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Series / The Generation Game

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A long-running BBC light entertainment Game Show, based on a Dutch format by Rudi Carrell , which first aired in 1971; it is played between four teams, each consisting of a contestant and one of their grandparents (hence the name of the show, since they are a generation apart).

The four teams were split into two pairs, and each pair competed in two rounds each. Typically, the first round involved the four contestants watching an expert or celebrity guest demonstrate an activity (such as, for instance, making a clay pot), and then trying to replicate the results (with the expert as a judge). The second round typically involved more quiz-like tasks. The winning teams in the two semi-final matches went on to the final, which typically involved putting on a play or some other entertainment performance. The champions went onto the conveyor belt Bonus Round to win prizes.

The series was one of the major breakout roles for British television personality Bruce Forsyth, who had previously hosted a British version of Beat the Clock as part of the variety show Sunday Night at the London Palladium. In 1978, Forsyth was poached by London Weekend Television to host a competing Saturday night show on ITV, Bruce Forsyth's Big Night. Meanwhile, comedian Larry Grayson was brought on as the new host of The Generation Game: with an aim to differentiate it from Brucie's version, Grayson hosted the programme as a camp, incompetent character, with his co-host Isla St Clair keeping things from going too far off the rails.

Larry Grayson's Generation Game remained dominant over its competition, while Isla was elevated from a local personality to a national name. In comparison, besides two one-off specials in 1980, Bruce Forsyth's Big Night was quickly canned after 12 episodes. When a television technicians' strike brought down the entire ITV network for eleven weeks in 1979 (and resulted in continued residual effects for some time afterward), ratings for The Generation Game were recorded as being around 25 million viewers — the highest ratings ever recorded for a game show at the time. After its original run ended in 1982, it was revived in 1990 with Forsyth returning as host. After filling in for Forsyth on one episode, Jim Davidson took over from 1995 to 2002.

There have been off-and-on talks about a potential revival, beyond a failed 2003 pilot with Paul O'Grady, and one-offs in 2005 (the Celebrity Edition Generation Fame with Graham Norton) and 2011 as part of the Comic Relief charity stunt 24 Hour Panel People. Miranda Hart, who participated in said one-off, was actually being considered as host of a revival too, but it never came to fruition.

The most recent rumour of a potential revival came in 2017, when it was speculated that Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, of The Great British Bake Off fame, were being offered to host a revival (presumably as compensation for leaving Bake-Off due to its Channel Hop). In July 2017, the BBC announced that The Generation Game would be revived with Mel & Sue as hostesses, which premiered as a series of specials in April 2018; four episodes were initially announced, but only two were eventually aired. Upon its premiere, the revival was not received well by critics, who felt that it relied too much on trying to emulate the iconic Bruce Forsyth and Larry Grayson eras rather than go in a new direction.

This series provides examples of

  • Affectionate Parody: That Mitchell and Webb Look did a post-apocalyptic version of the conveyor game on their recurring sketch "The Quiz Broadcast", with prizes including a skull, "food objects", a traffic cone and a clock stand ("We don't know, but they're everywhere"), tablets (of medicinal and Holy varieties), stones, and a "frightening animal". The prizes were carried in front of the conveyor belt by stagehands instead of on it because they don't know how to actually operate the conveyor, and the contestant recalled memories of "The Event" rather than the prizes.
  • Bonus Round: Watch 20 prizes that pass by on a conveyor belt, and recall as many of them under a time limit to win. In the Davidson era, getting 15 prizes awarded everything and a bonus prize too.
  • Catchphrase: If there was something there were no shortage of during the Forsyth and Grayson eras, it was catchphrases;
    • Bruce Forsyth
      • "Nice to see you, to see you..." ("Nice!")
      • "Our contestants have no idea what's coming up. They have not rehearsed. This... is their... rehearsal!
      • "Good game, good game!" (ironically, this was often said after particularly rough rounds.)
      • "Didn't they do well?"
      • "Let's have a look at the old scoreboard..."
      • In the early 1990s: “What have they scored, Miss Ford?/What's on the board, Miss Ford?”
    • Larry Grayson
    • "[Item]. [item], Cuddly toy!"
  • Clip Show: Each series had a highlights special, while UKTV Gold picked up Brucie's Generation Game: Now and Then in 2007, which featured classic moments, and inviting back runner-ups to play the conveyor.
  • Covered in Gunge: The bonus round in the Davidson era added a strange mechanic involving "Phantom Prizes"; if you named one of them, you got gunged. It still counted.
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: The original theme music was actually written and performed by Bruce.
  • Lovely Assistant:
    • Bruce Forsyth had Anthea "Lin Li" Redfern (in fact, from 1973 to 1979, they were actually a married couple!). During Forsyth's second run, Rosemarie Ford filled the roll.
    • Larry Grayson's version had Scottish singer Isla St Clair; she largely served as the straight (wo)man to Grayson's ditziness.
  • Mascot: The de facto mascot of the series were the "cuddly toys" that always appeared on the conveyor belt.
  • Point-and-Laugh Show: A more lighthearted variety, but much of the show's fun came from watching people inevitably botch up the challenges.
  • Take That!: In one episode, comedian and impressionist Allan Stewart was a guest, instructing the competitors on being celebrity impersonators. Bruce Forsyth inevitably came up, prompting Stewart to remark that the competitors were a better version of Forsyth than the real thing. Predictably, he wasn't amused.
  • Transatlantic Equivalent: An American version was piloted as Piece of Cake with Forsyth hosting, but it didn't get picked up.