. Therefore, for that period, viewers only had the two BBC channels to play with. Therefore, the episode scheduled for the 19 October went out on Wednesday, October 24, shortly after Coronation Street.

That year’s second episode was aired on the 26 October 1979 and on subsequent Fridays till the 25 January 1980. A further episode was aired on the 05 April 1980, back to more familiar territory: Saturday prime time. There was no episode shown on the 18 January 1980: a David Frost interview with The Shah took its place (perhaps the 05 April Jungle episode was pencilled in for the 18 January).

There was a change to the quiz round’s set with the rainbow arches giving way to glittery silver pipes and brown flock. Very 1979, though with a fairly sleek selection of podiums. Instead of being shown in a behind the scenes setting, Messrs Newman or Emmett would tell a joke in the same part of the set as the contestants.

From this series, the winner of the quiz round couldn’t return to next week’s episode. Instead of photo frames featuring the contestants with Ted Rogers and Co., ceramic Dusty Bins became the consolation prize of choice alongside their cash winnings. In the Elimination Game, the top two couples would play a Generation Game type of game based on that week’s theme.

For trivia fans, School Days was the first 3-2-1 episode where the couple copped for Dusty Bin. A brand new dustbin went to Phil and Judy in Deptford. On the Christmas special, Angie and Eugene from Norfolk were the unfortunate recipients of the adorable receptacle.

Episodes (guests in brackets):
  1. 24 October 1979: Merrie England (Norman Wisdom, Anna Dawson);
  2. 26 October 1979: The Twenties (Dilys Watling, Victor Spinetti);
  3. 02 November 1979: Battle of the Sexes (Marian Montgomery, Duggie Brown);
  4. 09 November 1979: Law and Disorder (John Le Mesurier, Billy Dainty);
  5. 16 November 1979: Space (Pat Coombes, Tim Barrett, Dave Ismay, McDonald Hobley);
  6. 23 November 1979: British Empire (Kenneth Connor, Bernard Bresslaw).
  7. 30 November 1979: Medicine (Liz Fraser, Tony Addams and Granddad, Carl Rigg);
  8. 07 December 1979: Hotels (Andrew Sachs, Sheila Bernette, Bogdan Kominowski);
  9. 14 December 1979: Victoria (Jack Smethurst, Sheila Steafel, Anna Dawson);
  10. 21 December 1979: School Days (Charlie Drake, Patsy Rowlands);
  11. 25 December 1979: Dickens (Bill Maynard, Terry Scott, Wilfrid Brambell, The Krankies, Carmel McSharry, Black Dyke Mills Brass Band);
  12. 04 January 1980: Music Hall (Norman Collier, Larry Parker, Lynda McMurray, The Chuckle Brothers (Paul Elliott, Barry Elliott, Jimmy Patton, Brian Patton));
  13. 11 January 1980: The Sea (Lonnie Donegan, Lance Percival, Christopher Strauli);
  14. 25 January 1980: Folk Legends (Cheryl Murray, Pete Atkin, Maxton G. Beesley, Mike Goddard, Reg Thompson, Bob Carolgees);
  15. 05 April 1980: The Jungle (Acker Bilk, Bob Carolgees with Spit the Dog).

25 December 1980 – 04 April 1981

  • Episodes: 15;
  • TX: ITV/Yorkshire Television (all regions), Saturdays, 6.35pm (except Christmas Day (Thursday, 5.05pm));
  • Hostesses (as Happy Hostesses): Fiona Curzon, Alison Temple-Savage, Karen Palmer, Libby Roberts, Kathryn Jones (Riverboat episode).

The third series of 3-2-1 began with a star-studded panto version, featuring Bob Carolgees, Nicholas Parsons, and a disgraced deceased former Rochdale MP. The set was changed again, this time for a modern silvery set with a space age feel. The podiums were thinner and had… proper LED numbers for the scoring.

Since The Old West episode (TX 03 January 1981), the thematic elimination game was replaced by the wonders of video gaming technology. This time, the top two couples would battle it out with a Breakout clone. Instead of the official Breakout, released on the Atari VCS console, they went for Paddle.

Instead of the Atari VCS, Yorkshire Television went for the Fairchild Channel F console. Paddle featured on the console’s Videocart-17 cartridge. The Grandstand console was a rebadged version. As for the high resolution contestants’ names on the screen? Just the same Letraset transfers of the usual Dynamo Black typeface.

Of particular interest in the last episode of 1981 was the opening dance routine: this was choreographed by hostess Libby Roberts with the troupe performing as Lipstick. Only one hostess remained from the original series: Karen Palmer. Annie St. John went on to start her career in TV continuity, for HTV and Tyne-Tees. The early evening Saturday slot became the quiz show’s usual preserve.

Episodes (guests in brackets):
  1. 25 December 1980: Pantomime (Cinderella) (Derek Batey, Bob Carolgees, Paul Luty, Bill Maynard, Nicholas Parsons, Dr. Magnus Pyke, Mike Reid, Jacqui Scott, Cyril Smith);
  2. 03 January 1981: The Old West (Diana Dors, Lionel Blair, Alvin Stardust, Phil Cool, Vince Eager, Dave and Amos (David Wilson and Brian Newson));
  3. 10 January 1981: Circus (Tony Brutus, Bob Carolgees (with Spit the Dog), Dash’s Chimps (yes, real chimps!), Richard Del Oro, Paul Luty);
  4. 17 January 1981: Nursery Rhymes (Stanley Unwin, Peter Goodwright, Keith Harris (with Orville the Duck), Bonnie Langford, Eli Woods);
  5. 24 January 1981: Music Hall II (Danny La Rue. Bernie Clifton, Paul Levent);
  6. 31 January 1981: Riverboat (Ken Colyer’s Jazzmen, Frazer Hines, Terry Seabrooke, Jerry Stevens);
  7. 07 February 1981: Country Life (Joan Benham, Brother Lees, Les Dennis, The Wurzels);
  8. 14 February 1981: Casablanca (Marian Montgomery, Carl Rigg, Kenny Whymark, Charlie Williams);
  9. 21 February 1981: Melodrama (Ronald Fraser, Adrienne Posta);
  10. 28 February 1981: Cabaret (John Bouchier, Ronnie Dukes and Rikki Lee (as Dukes and Lee), Walter Landauer, Diane Solomon, Dee Dee Wilde’s Pan’s People);
  11. 07 March 1981: Holidays Abroad (Bob Todd, Rita Webb, Viva Flamenco (Juan Ramirez and Rogelio de Malaga), The Great Soprendo (Geoffrey Durham));
  12. 14 March 1981: Cloak and Dagger (Billy Dainty, Berni Flint, Henry McGee, Mark Raffles, Baron Casanov, Brian Coburn);
  13. 21 March 1981: Spring (Kenneth Connor, Keith Harris (with Orville), Clive Jones);
  14. 28 March 1981: Superheroes (Bernard Bresslaw, Charlie Drake, Maxton G. Beesley, Chris North and Jill, Johnny Vyvyan, Kenny Whymark);
  15. 04 April 1981: Seaside (Aimi McDonald, Fogwell Flax, Lipstick).

