Robert Seidelman: Hello everyone and welcome to the 2nd edition of US Vs. Uk. I am Game Show Garbage’s Robert Q. Seidelman.
Chris Nelson: And I am MultiMediaMouth’s TV Editor, deputy chief and administrator Chris Nelson, remembering to introduce himself this time.
RS: I’m glad you did. This time we take a look at a game show that was popular in both the United States and the United Kingdom. Not only that, they were both good shows. This week, it’s Supermarket Sweep.
CN: And a confession to make on my part initally is that I’ve never been an avid viewer of the show in the UK, so pre-emptive apologies for any mistakes I make when discussing.
RS: That’s quite alright, I’ll be sure to fill in any gaps. Now how do we do the comparisons? We compare and contrast the shows in 5 different categories. Host, Gameplay, Presentation, Execution & Cultural Impact and Personal Preference. And we start of course with the Host which is a tough one to start off with.
CN: Indeed, in the UK we have the irrepressible and orange Dale Winton.
RS: Well, he didn’t start off orange.
CN: This is true.
RS: In the beginning he didn’t discover the miracle youther of Spray-Tanning. Trust me, there are many jokes we can make about Dale’s Orange appeal. But, in all fairness, he is an excellent emcee, when he doesn’t go over the top.
CN: Indeed, he is pretty much custom made for game shows. Very amiable and able to deal with poor contestants. Deeply enthusiastic too.
RS: Oh yeah, all qualities you can’t teach someone. Another great host was the US host in David Ruprecht. When he started doing Supermarket Sweep, he was starring in the classic NBC Soap, Days of Our Lives. and very much like Winton, he is also custom made for game shows. Very amiable, can deal with all sorts of craziness of the show, & also knows what to do when it comes to contestants who he has to dissapointingly say that they didn’t have their hands on the money in time.
CN: That’s good. I’ve also noticed there was a host of the show way back in the 60s. Was he any good?
RS: I wouldn’t be able to tell you because only 1 episode is known to exist among the trading circuit & I’ve never seen it. However, the formats are different.
CN: Ah right
RS: But comparing these two hosts are really tough, it’s hard to say which one is better, but, this past few days I have done the research and watched various episodes of Sweep from both countries over both ends of the run.
CN: Now would the fact Ruprecht made his name elsewhere make a difference?
RS: Well, he wasn’t well known outside of Supermarket Sweep. You say David Ruprecht, you think Supermarket Sweep.
CN: Ah, in the same synonymous way with Winton.
RS: Yeah, however I gotta give the nod to Ruprecht. He at least hasn’t embarassed himself in music video form, like what Winton did years ago before he turned orange.
CN: Yeah, he did become a massive parody of himself for a while. He’s only recently started rebuilding that.
RS: Yeah, I’ll never forget him guest hosting Nevermind The Buzzcocks.
CN: So Ruprecht definately takes the gong here.
RS: Yeah, at least he didn’t become a complete parody. He’s still getting acting roles, currently, he was on HBO’s True Blood. Also, if you’re in Vegas, go see him at the TPIR Live Stage Show.
CN: I can imagine Winton trying to sell something like that in the UK.
RS: Yeah. So now let’s talk about the gameplay. It’s pretty much identical.
CN: Any variation in round order or (equivalent) prize money?
RS: Yeah, there are some variations. While the US version had a free 1:30, the UK cheapened and only had a free 1:00. The US version either had 1 or 2 Mini-sweeps depending on whether they did a 30-second shootout. They also had a bonus game called the Snack Attack. Where they could get $100 or $50 if they can identify what brand of candy bar or cookie they are eating, but it’s all chopped up. The Big Sweep had quite a few differences too. The US version had many ways to add to your score, kinda like the UK version. The US version originally had no special things, aside from the big inflatable bonuses, but later on, they added lots of stuff over the years.
CN: Was that just natural expansion, or chasing ratings?
RS: Natural expansion.
CN: All good then
RS: Plus, they got sponsors that wanted in. Millstone for the coffee and the candy was Brach’s. And unlike the UK version, the US version had stuff based on Brand Names. So, they had more sponsors that way. For the Grand Prize…$5,000 for the US version, 2,000 quid for the UK but that was expanded to 5,000 itself in later episodes.
CN: What slot was the US version in? The UK one was always in a daytime slot so the money was about par for the course there.
