A couple of years ago I shared how my dear daughter Deborah inspired a fond reminiscence of my love of Bullseye. Of late I’ve been watching the thing again and it occurs to me that there is a difference between how I watch it and what I notice now to those halcyon days of childhood. Here are some observations.
Hosting a game show is not an easy business. As in other walks of life it is those who master the art that make it look easy without it necessarily being easy. To a large degree Bullseye was made for Jim Bowen. He was the kind of club comedian who was used to making his audience feel at ease and not afraid to get the audience to laugh at him. In many ways he’s a cosy host fussing over the guests at times as though the show is his home and the guests need to make sure they are comfortable without breaking the key office rules.
Watching him now really highlights how things have changed socially and culturally. He appears to be somewhat close to offensive and risque with some of his comments. He can also be condescending and patronising to some of the guests. They say familiarity breeds contempt and after some years on the show, he obviously feels comfortable enough in the role to be somewhat blase at times.
Something I will say for Jim, though, is that he doesn’t put too much truck into asking about whether the contestants had a lovely time. He just does his fussy bit which is kinda patronising and then inform us that it will take about two minutes to sort out the money for the people which conveniently is the same amount of time as the coming adverts. What he does well, though, is utter those classic catchphrases as though they are as fresh as they were when he first uttered. He is a gem at that.
Like Family Fortunes, you notice some of the prizes and think are they really relevant to the punters. For example the nature of the game is that the two contestants are not necessarily related and so don’t necessarily live together and so when you win a prize someone will get it and someone will miss out. It does tend to bring out those scenarios when someone wins a speedboat when they live in a block of high rise flats in the middle of Birmingham.
I still like Bully’s Prize Board for the sheer variety of prizes on offer that go from the impressive and useful to the naff and pointless even for the time. You know times have really moved on when you see that the section where they bring a pro in to play for charity seems somewhat of a pittance if they’ll double the prize for 101 and more. That competition is good to follow.
Of course the main intriguing point when it comes to the prizes is if the contestants choose to gamble the prizes from BPB for what’s behind Bully. I enjoy the moral dilemmas of whether or not it’s worth gambling their prizes. Sometimes when you watch a couple who have won a lot of prizes go ahead and gamble and then lose it all, there’s something in you that kinda says it serves them right. It’s also a joy to see the tension mount as to whether or not they will hit or surpass that golden number. Especially when you see the ‘non-dart thrower’ gets a decent score – like over 50 – only for the expert to mess it up with a 1, 5, and another 1. After all this is a quiz programme.
Bullseye just would not be the same without Tony Green. The man is a TV legend in my eyes. Watching some of the get-up he slipped into in the opinion that it was acceptable informal wear for the show is such a fashion blunder now, yet you know he was sincere in his motives at the time. He’s almost like a loveable gnome in many ways. Some of the comic set-pieces he did with Jim in some of the earlier series was a bit naff and also very much non-PC – the sort of stuff that even Bernard Manning probably rejected.
He had a good rapport with Jim though and he was very good at his job. I still love the way he would endeavour to put the contestants at ease before their darts. That is the sort of bed-side manner that you’d want from a nurse, really. You talk about quality customer service and you need look no further than how Tony handled those whether at BPM or during the Points for Pounds round or when the contestants got to the final round to get 101 or more. Such a consummate pro he came across like the genial Uncle who would be the darts team secretary and also sort out the raffle.
It still makes me chuckle even now seeing how they used those graphics of Bully throughout the show. Whether it was to moo off when someone ran out of time, or whether he strolled along with a book to help Jim out in the spelling. The best remains if someone loses in the 101 or more final round and Bully comes along the side of the screen placing his white-gloved hand over his face and shaking in dismay having looked at what they could have won and saying ‘dearie, dearie me’. I loved it then and I still love it now. I’d love it if there was an animated graphic with Bully for certain life situations.
I can imagine in a shop, someone gets their items sorted only to discover they don’t have enough money to pay for the items and then a moo comes in with Bully shaking his head at what they could have won. Likewise we find the person who has come across a great deal on the bakewell tarts getting two for the price of one in a late special and on celebrating that our dear Bully pops up to give the thumbs up. As I recall I do not believe there is an animated character of a quiz/game show that can match Bully for the repertoire he has. As Jim probalbly never said that was smashing, great and super.
Shows like Who Wants To Be A Millionaire really make Bullseye so dated and old-fashioned that I don’t begrudge anyone for having a look at it and thinking the show’s a load of old cobblers. Be in no doubt there are some parts of the show that are just plain rubbish. What keeps me watching it after all these year, however, are the simple things – the catchphrases, the thrill of the competition how well the dart players throw, what prizes are won and lost, Tony and Bully. It is homely. It doesn’t want to be glamorous, it doesn’t need to be up-to-date, it’s comfortable being the pub experience among friends. That’s what makes it such a quality and definitely something worth watching in comparison with some of the soul-less and personality-dead alternatives that litter the screen these days.
I said it before and I’ll say it again, for all its faults, you still cannot beat a bit of bully.