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Blankety Blank

Posted by Big Boo on May 15th, 2009

blankety blankCheesey.  Tacky.  Inane.  Stupid.  Cheap.  Brilliant.  All words that could be used to describe TV game show Blankety Blank.  First airing in 1979 and continuing throughout the whole of the 1980’s, this was a game show that not so much broke the mould, but was made with the mould after it had already been broken.

Initially hosted by Terry Wogan, the Irish TV presenter who was never off the telly back then, the show was a panel based quiz show.  Six celebrities (most of whom were genuinely famous at the time, unlike today’s poor excuse for celebrity line ups) sat in a three up three down set.  Two contestants appeared on a revolving section of floor and the game began.

Terry would ask a phrase with a word missing, replaced by the word blank, and the contestant would think of a word to fill the gap.  Normally these phrases had the potential to be full of innuendo, causing many a smirk on the celebrity panel, yet they were worded so that a clean(ish) answer could always be given.  Each of the panel wrote down their answer on a card, and the contestant had to choose the word which they felt would match with most of the celebrities.  Here is an example:

The vicar is really looking forward to judging the vegetable competition this year.  He can’t wait to get his hands on Miss Chumley’s blanks.

When faced with this question many contestants would play it safe and pick something like cabbages, except this was not the safe bet as the celebrities usually had far dirtier minds.  The bold contestant that chose melons was far more likely to win.

The winning contestant then got to play the Supermatch Game, which involved a single word followed by a blank.  They were allowed to ask three celebrities to fill in the word, and could then choose one of their answers or come up with their own.  A board revealed the top three answers suggested by the studio audience, with the least popular worth “fifty blanks” and the most popular “150 blanks”, which basically meant which of the prizes they got to win.

Oh!  The prizes.  This is where the word cheap fits the show perfectly.  If you were lucky 150 blanks might be something like a TV set, but was more likely to be a Teas Maid, which was a sort of alarm clock combined with a kettle that woke you up with a cup of tea.  To be fair to the BBC though, the reason for this was because they didn’t want to appear to be frittering the TV licence fees away, and to be honest it made the show much more charming because of it.

The cheapness of the show also extended to its jingles.  A lot of work went into the theme tune which went like this:

Blankety Blank, Blankety Blank (dum dum dum)

Blankety Blank, Blankety Blank (dum dum dum)

Blankety Blank, Blankety Blank, Blankety Blank (pause) Blankety Blank.

The intro to the Supermatch game was little better:

Blankety Blank, Blankety Blank (dum dum dum)

Blankety Blank, Blankety Blank (dum dum dum)

Supermatch Game, Supermatch Game, Supermatch Game (pause) Supermatch Game.

Don’t believe me!  Here’s proof!

In 1984 Terry Wogan handed over the show to Les Dawson, who revelled in the cheapness of everything and never wasted an opportunity to ridicule the prizes or just the show itself.  He presided over the show until 1990, making him host for longer than Wogan, which surprised me as I still associate the show more with Terry than with Les.  In 1997 Blankety Blank was brought back with Lily Savage (aka Paul O’Grady) at the helm, who did a very good job of keeping the shows old traditions alive, that is until the show moved to ITV in 2001 and promptly got cancelled the following year.

For me though, the one thing that I looked forward to most was when Kenny Everett was a guest on the panel during Wogan’s era.  Terry carried a long stick like microphone dubbed Wogan’s Wand, and this generally ended up being bent or broken by Mr. Everett at some point.  I’ll finish with a clip of Kenny doing his worst!  Also, check out just how bored looking the contestant is!

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