Hosts
Terry Wogan (1979–1983)
Les Dawson (1984–1990)
Lily Savage (played by Paul O'Grady) (1997–2002)
David Walliams (2016)
Bradley Walsh (2020)
Broadcast
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BBC1: 18 January 1979 to 12 March 1990
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BBC One: 26 December 1997 to 28 December 1999
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ITV: 7 January 2001 to 10 August 2002
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ITV Special: 24 December 2016
Packagers
Fremantle (1997–1998)
Grundy (1999–2001)
Thames (2002, 2016)

Blankety Blank is a British comedy game show based on the 1977–79 Australian game show Blankety Blanks (which was in turn based on the American game show Match Game).

Format

Main Game

Two contestants competed in each match. Historically, the contestants were always a man and a woman or two women; at no point did two men compete head-to-head. The object of the game was to match the answers of as many of the six celebrity panelists as possible on fill-in-the-blank statements.

The main game was played in two rounds. The first contestant was given a choice of two statements labelled either "A" or "B". The host would then read the statement. When Les Dawson became the host, the programme did away with the A or B choice, but this was reinstated when Lily Savage became the host. Frequently, the statements were written with comedic, double entendre answers in mind. A classic example: "Did you catch a glimpse of that girl on the corner? She has the world's biggest blank."

While the contestant pondered his/her answer, the six celebrities would write their answers on index cards. After they had finished, the contestant was asked for his/her answer. The host would then ask each celebrity – one at a time, beginning with #1 in the upper left hand corner – to give their response. The contestant received one point for each celebrity who wrote down the same answer (or reasonably similar as determined by the judges) up to a maximum of six points for matching everyone.

After play was completed on the first contestant's question, the host would read the statement on the other card for the second contestant and play was identical.

The first contestant would again begin Round 2, with two new questions, unless he/she had matched everyone in the first round. Only celebrities that a contestant failed to match could play this round.

If the players had the same score at the end of the game, a tiebreaker was used that reversed the gameplay. The contestants would write their answers first on a card in secret, then the celebrities were canvassed to give their answers. The first celebrity response to match a contestant's answer gave that contestant the victory; if there is still no match (which was rare), the round would be replayed with a new question.

Supermatch

A fill-in-the-blank phrase was given, and the contestant's job was to choose the most common response based on a studio audience survey. After consulting with three celebrities on the panel for help he/she had to choose an answer. The answers were revealed after that; the most popular answer in the survey was worth 150 Blanks, the second-most popular was worth 100 Blanks, and the third-most popular was worth 50. If a contestant failed to match any of the three answers, the bonus round would end.

Another game was then played with two new players, and the one who amassed the most from the Supermatch won the game (if the two winners scored the same, it would go to "sudden death", using the same tiebreaker as in the main game). That player then chose one of the celebrities who would write down their answer to a "word BLANK" phrase. The player would then give their answer, and if they matched, they would double up their blanks for a more valuable prize. Matching the 150-blank answer and winning the head-to-head final won the star prize. On Lily Savage's Blankety Blank, the player with the highest Supermatch score or winner of a tie-breaker round played the head-to-head round for an additional prize.

Supermatch "prizes"

Prizes on British game shows of the 1980s seem very poor by modern standards. The Independent Broadcasting Authority restricted prize values on ITV shows, and BBC-programme prizes were worth even less because the corporation felt it inappropriate to spend licence payers' money on such things. As a result, the poor-quality prizes became a running joke throughout the show's various runs, particularly during the Dawson era. Dawson drew attention to the fact that the prizes were less-than-mediocre, not pretending that the show had "fabulous prizes" as others did, but making a joke of it, such as referring to them as "fire salvaged" prizes. On one memorable occasion, the 300 Blanks star prize was a trip on Concorde. As the audience (expecting the usual cheap prizes) clapped and cheered appreciatively, Dawson waved them down with "Don't get excited—it goes to the end of the runway and back."

Most famous was the consolation prize: the Blankety Blank chequebook and pen, which Dawson would often call "The Blankety Blank chequepen and book!" The "chequebook" consisted of a silver trophy in the shape of a chequebook. When one contestant had won nothing, Dawson rolled his eyes and asked her "I bet you wish you'd've stopped at home and watched Crossroads. Do you want me to lend you your bus fare home?" However, despite Dawson's constant jibing of the consolation prize ("Never mind love, you might have lost, but you'll never be short of something to prop your door open with now..."), the chequebook and pen are now worth a great deal, as they were never commercially available and only a limited number were made.

