“A toaster, a fondue set, a cuddly toy!” The Generation Game, which began in 1971, will be back with the promise of more prizes, conveyor belts and Bake Off stars Mel and Sue as hosts – but what do families who took part in previous series think?
Sally Steve, who won the show with her dad Walter in 1977, says her cuddly toy – the show’s trademark prize – is “looking very worse for wear” but that she has “delightful memories” of being on the show aged 18.
“For a while we couldn’t go anywhere and I was asked for autographs at school,” says Sally, from Camden in north London. “It really was our 15 minutes of fame – Generation Game was compulsory viewing like the X Factor is now.”
Sally and Walter made it to the show’s victory round: the conveyor belt. It is a memory test, where winners see prizes, from toasters to tea sets – including the compulsory cuddly toy – and name them later to win each one.
But first, Sally and Walter had to perform a Maori war dance to win against the show’s other contestants, three family couples.
“We each had a pair of sticks and had to kneel on the floor and smack them together, it was complete mayhem,” she says.
But during the challenge, host Bruce Forsyth saw that Walter – who had trouble with his knees – was struggling and the long-time presenter “instantly stopped the filming”.
Sally says: “Bruce was so kind and caring to the contestants. Dad got the sympathy vote which is why we won.”
Who presented the show and what were the rules?
- Generation Game first aired on 2 October 1971, based on a Dutch family game show
- It was hosted by Bruce Forsyth (1971-1977), who also presented a number of specials in the 1990s, Larry Grayson (1978-1982), Jim Davidson (1995-2001) and Graham Norton (2005)
- Although it has not run continuously, the BBC has aired new Generation Games every decade from the 1970s to the 2000s
- The show starts with four families, who are scored based on challenges where they perform or make something
- Each team contains at least two generations and includes a male and female – so this could be grandma and grandson, mum and son or uncle and niece
- The two top-scoring families compete against each other in a final – usually a set-piece performance
- The winning family goes to the “conveyor belt” – where they watch prizes before remembering each one to win it, with a cuddly toy always featuring as a prize
Generation Game has mixed memories for Sally, since it was filmed five months after her mother – a fan of the show – had died from cancer the previous May.
“She always used to threaten she would put me and dad on it,” Sally says. “Not long after she died, they called us and I persuaded dad to do it.”
On top of their prize haul of an owl toy, coffee maker and puzzle, Sally and Walter were each given £25 to buy new clothes before the show – “It was ridiculous money, I bought a whole new outfit from Topshop”, she says – and given a tour of the BBC’s Television Centre.
She is delighted new hosts Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins are bringing the show back and said she hoped her own daughters – aged eight and 13 – could apply to take part with their dad.
“They’ll do a great job,” she says. “It’ll be good fun with them at the helm.”
“We had the biggest grins, we’re so alike”, says Louise Jones, who with dad Barry lost in a tie-break with one other family in the 2001 Christmas Special presented by Jim Davidson.
“The question was, ‘What’s the fourth month of the year?’ and despite being my birthday month no words came out – and the son from the other couple got it,” Louise says.
But Louise and Barry still won top points for an Austrian dance and another challenge, where they had to shave balloons with Father Christmas beards using a cut-throat razor.
“The expert barber who was judging said to Dad, ‘Barry, can you start on Monday?'”
Louise, who was 29 at the time, says she narrowly avoided being pushed into a trifle because filming over-ran.
“Jim [Davidson] said I was a fussy eater and all I liked was bacon and trifle, then read from his card that he was meant to produce one.
“The stage had already been completely soaked in bubbles so there wasn’t time to push me in and clean me up, so he gave me the cherry on top instead.”
Davidson was known for giving losers a little wooden man – a “Bendy Geezer” – as a commiseration present.
But others were more lucky. Generation Game winner Steve Round, who got to the conveyor belt in 1998, also a Davidson show, gives his advice to budding contestants.
He tells BBC News: “I’d got my wife to train me for the conveyor belt in the weeks leading up just in case we got that far – cutting out items from the Argos catalogue and memorising them.
“It must have helped as we guessed all the prizes in record time and still have the cuddly toy!”
He says it was a “great day at the BBC” where he and his mum did boxing, made a clay snail and performed a dance routine with the actress and dancer Bonnie Langford.