The Generation Game
The Generation Game was a British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 gameshow produced by the BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 in which four teams of two (people from the same family
In human context, a family is a group of people affiliated by consanguinity, affinity, or co-residence. In most societies it is the principal institution for the socialization of children...

, but different generations, hence the title of the show) competed to win prizes. The programme was first broadcast in 1971 under the title Bruce Forsyth and the Generation Game and ran until 1982, and again from 1990 until 2002.

The show was based on the Dutch TV show Een van de acht, "One of the Eight", the format devised in 1969 by Theo Uittenbogaard for VARA
VARA (broadcaster)
The Omroepvereniging VARA is a Dutch public broadcasting association operating within the framework of the Nederlandse Publieke Omroep system, founded in 1925 as the Vereeniging van Arbeiders Radio Amateurs...

 Television. Mrs. Mies Bouwman
Mies Bouwman
Maria Antoinette "Mies" Bouwman is a Dutch television presenter.Born in Amsterdam, she started her career on the very first broadcasting evening of the Dutch broadcasting association KRO on 16 October 1951....

 - a popular Dutch talk show
Talk show
A talk show or chat show is a television program or radio program where one person discuss various topics put forth by a talk show host....

 host and presenter of the show - came up with the idea of the conveyor belt. She had seen it on a German programme and wanted to incorporate it into the show.

Another antecedent for the gameshow was 'Sunday Night at the London Palladium' on ATV, which had a game called Beat the Clock
Beat the Clock
Beat the Clock is a Goodson-Todman game show which has aired on American television in several versions since 1950.The original show, hosted by Bud Collyer, ran on CBS from 1950–1958 and ABC from 1958–1961. The show was revived in syndication as The New Beat the Clock from 1969–1974, with Jack Narz...

, taken from an American gameshow. It featured married couples playing silly games within a certain time to win prize money. This was hosted by Bruce Forsyth from 1958, and he took the idea with him when he went over to the BBC.

During the 1970s, the idea of gameshows became more popular and started to replace expensive variety shows. New studio shows were cheaper, compared to hiring the theatre, paying for long rehearsals and a large orchestra, and could achieve as many viewers. For the smaller ITV companies (not ATV
Associated TeleVision
Associated Television, often referred to as ATV, was a British television company, holder of various licences to broadcast on the ITV network from 24 September 1955 until 00:34 on 1 January 1982...

, Thames Television
Thames Television
Thames Television was a licensee of the British ITV television network, covering London and parts of the surrounding counties on weekdays from 30 July 1968 until 31 December 1992....

, London Weekend Television
London Weekend Television
London Weekend Television was the name of the ITV network franchise holder for Greater London and the Home Counties including south Suffolk, middle and east Hampshire, Oxfordshire, south Bedfordshire, south Northamptonshire, parts of Herefordshire & Worcestershire, Warwickshire, east Dorset and...

, Granada Television
Granada Television
Granada Television is the ITV contractor for North West England. Based in Manchester since its inception, it is the only surviving original ITA franchisee from 1954 and is ITV's most successful....

 or Yorkshire Television
Yorkshire Television
Yorkshire Television, now officially known as ITV Yorkshire and sometimes unofficially abbreviated to YTV, is a British television broadcaster and the contractor for the Yorkshire franchise area on the ITV network...

) it made economic sense as they would pay most of their money to the 'Big Five' to produce the bulk of the ITV programming. With less money for their own productions, a gameshow seemed the obvious idea. As a result many variety performers were recruited for gameshows. The BBC, suffering poor ratings, decided to make its own gameshow. Bill Cotton
Bill Cotton
Sir William Frederick "Bill" Cotton, CBE was a British television producer and executive, and the son of big-band leader Billy Cotton....

, the BBC's Head of Light Entertainment, believed that Bruce Forsyth was best for the job. For years, The Generation Game was one of the strong shows in the BBC's Saturday night line-up, and became the number one gameshow on British television during the 1970s, regularly gaining over 21 million viewers. However, things were about to change. LWT, desperate to end the BBC's long-running ratings success on a Saturday night, offered Forsyth a chance to change channel to host The Big Night.

Alan Boyd, producer of The Generation Game at the time, remembers that there were many proposals as to who should take over. However, he felt he did not want the new programme to be comparable to Forsyth's Generation Game (he did not want the audience to be able to compare the two shows to think that Bruce was better or that the new host was better), so he cast Larry Grayson to take over, with a new theme tune and scenery, and a new co-host, Isla St Clair
Isla St Clair
Isla St Clair , is a Scottish singer, actress and former game show co-host.-Early career:Isla St Clair was born in Grangemouth, central Scotland, in 1952. Her family came from North East Scotland and it was here that she spent her early years...

