Weaver's Week 2021-12-12

Last week | Weaver's Week Index | Next week

Coming later: a show that left everyone falling over themselves with bemusement.


So You Think...?


So You Think... You Know About Christmas?

BBC1, 22 December 1980

Why Don't You...? has begun, Cheggers Plays Pop has had the tinsel out, the Chalk Farm Salvation Army Band have marched up the hill. It's the Monday before Christmas, and BBC1 marks the season with a traditional Christmas quiz. So, if you're not watching The Krypton Factor Champion of Champions special, this is your best choice.

So You Think...? Cliff Michelmore, as urbane as Gordon Burns.

It's part of the very successful So You Think... strand, which had run an occasional episode every year since 1965. Cliff Michelmore is the chairman, Magnus Magnusson his able assistant. There's a picture on this page of the Radio Times to fill out your answers, or you can use the back of an envelope.

So You Think...? Where would we be without the rusty old Radio Times?

"Join in and have fun!" says Cliff Michelmore, introducing his team – lyricist Tim Rice, harpist Mary O'Hara, and magician Paul Daniels. They are the Hollies. Magnus introduces the Ivy team: pantomime dame Arthur Askey, the actor Susan Hampshire, and quiz nemesis Basil Brush.

Scoring is more complex than it might have been, and certainly more difficult than we would have today. In the studio, each person plays individually, 5 points for each right answer, so 15 points if the team gets it all right. Cliff suggests we award ourselves 15 points for each question we get right at home, thus ensuring that almost all viewers will beat at least one of the teams.

So You Think...? Mary O'Hara, harpist.

Question one! "Only two of the Gospels carry the story of Jesus' birth. Which two?"

Grief, that's difficult. "Is it A) St Matthew and St Luke; B) St Mark and St John; C) St Luke and St Mark; D) St John and St Matthew". Ah, these are multiple choice questions, which we recognise from shows like Millionaire. Just five seconds to write down the answer, there's a lot of show to get in and they want to be off air at 8.10.

So You Think...? Tim Rice, lyricist.

There are five questions in this section, a mixture of ABCD, and a few True or False questions thrown in. Magnus explains how Dionysius messed up the reckoning of dates so Jesus was born in 4BC. He tells us about the Festival of the Unconquered Sun, and what frankincense and myrrh are.

At the end of the round, we go round the panel to tot up the panel. Arthur Askey got everything wrong, Susan Hampshire pressed buttons at random, and quiz nemesis Basil Brush got them all right. Well done, that fox!

So You Think...? Susan Hampshire, acts.

Round two is on history, how they've celebrated Christmas at various points in the past. Did Parliament ever try to ban Christmas (and remember, this was broadcast in 1980)? When did George V make his first King's Speech? Magnus reads out the questions, and Cliff the answers and explanations. So, no, this isn't a Xander-and-Richard show, but was a truly double-hosted show.

"I demand a don't know button! I don't know most of these!" quips Paul Daniels. Susan Hampshire got everything wrong, Arthur Askey made one lucky guess, and Basil Brush still leads his team.

So You Think...? George V, spoke to the listening thousands.

Christmas around the world is next, a bunch of film clips. There's a clip of Swedish girls carrying candles and chanting "Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia". Is this an homage to the virgin Mary? Most of these questions are completely timeless, but one – asking about Santa Claus's Dutch helpers – has changed in the intervening decades.

Traditions do change, and what is accepted as general knowledge changes. We mostly know about breaking piñata these days, in a way we didn't in 1980.

So You Think...? Icelandic elf.

So You Think...? Icelandic elves.

"Before we started this programme, you said it was impossible to make a fool of ourselves." Susan Hampshire is pressing all the right buttons, but not necessarily in the right order. Paul Daniels and Cliff Michelmore get into quite the steely argument about whether St Nicholas and Father Christmas are one and the same.

Halfway through the quiz, halfway through the show, and we have an entertainment interlude. Dave Allen tells how Father Christmas visits each house for one five-thousandth of a second, and across the night eats three tonnes of mince pies and a million gallons of sherry. Paul Daniels has a practical demonstration of Santa's entry into a house like yours.

