Nick Turnbull (original host)
Hostesses Gay and Zoë Spink (beauty queen twins)
Announcer: Malcolm Brown (1980-1)
Granada for ITV, 1980-4
Early board game quiz which few people seemingly remember. Apart from the first series, it was hosted by Cockney sing-a-long character Brown (think Max Bygraves but younger) who got the gig because he had appeared as a guest on the first series (see Trivia below).
Two contestants answered the questions while corresponding celebrity partners played the role of "game pieces" on a track of 44 squares. The contestant furthest ahead at the end of the game won £250 for the charity of their choice, with a bonus if they completed the circuit and got back to "Square One". Usually, time would just run out before they did this, which made a bit of a mockery of the whole idea. However, the jackpot went up by £250 a week if it wasn't won, but was always for a specified charity.
Round One was a buzzer question round, with the celebs standing on the path, whilst their partners answered. A right answer meant the celeb progressed one square, but a wrong answer allowed the opponent to progress two squares.
Round Two was a "game" round, always different. For example, Willie Rushton and Diana Dors had to stand with arms outstretched whilst pieces of fruit were balanced on them by their contestants partners, winner being the one supporting most fruit. Rolf Harris and Madge Hindle (you know, Madge Hindle!) were asked to write down as many words as possible in one minute that ended with the letter "A".
Occasionally celebs might land on a "bonus square", where a "harder question" was asked to win a five-square bonus or loss - "Allied prisoners of war who were persistent escapers in World War Two and were recaptured were sent to which castle in East Germany?" (Colditz)
Round Three saw more buzzer questions, and then in Round Four contestants and celebs swapped places so that the celebs were answering. Questions such as "What is a metronome?" were pitched to Ken Dodd, who could very quickly refer to a dwarf on the Paris underground before giving the right answer, and when Magnus Pyke and Barbara Woodhouse were involved, questions were largely on science and dogs, of course.
Round Five was a sort of Generation Game moment, like delivering a Shakespeare speech in five different accents, whilst the partner tried desperately to work out what the accents were.
The playoff was one minute of rapid questions (or at least, as rapid as Joe Brown could manage) until the final square was reached or time was up. Earlier series had a flashing gadget (which had a particular jokey technical name) on the front of the contestant's desks which worked a bit like an electronic dice and alternated between 1, 2, 3 and 4 moves.
How TV Times of 2nd May 1981 introduced the concept:
"Any new series that can boast comedian Ken Dodd and comedienne Joan Turner in a 'striptease' race, or that lovely doggy person Barbara Woodhouse imitating a dripping tap must have something special going for it. So it's welcome back this week (most areas) to the gently loony viewer-celebrity game Square One - now under new management. "Singer-musician Joe Brown takes over as host from Nick Turnbull, who is concentrating on production work. This is not a new experience for the chirpy Brown, a celebrity guest in the first series, last Spring. "The Square One game is played on an S-shaped 44-square board. Two celebrities are the 'pieces', and they move as their viewer partners answer questions correctly, or by playing daft games. Brown's hardest job was making sure the competitors kept to their right squares. 'They would keep trying to cheat,' said producer Geoff Moore. The first programme in the new series pits Barbara Woodhouse against the windmill-armed Magnus Pyke."
Mike Wilson writes:
The first programme in Back to Square One was actually Joan Turner with Magnus Pyke. I know this because I was Joan's partner and still have the photographs from the show. The two events I recall were trying to stick balloons to our partners using static electricity, and playing the drums. We recorded this at Granada studios in Manchester and were the second programme recorded late on a Saturday, having to rush the recording because the camera crew were due to go off shift. A contestant on the first recoding in the early afternoon got back to square one and won a trophy, however it was felt that as a spectacle they would broadcast our show first. I finished 2 squares short, getting the final question wrong (is a sponge animal, vegetable or mineral?), whilst my opponent ended one square short of the end and won £100 for charity. Part of the reason for losing this was Pyke's windmill action on the drums giving him the edge in scoring that round!