. It worked, as The Big Night failed to beat The Generation Game and was off the air within three months.

The show reached its peak under Grayson, with an audience of 25 million. (It should be pointed out that its highest figures in 1979 were due to a strike that blacked out the ITV
ITV is the major commercial public service TV network in the United Kingdom. Launched in 1955 under the auspices of the Independent Television Authority to provide competition to the BBC, it is also the oldest commercial network in the UK...

 network, meaning the two BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 channels were the only ones the public could watch). Grayson was loved for his apparent incompetence and inability to remember what was going on — all of which was carefully contrived.

A special edition of The Generation Game with Vernon Kay hosting aired on 5 March 2011 in aid of Comic Relief during the BBC's 24 Hour Panel People. David Walliams competed with his mother Kathleen. The other team consisted of Miranda Hart and Patricia Hodge, who play mother and daughter in the sitcom Miranda.

The game

There were always eight competitors; hence the catchphrase "Let's meet the eight who are going to generate", used in earlier series by Bruce Forsyth. In the first two rounds, two couples would compete against each other in two games. One game usually involved first seeing a skilled professional construct or perform something, such as pottery or dancing. The contestants would then attempt to do the same, and a score would be given by the professional. The other game usually involved more of a quiz element, such as identifying pieces of music. At the end of each of the first two rounds, the couple with the lowest score was eliminated.

The two highest-scoring couples then competed against each other in the final (or End Game as Larry Grayson called it). This was often a big set-piece performance; in the series presented by Bruce Forsyth it was usually a drama or farce, in later programmes a musical or dance performance. The couple that scored the highest went through to the final 'conveyor belt', which was controlled by a very mysterious figure named Charles H. Barnes, who usually wore a black hood and carried a scythe.

At the end of the show, one member (or in later series both members) of the victorious team watched prizes pass on a conveyor belt, and then won as many as could be recalled in a set time. A trademark of the show was that a cuddly toy was always among the prizes. This led to an affectionate joke: "Dinner service...fondue set...Cuddly toy! Cuddly toy!", which is often quoted whenever the show is mentioned. This round has been slated by critics for allowing the audience to shout out the names of the prizes, allowing the contestants to win the round easily.


The show introduced a number of catchphrases, famously Bruce Forsyth's "Didn't he/she/they do well?", "Let's meet the eight who are going to generate", "Let's have a look at the old scoreboard" (later, when the show was revived, Forsyth's assistant was Rosemarie Ford
Rosemarie Ford
Rosemarie Ford is an English dancer, actress and television presenter.-Television career:Ford is best known for her stint as the female host on the BBC TV game show The Generation Game with Bruce Forsyth in the early 1990s. She later hosted Come Dancing, again for the BBC...

, so the catchphrase was amended to "What's on the board, Miss Ford?") Most famously, Forsyth always opened the show with "Nice to see you, to see you ..." to which the audience would shout "Nice!", a catchphrase that Forsyth retains. Others included "Good game, good game," "I hope you're playing this at home," and "Give us a twirl," which was said to hostess Anthea Redfern to show off her dress.

Grayson supplied his own catchphrases, notably "Shut that door!", "What a gay day!" and "Seems like a nice boy!" Scores were preceded by "What are the scores on the doors?" to which St Clair would reply "The names in the frames say..." before announcing them. After the conveyor belt finale, Grayson would say "What a lot you've got... you have got a lot!" but he abandoned this after his second season as it did not register with the public. Grayson and St Clair apparently had a strong bond; Grayson always introduced her at the start of each show as "my lovely Isla" and "my favourite girl, my Saturday girl." Whenever St Clair speaks of Grayson, who died in 1995, it is with affection. She once referred to them as being "like a couple of naughty sisters."


Each host of The Generation Game was joined by a female hostess, who brought the contestants on stage, handed out the prizes and often joined in the games. The first was Anthea Redfern
Anthea Redfern
Anthea Bernice Redfern is a former British television hostess, most notable as the assistant to her husband Bruce Forsyth on the BBC's The Generation Game....

, who began an affair with host Forsyth and married him during the series' run. When she was absent on maternity leave, actress Jenny Lee Wright stood in for a number of shows. Isla St. Clair was Grayson's hostess throughout his tenure on the show. Rosemarie Ford supported Forsyth on his second stint as host. Sally Meen
Sally Meen
Sally Meen , is an English television presenter.Meen has a degree in Catering and Institutional Management, and latterly qualifications in Art and Design. Her TV career started out on TSW, before becoming a weather presenter on GMTV...