02 January 1982, then 30 January 1982 – 01 May 1982, and 25 December 1982

  • Episodes: 16;
  • TX: ITV/Yorkshire Television (all regions), Saturdays, 6.45pm (except 02 January 1982 (8.00pm) and Christmas Day (5.35pm));
  • Hostesses: Fiona Curzon, Libby Roberts, Jan Michelle (from Greece episode).

In the annals of history, 1982 began with a background of snow, public sector cuts, mass unemployment, and it finished on the back of The Falklands Factor. Even 3-2-1 wasn’t immune from a bit of belt tightening. Ted Rogers was supported by two hostesses – down from the six in July 1978. There was fewer guests but in some cases, quality rather than quantity. Thankfully, the sets remained lavish. Mike Newman, Chris Emmett, and Felix Bowness were still on the YTV payroll. At that time, Mr. Bowness was better known for his role on Hi-de-Hi! as jockey Fred Quilley.

The Grandstand console (a rebadged Fairchild Channel F) with the Paddle game was binned in favour of the elimination question. The couple which answered correctly progressed to the third part. In the Space II episode, the Atari VCS version of Space Invaders plays a bit part in Lipstick’s tribute to Taito’s coin-op game. On the 17 April, the £1,000 mark was reached in the quiz round for the first time ever.

On Christmas Day 1982, Libby Roberts’ Lipstick were replaced by the Brian Rogers Connection. Of the 3-2-1 dance troupes, they would have the longest reign, continuing till 1986. With fewer star names, some episodes were a showcase for up and coming acts. For example: Jeep, a female quartet in The Andrews Sisters mould.

Technological prizes were pretty big, whereas the main prizes each couple yearned for was the holiday or the car. Other prizes included His and Hers scooters. For once, the specials as well as the regular episodes all went out on a Saturday. In 1982, it was still pulling in 12 to 15 million viewers.

Episodes (guests in brackets):
  1. 02 January 1982: New Year Special (Tim Barrett, Kenneth Connor, Claire Davenport, Frank Thornton, Bob Todd);
  2. 30 January 1982: Space II (Roy Kinnear, Pat Coombes, Faith Brown, Lipstick, Reg Thompson, Norman Chappell);
  3. 06 February 1982: Magic (The Great Soprendo, Jan Madd, Shahid Malik, Terry Seabrooke);
  4. 13 February 1982: Valentines (Anna Dawson, Patti Gold, Lyn Paul, Sheila Steafel, Frankie Vaughan);
  5. 20 February 1982: Vaudeville (Lipstick, Felix Bowness, Eli Woods, Jeep, Sandy Powell, Arthur English);
  6. 27 February 1982: The Far East (Norman Chappell, Jack Douglas, Don Estelle, Wong Mow Ting, Wei Wei Wong, David Yip);
  7. 06 March 1982: Whodunnit (Frankie Howerd);
  8. 13 March 1982: Caribbean (Kenny Lynch, Marcia Barrett (from Boney M), Paradise Steelband);
  9. 20 March 1982: Spinechillers: Horror (Jeffery Atkins, Maxton G. Beesley, Roger Brierley, Norman Chappell, Henry McGee, Dave Lee Travis, Mike Read, Lipstick);
  10. 27 March 1982: Gangsters (Patti Gold, Georgie Fame, Russell Hunter, Johnny More, Lipstick);
  11. 03 April 1982: Greece (Stanley Unwin, Paul Shane, Chorale (folk rock group: Barbara Courtney-King, lead vocalist));
  12. 10 April 1982: Musicals (Sacha Distel, Barbara Dickson, Civvy Street, Lipstick);
  13. 17 April 1982: Egypt (The Chuckle Brothers (Paul and Barry Elliott), Kenneth Connor, Steve Jones (selling souvenir pyramids!), Neville King, Dilys Watling);
  14. 24 April 1982: Cabaret II (Lipstick, Sweet Substitute (jazz group), Joe Longthorne, Bernie Clifton)
  15. 01 May 1982: Railways (Deryck Guyler, Tony Selby, Ray Alan and Lord Charles, Tim Barrett);
  16. 25 December 1982: Christmas Special (Karan David, Anna Dawson, David Yip, Henry McGee, Patti Gold, Bernie Winters, Joan Sims, The Brian Rogers Connection).

29 January 1983 – 14 May 1983

  • Episodes: 15;
  • TX: ITV/Yorkshire Television (all regions), Saturdays, 7.10pm (7.35pm on 07 May));
  • Hostesses: Caroline Munro, Wei Wei Wong, Linda Lou Allen, Debbie Linden, Karan David.

By 1983, 3-2-1 was at its height of popularity. The formula was similar to the previous two series, but any changes made to the programme were subtle. Firstly, Michael Gilbert had created a new set of opening titles to complement the closing titles used since 1981.

