salesmen of the century
It has nothing to do with Nicholas Parsons, but then who does? Team members take the rôles of long-forgotten characters from history who have to deal with a visit from two door-to-door salesmen trying to sell them something they never knew they needed.
The standard of Grotto customer satisfaction can vary markedly - a 4 year-old who asked for a cowboy outfit was given the Virgin Rail franchise, but had to refuse it as he was over-qualified to run a public utility. One team is a parent and child visiting the grotto, and the opposing team is Santa and his little helper Elf and it is their job to guess what the child wants for Christmas. However, they can only ask questions likely to get a Yes or No. Listeners are told of the hoped for present by the Mystery Voice.
It is the Chairman’s job to remain stoney faced no matter what the teams say. Not so much a job but the law of unintended consequences. This round is played in tribute to that great old TV show That’s Life which was a neat blend of consumers complaining about terminally poor service combined with unusual vegetables and animals trying to talk. Anyone who has called the BT broadband help line will get the idea. The teams ask the Chairman any question they like but the answer will always be “Sausages.”
The habit these days is to indicate a scandal by adding the suffix -gate in the style of the original Watergate affair. Last Summer Blue Peter misled their viewers about naming a cat in what became known as Kittengate. Now ITV have admitted misappropriating £8m of viewers money in what has become known as “we’re a shameless bunch of thieving gits but aren’t going to do anything about”-gate. In this game, one team have been unwittingly implicated in a scandal about which they know nothing. Their task is to work out the precise nature of the scandal while being interviewed by the opposing team.
We all remember that feeling of dread as the end of year report had to be taken home for inspection by our parents. The teams are asked for suggestions of school reports that might have been received by certain famous people either still with us or are appearing on UK Gold.
The science fiction revival is all the rage these days. In this round the teams assume the roles of actors to reprise some famous two-handers from film and stage. However, one of the parts has been cast as an alien.
Occasionally a round or two of a Scrabble game is played using the standard rules.
The sequel is a well known device designed to build upon the qualities of an established formula, and this was once even tried with a once popular wireless show called I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again. I can’t begin to list all the truly great qualities of the sequel - and believe me I’ve tried. Rarely does the second version live to up to the standards by the original, so the teams are asked to reverse the trend by suggesting titles for more exciting and expensive versions of the original.
sexed down songs
The Chairman asks the teams to suggest sexed down versions of some well known
This round is about certain unjustified events that are supported by wholly unsubstantiated claims. This round is always a hum-dinger! The panellists are asked to suggest sexed up book, record, and film titles likely to be found at No. 10 Downing Street.
In days of yore long before the invention of newspapers events of great importance were recorded in tapestries hung in our national buildings, to be inspected by the public, and then taken down on Fridays to wrap around their fish and chips. The teams are asked to come up with some likely newspaper headlines that one might have expected to find in the papers after a certain event recorded by Shakespeare.
Last year TV audiences were confused by a documentary on the Italian renaissance, as they only knew Florence as a character in the Magic Roundabout. Idiots - she must have appeared in lots of other things. So in this, the age of the 10 second attention span, the teams compete to produce the shortest possible rendition of some well known films, programmes, etc.
This round has something for everyone with an interest in music. For students of
music it has Colin Sell at the piano, and for lovers of music the piano is
silent. In this round Colin plays a well known piece on his electronic keyboard
but with the power switched off; only Colin knows what he is playing. So pretty
much business as usual. The job of the teams is to identify the piece he is playing
before the power returns.
The silliest questions are often posed by young children. In fact our own Barry Cryer used to ask so many stupid questions as a youngster, that his mother took him to see a child psychologist. But when he couldn’t help she took Barry to an adult one instead. And Tim was telling us how some years ago he was watching TV with his 4 year old son when he suddenly asked How do you make people laugh? So Tim sat down while his son explained.
In this round there is a child on a live link up who is ready and waiting to ask a series of questions for the teams to provide answers to.
The games is a test of the teams knowledge of similes. Some ignorant souls don’t know the difference between a simile and a metaphor. Well the difference is easy - a simile is figure of speech that expresses the resemblance of one thing to another by reference to an unrelated subject, whereas a metaphor is a system of signalling using flags. The Chairman reads out the first part of a simile and the teams must complete as many as possible within a time limit.
singer and the song
Each panellist has to imagine that they are a famous personality and sing a song in their style. Occasionally a team will do a duet - Willie Rushton and Tim Brooke-Taylor have performed as the Queen and Princess Margaret, brilliant!