, Melanie Stace and Leah Christiansen were Davidson's hostesses.


Graham Norton
Graham Norton
Graham William Walker, known by his stage name Graham Norton , is an Irish actor, comedian, television presenter and columnist...

 hosted a one-off special at Christmas 2005 featuring celebrity
A celebrity, also referred to as a celeb in popular culture, is a person who has a prominent profile and commands a great degree of public fascination and influence in day-to-day media...

 contestants - this was titled "Generation Fame". At the time it was widely suggested that this was being treated as the pilot for a potential series; however, only the one edition has to date been screened.

The Generation Game returned in 2007 under the title Brucie's Generation Game: Now and Then broadcast on UKTV Gold
GOLD is the original channel of the UKTV network, broadcasting to the United Kingdom and Ireland. It launched on 1 November 1992 as UK Gold, and is currently available on Sky, Virgin Media, TalkTalk TV and terrestrial subscription via Top Up TV. It shows repeats of classic programming from the BBC...

. This version was a retrospective of earlier editions, similar to the digital channel's Wogan
Wogan was a chat show on British television, hosted by Terry Wogan. It followed the format of a series broadcast in 1980 entitled What's On Wogan?, which failed to gather viewers. The Wogan show was initially broadcast on Tuesday evenings on BBC1 in 1981 and from 1982 to 1984, it moved into the...

and Jim'll Fix It
Jim'll Fix It
Jim'll Fix It was a long-running British television show, broadcast by the BBC between 1975 and 1994. It was presented by Jimmy Savile. It was produced by Roger Ordish, who also worked on other BBC shows, including A Bit of Fry & Laurie...

revivals around the same time.

The Generation Game returned another time in 2011 for Comic Relief in 24 hour panel people with Miranda Hart
Miranda Hart
Miranda Katharine Hart Dyke , known professionally as Miranda Hart, is an English actress, writer and stand-up comedienne. She writes and stars in the BBC sitcom Miranda...

 on one team and David Walliams
David Walliams
David Edward Walliams is an English comedian, writer and actor, known for his partnership with Matt Lucas on the TV sketch show Little Britain and its predecessor Rock Profile...

 on the other

International versions

In addition to the original Dutch version and long-running British version, in 2008 a South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

n version of the show was made, hosted by comedian Barry Hilton together with actress/presenter Cindy Nkabinde on channel SABC 2
SABC 2 is a South African television channel owned by the South African Broadcasting Corporation . SABC 2 broadcasts programming in English, Afrikaans, Venda, and Tsonga.It was created in 1996, after the SABC restructured its television channels...


There was also a Swedish version, Tjocka Släkten, presented by Lasse Berghagen
Lasse Berghagen
Lars "Lasse" Nils Berghagen is a Swedish singer, songwriter, composer and actor.Berghagen is a well known singer-songwriter in Sweden. He released his first record in 1965, aged just 19. Four years later, in 1969, he released the single Teddybjörnen Fredriksson , which has become a classic...

 and Inga Gill
Inga Gill
Inga Gill was a Swedish film actress. She was born in Stockholm, Sweden and died there of thrombosis.-Selected filmography:* Thirst * Dreams * The Seventh Seal * Brink of Life...


In popular culture

  • In the third Harry Potter film
    Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (film)
    Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is a 2004 fantasy film directed by Alfonso Cuarón and based on the novel of the same name by J. K. Rowling. It is the third instalment in the Harry Potter film series, written by Steve Kloves and produced by Chris Columbus, David Heyman and Mark Radcliffe...

    , during the dinner scene with the Dursleys, Dudley Dursley is watching this show on television.
  • In the 1993 UK top 40 single "You're in a Bad Way
    You're in a Bad Way
    "You're in a Bad Way" is a song by British pop group Saint Etienne. It appears on their 1992 album So Tough and was released as a single in 1993.The song is a deliberately old-fashioned throwback to 1960s pop music...

    " by Saint Etienne
    Saint Etienne (band)
    Saint Etienne are an English Pop group comprising Sarah Cracknell, Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs. They are named after the French football team AS Saint-Étienne.-History:Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs were childhood friends and former music journalists...

    , a reference is made to someone who gets their "kicks watching Bruce on the old Generation Game".
  • DI Alex Drake
    Alex Drake
    DI Alexandra "Alex" Drake is a fictional character in BBC One's science fiction/police procedural drama, Ashes to Ashes. The character is portrayed by Keeley Hawes and as a child by Lucy Cole.-Character history:...

     briefly watches Larry Grayson's The Generation Game at the start of episode 1.3 of Ashes to Ashes
    Ashes to Ashes (TV series)
    Ashes to Ashes is a British science fiction and police procedural drama television series, serving as the sequel to Life on Mars.The series began airing on BBC One in February 2008. A second series began broadcasting in April 2009...

