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Series / Fun House (1988)

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Pat Sharp, with Melanie and Martina Grant, from the ITV show

Two shows, same basic concept.

Both were a children's Game Show that capitalized on the Covered in Gunge craze in the late 1980s and prolonged it deep into the mid- to late 1990s in the United Kingdom. Teams performed sloppy stunts and answered a question after every stunt in an attempt to earn the right to enter the massive Fun House onstage. The first version was the U.S. series, which was hosted by JD Roth, who would later go on to work in Reality TV, and ran between 1988 and 1991; it was produced by Lorimar-Telepictures, and later by Warner Bros. after they acquired L-T in 1989. The United Kingdom came along with its version of the show shortly after in 1989 hosted by the much mulletted Pat Sharp and ran for a whole decade as opposed to four years for its older brother.

After the U.S. version ended its run in syndication, it aired for one more season on the brand-new Fox Kids Network with a few changes. There was also a Spin-Off series, College Mad House. Instead of pitting two teams of two kids together, two teams of four students each from rival universities competed, with much more risqué challenges thrown in. Greg Kinnear presided over that circus.

In the United Kingdom, Fun House became something of an institution to kids now aged between 20 and 30 as the zenith of gungey game shows. Airing on ITV during the 1980s and 1990s, it involved much the same things as the U.S. version did, but with different twins, different hosts and a set which was more like a carnival funhouse than just a fun... house.

The UK version is currently being repeated on Challenge TV.

This show provides examples of:

  • '80s Hair: JD's near-mullet and Pat's actual mullet.
  • The Announcer: John "Tiny" Hurley in the original version (Brian Cummings announced the pilot), Michael "MC Mike" Chambers in the FOX run. College Mad House had Beau Weaver. In the UK version, Gary King.
  • The Artifact: In some early episodes, you can spot barcodes on the back of some of the Fun House tags; this is a leftover from the pilot (see below for why they needed barcodes).
  • Big Win Sirens: Heard if the team won the grand/Power Prize in the Bonus Round.
  • Bonus Round: The Fun House itself. Contestants took turns grabbing cash and prize tags three at a time for two minutes. One of the tags also contained the "Power Prize", which awarded the team the major bonus prize that day. Changed in College to each player getting 30 seconds in the house to grab as many tags as possible, with the grand prize being awarded for "Cleaning House" (finding all 13 tags).
  • Bonus Space: The aforementioned "Power Prize" (although getting it was the main objective), and the Glop Clock in the FOX version that added 15 seconds to your allotted time in the house.
  • Catchphrase:
  • Celebrity Edition:
    • The show once had a "Teen Star Week", where young actors were teammates to ordinary schoolchildren. One episode pitted Tiffany Brissette against Jerry Supiran.
    • Celebrity episodes became common during the U.S. version's one-season run on Fox Kids.
  • Christmas Episode
  • Colour-Coded Characters: The red team vs. the gold [yellow] team. This was usually true of College Mad House as well, but if a competing school had blue or white as one of their school colors, they would wear those color jerseys instead.
  • Covered in Gunge: Some of the games consisted of little more than pouring it onto the players' heads.
  • Deserted Island: One of the tag locations, in the pool.
  • Double Unlock: In the UK version, finding the "Power Prize" earned the team a chance to answer a question requiring three answers under a 10-second shot clock. Success earned the grand prize. Averted in the U.S. version, where the "Power Prize" tag was enough to win the grand prize.
  • Everything's Better with Rainbows: The "Rainbow Bridge" over the pool.
  • Expository Theme Tune: The US version had an instrumental theme, while the UK version had a theme with lyrics which gave the audience a sense of what they could look forward to for the next half hour:
    "It's wacky! It's fun! It's crazy! It's outrageous!
    It's Fun House! It's a whole lot of fun! With prizes to be won!
    It's a real wacky show where anything can go!
    It's Fun House! It's a wizz! It's a race in a real wacky place!
    Use your body and your brain! If you want to play the game!"
  • Fanservice: Jackie and Sammi (as well as Melanie and Martine) for older viewers obviously (possibly even Parent Service). Averted in College by replacing them with referees, but given the contestants and what kind of stunts they were doing, it's debatable whether or not they were really necessary anyway.
  • Food Fight: On certain episodes of College Mad House, the Finals round would break out into an all-out pie fight between both teams.
  • Game Show Host: JD Roth in the United States, Pat Sharp in the United Kingdom. Greg Kinnear hosted College Mad House in one of his earliest roles before his well-known movie career.
  • Golden Snitch: The Fun House Grand Prix, to an extent, especially when they added a "token bank" from which one member per team could grab one handful of tokens.
  • Home Game:
  • Interface Screw: The "Kockeyed Kitchen", in which everything is upside down. Comes complete with an upside-down camera effect to make the contestant appear to the viewer to be walking on the ceiling.
  • Lovely Assistant: Twin cheerleaders Jackie and Sammi Forrest in the United States. Melanie and Martina Grant were their British counterparts.
  • Luck-Based Mission:
    • Occasionally found on the U.S. version. One common variant involved players taking alternating turns putting their faces into a pie, gripping a handle with their teeth, and lifting it up in the hopes of selecting a pie with a designated winning phrase, such as "Big Win." Usually the winner was the first to find two "Big Wins." Another one, found in a holiday-themed episode, had the contestants spin a giant dreidel in the hope of landing on a "candy" symbol; the contestant with more candy after three turns won.
    • Also, finding the "Power Prize" tag. Although your chances could be improved by getting more tags.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted with the "Flushing Meadows" room.
  • Obstacle Exposition: Done by the announcer right before the run through the Fun/Mad House.
  • Pie in the Face: Several main game stunts, as well as during Finals on College. The right to pie your opponent after answering a question carried over to the FOX version.
  • Pilot: For the US version; not much was changed between pilot and series, but the differences are notable: Brian Cummings was announcer, 4 stunts were played, not three, teams got money instead of points, and the setup of the Fun House almost seemed like a direct lift from the Stunt-era endgame of Break the Bank (1985): a little divider wall moves to "guard" the Fun House, the announcer describes the rooms, there's a random number generator activated by hitting a button (although it just got the runners cash), and while the runners could grab all the cash tags, only two prize tags were allotted, and the barcodes on the back would be read by inserting them into the front-game podium; one of these was the Power Prize, in this case awarding over $25,000 in cash and prizes. One of the contestants in that pilot, Douglas Emerson, would return in a Fox episode as a celebrity contestant.
  • Promotional Consideration: Doubled as Product Placement in the US version. Everyone on stage wore shoes from British Knights during the first two seasons, or LA Gear in the third.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: The Theme Tune and Bonus Round music from College would later be used on another Stone-Stanley production, Shop 'Til You Drop.
  • Scenery Porn: The Fun House itself was pretty impressive looking, and it got even bigger and cooler-looking for the Fox run.
  • Show the Folks at Home: The location of the Power Prize.
  • Signoff Catch Phrase:
    • US version: "I'm J.D. Roth, hoping to make your house a Fun House!"
    • UK version: "Well we're glad we made your house such a Fun House! Until next time, goodbye!" [cues Theme Song]
  • Speed Round: College Mad House had the "Finals" instead of the Grand Prix race. The host asked a series of rapid-fire questions for a minute and 30 seconds, and getting one right earned your team 25 points and allowed you to pie your opponent.
  • Spin-Off: College Mad House.
  • Subverted Kids' Show: Pretty much all of College, with the lewd nature of some of the stunts and the renamed obstacles in the Fu—er, Mad House.
  • Timed Mission:
    • Most of the stunts in the United States, and all of them in the United Kingdom (bar the Grand Prix). In the United States, the time limit was usually 30 or 45 seconds, while in the United Kingdom, it was 60 seconds for most of the run, then reduced to 45 seconds later.
    • Also, in both versions the Fun House run was timed to two minutes.
    • In College Mad House, the two minutes were divided evenly among all four contestants on the winning team (so 30 seconds each); the goal was to find all 13 tags in the house before the last player's time ran out.

Alternative Title(s): Fun House