Secondly, Dusty Bin was no longer wheeled in by one of the hostesses. Thanks to Ian Rowley at Rowley Workshops (in Rodley, close to Yorkshire Television’s studios in Leeds), Dusty Bin was remote controlled. The gubbins inside the bin were more complex than those used in Star Wars.

Thirdly, some of the hostesses would join the star guests in handing out the questions to each couple. Gone were the days when a regular hostesses would dish out the questions. As noted on the At The End of the Rainbow episode, we saw Dana doing the same.

With the show’s popularity seeing no sign of waning, spin-off merchandise appeared in the form of board games and t-shirts. There was also a computer game for the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 machines. The TV Times sponsored an art competition, encouraging its young and not-so-younger viewers to draw a picture of Dusty Bin’s girlfriend.

The 1983 series of 3-2-1 gave us one of TV history’s greatest contestant clangers. This appeared in the Elimination Quiz during the Easter Parade episode. The question in question…

Ted: This is a composer, German by birth, English by adoption. Best known for an oratorial oratorial published in 1871. It was called ‘Messiah’. You’re bound to know his handle. (pause) Who is it???

Contestant (left of Ted): Oh, I used to have this at school.

Ted: Well, you’re nearly there…

Contestant (left of Ted): Handel’s Water Music…

Ted: Well, so who’s the composer…?

Contestant (left of Ted): Chopin... (laughter from audience) Oh… no, I don’t get it… (more laughter)

Ted: Cheers, so I can offer it to you (turning to contestants on his right hand side). It certainly wasn’t who you said it was (turning to couple on left hand side).

Contestant (right of Ted): Anyone got one…?

Ted: Well, they don’t know… (laughter from audience and both couples). You said ‘Handel’s Water Music’, we didn’t want the piece, we just wanted the composer, so I now have an Elimination Tiebreaker. O.K… so you know where the button is…

Episodes (guests in brackets):
  1. 29 January 1983: Arabian Nights (Arthur English, Alan Curtis, Claire Davenport, Sonny Hayes and Co., The Brian Rogers Connection);
  2. 05 February 1983: Las Vegas (Dinardi, Tony Christie, Johnny More, The Brian Rogers Connection);
  3. 12 February 1983: Tea (Tim Brooke-Taylor, Anna Dawson, Paul Levent, Annabel Etkind, The Brian Rogers Connection);
  4. 19 February 1983: Sherlock Holmes (Bernie Winters, Deryck Guyler, Norman Chappell, Leonard Trolley, Madeline Smith, Caroline Munro, Bobby Pattinson);
  5. 26 February 1983: At the End of the Rainbow (Dana, Bernard Spear, Linda Lou Allen, Libby Morris, The Brian Rogers Connection, The Black Abbots);
  6. 05 March 1983: London (Kenneth Connor, Arthur English, Tim Barrett, Karan David, Wendy Richard, The Brian Rogers Connection, The Firm (performing The Biz));
  7. 12 March 1983: Variety – The Spice of Life (Diane Solomon, Roger de Courcey and Nookie Bear, Patsy Rowlands, Shahid Malik, Arrival, Wei Wei Wong, Paradox);
  8. 19 March 1983: The Foreign Legion (Frankie Howerd, Christopher Beeny, Dilys Watling, Caroline Munro, Nick Hobbs, Danny O’Dea);
  9. 26 March 1983: Medicine II (Toni Palmer);
  10. 02 April 1983: Easter Parade (Julie Dawn Cole, Caroline Munro, Johnny Logan, Keith Harris and Orville, Terry Herbert, Gertrude Shilling, The Brian Rogers Connection);
  11. 09 April 1983: Sea Cruise (Sacha Distel, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Karen Kay, Linda Lou Allen, The Brian Rogers Connection);
  12. 16 April 1983: Music, Music, Music! (Marian Montgomery, Pete Sayers, Elena Duran, Karan David, The Brian Rogers Connection);
  13. 23 April 1983: Shakespeare (Charlie Drake, Henry McGee, Alan Randall, Linda Lou Allen, Caroline Munro, Bill Maynard, The Lord and Lady Mayor of Leeds City Council);
  14. 30 April 1983: Continental Cabaret (Vince Hill, Mel Harvey and Co., Tina Robinson, Jani Z (Brian Rogers’ spouse), The Brian Rogers Connection);
  15. 14 May 1983: The Lilac Pimpernel (John Inman, Norman Chappell, Allan Stewart, George Layton, Tyler Butterworth, Karan David, Tina Robinson, D. Geoff Tomlinson, The Brian Rogers Connection).

03 December 1983 – 17 March 1984

  • Episodes: 16;
  • TX: ITV/Yorkshire Television (all regions), Saturdays, 6.00pm (7.00pm from 1984), (6.45pm on Christmas Eve, 7.35pm on New Year’s Eve));
  • Hostesses: Caroline Munro, Linda Lou Allen, Karan David.

The 1983 – 84 series was more a case of business as usual. There was only minor changes to the carpet in the audience gallery and on the podiums. The sets were still as lavish as ever. There was fewer appearances from Mike Newman. Also fewer new guests; as well as the new guests, there was a core of returning guests (apart from The Brian Rogers Connection, 3-2-1’s resident dance troupe), seen in previous episodes. One episode, Newcomers (03 March 1984), was a showcase for up and coming acts.

Still, it was a case of the “if it aint broke, why fix it” maxim. With 3-2-1 still pulling in about 15 million viewers, the child appeal of Dusty Bin prompted a schedule change: a 6pm start, again on Saturdays. Then in 1984, at 7pm. The Christmas Eve episode had child contestants with brothers and sisters. In the quiz round, all the monies went to children’s charities. As for the rejected prizes, they too went to the charities.