  • In Horrible Histories, in the Victorian inventions song near the end, a conveyor belt is going along and a teddy bear is on it (although stating it was made in 1902, the year after Victoria died).
  • Forsyth's catchphrase "Let's have a look at the old scoreboard" is frequently used by New Zealand television sports presenter Andrew Saville
    Andrew Saville
    Andrew Saville is a New Zealand sports broadcaster who presents the sports news on ONE News 6pm bulletin on weeknights Monday - Thursday. He was formerly the sports news reader on the Paul Holmes breakfast show on Newstalk ZB. He left this role to take up the position of senior rugby reporter on...

     in an apparent reference to the show.
  • Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour
    David Gilmour
    David Jon Gilmour, CBE, D.M. is an English rock musician and multi-instrumentalist who is best known as the guitarist, one of the lead singers and main songwriters in the progressive rock band Pink Floyd. In addition to his work with Pink Floyd, Gilmour has worked as a producer for a variety of...

     was well known for wearing a t-shirt with the catchphrase "Didn't They Do Well" on stage in the 70s. Although he no longer wears the shirt the bass player in his band, Guy Pratt
    Guy Pratt
    Guy Pratt is a session bassist and also a songwriter, actor and comedian. He is the son of actor Mike Pratt. In Kensington and Chelsea, London, in 1996, Pratt married Gala Wright, the daughter of Pink Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright...

    , can often be seen wearing a similar shirt.


Series Start date End date Episodes
1 2 October 1971 30 October 1971 5
2 16 September 1972 1 January 1973 15
3 15 September 1973 26 January 1974 19
4 14 September 1974 1 February 1975 21
5 27 September 1975 1 January 1976 14
6 11 September 1976 18 December 1976 15
7 10 September 1977 31 December 1977 16
8 23 September 1978 16 December 1978 13
9 1 September 1979 15 December 1979 15
10 30 August 1980 13 December 1980 16
11 5 September 1981 19 December 1981 16
12 7 September 1990 7 December 1990 13
13 14 September 1991 21 December 1991 15
14 19 September 1992 2 January 1993 14
15 10 September 1993 17 December 1993 14
16 10 September 1994 17 December 1994 15
17 21 October 1995 10 February 1996 17
18 31 August 1996 14 December 1996 16
19 18 October 1997 7 March 1998 19
20 5 September 1998 23 January 1999 20
21 4 September 1999 5 February 2000 19
22 7 October 2000 24 February 2001 20
23 8 September 2001 13 April 2002 18
24 22 November 2007 20 December 2007 5


Date Entitle
9 September 1972 Series 1 Compilation
25 December 1972 Christmas Special
9 September 1973 Series 2 Compilation
25 December 1973 Christmas Special
29 December 1973 Series 3 Compilation
25 December 1974 Christmas Special
20 September 1975 Series 4 Compilation
25 December 1975 Christmas Special
4 September 1976 Series 5 Compilation
25 December 1976 Christmas Special
3 September 1977 Series 6 Compilation
25 December 1977 Christmas Special
5 January 1978 Bruce's Choice
25 December 1978 Christmas Special
31 December 1978 Series 8 Compilation
16 April 1979 Easter Special
25 December 1979 Christmas Special
31 December 1979 Series 9 Compilation
7 April 1980 Easter Special
25 December 1980 Christmas Special
31 December 1980 Series 10 Compilation
20 April 1981 Easter Special
25 December 1981 Christmas Special
3 January 1982 Series 11 Compilation
25 December 1990 Christmas Special
7 September 1991 Series 12 Compilation
25 December 1991 Christmas Special
5 September 1992 Series 13 Compilation
25 December 1992 Christmas Special
3 September 1993 Series 14 Compilation
24 December 1993 Christmas Special
3 September 1994 Series 15 Compilation
24 December 1994 Christmas Special
21 December 1996 Christmas Special
20 December 1997 Christmas Special
14 March 1998 Series 18 Compilation
21 March 1998 Series 19 Compilation
30 January 1999 Series 20 Compilation
1 September 1999 Cuddly Toys and Conveyor Belts
24 December 1999 Christmas Special
1 January 2000 New Year Special
1 July 2000 Series 21 Compilation
26 May 2001 Series 22 Compilation
23 December 2001 Christmas Special
20 April 2002 Series 23 Compilation
31 December 2005 Generation Fame
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