3-2-1 (1978–1987)

TV Series  |   |  Game-Show
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Three couples compete in a missing word game, with the winning couple going on to solve riddles left by guest performers to win prizes and avoid Dusty Bin's booby prize.

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Series cast summary:
Ted Rogers ...
 Himself - Host (149 episodes, 1978-1987)
Chris Emmett ...
 Himself / ... (62 episodes, 1978-1986)


Three couples compete in a missing word game, with the winning couple going on to solve riddles left by guest performers to win prizes and avoid Dusty Bin's booby prize.

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Release Date:

1978 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

One three, Two  »

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Did You Know?


John Sunderland was the artist who designed the original opening title animation, and also the characterisation of Dusty Bin, in 1978. See more »


Referenced in Have I Got News for You: Episode #32.3 (2006) See more »

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User Reviews

Variety is no longer a spice of life
30 April 2007 | by (Coventry, England) – See all my reviews

3-2-1 was the cornerstone of ITV's programming from the late 1970's and throughout the 1980's. Saturday night prime time had been dominated for years by Bruce Forsythe's 'Generation Game', but in 1978, 3-2-1 became the 'New Kid On The Block' sweeping all it's rivals aside.

The show's name was derived from the fact that over the course of the hour long show, three teams, usually made up of middle aged married couples, were slowly, (and I mean painfully slowly), whittled down to just one, who would then be on course to win a prize.

These prizes would range from a new tin dustbin (wrapped in a ribbon that was probably worth more), to a brand new Family car, which was usually either a Ford Fiesta or an Austin Metro.

Host Ted Rodgers's long running gimmick was his dexterous and lightning-fast hand signal which he unleashed every time he dared to utter the shows moniker, whereby he would start with three digits extended, twist his wrist and lower one of the fingers and twist back till only one digit remained.

The shows always started with Ted punching out a few 'funnies' with his now hopelessly out-dated holiday camp style humour before he finally revealed the theme for that particular evening's show at which point they would wheel out the shows mascot named 'Dusty Bin' who was adorned in costume associated with the evenings theme such as Circus theme = Ringmaster costume or Pirate theme = Long John Silver costume. You get the point. The 'loveable' Dusty Bin mascot was in fact a metaphor for the show's oft won booby prize of the new dustbin previously mentioned.

After the 'near-to-death' aged audience had retained their composure after being subjected to Ted's 'hilarious' jokes, Ted would then give overly long introductions to the three teams with which he would usually engage into harmless and indeed humourless banter such as:

Ted: "You Met on a Ferris Wheel?" Mrs A: "Yes I was on the top he was on the bottom" Ted: "Something's Don't Change then do they Ha Ha?" Audience: chuckle, guffaw, giggle, snore.

After the introductions were completed, a general knowledge quiz would ensue with £10 given for each correct answer. The questions were usually word associated for example:

Ted: "I'll give you the first name of a Football Team, and you have to complete it's full title, for instance I say Leyton, you say Orient"

In the 2nd round of the quiz, the prize money for each correct answer was raised, and then followed another round of similar structured questions, albeit a little harder.

After this 2nd round, the team with lowest amount of money was booted off with the money they have won and a ceramic Dusty Bin figurine, (which are now considered valuable collectors items as they are the only items given away on the show that didn't depreciate).

In the next round, the two remaining couples were subjected to arse-clenchingly awful variety acts such as comedians, magicians and singers, all of whom were either wannabies that neverdid or hasbeens that neverwere. However, once in a while the producers would secure an artist will real appeal such as Ken Dodd or Les Dawson who would turn up and give the now arthritic audience their only genuine laugh of the evening.

When each artist had completed their skit, they would return to a podium to the awaiting contestants and host, on which, they would deposit an object then read a MENSA style cryptic riddle about it that when deciphered, would hopefully give some indication of the prize the object represented.

After three objects were on the table, each couple chose an item they wanted to reject hoping it may be the dustbin. Ted would then ask a lengthy general knowledge question and the first couple who 'buzzed in' with the correct answer would go through to the final round, with the losers going home with their quiz money, ceramic Dusty Bin, a consolation prize and of course their fond memories of the evening.

Ted would then go on to reject the winning couple's chosen object by explaining how the cryptic clue was supposed to logically lead the contestants to it's associated prize, though he always seem to make the clue MORE confusing with his absurd explanations.

The final couple would then be subjected to further torture in the form of two more Variety acts, which more often than not, included the dance act 'The Brian Rodgers Connection', between each act a further object on the podium was dispatched. This continued until all the acts had completed their turn, and all but one of the remaining objects had been rejected, with the last remaining object being the prize that the couple will eventually take home.

It's sadistic I know, but I loved seeing the perspiration on the contestant's brows when only two items remained and the bin had yet to be rejected.

3-2-1 was a product of it's time and would not stand up well in today's gazillion channel media world, but back in it's day when we only 3 or later 4 channels to choose from, it was the lesser of all the evils dished out to us on Saturday nights.

I quote Writer Mark Hellinger's opening statement from 'The Roaring Twenties':

"Bitter or sweet, most memories become precious with the passage of time"

I think that the above quote applies to 3-2-1 more than any other TV show of the era, but I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

Nostalgia rules OK. Enjoy.

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