So You Think...? Paul Daniels, illusionist.

The graphics on the show are quite basic: still captions, pictures and text, perhaps the text might appear or disappear line by line. We learn that Christmas crackers were inspired by bonbons wrapped in paper, that York Minster puts mistletoe on the altar, and that Christmas cards were first posted in the 1840s. Who knows, maybe the Royal Mail will deliver them one year soon.

So You Think...? Ah, we covered Christmas Crackerjack last year.

Here's where the budget for this programme went. They've got The King's Singers to perform a short medley of carols. But one of the words in each carol is wrong! What is the right word they should have sung? "Four calling birds, three French horns, two turtle doves... and a partridge in a pear tree."

So You Think...? Half of The King's Singers.

Who were The King's Singers? A six-part male vocal harmony group, always available for light entertainment programmes that wanted to make themselves look a bit more refined. For this performance, they're dressed as choir people and are filmed in a well-decorated church. In 1980, the line-up was Jeremy Jackman, Alastair Hume, Bill Ives, Anthony Holt, Simon Carrington, and Brian Kay. The modern equivalent might be the House of Games Band, in that round where they get the contestants to fill in the blanks.

In the studio, no surprise that the musicians Mary and Tim scored a full house. So did quiz nemesis Basil Brush, thus proving that foxes know their music. Entertainment is the focus of round five, and it begins with a Christmas cracker joke.

I say I say I say. Why do people (and foxes) wear paper hats at Christmas?

I don't know, why do people (and foxes) wear paper hats at Christmas? So You Think...?

So Basil Brush can't see anything!

A later question asks for which of these songs was not a Christmas number one? Cor, a version of "Rocking around the Christmas tree" without Mel Smith or Kim Wilde! Hasn't got higher than number 6. (Facts correct at the time of recording, seeing as how it's number 10 this very week.) "We don't know anything about entertainment," suggests Paul Daniels.

The last round hoves into view, and it's the guy from a top hotel with a hostess trolley full of goodies. What mincemeat is in the real mince pie? Mutton, and there are three cuts on top to mark the three wise men. (Do they still make cuts in mince pies? {runs to the kitchen to check} Not in those mass-produced supermarket ones...) And there's a Twelfth-Night Pie, made from all the leftovers from the festive season.

This is a caption for a round about singing. So You Think...?

There's a final look at the scoreboard: the Holly team (Tim Rice, Mary O'Hara, Paul Daniels) are the winners, but we've totted up the scores and find that Basil Brush was the best individual performance. "How's about Basil coming on Mastermind next year?" asks Magnus. Yes, how's about Basil coming on Mastermind one year? Hacker T Dog somehow managed to come second on his show.

So You Think...? Arthur Askey, comedian.

What happened to these people? Magnus Magnusson remained with Mastermind until 1997, and died in 2007. Cliff Michelmore continued to broadcast a wide range of programmes into the 1990s; he died in 2016. The King's Singers still perform, replacing their ranks every few years.

Tim Rice has remained an award-winning lyricist, and is still amongst us. Mary O'Hara continued to sing and play the harp until 2010, and now lives on the Aran Islands. Paul Daniels became a legend in magic and as the host of great quizzes; he also died in 2016.

Arthur Askey was a comedian and actor, and died in 1982. Susan Hampshire continued to act on television and in pantomime until a few years ago, and is enjoying her retirement. Basil Brush has continued to entertain the nation's young, and the young-at-heart, and remains the one fox Jenny Ryan doesn't want to face in a quiz.

So You Think...? Basil Brush, as sharp in 1980 as he is today.

So You Think... was a light-hearted entertainment, dressing up and explaining some interesting trivia nuggets. There weren't many questions, but Cliff and Magnus were able to put everything in context. We learned a lot, and we had fun doing so. So You Think... continued to pop up from time to time until 1984, and is a clear inspiration for Test the Nation the National Test twenty years later.

So You Think...? Cheers, Cliff!