The pick of the prizes included a bespoke rug, a mini bar with stools, and an all-singing and all-dancing complete Commodore 64 computer system. With a Datasette and a 1541 Disk Drive, as well as a printer, portable colour TV, joysticks, and a copy of Audiogenic’s Motor Mania (were they preempting the arrival of Roman Holliday to the Yorkshire Television studios, which never happened?).

Ultimately, this was “your big Saturday show” for the family: senior couples were just as likely to be contestants as well as newlyweds. Grandma could watch with the grandchildren, who could be sent to bed at a reasonable time. For some, it was the cue to get washed and dressed for the pub or the nightclub.

Episodes (guests in brackets):
  1. 03 December 1983: Music Hall III (Frankie Vaughan, Bernie Winters, Leslie Crowther. Shahid Malik, The Brian Rogers Connection);
  2. 10 December 1983: Down South (Pete Sayers, Marian Montgomery, Georgie Fame, Keith Smith, Aimi Macdonald, Hefty Jazz, The Brian Rogers Connection);
  3. 17 December 1983: It’s All Greek to Me (Toni Palmer, Madeleine Smith, Frankie Howerd, Michael Fish, The Brian Rogers Connection);
  4. 24 December 1983: Dick Whittington – Christmas Special (Bernie Winters, Deryck Guyler, Norman Chappell, Leonard Trolley, Madeline Smith, Caroline Munro, Bobby Pattinson);
  5. 31 December 1983: Come Into the Garden, Eve (Norman Vaughan, Barbara Windsor, Deryck Guyler, Valentine Dyall, The Brian Rogers Connection);
  6. 07 January 1984: The Swinging Sixties (Dave Berry, Acker Bilk and his Paramount Jazz Band, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Susan Maughan, The Brian Rogers Connection);
  7. 14 January 1984: It’s Magic! (Faust (not the progressive rock group, alas), Martin Daniels (Paul was on the other side!), Chantal Valery);
  8. 21 January 1984: Roaring Twenties (Helen Gelzer, George Melly, Bernard Spear, John Chilton’s Feetwarmers, The Brian Rogers Connection);
  9. 28 January 1984: Drake’s Progress (Charlie Drake, Josephine Tewson, Libby Morris, Cardew Robinson, Len Marten);
  10. 04 February 1984: Raffles (Tim Barrett, John Inman, Robin Parkinson, D. Geoff Tomlinson, Honor Shepherd, Robert Dorning, Stacy Dorning);
  11. 11 February 1984: Nightclub (Ray Alan and Lord Charles, Maggie Moon, Jolly Brothers (comedy duo – not the 1979 reggae One Hit Wonders with Conscious Man), Cambridge Buskers, The Brian Rogers Connection);
  12. 18 February 1984: My Word is My Bond (Don Estelle, Jenny Lee Wright, Robin Parkinson, James Villiers, Brian Coburn);
  13. 25 February 1984: Country Style (George Hamilton IV, Tammy Cline, Dave Sheriff, The Brian Rogers Connection);
  14. 03 March 1984: Newcomers (Exile Intact (reggae music group, performing Lazy Day), Kerry Washington (female vocalist), Dean Park (comedian), Frank Riley (impressionist), Graham York (male vocalist));
  15. 10 March 1984: Aesop’s Fables (Anna Dawson, Frank Thornton, Duggie Brown, Frazer Hines, Tyler Butterworth, Don Crann, The Brian Rogers Connection);
  16. 17 March 1984: Venice (Renee and Renato, Wynford Evans, Michael Robbins (Arthur from On The Buses fame), Rondo Veneziano, The Brian Rogers Connection).

01 September 1984 – 22 December 1984

  • Episodes: 17;
  • TX: ITV/Yorkshire Television (all regions), Saturdays, 8.00pm (7.50pm on 22 December 1984 – Christmas Special edition));
  • Hostesses: Caroline Munro.

The second series of 1984, and the programme’s seventh series in all, was moved to its spiritual home of the primetime slot. Yes, the magical Saturday night slot at 8pm, later granted to Pop Idol, The X Factor, and Britain’s Got Talent. The advertising megabucks from this slot justified the lavish sets and the star turns. The 01 September saw Ken Dodd’s first appearance on 3-2-1 – a long time coming.

After the previous series’ Newcomers programme, there was three Showcase editions, offering a platform for emergent acts. Some of them had had performed at local and nationally renowned theatres, and at Working Mens’ Clubs. The second episode of the Showcase strand was followed by 3-2-1’s 100th episode. For that one, Miss Yorkshire Television of 1984, Karen Boston, jumped out of a blue cake carried by Dusty Bin.

Among the prizes given away included a Tatung Einstein computer system. Fridge freezers were popular and on some episodes, the star prize car didn’t feature.

