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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.
I used to watch 3-2-1 on Saturday evenings during the 1980's and it was
usually the prime time show on ITV. It was much better that the rubbish
that is now shown on Saturday evenings.
Three couples competed against each other and the first to go was at the first round, a quiz. The other two went on for the acts and a member of the act bought back an envelope with a rhyme, along with an object as a clue to what the prize could be. The contestants then had to pick one of these, hoping it would be Dusty Bin as all they would win if that was the last one at the end was a brand new dustbin. The prizes were usually cars or holidays. Every couple also taken home with them a ceramic Dusty Bin.
This show was hosted by the late Ted Rogers and one of his female assistants for a few years was actress Caroline Munro (The Spy Who Loved Me).
I use to enjoy this on a Saturday evening and was a shame it finished.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'3-2-1' is one of television's greatest enigmas. Though it ended two
decades ago, even now I wonder from time-to-time: "Why?".
Made by Yorkshire Television, it consisted basically of various formats bolted together; game show, variety show, children's show ( Dusty Bin ), all linked by a finger-twisting Ted Rogers. Poor Ted. Having made a name for himself on programmes such as 'Jokers Wild' as a quick-witted comic, he then had the misfortune to find himself in this slop ( he later admitted that the early editions made him cringe ). Ditto Fiona Curzon, who prior to becoming a '3-2-1' beauty had appeared in Granada's popular I.T.V. thriller show 'The X-Y-Y Man'. And what of poor Caroline Munro, a one-time Hammer Horror starlet who had been in Bond and Sinbad movies, reduced to playing second fiddle to a dustbin?
Originating from Spain ( Margaret Forwood of The Sun said 'it was the most undesirable thing to come out of that country since bullfighting' ), it ran for nearly a decade. So someone must have liked it. What was its appeal? Well, it had razzmatazzz by the bucketload ( Johnny Pearson's theme was the most bombastic ever written for the box ), glamour ( a gang of Continental beauties called 'The Gentle Secs', one of whom - Mireille Allonville - had appeared in soft porn films ), intrigue ( those cryptic clues would have baffled Sherlock Holmes ), and the ever present threat of 'Dusty Bin'. Initially, the bin was inert, but then they made him move. The sight of a grinning bin gliding across the floor of the studio sent a collective shiver up the spines of the nation. 'Dr.Who' could not have done it better. One or two poor souls won it from time to time, and to compound their humiliation Ted then asked them to smile and wave at the camera.
The worst thing about the show were the sketches, many of which seemed to have been originally written for 'Crackerjack'. Some nights the cast looked genuinely embarrassed at having to perform them.
The first episode had as a contestant a pre-Radio 1 Janice Long, who curiously neglected to mention that she was Keith Chegwin's sister ( this was years before 'Naked Jungle' ). The early shows featured Mike Newman, Chris Emmett, and Debbie Arnold making lame quips inbetween the questions. Emmett wheeled out his impression of then-Labour Prime Minister Jim Callaghan practically every week, but when Margaret Thatcher moved into 10, Downing Street, political humour suddenly became noticeably absent.
The show carried the credit: 'Production Associate Michael Sullivan'. The late Mr.Sullivan was a top showbiz agent, meaning that a lot of the '3-2-1' guest-stars came straight off his books.
A young Mark Heap appeared in one edition ( I'm sure he's proud to have it on his C.V. ).
Easy to be cynical now, but '3-2-1' was huge in its day. They could not get away with it today though. Could they?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Until a few weeks ago, I hadn't watched this show for nearly twenty
years (and I'm in my mid-20's now).
I still have vague memories of the last ever show, the 1988 Christmas special. It had a panto theme, Linda Nolan was in it. That's about all I remember.
Yet somehow - SOMEHOW - I got the urge to watch it on Challenge TV recently. Possibly because I've just discovered the fine TV Ark website and ITV's 50th birthday celebrations have made these old gameshows part of primetime again.
And...well, it really made me cringe.
The one I watched was from the last full series, in 1987. I struggled to sit through a couple of the entertainers (the infamous Brian Rogers connection and yet another rendition of I Will Survive) yet the sight of a then unknown Shane Richie, an amusing Ken Dodd and Kenny Baker (yes, R2 D2) made the entertainment a little more bearable.
Add the quiz round (possibly the most interesting part of the show, and that's saying something), the mildly amusing Dusty Bin, Ted Rogers and his 3-2-1 hand movement, some tacky prizes, some pretty decent prizes, some pretty clueless answers to questions, the puzzling cryptic clues...