Runaround on Ice

Southern for ITV, 25 December 1980

We'll move forward a few days, to 11.10 on Christmas morning. Some people will be in church. Some people will be in bed, nursing their hangovers. Some people will be in the kitchen, preparing a meal for the extended family. And some people will be watching television.

Runaround This, to be precise.

There wasn't much choice at this hour on Christmas morning. Play School on BBC2, but if you're old enough to choose your channel, you're too old for Play School. BBC1 has The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm, a 1962 animation that held the attention of absolutely nobody. ITV preferred Runaround on Ice, a festive edition of the long-established show.

Now, the basic idea behind Runaround is very simple. Here is a question, with three possible answers. Run to the correct answer. Ah, but other people could just copy you, so you've the option to run to a different answer, and then move to the right answer when the host shouts "Runaround – now!"

Runaround The players line up behind their correct answer.

It's a very simple game, and it is broken in lots of ways.

There is absolutely nothing to the game, it's question, runaround, answer. There's a point to everyone getting a right answer, but anyone giving a wrong answer is stuck in the dungeon for a long time. It'll take everybody missing the right answer, or only the one person being right, to empty the dungeon.

Runaround Today's players skate into position.

The game's further broken because they award a point for each right answer, and you can't score if you're in the dungeon, and there's only about ten questions in the entire show. There's almost always a runaway winner, and most of the kids need not have bothered turning up.

The rundown of the prizes is by Southern TV's Eve Thomas, she also names the child contestants and gives a very brief biography. Eve's work is technically excellent. The actual quiz part of Runaround is not particularly rigorous. And by "not particularly rigorous" we mean "is riddled with so many inaccuracies it would have the infants at Beyond Dispute shaking their rattles at the television in frustration".

Runaround Mike Reid (top) with a stuffed polar bear.

Mike Reid mispronounces many of the answers, gets thoroughly confused by who's meant to be in the dungeon and who's still playing, shouts at the children, and generally seems to be completely out of his depth. C'mon, this is not rocket science. This is a simple children's television show, it's about as difficult as hosting a topical panel game. And yet Mike Reid couldn't organise an office party if he tried.

Runaround Tim Edmunds, the hardest working man in showbiz.

Researcher and adjudicator Tim Edmunds attempts to keep order, he's equipped with a buzzer for whenever Mike Read makes an error. It's a surprise that it only goes off two or three times in the average show. Mike and Tim do have a Xander-and-Richard relationship: Mike says something wrong, Tim comes in with the facts. Before Richard Osman, before Tim Brooke-Taylor on Beat the Nation, there was Tim Edmunds on Runaround.

OK, so the game is broken, and the quiz is administered by the most incompetent host ever. Surely there's got to be something else in the show? Yes, there are many other things in the show. So far we've filled about eight minutes of action, and it's a 20-minute slot. The gaps are filled by guests and stunts.

Runaround Guests from the Southern TV Christmas party.

For this Christmas edition, the show is "on ice". And by "on ice", they don't actually mean on frozen water. No, this is a plastic substitute, with a small amount of liquid on it: if you wear ice skates and try to travel on it, you'll be able to skate.

But if you wear normal shoes and walk on the flooring, you'll be able to walk perfectly normally. Jurgen Etheridge, the inventor of this flooring, pops up as one of the guests, and explains you can do almost anything on this surface – especially play tennis. Such was the success of this flooring that the British tennis players didn't win another major title for over three decades.

Runaround Jurgen Etheridge, holding a piece of his flooring.

Guests on this show are Ruth Lindsey, a young skater; the costumes of an ice performance from Bournemouth's summer season; and Madness.

Yeah, Madness. Suggs and the lads, you'll recognise them from Top of the Pops and the hit parade. They're performing "One step beyond", dressed as Santa Clauses.

Runaround Santa Suggsy, hurry down the chimney tonight...

Runaround is filmed in Southampton, close to the Beaulieu Motor Museum. They often had old cars in the studio, driven in to show the children what their grandparents drove, or saw on the roads. Some of the old motor vehicles were quite smokey, gave off some smelly gases and had loud engines. Mike tried to do an interview even when we couldn't hear what anyone was saying.

