BRUCE FORSYTH'S GENERATION GAME
A nostalgic Look Back at one of the biggest TV shows of The 70s
by Mark Nobes, chief editor
Alright my loves? Firstly, I hope you will enjoy the loud suit jackets clashing against the classic 70s scenery in the clip above (from 20th Nov 1974), which is a big reminder of what bad taste we all had back then!
Just about anyone who grew-up in the 1970s will remember the original Bruce Forsyth and The Generation Game series, and for many families across Britain, the programme became essential viewing on a Saturday evening. The sharp-witted host Bruce Forsyth and his infectious catchphrases helped to draw in audiences of over 21 million.
In the early 70s, the variety show was king, but they were incredibly expensive to make. The BBC soon realised that studio-based shows (which ITV has already latched onto) were a much cheaper option, and that game shows were the way forward - and variety show performers made perfect hosts. When the BBC was suffering from poor ratings, head of light entertainment Bill Cotton decided that Bruce Forsyth (who was struggling to find work at the time) was the man to reclaim some of the the audience the beeb had lost to ITV.
Brucie's most recognised catchphrase "Nice to see you, to see you..." (with the audience responding "Nice!" was used to open each show. He would then introduce his assistant/hostess Anthea Redfern, with whom he had an affair and eventually married in 1973. She would always be wearing a pretty stunning dress, allowing Bruce the opportunity to reply with his catchphrase "give us a twirl". It's interesting to note that game shows in this era were always hosted by men who often had female assistants, which would now be viewed as sexist by many. However, this was very much the norm at the time.
Redfern was hostess for the original series which ran from 1971 to 1977, and during her maternity leave Jenny Lee Wright stood in for her. For the revival series (1990-1994), Brucie's assistant was Rosemary Ford.
Four teams of two people from the same family would then be introduced, and I remember Bruce using the catchphrase "Let's meet the eight who are going to generate" which never really caught on, and I believe was eventually dropped.
But It was during the actual games that some of the funniest moments were produced. A demonstration by an expert (such as on a potter's wheel) would need to be replicated by the contestants in a very short time span, often producing hilarious results. These would be judged by the expert(s) with Bruce giving his own amusing opinion, often accompanied with a look of horror and disgust written all over his face! However, there was usually one person, at least, who did well, giving Bruce the opportunity to dig out another legendary catchphrase "Didn't he/she do well". Another much used catchphrase was "good game, good game".
At the end of each round, Bruce would shout out "Let's have a look at the old score board". For the 90s series, this was changed to "What have they scored, Miss Ford?" which was soon altered to "What's on the board, Miss Ford?"
The old scoreboard from 1973
The winners would participate in he ultimate game (known as the final) which was usually a dance routine or a mini play, and it was in this part of the show that saw Forsyth really in his element.
The winning couple would take part in the conveyor belt game, in which they would need to watch and memorise all of the prizes passing before their eyes. This was my favourite part of the show, as I was keen to demonstrate my memory skills to the rest of the family, much to their annoyance! However, the audience were encouraged to help the contestants by shouting out the names of some of the prizes. Prizes often included 70s classics such as a fondue set or a teasmade, but in every episode there was the trademark cuddly toy which got everyone really excited!
In 1978, London Weekend Television managed to persuade Forsyth to host a new Saturday night show called The Big Night. The Generation Game's producer, Alan Boyd, decided that show without Forsyth would have a revamp, with two new hosts, new scenery and new theme music.
From 1978 to 1981, the wonderfully camp Larry Grayson took over as the main host with Isla St. Clair as his hostess. At one point, the new show attracted 25 million viewers when a strike a ITV left only the two BBC channels on air.
Forsyth's move to The Big Night proved to be a disaster as it failed to attract a big enough audience to take on The Generation Game, and after just one series it was dropped by ITV. However, the entertainer wasn't out of work for too long and landed a job hosting Play Your Cards Right from 1980 to 1987, which became a huge hit, and was, of course, the perfect format for introducing us to a whole new set of catchphrases.
R.I.P. Sir Bruce Forsyth (22 Feb 1928 to 18 Aug 2017). It was nice to see you, to see you nice.
7th Sept 1990 - even in the revamped 1990s series, a fondue set still makes an appearance on the conveyor belt!