Episodes (guests in brackets):
  1. 01 September 1984: Victorian Music Hall III (Sheila Steafel, Ken Dodd, Harold Taylor, The Brian Rogers Connection);
  2. 08 September 1984: Mayhem at the Manor (Leslie Crowther, Dilys Watling, Bill Pertwee, Felix Bowness, The Brian Rogers Connection);
  3. 15 September 1984: Showcase (Janice Hoyte (female vocalist), Wayne Denton (male vocalist), Keni and Caz James (song and dance duo, performing Knock Me a Kiss), Marc and Jayne (illusionist and assistant), Superjazz (M.D: Phil Revens, playing Take the A Train));
  4. 22 September 1984: The Gallery (unknown – any details of extra guests would be appreciated);
  5. 29 September 1984: Circus (Pierre Picton, Mostafa the Wazir, The Brian Rogers Connection, Performers from Tod Codey’s Circus, Sally Chipperfield’s Eskimo Dogs, The Laurie Holloway Orchestra);
  6. 06 October 1984: South of the Border (Tony Christie, Barry Howard, Don Jose, Pancho Villa, Ceri Dupre, Lynda Lee-Lewis, Felix Bowness);
  7. 13 October 1984: Robin Hood (Dilys Watling, Kenneth Connor, Len Marten, Cardew Robinson, Norman Vaughan);
  8. 20 October 1984: Showcase II (The Mimics (comedy singing group, a la Grumbleweeds), Johnny Tudor (male comedy vocalist), Lizanne (multi-instrumentalist, performing Sweet Dreams’ I’m Never Giving Up), Dansa (male and female duo, performing Einstein a Go-Go, Jump to the Beat, and Use It Up and Wear It Out), Greg Rogers (comedian));
  9. 27 October 1984: Further Fables (Frank Thornton, Jeff Stevenson, Anna Dawson, The Brian Rogers Connection, Duggie Brown);
  10. 03 November 1984: Country and Western (Colorado, George Hamilton IV, Bright and Breeze (comedy singing duo), Indigo Lady, The Brian Rogers Connection);
  11. 10 November 1984: Swing Time (Guy Mitchell, Stutz Bear Cats (performing Sing! Sing! Sing! With a Swing), The Syd Lawrence Orchestra, The Brian Rogers Connection);
  12. 17 November 1984: Escape from Stalag 321 (Christopher Beeny, Michael Knowles, Sydney Bromley, Ed Bishop);
  13. 24 November 1984: Bulldog Drummond (Tim Barrett, Alan Curtis, Barbara Hicks, John Inman);
  14. 01 December 1984: Let’s Rock! (Gary Glitter (enough said, performing Another Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas!), The Glitter Band, Georgie Fame, Patti Boulaye, The Rockin’ Berries, The Brian Rogers Connection);
  15. 08 December 1984: Variety (unknown – any details of extra guests would be appreciated);
  16. 15 December 1984: Showcase III (unknown – any details of extra guests would be appreciated);
  17. 22 December 1984: Pantomania (Bernie Clifton, Davy Kaye, Anita Harris, Fred Feast, Arthur English, Susanne Dando, John Inman, Larry Noble, Billy Dainty).

31 August 1985 – 21 December 1985

  • Episodes: 17;
  • TX: ITV/Yorkshire Television (all regions), Saturdays, 7.30pm (6.45pm on 21 December 1985 – Christmas Special edition));
  • Hostesses: Caroline Munro, Lynda Lee Lewis.

Having had the same basic set design since 1980 (and similar opening and closing titles), 3-2-1 was given a facelift in the eighth series. Firstly, the audience gallery was sleek, with a dark, theatrical style look (3-2-1 was written in light bulbs). The podiums, though slimline like the previous ones were revamped. The backdrop for the contestants’ panel, in gold and burnt sienna shades with a watermarked 3-2-1. For added effect, Ted’s table in the auction was illuminated in a dimly lit setting.

Secondly, computer graphic imaging was introduced to the opening titles. Primitive by today’s standards, we saw a somersaulting Dusty Bin, followed by the ‘321’ coming from its eyes. Instead of Dynamo Black, the standard typeface was Helvetica Black, in non-oblique and oblique forms. For the first time ever, a voiceover was used to introduce Ted Rogers and the prizes. That of Anthony Schaeffer, famous for his work in Sleuth and, less famously, his role in The Business (which was an early Key 103 radio programme aimed at yuppies rather than the 1980s film).

The new look was polished and more in keeping with the 1980s. Caroline Munro and The Brian Rogers Connection remained on the YTV payroll, but we said goodbye to Chris Emmett and Mike Newman. In the Country and Western episode, we heard Ted Rogers sing for the first time on 3-2-1. Which explained the cowboy style garb instead of the usual suit and tie. With Emmett and Newman gone, the sketches were replaced by variety style entertainment based on each week’s theme. As if by magic, Chris Emmett returned to 3-2-1 in The Magic of Merlin episode.

Episodes (guests in brackets):
  1. 31 August 1985: Abracadabra (Johnny Hart, Jimmy Cricket, The Simmons Brothers, Vinnie Barning, Dana, The Brian Rogers Connection);
  2. 07 September 1985: Country and Western (Ted Rogers (yes, the presenter, singing for the first time in his own show!), Adele King, Sydney Devine, Paul Richey, The Brian Rogers Connection);
  3. 14 September 1985: Saturday Night Out (Grace Kennedy, Duncan Norvelle, Roger de Courcey (and Nookie Bear), Lance Ellington, Jani (Brian Rogers’ spouse), The Brian Rogers Connection);
  4. 21 September 1985: At The Copa (Vince Hill, Johnny More, Stutz Bearcats, Sonny Hayes and Co., The Brian Rogers Connection);
  5. 28 September 1985: Music Hall IV (Jim Casey, Frankie Vaughan, Peter Goodwright, Eli Woods, Lorna Dallas, The Brian Rogers Connection);
  6. 05 October 1985: Forties (Bobby Knutt, Dennis Lotis, Herb Miller Band, The Minting Sisters (female group inspired by The Andrews Sisters), The Brian Rogers Connection);
  7. 12 October 1985: City Life (Frankie Howerd, Diane Soloman, John Chilton’s Feetwarmers, City Limits (trio, two female/one male vocalist, performing You’re The First, My Last, My Everything), George Melly, The Brian Rogers Connection);
  8. 19 October 1985: Putting on the Ritz (George Chisholm, Wayne Pritchett, Helen Shapiro, Chairman Humph and His Band (the legendary Humphrey Lyttleton’s band at the time));
  9. 26 October 1985: International Cabaret (Lance Edwards, Marti Webb, The Roy Budd Trio (of Get Carter soundtrack fame!), Howard Carpendale, The Brian Rogers Connection);
  10. 02 November 1985: A Touch of the Blarney (Brendan Grace, The New Bachelors, Adele King, Johnny Logan, The Brian Rogers Connection);
  11. 09 November 1985: Oasis (Kaja (the next version of Kajagoogoo performing Afraid of You), Tim Flavin, Andrew O’Connor, Helen Gelzer, The Brian Rogers Connection);
  12. 16 November 1985: The Magic of Merlin (Chris Emmett, Jon Pertwee, Kenneth Connor, Aimi Macdonald, Allan Stewart, Jeremy Connor, Gian Sammarco (Adrian Mole in Thames Television’s adaptations of the Sue Townsend books), The Brian Rogers Connection);
  13. 23 November 1985: Hit Makers (Gloria Gaynor (performing I Will Survive), The Jacques Loussier Trio, Kenny Lynch, Shakatak, The Brian Rogers Connection (featured Dusty Bin dressed as Jimmy Savile – yikes!));
  14. 30 November 1985: Scotland (The Krankies, Morag Mackay, The McCalmans, Peter Morrison, The Brian Rogers Connection);
  15. 07 December 1985: In The Mood (Joe Loss and his Orchestra, Wall Street Crash, Ray Alan and Lord Charles, Todd Miller, Lesley Ann, Iris Williams, The Brian Rogers Connection);
  16. 14 December 1985: London (unknown- any details of extra guests would be appreciated. Second episode to feature Ted Rogers as a singer – dressed as a Pearly King);
  17. 21 December 1985: Sinbad the Sailor – Christmas Special (unknown – any details of extra guests would be appreciated).

