You Can’t Beat a Bit of Bully!

bullseyeDuring my formative years growing up in England, I always found Sunday to be the dullest day of the week, especially when it came to the TV schedule. There was, however, a brief thirty-minute beacon of hope that became part of the nation’s Sunday ritual. It conveniently came on right after we had eaten the traditional roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. Well that was the tradition in our house, anyway. The show was called Bullseye, and it was the greatest game show ever created. It was also based around darts.

Bullseye ran from cute cherub, through surly, spotty teenager, right up to cynical twenty-something, or to be more accurate 1981- 1995. Its simple format and crappy prizes where endemic to most British game shows. I think its main success lay in its early Sunday evening timae slot, which allowed dads across the nation to go out for a couple of pints in the afternoon, get home for Sunday dinner, then watch Bullseye with the family before falling asleep in the chair. Also, the host, Jim Bowen, was very affable, and in addition to providing many classic catchphrases, he was very prone to gaffes. Assisting Bowen on the show was professional darts announcer Tony Green, who would keep score and announce prizes. Finally, the most important star of the show was Bully, an anthropomorphic animated bull that graced the opening title sequence, and would occasionally invade the screen to give a moo if contestants didn’t answer in time, to check spelling of words, and present his “Prize Board.”

The show pitted three teams of two against each other. Each team consisted of a dart player who did most of the throwing, and another member who was responsible for answering the questions.

The first round of the show was the category round. In this round, they used a special dartboard split into ten sections representing the categories and prize money rings that increased towards the center of the board. The non-player would select a category, and it was then the job of the dart player to hit that category. If they hit the selected category, they won the value of that segment, and the non-player got a chance to win more by answering a question correctly. If the dart player missed the category, the team could only win money by answering the question. To make things tougher, as each category was hit, it was eliminated from the game, and if the dart player ever hit one of these already-used categories, they lost their turn. At the end of three rounds, with questions getting harder each round, the team with the lowest total was sent home along with their prize money, a set of darts, a tankard, and replica bendy Bully.

Round two pitted the remaining teams against each other in the Pounds for Points round. In this round, the two dart players each threw three darts at a standard matchplay dartboard. The team with the highest value then got the chance to answer a question. If they got this right, they would win the value of points in pounds. If they got it wrong, the other team got a chance to answer the question and take the points. After three rounds, the team with the least points was sent home with their prize money, darts, tankards, and “bendy” Bullys.

At this point of the show, with one team remaining, they then would show the Charity Interlude. This involved the introduction of a professional dart player or two-bit celebrity of the day throwing nine darts for charity, and turning the points into money. If they reached 301 or more, the amount given to charity was doubled. As most of the celebrities were only on the show for self-promotion, their dart playing skills were mostly pathetic and they would be given a 60-point head start. Often the celebrity would pony up their own money after an embarrassing attempt to hit the board.

Finally, we’d get back to our winners of the first two rounds. They now got to play on Bully’s Prize Board. This was played on a special red and black sixteen-segment board with a large red bull. The two team members had nine darts to try and hit only the red segments on the the board and win the prizes. The dart player would throw three, the non-player would throw three, and the dart player would finish up with the last three darts. If they hit the same red segment twice, they would lose that prize. To make it easier to remember, Bowen would always rhyme, “Keep out of the black and in the red; nothing in this game for two in a bed.” The crappy prizes included coffeemakers, carriage clocks, home computers, washing machines, and video cassette machines. This section of the show is fondly remembered thanks to how the prizes were presented.

After the excitement of Bully’s Prize Board, the team was then presented with Bully’s Star Prize Gamble. This is where they could gamble all their winnings on a chance to win that night’s mystery prize by scoring 101 or more with six darts. These prizes included such items as fitted kitchens, speedboats, and cars. If they took the gamble and lost, Bowen would announce, “All you’ll win is your BFH—Bus Fare Home!” which must have been a nice bonus if they drove to the studio. If they turned down the chance to go for the big prize, the other team from round two was given the chance to make up for their pathetic showing.

Looking back through rose-tinted glasses, it’s easy now to make fun of the show for all its cheesiness. But Bullseye was a part of growing up, and thanks to its unique format, it got a lot of British people into playing darts. Now that I’m living in Canada, I still like to taunt my opponents every time they throw for twenties by shouting “Innnnnnnnn one!” Now they know why I do this. There is one fitting way to sum up the show—Super! Smashing! Great!

Speak Your Mind

*