The British Bullseye, with Jim Bowen, was based on pub Darts (which had become very widely popular during the 1980s, with Bullseye quick to ride on the waves of that success) and was produced by Central Televisionnote for ITV from 1981-95. Three two-person teams competed on each episode, with one throwing darts and the other answering questions. A revival on Challenge TV ran from April-September 2006 with Dave Spikey as host, in the wake of renewed interest after the show was lampooned by Peter Kay in his stand-up routine.
If the UK version of Gladiators was the most popular Game Show of the 1990s, then Bullseye was the most popular of the 1980s. In fact, it was still widely popular up till its demise, sitting proudly alongside the Gladiators when they were at their peak.
Big Break, a somewhat later game show series (it came along whilst Bullseye was still being produced but past its peak), was more or less the snooker version.
It pretty much became an institution in itself; it was infamous for usually offering a speedboat as the grand prize, which would be useful down Wolverhampton.
In the 2000s the original series was picked up for ReRuns by game show channel Challenge. In July 2015 Challenge aired an original one-hour documentary retrospective entitled You Can't Beat a Bit o' Bully, after the show's most famous Catchphrase..
This show provides examples of:
- Added Alliterative Appeal:
- The "bonus buttons" that players could press to buzz-in on a missed question in the first round.
- The "Bendy Bully" rubber dolls given to the day's winners as souvenirs.
- Affectionate Parody: In 1983, the show produced a "Christmas tape" featuring a foul-mouthed Bowen...for starters.
- All or Nothing: Bully's Star Prize Gamble, the second half of the Bonus Round. Contestants could gamble the prizes they'd won in the first half for a go at the Star Prize (if they were the first couple to be given the choice), or the winnings from the first two rounds (if they were the second or third). In later series, the first couple had to gamble any money won as well. If a couple went for it, they had to score 101 or better with six darts in order to win the Star Prize and keep all their previous winnings.
- The Announcer: Tony Green, who doubled as the Scorer.
- Booby Prize: Only featured in the first series made by ATV, and probably never actually awarded. If a dart hit a non-winning space on Bully's Prize Board, Jim would tell the team that they'd won something like a half-sucked acid drop, a bag of crisps, or a ticket for a trip on the Titanic. Ironically, a genuine unused Titanic ticket sold for $56,250 in 2012!
- Bonus Round: Played in two parts. For the first part, "Bully's Prize Board," the winners took nine throws (six for the darts player, three for their partner) at a special board numbered 1-8. Red spaces won prizes, black spaces won nothing, and hitting the same red space twice forfeited that prize. The bullseye won "Bully's Special Prize," bigger than the other prizes but smaller than the Star Prize. The second part was "Bully's Star Prize Gamble," the All or Nothing round described above.
- Catchphrase: "Iiiiiiiiiiin one!"
- "And Bully's special priiiize..."
- "You can't beat a bit o' Bully."
- "Keep out of the black and in the red, nothing in this game for two in a bed."
- "Unlucky." (Said by Tony Green whenever someone had a bad turn at the dartboard.)
- "That's the bullseye!" (Said by Tony whenever someone hit it.)
- From the 11th series onwards the contestants who took the gamble had to risk all their prizes and main-game winnings. In the case they lost, all they'd get is their 'BFH - Bus Fare Home'.
- The revival added one for the first round: "The ones that are lit are the ones you can hit." Dave Spikey would remind the winning team that if they went for the Star Prize Gamble and lost, "You've had a good day out, but you're going home with nowt!"
- Christmas Episode: The show had a number of them over the years, mainly featuring celebrities teamed with dart players for charity.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The first series, produced by ATV and replaced by Central Television the following year, had a dart throwing contest to determine the order of the teams at the beginning of each episode — which would be done before the show in later series — lower pound values for the questions, no Pounds for Points in the second round — although the team with the higher score still answered the question for their choice of £25, £50, or £101 — and no Tony Green, though he did appear as a guest thrower in one episode before he properly made his debut on the show. The set also had a more garish bright green, red and grey color scheme, different question categories including Myth, Food, and The Bible, and the Prize Board featured booby prizes in the black segments.
- Tony Green was also off-camera during his first two years as official scorer.
- The early charity rounds alternating between professional darts players and celebrities. One celebrity who threw for charity was the footballing great George Best, a genuine A-lister and household name. Celebrity versions of more recent game shows rarely go to such heights.
- Facepalm: Bully would do this if the contestants gambled and lost.
- Game Show Host: Jim Bowen for the original run, Dave Spikey on the Challenge version.
- Let's Just See What WOULD Have Happened: Had a notoriously cruel variation of this where, if the players failed to win the big prize, or if all three teams chose not to go for it, Jim Bowen would say "Let's see what you could've won!" and they would bring out the Star Prize, accompanied by a sad remix of the usual victory/credits music.
- Lost Episode: The first two episodes were considered so bad, they were scrapped and never aired; one of those episodes gave away a car.
- Product Placement: The "Pounds for Points" and "Bully's Star Prize Gamble" rounds, and the charity interludes, featured dartboards made by the British company Winmau. These rounds were televised in a split-screen format, with one half of the screen zoomed in to a close-up of the board's upper portion and the brand name.
- Roger Rabbit Effect: Occasionally Bowen would appear to interact with Bully and the other animated graphics — most noticeably for the spelling questions ("let's check it with Bully!") and the 90s version of the show's intro.
- Series Mascot: Bully, a large, animated, anthropomorphic brown bull in a red/white striped shirt and blue pants. In various series intros, he jumped down off a pub sign to join a darts tournament inside, drove a busload of players to a tournament at another pub, or cheerfully crashed his way around the show's set.
- Special Guest: Before the "Bully's Prize Board" round, a professional darts player (or, sometimes, a celebrity from the entertainment field) threw nine darts at the standard board. The show donated £1 per point scored to a charity of the winning team's choice; if the guest scored 301 or better, the donation was doubled.
- Stage Money: Each team was given a wad of bills representing their winnings in addition to their souvenirs. Jim often led into the commercial break by saying that it would take a couple of minutes to count out everyone's money. If a team chose to risk their cash on Bully's Star Prize Gamble, he took it back and put it in his pocket.
- Studio Audience: By the end of the original run, there was a five-year waiting list just to see a taping!
- Whammy: The 1-point spaces which, due to using a real dartboard, were next to the 20s.
- Whatever Happened to the Mouse?: In a long-running animated title sequence Bully drives a bus full of darts players, who are surprised to see giant CGI darts flying past. Bully then exits using an Ejection Seat and rides a dart into a big board, leading one to wonder what happeneed to the bus and its passengers.
- Join us again next time, everyone! Sunday evening just wouldn't be the same without a bit o' Bully!
Bully for you!