30 August 1986 – 21 December 1986

  • Episodes: 13;
  • TX: ITV/Yorkshire Television (all regions), Saturdays, 7.45pm (except Christmas Special: 5.00pm on Sunday, December 21 1986));
  • Hostesses: Caroline Munro, Lynda Lee Lewis.

Whereas the 1985 set of CGI based opening and closing titles could be classed as a beta version, 1986’s were more polished. Dusty Bin was almost as smooth as Ted Rogers’ sharp delivery, and the 321 was in a cool, glossy serif typeface. For the ninth series, we saw a change of voiceover artiste: Anthony Schaeffer was replaced by John Benson. Three years previously, he was the voiceover man for Anglia Television’s Sale of the Century.

Pop music and West End musicals played a greater part in the programme’s running order. With the latest sounds, a showcase for a group’s forthcoming single. Also a nostalgia trip for groups popular a few years earlier. On the 08 November 1986, the Winners episode was a spotlight for Club Mirror magazine’s award winning acts of ’86.

Even with the changes made in the last two years, 3-2-1 still pulled 12 to 15 million viewers. This time, the competition between “your Saturday treat” and other counter attractions was greater. Not so the rivalry between the BBC and ITV; more so the rise in popularity of video cassette recorders and computer games. Televisions in bedrooms meant teenagers didn’t have to see Stan Boardman with their parents (they could play Paradroid on their Commodore 64 instead).

Episodes (guests in brackets):
  1. 30 August 1986: A Night on the Town (Nana Mouskouri, Peter Skellern, Norman Collier, The Irving Davies Dancers);
  2. 06 September 1986: Sea Cruise (Stan Boardman, Aiden J. Harvey, Jessica Martin, Fay Presto, Wall Street Crash, The Brian Rogers Connection);
  3. 13 September 1986: Rock Down the Ages (The Irving Davies Dancers, Andrew O’Connor, The Foxes, Mud, Five Star);
  4. 20 September 1986: Roaring Twenties (Earl Okin, Faith Brown, Grace Kennedy, The Nigel Lythgoe Dancers, Lon Satton);
  5. 27 September 1986: Showstoppers (Michael Staniforth (Timothy Claypole from Rentaghost – one of his last TV appearances before his death), Colm Wilkinson, Marti Webb, Tim Flavin, Helen Gelzer, The Brian Rogers Connection);
  6. 04 October 1986: Magic (Tom Pepper, Shahid Malik, The Great Soprendo, Lorna Dallas, The Brian Rogers Connection);
  7. 11 October 1986: Boogie and Jive (The Chevalier Brothers, Stutz Bearcats, Graham Heywood (as Peter Piper), The Brian Rogers Connection);
  8. 18 October 1986: Mediterranean (Keith Harris and Orville, Black Lace, Vince Hill, Pete Price, The Libby Roberts Dancers);
  9. 25 October 1986: Pictures (Paul Trevillion (of Shoot! magazine’s You Are The Ref fame) and Sadie Nine, Johnny Logan, Mick Miller, Diane Soloman, The Brian Rogers Connection);
  10. 01 November 1986: The Sixties (Barbara Dickson, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Miriam Stockley, Lance Ellington, Tom O’Connor, The Brian Rogers Connection);
  11. 08 November 1986: Winners (Gina Maher, Sonny Hayes, Cover Girls, Tony Christie, Schooner);
  12. 15 November 1986: Pop on the Box (Gloria Gaynor, Lyn Paul, The Searchers, The Rockin’ Berries, The Tudor Davies Dancers, Simon Bowman);
  13. 21 December 1986: Christmas at Toad Hall (Kenneth Connor, Anna Dawson, Felix Bowness, Chris Emmett, Bill Pertwee, Lance Percival and Tony Selby).

05 September 1987 – 19 December 1987

  • Episodes: 13;
  • TX: ITV/Yorkshire Television (all regions), Saturdays, 7.45pm (except Christmas Special: 6.25pm));
  • Hostess: Lynda Lee Lewis.

As things turned out, 1987 was 3-2-1‘s last year. Apart from an Olympic Special special in 1988, neither “your big Saturday treat” nor Ted Rogers would be seen on ITV’s prime time spot again. For a time, it finished 1987 as one of ITV’s longest running quiz shows and had an average of 12 million viewers. Today, a lot of broadcasting stations would die for that amount of viewers in the UK (though home made cakes instead of star names pull in today’s viewers).

For the final series, the word association game, a staple of 3-2-1 since the start, was replaced by a bog-standard quickfire quiz round. The themes, which enabled Yorkshire Television’s set designers to let their creative juices flow, were scrapped. Instead, with the leaner episodes, generic sets. There were some changes to the contestants’ podiums and Ted’s table, with added sheen. The erstwhile Michael Gilbert made a few tweaks to the graphics, and they were slicker still.

