Rob Seidelman: Hello everyone and welcome to a brand new feature here at Multimediamouth. I’m Robert Q. Seidelman from Game Show Garbage.
Chris Nelson: And we’re kicking off with a look at a classic, Catchphrase.
RS: You need to introduce yourself dude.
CN: This is true. I’m Chris Nelson, MultiMediaMouth Administrator, TV Editor and author of TTWTWB.
RS: That you are and it’s also true that we are looking at a classic show in Catchphrase, but we’re taking a different perspective for Catchphrase. In this column, we answer the age-old debate: What show was better? The US show or the UK show.
CN: Well looking at success it would have to be the UK version, but we have some other criteria.
RS: That’s right. We’re going to take a look at the hosts of the show, followed by the format that the show’s featured and then the presentation and execution of both shows. Finally, we feature the personal preferences of both sides, so let’s get started with the hosts.
CN: Well I was surprised when I looked it up that the UK version actually had 4 presenters, but the most famous would be Roy Walker who did the majority of the show 1986-99, and then some other schmucks who presented it in the tea-time death slot that kills all but the most resilient shows.
RS: Two of those being Nick Weir and Mark Currie
CN: With Andrew O’Connor doing the short lived family version in 1994.
RS: So, a bunch of C-Level hosts and Roy Walker.
CN: That’s being unkind to C-level hosts, but yes. Roy Walker was pretty much custom made for Catchphrase. He had proper enthusiasm for the game, or at least it felt that way.
RS: Right. Now the US version only had 1 version, but it was hosted by one of the best hosts that the US had, Art James. He had this bombastic voice & hosting style, that kinda fits the US hosting scene. He sometimes stumbled a bit, but that’s because he’d been hosting for about 25 years when this show debuted.
CN: So it would be the equivalent of giving a new game show to Bruce Fortsyth in the UK really.
RS: Well, not really. Brucie’s shows has had lengthy life-spans where the longest show Art James had was back in the 60s. After his two longest run shows, he hosted about 4-5 shows that lasted a year or less. It’s not indicative of his hosting though, it’s indictive of the formats that he got.
CN: Ah I get you.
RS: However, Roy Walker did the show better than James, but James was much better than Andrew O’Connor, Nick Weir and Mark Currie. So, My nod for hosting goes to the UK in Roy Walker.
CN: A 13 year run on the show in question makes it a no contest.
RS: Host: UK in Roy Walker. So now let’s talk about the format for the shows. The US show haf two players, one champion and one challenger. In the beginning of each round, one contestant would set the amount for each correct Catchphrase. The first rounds amounts would range from $50-200, the second being $150-400 and more for Round 3 if they got to it.
CN: Were the amounts set by a random selection as in the UK?
RS: Yes they were. And just like the UK version, a Catchphrase would be shown & the contestants had to guess what the catchphrase is, but they had to wait for the bell. Each correct answer would add the amount selected to the Bank for the Super Catchphrase. You solve the Super Catchphrase, you win all the money in the bank, and then they repeated the format until time ran out.
CN: Ah, whereas in the UK the money was gained each round.
RS: Right. The bonus game played like the UK Version, but for higher stakes, with 25 squares, A-Y. All you had to do is get 5 in a row. If you did thay you won a prize worth about $5,000 which equates to a great trip or a living room.
RS: If you got 5 in a row using the M, your prize was bigger and equated to something between $10,000 and $15,000, so either a Car or a trip around the world. Something very extravagant.
CN: The prize in the UK was never that grand.
RS: And Contestants could return for up to 5 days. If they won 5 games, they automatically won either a Car or a Speedboat. Something along those lines.
CN: Much bigger incentive then. The UK version isn’t really remembered for it’s prizes. In fact in the UK, it’s mostly remembered for this…
…despite it’s success.
RS: I actually traded for this years ago. It’s still as funny as ever.
CN: Oh it’s a scream. Made funnier by the fact the one contestant appears oblivious.
RS: Well, let’s talk about the UK Formats that they had.
CN: Well as said the format was similar for most of the run. A normal round followed by a Bonus round for whomever won the normal round. They also had the Ready Money Round which wasn’t in the US, which was worth a set amount with no buzzer.
The money was awarded at each normal round rather than accumilating. Later on they changed the Ready Money format, but that was post- Roy Walker, and so not worth mentioning. Oh and there were different contestants each time.
RS: The change in format will be mentioned at Game Show Garbage in the near future.
CN: Great stuff.
RS: I’m inclined to say that both formats worked well, but with the cash and great prizes that the US format was flinging around, they get the nod, but by one of Roy Walkers silver hairs.
CN: Oh yeah, that sort of money makes a show format much more interesting, plus they kept it simple which is a big deal to me. When they over complicate game shows it’s one of my major bugbears as TTWTWB readers will know.
RS: Winner: US, but barely. Now let’s talk about the Presentation of the show, which is kinda hard to differ on. We’ll start by taking a look at both intros. The US…
…and the UK (first 45 seconds)…
…The music sounds good and the set looks great. The music on the US version was done by some of the best in the business in Marc & Ray Ellis, who also did the US version of Sale of the Century & Scrabble. That set is kind of a forerunner of the UK set, just without all the cool Neon.
CN: Yeah the UK set was pretty striking, even compared to it’s contemporaries. The US one, which I’m only really studying for the first time now was pretty much standard for a game show, but it works, you don’t need to have too much going on.
RS: I also think the music package for the UK version was better, especially in the later episodes with Roy and the remix with the others. So, I’m going to say that due to neon and music, the UK wins.
CN: Simon Etchell’s music was much better fitting than Ed Welch’s original in the UK, so I’m going to agree there. If it had stuck with the original I would have said otherwise though.
RS: Winner: UK Version. Now to Execution, where we discuss how the show did in the overall scheme of things.
CN: I guess given the respective successes, it’s a pretty one sided choice.
RS: Yeah, the US version lasted 13 weeks in syndication, due to getting horrific time slots, either in the late evening at 4:00am in various markets. In some markets, didn’t air the show at all.
CN: Whereas the UK version ran for 18 years in one format or another.
RS: Yeah. So, The UK Format wins. Winner: UK. And now finally, Personal Preference.
CN: For me this is pretty one sided too, given the lack of exposure the US version had, I’ve only ever seen little bits and because it was new it was still bedding in.
RS: I’m in total agreement. The US version doesn’t hold a candle to the UK Verison. Winner: UK Version.
So, with a good score of 4-1, the Winner of the first US Vs. UK Battle…THE UK!
As the UK flag waves high, that ends this first installment of US Vs. UK. I hope you enjoyed this new article. If you want to get into the discussion, leave us a comment right down there, or hit either Chris or myself up with an email. firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com