Typically messy children's game show that always ended with the contestants covered in mud and host Christopher Biggins laughing his big fat bottom off (not very encouraging I would think). Two children were paired with celebrities that ranged from Children's ITV stalwarts like Bill Oddie and Rolf Harris to 'Give Us a Clue' regulars such as Shirley Anne Fields & Kenneth Williams. One team wore red overalls, the other blue and onto the jungle set they ventured. Their score was kept on Flintstone inspired tablets by Gillian Taylforth (before she moved to Albert Square on the BBC). Despite her husky voice, Gillian played it dumb next to Biggins and was often asked to provide groan-worthy jokes on the spot.
Christopher Biggins is credited by his full name up front, but simply as "Biggins" during the end credits, which is also how he is addressed during the show. Of course he had started off as a Transylvanian in 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show' and portrayed Roman Emperor Nero in the final episode of "I, Claudius", but after a recurring part in Rentaghost became a mainstay of children's television and Christmas Panto's. He only returned to prime time television as Cilla Black's assistant on "Surprise Surprise". He was also easily identifiable as one of those mid eighties television presenters who collected silly spectacles and wore load shirts on every occasion (worse than Mike Read but not Timmy Mallett).
Anyway, back on safari the contestants were still trying to get more pineapples and Golden Banana's than the other team. As part of their treasure hunt, the celebs had to reach inside Man-Eating Plants, try to try to make it across a path without falling into a Tiger Trap and over a rickety bridge to get to a series of Egyptian Tombs (huh?, what are those doing in the jungle?). The trick was that each obstacle could be reached by three different paths, and the children would choose which path the grown-up had to traverse. Other tasks involved trying to guess a Mystery Animal from a series of hints and the imaginatively titled 'Silly Games' round.
However, the best remembered round, was of course "The Swamp". In this game each answer to Christophers' pop quiz would win them an item to help (or hinder) them across a trail of stepping stones. "You must use it or carry it" Biggins would yell, already rolling on the floor with mirth. But three of the four routes landed the contestants in the gunge, ensuring more opportunities for the increasingly camp master of ceremonies to gloat. There was also a slightly less gunky variation called 'Water Crossing' that involved all four contestants trying to make their way across a water tank (complete with waterfall backdrop) using a flimsy rope bridge. Cue more hysterical laughter from Mr. B as one by one they all drop in. Looking back on the show now by way of Youtube, it's easy to see how the sets were constructed, but at the time I the entire setting was actually quite impressive.
More than twenty years later a new show with the same title appeared, in which two teams of kids try to survive Longleat safari park. No sign of loud shirts or spectacles this time.
7 out of 10
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