Why did I watch this, even as a child? I think, in spite of everything it had going against it, there was something...well, welcoming, probably endearing about it. After all, you had prizes, entertainment (if you could call it that) and a money-winning quiz in one. That, and in its prime, most of 3-2-1's entertainers were really appreciated.
But I'd have to agree with UK Gameshows here and say that Ted Rogers was the one who really "carried the show off". He pretty much summed up 3-2-1 to a T; harmless and kind of likable, with several funny moments and not ashamed of what it was.
It's the kind of show you just don't get nowadays.
That said, I hope they never resurrect it. It's more than had its time, and I think Ant and Dec are doing more than enough "resurrecting" of old gameshows at present...
This is one of those 80's programmes which crop up on cheap cable channels and when you watch it you can't believe that this was Saturday evening prime time entertainment and 15-20 million people would watch it.its a bizarre cross between a quiz/gameshow and variety show.Basically,the idea was to interpret totally in penetrable cryptic poems which represented a prize, and the contestants would have to reject prizes and hope they got something tidy and not the booby prize of a dustbin, represented by the 'hilarious' character Dusty Bin. It was called 3-2-1 cos three couples would be whittled down to 2 via a quiz for the main part of the programme and then to 1 couple for the climactic choosing of the prize. The host , Ted Rodgers did this sort of visual 'catchphrase' where he would hold up 3 fingers, then 2, then 1 finger at a speed which dazzled the easily impressed people of the 80's. The weirdest bit was that instead of just bringing out all the clues to the prizes at once, there would be variety segments where various seaside comics, singers, dancers and magicians such as Keith Harris and Orville and The Krankies would do a few minutes of an act, or if the money was a bit tight that week then the in-house dancers 'the Brian Rodgers Connection' would do a turn. The act would then come over to Ted and the contestants and Ted would ask either where they were doing 'Summer Season/Pantomime" depending on the time of the year and they would read out the cryptic poems which made no sense and an item which was also supposed to be a clue but had no connection to the prize we later find out it represents. The couples would get to 'reject' the prizes one by one, supposedly by deciphering the clues, but actually by blind guess work. Once they picked an item to reject, Ted would open the envelope the poem was written on and read out an incredibly contrived and tenuous explanation for the clue, and the contestants were none the wiser as he went along until he shouted "Its the car/holiday/dusty bin!". Thered be another little quiz to knock out another couple and the final couple would get the choice out of the last few clues and win either a holiday,car, kitchen suite or a dustbin. Fantastic.
3-2-1 occasionally crops up in these list shows broadcast by Channel 4
. It's interesting to see that it's not well regarded thirty years down
the line when it was highly popular during its broadcast . The reason
for its popularity was probably down to the fact that it contained the
most expensive prizes being given away , things like a brand new car or
an expensive holiday with the danger of choosing the legendary booby
prize dusty bin
What is striking in hindsight is how terminally thick some of the contestants were and it's in these list shows we're treated to a pair of couples who are asked what composer is famous for his water music :
" Oh Handel's water music " replies one couple
" So the composer is ? ... " asks compare Ted Rogers
" Schubert " comes the reply , which is the wrong answer so Rogers hands the question over to the other couple who reply :
" Beethoven "
Having said that not even the likes of Albert Einstien or Stephen Hawkings would be able to decipher the clues on the final part of the show where the winning couple try and figure what the prizes are via a series of riddles . This part of the contest is more of a guessing game best summed up in a spoof sketch on THE RUSS ABBOT SHOW
" We mentioned a garage and what would you keep in a garage ? A bin perhaps ? We also mentioned car keys what would you put car keys in ? A bin perhaps ? Yes you've won the booby prize dusty bin "
More of a guessing game than a contest
I naturally wasn't a regular watcher of this show but from what I saw of it, it seemed it had a resident group of failed comedians performing a sketch, one of the comedians would go over to the contestants and recite a cryptic poem which made no sense which invariably they failed to understand and they'd then be told by host Ted Rogers that they'd rejected a brand new Austin Metro or a holiday in Jamaica. Like a lot of 1970s and early 1980s TV this show seemed like a load of rubbish and I never understood it.
This was a show that you could win prizes but only if you could work out the riddles. If you picked the right one you won the prize but if you picked the wrong one you won a dustbin or as on the show Dusty Bin. The person who was the host was a man who's claim to fame was doing three, two, one with his fingers very fast and a catch phrase of 'Don't go away now.'
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