“Super, smashing, great!”
Sunday teatimes sat on the sofa munching cheese on toast and slurping fizzy pop have never been the same again since Jim Bowen and Bully disappeared from our screens. Bullseye was one of the most light hearted and fun quiz shows ever made, partly because Jim Bowen was such a super, smashing, great host (although I’m convinced he never actually said that, you just think he did) and partly because of the calibre of the contestants. With no disrespect intended, Bullseye was never going to attract the same contestants that something like Mastermind would, and this meant we had some genuine, real people throwing darts and answering questions, and occasionaly making complete fools of themselves in the process.
As mentioned, Jim Bowen was the host, helped out by Bully, a cartoon bull in a stripy darts shirt, and Tony Green, professional darts scorer. Tony is the guy most famous for shouting out “One huuunnnndred and Eiiiggghhhhtttty!” when the maximum darts score has been achieved at darts tournaments.
The show packed so much stuff into half an hour it’s untrue. First, three teams of two contestants were pitted against each other. Each team consisted of a darts player and a question answerer (or non-darts player, as Jim referred to them), which was generally two blokes who were drinking mates at a particular pub. The first round consisted of the question answerer nominating a category of question from a special dart board. The darts player would then attempt to hit that category, the closer to the bullseye the more points the question was worth. Assuming the darts player hit the category, Jim would ask a suitable question from his revolving table. If he didn’t hit the requested category, a question would be asked from the category he did hit, assuming that the category was still available, as only a single question in each category could be asked.
The two winning teams moved on to the next round where the dart players had three darts to score as much as they could. Whichever team got the highest score was offered a question worth that score. This was the least interesting part of the show in my opinion.
After three rounds of this game, the team with the highest overall score got to have a go at Bully’s Prize Board. This was introduced by Tony shouting out “Innnn One“, “Innnn Two” etc. as Jim went round the spaces on the prize board detailing the prizes available with a little rhyme. Normally it was things like TV sets, picnic hampers, power tools etc. The bullseye yielded “Bully’s Special Priiiiize” which would be a more expensive like item like a new washing machine or a bigger TV!
This section was accompanied by one of Jim’s many Bullseye catchphrases – “Keep out of the black and in the red, nothing in this game for two in a bed“. As this suggests, the red segments were prize slots, the black segments weren’t, and hitting the same prize twice meant you lost the prize. This round was the first in which the non-darts player was allowed to throw some darts, being allowed three of the total nine darts thrown in this round.
Finally, the winning team were given the chance to gamble their winnings so far against the Star Prize. This meant the team had to score 101 or more in six darts, three for each member of the team. They could decline, normally by using the phrase “Well, we’ve had a lovely day Jim, but we’ll take the prizes“, in which case the second place contestants were invited back to see if they wanted to have a go. If they too refused, the third place team were given a chance.
The gamble was always a nailbiting affair, mainly because you wanted to know whether or not the prize was going to be the speedboat. If the team lost then Jim would rub their noses in it by saying “Let’s have a look at what you could have won“, and a group of blokes would then wheel into the studio said speedboat. OK, it wasn’t always a speedboat, sometimes it was a car or a fitted kitchen, but in all honesty the speedboat was probably the best prize to give to a couple of drinking buddies, since you can’t really share a fitted kitchen very easily, can you?
There was so much to love about Bullseye, especially the incidental prizes that all the contestants got, including a tankard or goblet, a set of Bullseye darts and the best of all, the toy Bendy Bully.
You can still catch repeats of Bullseye on Challenge TV and Virgin 1 in the UK, and Challenge even have made a brand new series, although sadly it doesn’t feature Jim Bowen, but new host Dave Spikey. It’s still a good laugh, and remember, “you can’t beat a bit of Bully“, as Jim would say whilst he recapped the entire show whilst the credits rolled.