Series: Fifteen To One

A quiz show that aired on Britain's Channel 4 for (fittingly) 15 years, from 1988 to 2003. Fifteen contestants started out with three lives each, and getting a question wrong lost a life. The idea was basically to be the last one standing. (Oh, and if you actually made it to the final round, attain a high enough score to get on the Finals Board and hopefully qualify for the Grand Final.)

That was it, really. But it worked.

The rounds were as follows:
  • Round 1: Each of the 15 contestants were asked two questions. Getting one wrong lost a life, but getting both wrong automatically eliminated you.
  • Round 2: A contestant was asked a question. If they got it wrong they lost a life, but if they got it right they nominated whoever they wanted to answer the next question. If that person got it wrong the nominator got to choose somebody else, but if they got it right they took control. If a player lost all three lives, they were eliminated. This kept going until there were only three people left.
  • Round 3 (also known as The Final): The remaining three players were given one point for every life they had left and were restored to three lives. The round had 40 questions. A wrong answer cost one life (losing three lives eliminated you, regardless of your score), while correct answers scored 10 points. The questions were played on the buzzers until one player gave three correct answers. After that, the player had a choice to take the next question themselves or nominate someone else to take it. Taking a question and giving a wrong answer put the game back on the buzzer, while nominating someone else and them giving a right answer would give them control. The last player left, or the one with the highest score after the 40 questions were exhausted, was the winner. (In the Grand Final it was much simpler: All 40 questions were on the buzzer.)

Game Show Tropes in use:

  • Celebrity Edition: Two were done during the original run, in 1990 and 1992 respectively. A one-off special in 2013 led to more celebrity specials and the revival of the civilian series.
  • Home Game: There were several tie-in quiz books. Making a conventional home game would have been a bit difficult, what with the whole "15 players" bit.
  • Home Participation Sweepstakes: For most of the later series, viewers were invited in the first programmes of each series to send in postcards with what they thought would be the top and bottom scores on the Finals Board. At the end of the series, five of the correct answers were chosen to receive 50 of book tokens.
  • Personnel:
    • The Announcer: Anthony Hyde originally. Laura Calland (Stewart's wife) took over the position in 1989; later on, she alternated in the position with Philip Lowrie, with Sarah Wynter as an occasional substitute.
    • Game Show Host: William G. Stewart throughout the original run. Nowadays, Adam Hills for celebrity specials and Sandi Toksvig for normal episodes.
    • Studio Audience: There originally was one, but it was abolished after the first few series after they whispered answers too many times (or alternately, when their snores started showing up in the broadcast). Canned applause was used for most of the show's run.

This show provides examples of:

  • And Your Reward Is Pottery: The prize for winning the Grand Final was a piece of ancient pottery. Finishing the series with the highest score on the Finals Board netted some glassware.
    • The only reward for winning a normal episode was an invitation to play again in the next series.
  • Author Filibuster: Stewart once quipped that should the first round ever eliminate twelve people, he'd fill the time that would otherwise have been used for the second round by speaking about the Elgin Marbles. In 1996, he got the chance to use the programme as a device to deliver an hour-long lecture, complete with fifteen replicas of the Marbles at the podia in the place of contestants.
  • Catch Phrase: Almost every episode would adhere to the same terse script. Hence almost every segment has recurring phrases.
    • Fifteen people "are all here to play Fifteen To One"
    • "Twelve down, three to go."
    • "You'll need to see this as well as hear it"
    • "Accurately, and in full please ..."
    • "The three surviving contestants in today's Fifteen to One final are..."
    • "Question or nominate?"
  • Closing Credits: Despite taking up 30 seconds of screen time (at first; by the final series, the usual sequence lasted about 5 seconds), they didn't say very much. The usual credits sequence, in its entirety: "Fifteen To One, Developed by Regent Productions from a format by John M. Lewis, Produced by William G. Stewart, Directed by (director's name)."
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Lots...
    • Voiceovers were handled by Anthony Hyde, with Laura Calland taking over towards the end of 1989.
    • Stewart wasn't even introduced by the announcer until the second series; after Hyde announced the players, Stewart simply walked on and started the show.
    • Everyone started with 0 points at the start of Round 3; ties on the finals board were decided by a rather complicated system that was phased out by the start of 1989 in favor of the usual point for every life left over at the end of Round 2.
    • A unique sound effect was used for when someone got past 30 points, as opposed to the series of dings used later on.
    • Once only one player was left in Round 3, they had the option to simply take 10 points for each life left instead of facing more questions; this only lasted through the first series.
    • Various stylistic elements were played around with: for example, for the fourth series in late 1989, the studio used a bright orange background as opposed to the usual blue (although the lighting did change to a darker blue for Round 3).
    • Round 3 in the Grand Final was played the normal way for the first few series, not settling into the usual "everything on the buzzer" format until series 8 in 1991.
  • Intro Dump:
    • The opening sequence lists all 15 contestants, along with their hometowns and occupations.
    • Also, the intro to Round 3, which typically described the three remaining players' hobbies.
  • Long Runner: The original run lasted for 15 years, fittingly.
  • Rearrange the Song: The electronic theme tune was changed to an orchestral version of sorts towards the end of 2000.
    • Done to a further extent for the revival, which kept only a small portion of the original theme.
  • Rules Spiel: "Two questions each in the first round, one correct answer from you to survive."
  • Serious Business: The show was possibly the toughest, most pressure-packed quiz on television.
  • Shown Their Work: Stewart is a keen classicist, setting many of the questions in this area himself.
  • Something Completely Different: "15 to 1 for Schools" in the summer of 1999, featuring not only a different contestant structure (three teams of five) but also a vastly different round structure (points mattered throughout the whole game, and lives only mattered in the last round).
  • Un-Cancelled: In The New Tens, first for a one off celebrity special with Adam Hills as host, followed by a full 20 show series in 2014 with Sandi Toksvig hosting (with additional celebrity specials with Hills also being shown throughout the year).
  • Unperson: One contestant in the last Grand Final of 2000 was edited out for legal reasons, leaving a rather noticeable gap in the episode.