And, of course, Runaround is famed for its off-colour remarks. Just a couple of minutes into this Christmas episode, Mike says of a stuffed polar bear, "This is my mother-in-law." Now, mother-in-law jokes were accepted for adults in the culture of 1980, but they're hardly a reference that children will get. And this is going out at 11.15 Christmas morning, on children's television...

Runaround Just some of today's prizes.

Outside, there's an "eskimo" in an "igloo", terms that weren't accurate then, and we know better than to use today. Talking Pictures TV, who occasionally re-show old editions of Runaround, are right to note how many editions contain outdated references that may cause offence.

And yet, Runaround was a long-running hit. This in spite of being a rotten format to begin with, bad technically, and with a host who often shouted at the young contestants. How did Runaround succeed when so many other shows failed?

Runaround It's the only show where a penguin tries to play guitar.

Quite simply, Runaround was entertaining, like a car crash is entertaining. We never quite knew what would happen when Mike Reid turned up. We might watch it for the pop acts, or for the collection of teddy bears, or for the amazing animals. Some viewers might watch it for the quiz, or to assess what prizes they'd like.

And there wasn't much else on. There were only two television channels on air at 4pm most days, and it was ITV's show or whatever worthy and improving programme was on BBC1 (Newsround or that dubbed German version of Heidi, usually).

Runaround Big Daddy (left) with Mike Reid.

Watch more

This is one of about 30 Runaround episodes on Talking Pictures TV Encore. Free, registration required.

In these days of a squillion other choices, Runaround wouldn't be allowed to be so slipshod. Is there room for a revival on television? Perhaps, but only as part of another format: think Dick and Dom's Muckaround, or a game they might play on Crackerjack! if they're ever allowed ten people in the studio.

What happened to the stars of the show? Mike Reid went on to have a long acting career, most memorably as Frank Butcher in Eastenders; he died in 2007. Tim Edmunds remained in children's television, producing No 73 and Motormouth, and Terror Towers and Teleganticmegavision.

Runaround The competitors in the fake snow.

In other news

Back to the present, and Jordon from this week's episodes has written about what it's like to be on Moneybags.

Quizzy Mondays told us who got into the University Challenge quarter-finals at Bristol's expense. King's London beat Hertford Oxford by 165-115. All of the Oxford sides have now been eliminated from the contest. Golfers won Only Connect (2) after a stupendous Missing Vowels performance. Allister Mallon won Mastermind after taking James Craig Viscount Craigavon as the specialist subject.

What's on this week? I Literally Just Told You (C4, Thu), a test of observation and memory hosted by Jimmy Carr. Walk the Line (ITV and VM1, Sun-Fri) is a test of performance and confidence, with Gary Barlow.

Christmas specials on The Satellite Channel for A League of Their Own (Mon), Never Mind the Buzzcocks (Wed), and There's Something About Movies (Thu).

It's the final of ITV's topical satire show I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! (Sun). Final week of Masterchef The Professionals (BBC1, Tue-Thu), and Portrait Artist of the Year (Artsworld, Wed).

Next Saturday has Christmas specials of Rolling in It and Paul O'Grady's Saturday Night Line Up (both ITV). On BBC1, it's the final of Strictly Come Dancing and the first in a new run of The Weakest Link under new host Romesh Ranganathan.

Next Sunday has the Junior Eurovision Song Contest (TG4 and youtube.com/jesc). We will post a review at some point before Christmas. We might miss Would I Lie to You at Christmas 2021 (BBC1, Mon 20th), Christmas University Challenge (BBC2, from Mon 20th), a tenth anniversary edition (!!) of The Big Quiz (2) (ITV, Mon 20th), and the Celebrity Masterchef Christmas Cook-Off (BBC1, Tue 21st).

Pictures: BBC, Southern TV.

To have Weaver's Week emailed to you on publication day, receive our exclusive TV roundup of the game shows in the week ahead, and chat to other ukgameshows.com readers, sign up to our Google Group.

Last week | Weaver's Week Index | Next week

A Labyrinth Games site.
Design by Thomas.
Printable version
Editors: Log in