RS: It was on Cable. This was Lifetime’s first game show, and it was a runaway success. It later moved to PAX, now ION. Neither one Powerhouse networks when Sweep was on, it’s budget was right on. Early Primetime slots, but for those networks it’s not really relevant.
CN: Ah I see
RS: I’m going to say that because of all the different things the US added over the years, to continually evolve their show, the UK version kinda was stagnant when it entered the year 2000. I gotta say the US version wins out.
CN: Yeah I’ll agree on that, the UK one was very dated by the end of it’s initial run and it’s comebacks were based around the kitschy nature and not the quality of the show
RS: So, Winner: US. Let’s now talk about the presentation.
CN: Now did the US one avoid the aforementioned kitschy nature? It worked at first, but later the show suffered for it in the UK
RS: Well, the show itself could be described as kitsch. I mean, it was running around a supermarket and filling up your cart filled with groceries. However, it all stayed central in a supermarket. If there was one kitsch thing about the US version that didn’t belong at all it was Mr. Yuck.
CN: Which acted like a Pac Man ghost.
RS: Yeah. When you saw him, you had to turn right around and go the other direction. Even the producers knew it was bad and they axed it before the start of the second season.
CN: Sensible move
RS: Yeah. Now, I want to talk about the look of the sets. The US version, actually based itself off of a real supermarket. The look and feel of the first few seasons was based off of Hughes Market, then after that was based off of a Unified Western Market.
CN: Much better than the UK ‘cheap theatre production’ look.
RS: Yeah, it looked more like a Mini-mart rather than a Supermarket. If they based it off of Tesco’s, then they might have something.
CN: Or even gone retro and tried to make it look like an old Grocers.
RS: Another thing that irked me about the UK version was during the bonus sweep, they had either Bobby Bragg or Gary King do commentary for that. In the US version, they let the contestants run out there and we get to hear them panic, which always was fun.
CN: Well yeah, plus ‘fun’ commentary rarely works, because it’s usually cringeworthy.
RS: Yeah, just look how well that went for The Whole 19 Yards.
CN: Part of the appeal of any show with time limit rounds is the edge-of-the-seat factor.
RS: Yeah. So, i think it’s no contest here, US had the much better presentation. If not for any other reason ,than the epic sounding Theme Music.
CN: That is pretty badass.
RS: Now let’s talk about the Execution, another toughie to call.
CN: Indeed, although I’m immediately going to lean towards the US version simply because there was a tendancy here to treat it like a big joke in general. I mean of course it should be light hearted and fun, but there is a limit to the amount of fun you can poke at yourself.
RS: Yeah, Not only that, the US version lasted 8 years total for over 1,000 episodes on 2 different networks in 2 different decades. Now I know the UK doesn’t really produce that many shows in a series. Back then, a daytime game rarely got over 65-75 episodes. At most, I remember is Blockbusters that got 130 episodes.
CN: What is the ballpark figure for Sweep episodes in the UK?
RS: 510 in the original run, only 39 episodes for the revival in 2007.
CN: Now that’s pretty impressive for a daytime show in the UK
RS: Nowadays, daytime shows are lucky to get anything above a 30 episode order, unless your names are Countdown or Deal or No Deal, where it’s new episodes every single day. I just wish great daytime shows like The Chase would get more than a 30 episode order. I can’t get enough Mark Labette smiting down wannabes. Anyways, sadly the UK version is great, but the US version is just that much better.
CN: Indeed, there is a definate pattern emerging here.
RS: 4-0 US. Finally, it’s the Personal Preference. Both shows are worthy watching on anyday. I just wish that GSN or somebody out here in the US would get off their duffs and air Supermarket Sweep again. I know that Challenge airs Dale’s Supermarket Sweep, and GameTV in Canada airs the Canadian Sweep.
RS: But, better theme, better set and better host. The US version wins it outright.
RS: So, damn. I didn’t think we’d get a sweep this early.
RS: Thank you. If there’s two things that the US did better than the UK, it’s come up with a decent World Cup team this year & how to do Supermarket Sweep. And to end this episode, we should do it like how David and Dale did it. So for Chris Nelson, I”m Robert Seidelman saying the next time you’re at the check-out counter and you hear the beep… *Beep Beep* Think of all the fun you could have watching, SUPERMARKET SWEEP!
So the USA sweeps the board 5-0 in our second edition of USA vs. UK! We’ll have another edition in 2 weeks time. Send any feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, and thanks for reading!