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Play Your Cards Right

Posted by Big Boo on November 23rd, 2011

Play Your Cards RightI admit when I was growing up that I probably watched to much telly. Obviously I watched a lot of children’s television, but another genre I was particularly a fan of was the game show, and one of my favourites was Play Your Cards Right.

Hosted by Bruce Forsyth, the show started airing in 1980 and ran through to 1987. It was based on a US TV game show called Card Sharks, although by layering on a great many catchphrases Bruce made the show his own (quite literally, as when the show returned in the mid Nineties it became known as Bruce Forsyth’s Play Your Cards Right).

Two couples competed against each other to win the star prize of a new car, which was the defacto main prize back in the Eighties due to rules which limited the maximum value of prizes that could be given away on TV. To do this, they had to both answer questions and play a game of “higher or lower” with some playing cards.

The questions posed by Brucie all required a percentage as the answer, and were based on a survey of 100 people, normally of a particular career or persuasion, and often had a certain level of innuendo associated with them. An example would be something like “we asked 100 policemen, have you ever used your truncheon for something other than police work”. Not a real one (at least I don’t think it was as I just made it up) but you get the idea.

One couple were asked to give their answer as a numerical value, and their opponents were then allowed to say whether they thought the answer would be higher or lower than this value. The resultant winning couple then got to play with the cards.

Initially five cards were dealt out for each couple. The winning couple were allowed to change their starting card if they thought it would help them, then they had to proceed by calling out higher or lower to indicate whether they thought the next card in line would be higher or lower than the current card. If they got it right, they could continue, otherwise the other team got to have a go.

If they weren’t sure whether to go higher or lower (often the case if you had a middle card like a seven or eight) the teams could also choose to freeze, thus preventing their opponents from making any progress. Bruce used to get quite annoyed (in a playful way) when people wrongly used the term “stick” instead of “freeze”.

As already mentioned Bruce Forsyth had a barrow load of catchphrases on this show, starting with his trademark “Nice to see you, to see you, nice“, he would then go on to say “What a lovely audience! You’re so much better than last weeks!“, which was a reference to the fact that several episodes of the show were filmed in front of the same audience.

He also had a little rhyme for introducing the two female assistants who helped out by dealing the cards for each team. He used to refer to them as his “dolly dealers”, although I think come the Nineties version he had to lose the “dolly” part for political correctness reasons. The rhyme went like this:-


I’m the leader of the pack,
Which makes me such a lucky Jack,
But here they are,
They’re so appealing,
Come on Dollies, do your dealing.

Here’s a little snippet of an episode from the early Eighties which features the kaleidoscopic opening sequence, which I always found fascinating for some reason. Bruce is on fine form too with a truly terrible array of gags when interviewing the contestants, and he attempts a really strange “mind reading” act at the beginning too.