Great set and titles, shame about the premise

Our Clip of Quizmas Past:

  • Quiz: Child’s Play;
  • Presenter: Michael Aspel;
  • Made by: London Weekend Television for ITV (1984 – 88);
  • First shown: Saturday 7th January 1984.

Back in the early 1980s, somebody thought it was a great idea to use infantile malaprops as primetime entertainment. Also in the same time and space dimension, somebody thought it was good to have kiddies being pop stars (and we all remember how bad Minipops was in more ways than one).

In 1982, Mark Goodson created the original version of Child’s Play. It made its debut on the 20th September 1982 on the CBS Network with 283 shows aired till the 16th September 1983. On the 7th January 1984, the Mark Goodson quiz show crossed the Atlantic Ocean thanks to LWT. It was aired on a Saturday teatime slot, later the domain of Harry Hill’s TV Burp in the late noughties and 2010s.

Compared with the original, the set at London Television Centre was a more refined affair. In the CBS series, it looks like a cross between Toys ‘R’ Us and a rejected set design for TV-am’s Datarun. The LWT series had a much more refined Art Deco style set – presumably influenced by John Tribe’s formative years.

Mr Tribe’s handiwork is seen in the programme’s closing titles – eschewing his usual detailed work for kiddy style drawings – influenced by his own younger children at the time, Rosie and Lizzie. The real piece de resistance is the drawing of London Television Centre in the style of a seven-year-old.

Child’s Play had quite a decent run. Technically it was excellent, though a pain in the proverbials for the film editor when adding clips to a 30 minute episode. On the other hand, the use of children for such clips (GDPR and friends) and safeguarding measures might make for uneasy viewing. (Still, it didn’t stop Alan Carr’s 2022 revival on ITV’s Gameshow Marathon). Even in 1984, the Kids Say Supposedly Funny Things premise left a sour taste in my parents’ mouths years ahead of time.

The rules of the game

There are two teams with one regular contestant paired with a B List celebrity. For example, yours truly would be paired with Isla St. Clair (then seen on The Saturday Show at the time of LWT’s run), whereas his friend might be paired with Christopher Biggins. In the first part of the game, the child is given a word to describe an object. For example (not that it ever happened in real life with me), your six-year-old blogger would say:

It has a white roof, it is also orange and brown… there are lots of windows and you can put a ticket in one of these clippy machines…

His friend (of a similar age) would probably say something about MCW Metrobuses. As ‘bus’ is part of the answer, that would have been bleeped with a Batman style ‘whoops’.

The audience at home would see on screen ‘A Greater Manchester Transport bus.’ or ‘A Manchester bus’. Isla and Stuart, or Emile and Christopher would try to make out the child’s description. Audiences at London Television Centre would laugh; Aspel would come up with a few one-liners.

The next round is the definition round. This is a quick fire round in The Pyramid Game mould. For example, keeping with our bus theme:

You need one to get on the busa ticket.

He or she might sell tickets or lead a banda conductor.

(Being as we are in 1984) You might have to sit there if you want to smokeupstairs.

The third round is the Bonus Round. Once again, children describe the meaning of a given object or the like, though contestants buzz in when they think they know the answer.

Winners and losers received a Child’s Play trophy, whereas the winner received a gourmet food hamper – probably the same type of hamper they gave away on Play Your Cards Right.

Next on The Ghost of Quizmas Past…

There may be trouble ahead when we look at a long-running music quiz with a seventeen-year run. Stay tuned for further announcements tomorrow!

S.V., 10 December 2022.

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