A team has to sing a song with each team member singing alternate words of the song.
Singing Relay should not be confused with the similar sounding game Signing Relay which was played just once. The teams sang songs suggested by the audience giving hand signals. It wasn’t a success and it was never discovered what song was represented by 700 hands doing a knife stabbing action.
One team has to sing a song as fast as they can, and then the opposing team must beat their time. Extra marks are given for the most sensitive rendering.
In the olden days, large organisations seldom bothered to advertise to fill jobs. For example the navy used to send gangs of heavies into pubs, knocking hopeless drunks over the head and forcing them to sail their ships. We might find that laughable, but it is a system that still serves British Airways whenever they are looking for pilots. The teams are asked for job adverts for positions that have suddenly become available.
In this game the teams take it in turns to be smugglers or Customs Officers. Team members will try to smuggle illicit items through customs by concealing them in longer words or phrases, and the Customs Officers can challenge at any time. The winners will get 10 points, the losers an intimate body search, or is that the other way around.
In this next round the teams are going to play a game of cards and the chairman shall be the croupier, or as they say in French, croupier. Attencion gentlemen et Barry. Fait du jour, place your bets, la plume de ma tante est dans la pissoire. bien noveaux pleut et jeueax. And the game is snap.
soap and flannel
This round is all about soap operas and product placement. Soap operas were of course originally designed to sell soap powder, hence there name Operas. The advent of commercial television brought us Ad-Mag programmes, where a genuine drama was created around any number of branded products - a practice we wouldn’t normally encourage here on the Rolls-Royce of wireless shows. I know I am not alone in finding a lot of modern advertising misleading - only the other day I spotted an ad from Millets which said they had really good camouflaged jackets so I went straight down there and I couldn’t find them.
The teams are taken back to the early days of commercial broadcasting, with each of them extemporising a typical scene from a soap opera but all the while trying to include as many hidden product placements as possible. The opposing team wins points for each brand name they can spot.
Panellists are asked to suggest songs titles and lyrics that would appeal to an audience drawn from a particular group of people. So far these have included such diverse occupations as Dog Fanciers, Criminals, Pensioners, Airline Pilots, Parliamentarians, Doctors, Undertakers, and Builders.
Based on the erstwhile television game Give Us a Clue, this is charades on the radio with the obvious exception that the teams can use their mouths. A team acts out a little sketch which suggests the title of a book, play or film. The audience is told the title by means of the laser display board, and the radio listeners by the Mystery Voice.
The teams have experimented with games similar to Sound Charades. They were:
This was abandoned when they were forced to evacuate the studio after Willie Rushton did Animal Farm - in stereo.
Barry Cryer tried to do Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and they had to call the Police.
Sound Charades should not be confused with the following alternative versions:
A French version of the game in which contestants provide clues using only their noses.
The creation of wireless sound effects makes a fascinating study, but sometimes even the BBC’s technical experts can make mistakes. It was recently discovered that the seagulls on Desert Island Disks aren’t the type found in the South Seas. As a result the programme had to be renamed Council Dump Records. In this game, one team improvises vocal sound effects to complement the story being told by the opposing team.
The Chairman plays a few bizarre sound effects for the teams to tell him what they are. The winner of this round gets to have a look in his little box.
specialist greetings cards
Nowadays it is possible to buy all matter of greetings cards to suit specialist
interests or hobbies of the recipient. Recently the chairman discovered that
Lionel Blair is a huge cricket fan, so for his birthday he was delighted to track
down a card with a cricket motif and even tailored his message inside to suit
“Happy Birthday Lionel, 83, not out”. However there is definitely a gap in the UK
market and the teams are asked to come up with special occasion rhymes and
messages for every occasion.
spell check songs
Certain song lyrics have been especially corrected by that fine facility available to users of home computers. And what a labour easing boon spell check is - by saving everyone the trouble of going through their text manually and placing a wiggly green line under every seventh word. (The Chairman is safe in the knowledge that whenever he types his name he is but a double mouse click away from becoming Hump-hairy Little-tune!)
Spelling contests have long been popular in the United States, and thanks to recent films and TV shows they’re now catching on over here. There is even a new TV series hosted by Eamon Holmes, who I have to say has really grown into the job. The name is self explanatory. If the game catches on it may be expanded to include other words.