Plus they changed the tune. The Johnny Pearson score! Instead of the brassy original and the big band style arrangement (1985 to 1986 episode), Johnny Pearson’s signature theme went electronic. In other words, sounding like a Rod Argent and Peter van Hooke arrangement of his theme. Good, but it seems to have dated faster than the 1978 original score.

Of particular interest, the tenth episode could well have been Simon Cowell’s first foot in the door on Saturday primetime television. One of Mr. Cowell’s first acts (on his Fanfare record label) was his girlfriend, Sinitta. She sung Toyboy on that episode, alongside guests as diverse as George Melly, and The Flaming Hamsters. If you look at the way 3-2-1 changed in ten years, look at any of Syco Productions’ latest works. You might find a bit of Ted Rogers’ show (with Spanish ancestry) in their DNA profile.

For the Christmas Special, couples from Soapland pitted their wits whilst helping charitable causes. There was Jack and Vera Duckworth from Coronation Street (William Tarmey and Elizabeth Dawn), Bobby and Sheila Grant (Ricky Tomlinson and Sue Johnston) from Brookside, Matt and Dolly Skilbeck (Frederick Pyne and Jean Rogers) from Emmerdale Farm. Yes, this is where our obsession with soap stars featuring in special versions of our favourite quiz shows began.

Episodes and guests:
  1. 05 September 1987: The Drifters, Cheryl Baker, Brian Conley, Deeana James, Roy Walker, The Alan Harding Dancers;
  2. 12 September 1987: Jaki Graham, Michael Ball, John Sparkes (as Frank Hovis), Marie Murphy, The Brian Rogers Connection;
  3. 19 September 1987: Shane Richie, Helen Gelzer, Ken Dodd, The Mini Tones (Jack Purvis and Kenny Baker), The Brian Rogers Connection;
  4. 26 September 1987: Kiki Dee, Richard Swerhun, Fascinating Aida, Phil Cornwell (impersonator – now the voice of Alexander Orlov and friends for Compare The Market), Duncan Norvelle, The Brian Rogers Connection;
  5. 03 October 1987: The Don Lusher Big Band, Madeleine Bell, Stutz Bearcats, Rosser and Davies (Geralit Rosser and Lloyd Davies);
  6. 10 October 1987: Wayne Sleep, Nicolas de Angelis, The 2 Marks (Mark Heap and Mark Saban), Gloria Gaynor, The Brian Rogers Connection;
  7. 17 October 1987: Richard Digance, The Real Thing, Dudley Doolittle, Wayne Dobson, The Alan Harding Dancers, Rebecca Storm;
  8. 24 October 1987: Isoceles (Pat Abernathy and David Marsden), Andrew O’Connor, Jessica Martin, The Ronnie Scott Quartet, Stephanie Lawrence;
  9. 31 October 1987: Los Gauchos, Grace Kennedy, Paul da Vinci (the falsetto voiced singer in the Rubettes’ Sugar Baby Love a UK Number One single from 1974), Teddy Peiro and Patricio, Bernie Winters, The Brian Rogers Connection;
  10. 07 November 1987: The Flaming Hamsters (Sara Crowe and Ann Bryson), George Melly, John Chilton’s Feetwarmers, Nikki Belsher, Sinitta, Rondo Veneziano;
  11. 14 November 1987: Stan Boardman, Peter Beckett, Kit and the Widow (Kit Hesketh-Harvey and Richard Sisson), Adrian Walsh, Gordon Scott, The Brian Rogers Connection;
  12. 21 November 1987: Tom Pepper, Showaddywaddy, Marian Montgomery, Frankie Vaughan, The Syd Lawrence Orchestra;
  13. 19 December 1987 (Christmas Special): Bernie Winters, Gareth Hunt, Nina Myskow, Henry Cooper, Eli Woods, Pat Coombes, Norman Collier.

1988 episodes

Only two episodes were aired in 1988. One was an Olympic Special, in advance of the Seoul Olympic Games. The second episode was the Pantomania Christmas Special.

  • 03 September 1988: Olympic Special (guests and transmission time unknown – any details would be appreciated);
  • 24 December 1988: Pantomania – Christmas Special (transmission time unknown) (Linda Nolan, Maria Whittaker, Suzanne Mizzi, Christopher Biggins, Adrian Moorhouse, Aiden J. Harvey, Geoff Capes, Bernie Clifton, Hilary O’Neil, Allan Stewart).

“The Oxbridge lot got control of TV and they didn’t really want it…” – Ted Rogers (Sunday Mirror, April 1996)

3-2-1 finished 1988 on a high. That year’s Christmas Special, featuring Adrian Moorhouse, Suzanne Mizzi, Maria Whittaker, and Aiden J. Harvey amassed 12.5 million viewers. Not bad for a game and variety show that had been the “big Saturday treat” for ten years. The sketches or the dance routines may have been an acquired taste for some viewers.

It wasn’t, nor had any intentions of being the coolest show of the 1980s. It was no-frills, family-friendly entertainment with the sort of clues that Bunthorne would have thought were too ambiguous. When 12 to 15 million people had that acquired taste from 1978 to 1988, that’s some serious advertising based smackeroonies.

In 1989, 3-2-1 had gone from our screens. The Oxbridge lot (as claimed in Ted Rogers’ 1996 interview in the Sunday Mirror) had taken over. It was claimed the same set of people were responsible for the loss of ITV’s wrestling bouts, a legacy from World of Sport. Again, a similar number of people to those who watched 3-2-1 tuned in to see the likes of Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks and Les Kellett.

So, what was on ITV, on the 09 September 1989 at 7.45 pm, more or less 3-2-1’s traditional slot? A remake of The Saint. On BBC One, Russ Abbot’s show (from 7.30 pm).

Also in 1989, a bigger shift was taking place. In some households, multichannel television was within reach thanks to Sky’s February launch on the Astra 1A satellite. British Satellite Broadcasting’s launch on the Marco Polo satellite – originally September 1989 – was delayed till April 1990. The video film rental market was buoyant, but the price of video films and documentaries were finally affordable enough to purchase.