The Blankety Blank Chequebook, minus the pen, was one of the items uncovered by Andy in Mackenzie Crook's BBC comedy Detectorists.

By the time of the 1990s revival, the IBA prize limits had been lifted, and the star prize was generally a holiday.

Wogan's Wand

When he was host, Terry Wogan had an unusual stick-like microphone. It was modelled on the Sony ECM-51, Gene Rayburn's microphone from the 1973–1982 American version but was, in fact, an ECM-50 mounted on a car radio aerial. He always referred to it as "Wogan's Wand". On one memorable occasion, Kenny Everett bent it in half (with Wogan, obviously not expecting this, carrying on valiantly through the show with the wand at a 45-degree angle). This led to a running gag on Everett's subsequent appearances on the show, when he would come up with new ways of damaging the wand, such as attempting to cut it in half with shears. (This instance at least was visibly planned, as Wogan deliberately bent forward for him to grab it, and when the wand refused to break, Everett quipped "It worked in rehearsals".) In his first show when he took over from Wogan, Les Dawson broke Wogan's Wand in half. Simon Cowell destroyed the wand on a Children in Need one-off special in 2004.

Returns

Blankety Blank returned to British screens in November 2004 as a one-off edition as part of the BBC's annual Children in Need telethon, in which Terry Wogan reprised his role as the host of the show, accompanied by his wand microphone. The contestants were impressionists Jon Culshaw and Jan Ravens and the panellists were Donny Osmond, Maureen Lipman, Jamie Cullum, Barbara Windsor, Simon Cowell and David Coulthard.

In 2006, the show was brought back, this time as an interactive DVD game, with Terry once again reprising his role of host and once again being accompanied by his magic wand-type microphone. However, the theme tune to the DVD game was not the original theme, but a version that was used for the ITV revival.

Another one-off edition was shown on 21 April 2007 as part of ITV's Gameshow Marathon hosted by Vernon Kay. The panelists this time were Bob Wilson, Fern Britton, Joe Pasquale, Holly Willoughby, Vic Reeves and Lorraine Chase.

Yet another one-off edition of the programme was recorded, in aid of Comic Relief's 24 Hour Panel People, on 6 March 2011. The recording was broadcast live on the Red Nose Day website and, in an edited version, on BBC Three on 14 March. The panellists were Barbara Windsor, David Tennant, Stacey Solomon, David Walliams, George Lamb and Keith Harris & Orville. The contestants were Lee Ryan and Duncan James. Paul O'Grady returned as host, this time as himself.

On 22 August 2016, it was announced that David Walliams would front a Christmas special on ITV. The episode aired on Christmas Eve from 6.30–7.30pm. The panellists for the Christmas special were Brooke Vincent, Lesley Joseph, Louis Walsh, The Chuckle Brothers, Anne Robinson and Joe Lycett. The episode was seen by 3.7 million viewers.

Spoofs

The programme was spoofed in a 1986 episode of the BBC sitcom Filthy Rich & Catflap under the title Ooer!! Sounds a Bit Rude!!.

Another spoof was shown in 2003 as part of Comic Relief, taking the form of a "lost" Wogan-era episode with Peter Serafinowicz as Wogan. The celebrities were Willie Rushton, Su Pollard, Johnny Rotten, Ruth Madoc, Freddie Starr, and Liza Goddard (played by Nick Frost, Matt Lucas, Martin Freeman, David Walliams, Simon Pegg, and Sarah Alexander). Stirling Gallacher and Kevin Eldon played the two contestants, while Paul Putner was the star prize of a chauffeur. The skit began with one of the Wogan-era opening sequences (using the theme from the era with a slightly-slower tempo), and featured an accurately-rebuilt set.

In December 2010, Radio 4's Afternoon Drama was "Chequebook and Pen", a pastiche on Les Dawson's taking over the show, co-written by & starring Johnny Vegas.


Additional Pages

List of Blankety Blank episodes and specials
List of Celebrities on Blankety Blank

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