Everyone finds spelling mistakes furry. This round was suggested by Graeme
Garden who is about to publish a book on the correct way to write. He has just
to finish dotting the ‘t’s and crossing the ‘i’s. Then it is off to the publisher
for poof reading. The teams are asked to suggest examples of spelling mistakes
they may have spotted which might have caused anything from mild inconvenience to
The teams have to present newly sponsored programmes in a style that reflects their revised status.
sporting bloopers/sporting out-takes
A series of sound clips are played for each panellist, and they have to identify a sporting event they represent.
spot the ball
An extremely popular game, that the listeners at home can follow in the Radio Times by turning to the Programme page.
spot the intro
Fingers on buzzers and the sooner you buzz in with the correct answer, the more
points you win.
spot the ostrich
An Ostrich is released from a cage and the teams have to try and spot it.
spot the sig
The name was adapted from a different game, called Spot the Stig, which they play on Top Gear. Each week Jeremy Clarkson teases his audience about who their mystery test driver might be, whilst the viewers scratch their heads trying to decide if it is a monkey’s or a toss they couldn’t give. By the way, for anyone who has never seen Top Gear we should explain, well done. In Spot the Sig, the teams challenge is to identify the name of a programme simply by hearing its signature tune.
spot the web site
The panellists are asked to share some of their favourite web site and e-mail addresses past and present.
squeak piggy, squeak
This is an old Victorian parlour game from the innocent age when young boys in cloth caps bowled wooden hoops along with a stick, finely dressed gentlemen presented crinolined ladies with flowers in the street, and smiling chocolate box soldiers had their limbs blown off in the Crimea. Jenkins the butler would blindfold himself and when he had located one of the domestics by touch alone, would endeavour to sit on their lap with the aid of a cushion. Once sat there he would pinch the poor woman before shouting Squeak piggy, squeak! He would then attempt to identify the squealer simply by the sound of their squeal. The Chairman takes on the role of Jenkins, and the panellists take on the role of the servants.
stars in their ears
Based on the popular TV show called Stars in Their Eyes. It is where hopeless amateurs pretend to be showbiz personalities, as in fact they do in all the other games. Each team sings a duet more or less in the style of a famous double act, while Colin Sell enters into the spirit by accompanying them more or less in the style of a pianist.
Stars in Their Ears is occasionally confused with the following similarly named game:
tsars in their ears
The teams fashion scale models of the Imperial Romanoff family out of their own ear wax.
stars in their rears
A distasteful game that involves signs of the zodiac being tattooed in an inaccessible horrible place - Croydon.
Each member of a team takes it in turn to say a humour free word on a theme chosen by the Chairman. Anyone raising a titter is eliminated until there is no one left.
There are a couple of similar sounding games that should not be confused with the Straight Face. They are:
In this game contestants line up and the one that looks most like Liberace wins.
This game involves sticking pins into a group photo of the Shadow Cabinet - the winner being the player picking out Michael Portillo.
Strap lines are those short summations found on movie posters. The Chairman has a selection of unfinished strap lines which the teams have to try and complete.
This game involves the teams playing cards. Luckily Samantha is a qualified croupier, and often works at an exclusive Soho club where gamblers pay top money to play Roulette all day, and Poker all night.
No one is permitted more than 5 items of clothing and only the winner of each hand will avoid taking anything off.
The Chairman cannot but help notice the spate of child psychology programmes on TV at the moment, such as Super Nanny and House of the Tiny Tearaways. With so many programmes showing us how parents fail to cope with their little brats tantrums, we shall soon have no need to visit supermarkets at all.
It can be no coincidence this kind of behaviour has increased since corporal punishment was outlawed in schools. In the first half of the 20th Century we all learned respect out of fear of the cane, and the only violent behaviour you saw then was restricted to two World Wars and the destruction of most of Europe.
Ever mindful of the problems associated with modern day parenting the teams are asked to assume the role of super nannies and provide expert answers to frequently asked questions associated with child rearing.
In Tim Brooke-Taylor once worked as a child psychologist, but growing tired of the constant screaming fits and lack of toilet training, his employers sacked him.
The Chairman has a selection of superstitions and items of arcane folklore which the teams are asked to explain.
A team plays a song, one player on a Swanee whistle, the other on a kazoo.
This game is all about boasting. The teams take it in turns to be guests at a party unashamedly boasting about something which the succeeding guest has to out do. If the Chairman honks his horn once the teams have to change the topic of conversation, if he honks twice it is the end of the round, and if he honks three times then it is the dodgy pork pie he had for lunch.