Granada’s answer to Blockbusters

Our Clip of Quizmas Past:

  • Quiz: Connections;
  • Presenters: Sue Robbie/Simon Potter/Richard Madeley;
  • Made by: Granada Television for ITV;
  • First shown: Monday 13th May 1985 (Granada Television); Friday 26th April 1985 (London Weekend Television).

Granada Television’s Connections started out as a summertime replacement for Blockbusters. Hosted by Sue Robbie, its contestants were mainly sixth form students. Despite its original intention as a summer replacement for Blockbusters, it wasn’t fully networked across the ITV till 1989. Just to confuse things, there was also a primetime series.

In Granadaland, where your blogger hails from, it used to go out at 5.15pm on weekdays and Saturdays for most of its life. That was the case from 1985 to 1988. In 1989 and 1990, when the series was fully networked, there was a change of time slot and presenter. Sue Robbie was replaced by Simon Potter. Instead of Granada’s Quay Street studio, it was filmed in Action Time’s studios in Kearsley. The regular series, featuring sixth form students moved from 5.15pm to 3.00pm.

Just to confuse things, Connections had a primetime edition. From 1988, after Sue Robbie’s last series finished on the 9th April, Connections started again on the 12th April – with a later time slot of Tuesdays at 6.30pm. On Scottish Television opted for Mondays, again at 6.30pm. Grampian Television opted for a 3.00pm time slot on Thursdays. There was (yet another) different presenter: Richard Madeley. By 1989, all ITV franchisees fell in line with Granada Television’s Tuesday at 6.30pm option.

After the 1989 run of primetime episodes, Connections (with Simon Potter at the helm) was aired five days a week at 3.00pm. In 1990, its last year, four times a week from Tuesday to Friday. Whereas Cheggers Plays Pop and Television Scrabble had the advantage of being on the same time every time across the UK, keeping track of Connections‘ episodes was like trying to fathom out bus/rail connections between the 343 and the Glossop train at Flowery Field.

The rules of the game

There are three major parts of the game. The most famous part of Connections is its picture round, Connect The Clue. With a little help from Charles Foster on voiceover, contestants answer general knowledge questions to reveal one of nine pictures. With up to nine pictures, each contestant has to make a connection. If the sequence of pictures include a Ford Fiesta, violinist Nigel Kennedy, James Joyce’s most famous work Ulysses and a picture of Lincoln Cathedral, the Connection would be Presidents of the United States of America.

Connect The Clue forms most of the quiz itself. Connections are made by making the correct eight letter word, or by solving a maths problem. The numerical round is called Find The Figure. Instead of pictures, Charles Foster would unveil a number or a mathematical sign. From the figures and symbols, the product of each sum is our connection.

The third part of Connections is the Bonus Round. During Sue Robbie’s tenure, it was Link The Letters. Instead of pictures, we get (pay attention at the back, please…) letters. This could have appeared at any stage of the quiz, whereas later episodes had the bonus round at the end. Instead of Link The Letters, the bonus round was The Final Connection. With The Final Connection, the winning player would have to guess the link between the first picture and the last picture from previous Connect The Clue rounds.

Still, a lot better than a silver plated cheque book and pen

Connections‘ consolation prizes were pretty reason. In the Sue Robbie era of the show (which I would say is the quiz show’s golden age), departing contestants came away with a Connections camera. Every Pound of their points went to a charity of the contestant’s choice. Under Richard Madeley, that became a goody bag (if anybody knows what was in these goody bags, please drop me a line). With the Simon Potter series, a pocket television set.

Next on The Ghost of Quizmas Past…

Pull up a chair and open the next door on our Advent Calendar as we go back to the late 1980s with a square based daytime quiz show. (Perhaps we’ve given the game away a little by nearly announcing its title).

S.V., 07 December 2022.

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