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Made by London Weekend Television, this short-lived game show put Bernard Braden back on the box after a five-year absence. The genial Canadian presenter/actor had enjoyed huge success on I.T.V. in the Sixties with 'On The Braden Beat' ( which had Peter Cook's 'E.L. Wisty' as a regular in its first season ), then crossed over to the B.B.C. for the Saturday night consumer affairs show 'Braden's Week'. One of his team was Esther Rantzen. When Braden broke the terms of his contract by appearing in a soup commercial, he was sacked and the show - now retitled 'That's Life!' - given to Rantzen. It seems strange that such a talented man would throw away his career so recklessly, but it happened. We can only assume he must have thought - like Hughie Green a few years later - that he was so popular with viewers that there was no any danger of him being sacked. Nowadays, a disgraced celebrity can easily find work on one of the many channels on the Sky satellite network, but in 1971 there were just three, including B.B.C.-1. Bernard found himself out in the cold. It did not stop Stanley Baxter from making fun of him on his L.W.T. show a year later. Baxter, as Rantzen, asked Braden ( also Baxter ): "Can you catch a can of soup?".
Five years later, L.W.T. threw Braden a lifeline by inviting him to be the host of this peak-time I.T.V. show. 'The Sweepstakes Game' was a hybrid of 'Celebrity Squares' and 'Winner Takes All'. A panel of celebrities would help members of the public win prizes by answering questions. There were odds attached, so the greater number of correct answers got the most money. One question went as follows: "The following piece of music by Gustav Holst was used as the theme to a science fiction series about a Professor.". The music in question was 'Mars' from The Planets Suite. Mike Winters ( brother Of Bernie ) incorrectly identified it as the theme to 'Dr.Who'. The contestant gave 'Quatermass' as the right answer. Amongst the panellists were Arthur Askey, Marti Caine, Noel Edmonds, Russell Harty, singer Linda Lewis, Frank Carson, William Franklyn, Lord Lichfield, Lynsey De Paul, Mike Reid, Honor Blackman, Julie Ege, Leslie Crowther, and I.T.N. science correspondent Peter Fairley.
One Star Prize was a holiday for two in Majorca. If won, it was not at risk in the 'All-Or-Nothing' question in the final round. 'Sweepstakes Game' was innocuous stuff, not particularly bad but not riveting viewing either. The television critic of the 'News Of The World' advised I.T.V. to either revamp it or drop it. Braden was not particularly well suited to the job of quiz master. You somehow got the impression that he only took it on because he thought it might lead to bigger, better things. After only 14 episodes - including a Christmas Eve Special - it vanished for good. He would next be seen in a late Eighties revival of Granada's 'All Our Yesterdays'. He died in 1993.
How galling it must have been for him to see a show which had originally been his march on for years following his dismissal. Andrew Marshall and David Renwick paid tribute to him in a sketch in the first season of their witty 'End Of Part One' for L.W.T. A parody of 'That's Life!' was titled 'That's Bernard Braden's Show Really!".
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