Spit and polish for a 1960s quiz in the 1980s

Our Clip of Quizmas Past:

  • Quiz: Concentration;
  • Presenter: Bob Carolgees;
  • Made by: TVS Television for ITV, Maidstone Studios;
  • First shown: Tuesday 16th June 1959 (Granada Television for ITV); Sunday 4th September 1988 (TVS Television/Mark Goodson Productions/Talbot Television for ITV).

“We asked a survey of people what percentage of English language game shows are based on card games…” – The Ghost of Sir Bruce Forsyth (2022).

OK, let’s get serious. Is it any wonder that some of the world’s most successful game shows are based on card games, board games and side show attractions? One example is the global success of Card Sharks, which we know as Play Your Cards Right in the UK. Another one is Trivial Pursuit which was a minor success for Tony Slattery. As for Tipping Point, its success amazes me because of how they interspersed a giant Penny Falls machine with a bog standard multiple choice quiz.

In our younger years, we might have spent family time in Blackpool collecting and watching two pence pieces fall into a machine. We might have played Snap or Pairs in the caravan before teatime, whilst waiting to cook a Fray Bentos pie in an oven the size of a matchbox. Mark Goodson’s Concentration takes its inspiration from the latter game.

Concentration first appeared in the USA in 1958 and made its UK debut the year after. Granada Television was the first ITV franchise holder to show the quiz, hosted by Barry McQueen. Mr McQueen (not to be confused with the now more famous town crier) had a brief stint in the UK as a newscaster and voiceover artist. He was born in Sydney, Australia.

Its original UK run was only for a year with 70 episodes. TVS Television’s revival was also a brief one; firstly with Nick Jackson at the helm, before being succeeded by Bob Carolgees. Only 23 episodes were made, but unlike the Granada episodes, they got a second wind as reruns on The Family Channel (who took on TVS Television’s Maidstone Studios after TVS lost its Southern English franchise to Meridian). The Family Channel started on the Astra 1C satellite in September 1993 before becoming Challenge TV.

The rules of the game

Concentration is like Pairs with knobs on. It is a test of memory as well as language, where picking up the right pairs uncovered part of a rebus. If you guessed the rebus with fewer numbers left on the screen, you picked up more points. The rebus could either be a quote, a motto or a brand name – a more simplified version of the Dingbats board game. In the Granada Television version there was 30 squares to uncover; the TVS Television remake had 25 squares.

A correct pair of numbers revealed a prize before uncovering part of the screen. Picking up a pair of Wild Squares would uncover three squares instead of the usual two. In the final round, our winning contestant would have to try and solve the puzzle in 45 seconds. Known as The Global Game, a matching holiday destination would unveil a suitcase. After the final pair of destinations is matched, the spare square would unveil the contestant’s holiday (which is likely to be Florida or the Maldives instead of Blackpool).

TVS’ remake made for pleasant Sunday night viewing. Nothing too stodgy nor boisterous, and a neat remake of a venerable American format.

Next on The Ghost of Quizmas Past…

The quiz show that Peter Ridsdale-Scott thought was the most vulgar thing on television at the time, despite being its producer. A ‘vulgar quiz’ that enjoyed a nine-year run on BBC One from 1977 to 1986.

For a cheeky clue, please complete this catchphrase from Channel Four’s The Big Breakfast:

“Wake up, you beggars, it’s…” (Don’t phone, it’s just for fun).

S.V., 04 December 2022.

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