Another factor in its decommissioning could have been the acts. Some of them might have lost their appeal to viewers. With the rise of home computing, watching television became less of a family experience. A move that would gradually take us to present-day trends thanks to the internet and Video on Demand.

Perhaps Yorkshire Television could have only gone so far in making the programme fresh, though there was probably enough ideas to take 3-2-1 into the early 1990s. Could it have segued neatly with Granada Television’s Stars In Their Eyes and have tribute acts in the studios? Would the late 1990s penchant for phone-in competitions suited the show?

Would 3-2-1 be fine in 2017? Alongside a few other gameshows in 2005, Ted Rogers’ programme was slated for revival, though it never materialised. A 2017 edition might have had four different kinds of Dusty Bins, depending on which week it went out. Week One could have been Blue and Green Saturday, then Black on Week Two, and a Brown one throughout all twelve episodes.

Plus, a 2017 version might eschew the sketches in favour of the later variety-orientated format. Perhaps it could offer a theme for each week, as was the case till its last series. Could it feature the same stars from today’s reality TV programmes?

In all fairness, 3-2-1 wouldn’t have ended as well if it dragged on till the mid-1990s. Ten years is quite a good run for any programme before the format or story lines get stale. The original UK run of The Generation Game was a similar length, before the programme was revived in 1990. Post-revival, it ran till 2002, give or take a few breaks in transmission.

If 3-2-1 did resurface in the near future, the lavish sets for each theme wouldn’t be a feature. Viewers could be treated to a standard, though lavish set designed by Andy Walmsley. Johnny Pearson’s tune could be rearranged by Paul Farrar (of The Chase and Tipping Point signature tunes fame). Dusty Bin could be controlled with a smartphone app and Bluetooth access. A 3-2-1 clue could be read from a cheap and cheerful Android tablet. Even in the tail end of this decade, winning a car, or a holiday of a lifetime, still has a wow factor.

Who could assume Ted Rogers’ role in a potential remake? Stephen Mulhearn (another ex-Butlins Redcoat like Ted) has been hailed as one candidate. Perhaps Ted’s son, Danny Rogers, could be his successor; in the last decade, he has honed his craft on the stage as an actor and a presenter. Like his father, he did Butlins as a Redcoat.

When I was young, 3-2-1 was filed under ‘take it or leave it’. As far as I knew, we changed channels once Dusty Bin was rejected (and the young S.V. did like Dusty Bin – yes, I even had a Dusty Bin style toy box). Watching them again on YouTube, the acts were just as cheesy and the years have not been too kind. Not least some of the prizes or references in the sketches (Twitter would be irate if one of today’s quiz shows gave away a St. Bernard dog with a supply of brandy). The quiz round in all but the last series have stood up well.

Watching the episodes in a modern day light, they are also a who’s who in light entertainment during the late 1970s until the late 1980s. Towards the second half of the 1980s, it showed how the direction of travel favoured popular music and impressionists. Even if alternative comedy didn’t get a look in. Back then, their names still sold theatre tickets and an appearance on prime time television was almost as good as a free advertisement. Looking at the prizes, a fantastic historical document of consumer trends (and the downright surreal with some items).

What’s worth noting is the programme brought joy to many families. Few programmes today cater for as broad a church as 3-2-1 did for ten years. It never set out to capture the press zeitgeist. Apart from contemporary references by Ted himself, the acts, plus Messrs Emmett and Newman. Nor act cool for coolness’ sake. For the contestants, the backstage crew, and the guests, it must have been a blast working with Ted Rogers and Dusty Bin. For ten years, one hell of a ride.

Where are they now?

  • Ian Rowley, the creator of the Dusty Bin model is still a key player at H. A. & C. Rowley Model Maker. The company is known as Rowley SFX and they still do special effects today.
  • Dusty Bin has his own Facebook page and has been taken out on odd occasions. He has been seen with Ted’s son, Danny and has trod the boards too.
  • John Bartlett, after 3-2-1, has produced situation comedy episodes. His credits include As Time Goes By, Goodnight Sweetheart, and My Family.
  • Brian Rogers, of the Brian Rogers Connection (no relation to Ted Rogers), is one of four directors of The Performers College in Stanford-le-Hope, Essex.
  • Jan Rogers, Brian’s wife, is also a director for the same college. She has appeared on 3-2-1 as Jani Z. One of her songs, I’m Alone, appeared as the penultimate track of K-Tel’s Hotline compilation album from January 1983.
  • John Sunderland has his own graphic design company, John Sunderland Design. As well as creating Dusty Bin, he has also designed graphics for the award-winning Jorvik Museum in York. He also loves pubs and is a proud Yorkshireman.

References

  • Google News: Glasgow Herald television listings from the 28 July 1978 to 24 December 1988;
  • IMDb.com: details of Ted Rogers, plus hostesses, and episode transmission dates;
  • Wikipedia: articles on 3-2-1 and Ted Rogers;
  • YouTube: references to most episodes viewed by this fellow;
  • The A to Z of 3-2-1: Challenge TV one-off special aired in Christmas 2000;
  • It Was All Right in the 1970s: Channel Four Television programme on 1970s television;
  • The 100 Greatest TV Moments from Hell (Tyne-Tees Television/Channel Four Television, 2000): for your information, 3-2-1 came tenth in this countdown, first aired in September 2000.

S.V., 20 July 2017.

 

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One thought on “On Reflection: The Joy of 3-2-1

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  1. H’mmmm, fascinating research but I can’t say I was ever a fan! My Dad liked it, which meant the kiss of death to me!

    I’m afraid Saturday night TV died for me when “Doctor Who” moved to a mid week slot (Peter Davison’s first series in 1982.) Oddly, it was around that time that “The Generation Game’s” first run finished too, as those two were always closely associated in my mind!

    Didn’t know “3.2.1” lasted so long but, of course, by the late eighties, I’d swapped Saturday nights on the sofa for Saturday nights in the pub!

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