Rob Seidelman: Hello everyone, welcome to the 4th edition of US Vs. UK. I’m Game Show Garbage’s Robert Q. Seidelman.
Chris Nelson: And I’m TV Editor and MultiMediaMouth’s deputy chief, Chris Nelson.
RS: This time around we’re going back to secondary school where smart kids would flock over to the ITV Studios to watch their friends battle it out on a board full of hexagons. Am I right, was it ITV?
CN: For the majority of it’s lifespan yes. Certainly it’s prime.
RS: So let’s delve into the greatness that was….BLOCKBUSTERS! For those that are new to this, we score which country’s version was better in 5 parts. Host, Gameplay, Presentation, Execution & Personal Preference.
CN: So if we kick off with a look at the hosts, we can’t go much further without mentioning Mr Bob Holness.
RS: Bob Holness to many was a great host.
CN: I was never a massive fan of his, as he could seem a little bit humourless at times, but I’ve grown to appreciate over the years that he is very well humoured, just very dry.
RS: And he was great with probably one of the most memorable bloopers in game show history.
CN: Orgasm or Kama Sutra?
CN: He did deal with that expertly.
RS: Yes. On our feature version we have our answer to Bruce Forsyth. “Uncle Bill” Himself, Bill Cullen. Bill, was the quintessential host, regarded to many over here as the best host. He literally made the worst formats watchable.
CN: As all the best game show hosts do.
RS: He also with the show knows how to roll with the punches and brings out the best in his contestants. And like Bob, he also dealt expertly with some great bloopers himself, sometimes self made.
CN: If it were a run of comparible length I would say Cullen every time. But Bob did 10 years in a row and then a later 1 year run.
RS: Well, then I bring you a certain X-Factor. While ratings were good for the US Blockbusters, the show was axed because of an expansion of 1 hour long soaps in the daytime. Thus Blockbusters was the sacrifice.
CN: A sacrificial lamb then.
RS: Yeah, sadly. So, while Bob was good, Bill was legendary.
CN: That changes everything then. Bill gets my vote for the main hosts. Shall we discuss the later host choices though?
RS: Yes. Because both shows did get revived at certain points, just with different emcees.
CN: In the UK we had Michael Aspel and then Liza Tarbuck.
RS: Liza Tarbuck, better known as the Daughter of Mr. Gaptooth himself, Jimmy Tarbuck. Michael Aspel….I have no clue?
CN: To be fair to Liza, she has carved out her own niche as a presenter and also graduated from RADA Acting School in the same class as Clive Owen and had her own successful comedy drama called Linda Green.
RS: She also presented one of my favorite guilty pleasures, Without Prejudice?
CN: Michael Aspel started off as a newsreader.
RS: Who, from what I watched was absolutely boring to watch.
CN: Then moved into presenting, on kids TV and then entertainment TV. He had his own chat show and then became the host of This is Your Life which he’s probably best known for now. But yes, he was always very dull, and often sounded quite disinterested on virtually everything he’s presented, which didn’t help a format like Blockbusters.
RS: Nope. Then over in the US, Bill was enjoying retirement and then we got treated to another Bill in Bill Rafferty, who is a good host in his own right, having hosted Every Second Counts in 1984-1985 and then did the lone syndicated season of Card Sharks. He was different from Bill in the fact that he was more personable with the contestants and invented some great sayings pertainting to Blockbusters like “Dual Implication”, whereas whoever got the next question right won the game.
CN: Interesting. Liza was a very good host also, very fun and seemed to genuinely enjoy her role
RS: So did Bill.
CN: I think then in context, I have to lean towards the US here. Largely by virtue of the lack of Michael Aspel
RS: Chris Nelson So, the US Gets the point there. Let’s talk Gameplay there for a second.
CN: 1-0 to the US.
RS: Because it’s very similar in some aspects, save for scoring.
CN: Did the US version have the episode ‘straddling’?
RS: Yes they did. Quite often as a matter of fact, since it’s the same format, with best 2 out of 3.
CN: I’ve just been looking through some things and I can’t see any real differences at all, but you mentioned the scoring?
RS: Yes, while the UK version had 5quid for a correct answer, the US Version had $500 for winning a game. Whereas the later US version had $100 for winning a game. There were other tweaks to his game as well.
CN: Decent prize money then, especially for a day time.
RS: The first US version and all the UK versions had 2 Vs. 1 has contestants. The US version having a solo player Vs. a Family Pair, the UK having secondary school students playing with 1 person playing against 2.
CN: The 2 against 1 was a very odd thing, but it worked.
RS: Oh yeah. The solo player had to go Top to bottom with as few as 4 correct answers to win, the team had to go side to side with as few as 5. In the 2nd US version, it was 2 solo players playing, in round 1, the challenger had the advantage with top to bottom and the champion having to go side to side. In round 2, it was reversed, the champion got the advantage and in round 3, there was no Advantage as each had to go with as few as 4 to win. But all versions had one thing in common, the Gold Run board.
CN: The classic final round.
RS: 60 seconds, connect the gold to the gold.
CN: It’s tough to break this one down really
RS: I think we have to call it a tie.
RS: Both sides get the point.
CN: US leads 2-1.
RS: Now we get to the presentation, which is easier to break down than the others.
CN: I presume the US was always the relatively straightforward 80s style layout. Not that the UK ever became too advanced, the game leant itself to a simple set.
RS: Oh yeah. The UK versions had cleaner looking sets. Also different was the music. While the US Blockbusters themes are very good, the UK one is Iconic.
CN: It’s up there with the most famous game show themes.
RS: There it is for all to see.
Then we got the US themes, which are good in their own right.
CN: I think the UK one has such an iconic feel it would be tough to look anywhere else though.
RS: Just for comparison, there’s the first US version.
But I’m in agreement, that the UK theme is better.
CN: Which pulls it level. 2-2.
RS: Now, we got Execution. Which is hard because the US version got shafted twice.
CN: From what I can tell, it was cancelled through no fault of it’s own
RS: What makes it worse, the 2nd version had a contestant call for its replacement, Classic Concentration, on the final episode.
CN: How do you mean?
RS: Before they played the Gold Run, announcer Rich Jeffries plugged the replacement show and its need for contestants.
CN: That’s low.
RS: Well, it was on order of the network, albeit they were made by the same production company.
CN: Low on the part of the network really.
RS: Yeah, then you look over at the UK versions…the original got a 10 year run, and the others got 1 year or less.
CN: The later runs were an attempt at recapturing the lightning in a bottle rather than a huge popular demand, but the original run was huge.
RS: So, we have to go with a UK Win here.
CN: UK pulling it out at 3-2 then!
RS: And then for Personal Preference, both shows were fantastic.
CN: I will say here that I was a massive fan of Liza Tarbuck’s run. I can’t not vote for that.
RS: So, shall we call it another tie?
CN: I think that’s fair.
RS: So with the final score…3-4 The UK wins this round! The final score: US 3 – UK 4. However, both countries versions are fantastic, save for Michael Aspel’s hosting. So, if you want to get your blockbusters fix, Youtube has several clips from both versions that are well worth your time.
CN: Absolutely. It’s one of those games that is genuinely interesting.
RS: Well, that does it for this edition for US Vs. UK, I’m Robert Q. Seidelman.
CN: And I am Chris Nelson.
RS: Take care, everyone.
So the UK takes this round in a tight finish! We’ll have another edition soon. Send any feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, and thanks for reading!