Monday, 11 July 2011

You Can't Beat A Bit of Bully!

Bullseye was a popular television game show first made for the ITV network by ATV in 1981 and Central from 1982 until 1995, and hosted by Jim Bowen. The show originally aired on Monday nights in the first series, it was then moved to Sunday nights from 1982 to 1993 where it was watched by around 17 million viewers in its Sunday evening slot. It was then moved from its traditional Sunday nights to Saturday afternoons. After an eleven-year hiatus, Bullseye was revived and a new series was recorded for the satellite channel Challenge, produced by Granada at Yorkshire Television in the Leeds Studios and was hosted by Dave Spikey.

Centred around the game of Darts, the show placed three pairs of contestants (each team with one person to answer questions and one darts player) against one another to win prizes ranging from a new Car, a Speed Boat, a Caravan, or a luxury holiday, to the consolation prizes of a set of darts, a tankard (silver goblet for lady contestants) and a 'Bendy Bully', a rubber model of the show's mascot.

From Series 2 til the show's end, the show was co-hosted by professional darts commentator Tony Green.

In round 1, the darts players threw one dart at a board in which each segment represented a different category of question (such as Faces, Places, Sport, Showbiz, Affairs, History, Books, Words, Britain, Spelling). The first set of questions were worth £30 each, the next set (more difficult) were worth £50, and the final set (more difficult still) were worth £100. The cash prize for hitting the board varied depending on what part of the board was hit; the easiest part of the board to hit won £30, a slightly harder part won £50, a narrow and difficult-to-reach part won £100, and hitting the bullseye won the maximum cash prize of £200 (£150 from 2006). If contestants hit a category which they had not chosen, they would win no money for the throw, and could only win money through answering the question if a question on the category had not already been asked. If a contestant hit a category which had already turned up on that programme, the host would say "The category's gone, so we can't ask the question" and carry on. Up to and including series 7, the lowest-scoring couple would be eliminated at the end of the first round, but from series 8 onward, all three couples would stay in the game for the second round.
In round 2, the darts players threw three darts at a time at a traditional matchplay dartboard, with the highest scoring team given the chance to convert the number of points scored to pounds by answering a general knowledge question. An incorrect answer caused the question to be passed in turn to the second-highest and lowest scoring teams. After three rounds of play the pair with the highest total winnings went through to the next round. The other pairs received a set of darts, a tankard (silver goblet for female contestants), a 'Bendy Bully' and the money that they had won from the two rounds, which was counted during the commercial break.
Immediately at the start of part 2, a professional darts player or other celebrity threw nine darts, with the score converted to money for the charity of the final contestant's choice. A score over 301 was doubled. At the end of the series, (Series 5 onward) the dart player who got the highest score in the series received a 'Bronze Bully' trophy. In the earlier years of the show (up to and including series 4) celebrity players were given a 60 head-start; between then and series 14, the charity segment was exclusive to professional dart players. Celebrity players invariably performed awfully, particularly in the case of an obviously worse-for-wear George Best who managed to miss the board completely. Such stars would usually offer to 'add some of their own money' to increase the prize fund from, say, 20 pounds, to 80 pounds or so. Bob Anderson's score of 380 was the highest recorded on this segment of the show.

Bully's Prize Board

In this round the final pair were faced with a large prize board containing large black segments, smaller red segments and a large red bullseye. They threw nine darts (three for the non-dart player and six for the dart player) and won a prize for each red segment they hit (however, if they hit an already-hit red segment again, the prize was lost - hence the catchphrase "Keep out of the black, and in the red; there's nothing in this game for two in a bed"). However, in special charity episodes, contestants did win the prize twice. The bullseye represented 'Bully's Special Prize'.

The prize board has become the butt of jokes since the programme's original demise because of the perceived poor quality of prizes on offer, but it should be pointed out that for most of the programme's original run prize values were restricted by the Independent Broadcasting Authority. Although some prizes (such as a remote-controlled toy car or legendary "TV with wired remote control") were laughed at by the studio audience even then, smaller prizes were taken for granted at the time, and they seemed relatively lavish compared to those on offer in BBC game shows such as Blankety Blank. In a recent episode, Bully's Special Prize was a fully-functional Bullseye Fruit Machine, quite possibly the most valuable prize in the show's history not to be the mystery Star Prize - however the contestants promptly lost it after doing badly in the final round.

During series 1, the black segments were green.

In the 1991 Christmas special of the show Dennis Priestley and John McCririck playing as a professional darts player / celebrity guest combination managed a 100% record with their nine collective darts taking out all eight main prizes and Bully's special prize, all of which went to nominated charities across the UK.

Having completed Bully's Prize Board, the winning pair were presented with the option of whether to gamble their winnings from the prize board for the mystery Star Prize hidden behind a screen in the studio. From the series 11 onward, they also had to gamble the money they had won earlier in the show (it was at this point that the phrase "all you'll win is your BFH - Bus Fare Home" came about). If they gambled, they then had six darts (three for each member of the team) to score 101 or more on a standard matchplay dartboard. Contestants who failed to reach 101 were then invited to "have a look at what you would have won", by Jim. Jim's assistants would then wheel out the Star Prize from behind a screen to the sounds of a remixed "sad" version of the theme music, while the audience enjoyed the losing contestants' astonished faces of despair.

If the couple who took part in Bully's Prize Board refused to gamble (inevitably ducking out claiming that they'd already had a "smashing day, Jim" and would like "to give the others a chance"), the second-placed couple from the second round was asked to gamble their money. If the second couple declined, the third couple was asked. On the rare occasions that no couple took up the gamble, the Star Prize was revealed and the show ended. The Star Prize was usually a holiday (especially in later series), a car, a caravan or a speedboat. Sometimes in the earlier series, less lavish Star Prizes (fitted Kitchens and the like) were given away so as to fit within the IBA's prize limits.

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