The Generation Game

Bruce and co-host Anthea RedfernBruce Forsyth on the Generation Game was our standard Saturday night viewing during the Seventies. How we laughed at the incompetence of the contestants as they attempted to perform various tasks that had been demonstrated.

Bruce’s co-host was Anthea Redfern who was a dancer and model. I don’t remember whether they knew each other before the show began in 1971, but it was quite the showbiz gossip when they married in 1973.

All sorts of skills were showcased on the program, from dancing to pottery, to making an icing-sugar rose to eating a sugar donut without licking your lips. The demonstrators would be a person or group of people who either did this for a living or were famous for it somehow and it would be fascinating to see how dextrous a person can be after they have performed a task thousands of times. When it came to the contestants, they would be sweating under cameras and time pressure and often collapsing in laughter, and the end result would bear little resemblance to the demonstration model.

Didn't he do well? Bruce’s catchphrase ‘didn’t she do well?’ would be used to signify someone who have indeed done well and would achieve a good score, but could also be said in an ironic way. Although Bruce was never downright nasty to contestants, he could be quite cutting to get a laugh. One of the things that always made me laugh was the way that he would smile at the contestant and then hold up the item they’d made with a frozen smile or horrified and disgusted expression at the camera. Then he would say something like ‘never mind, dear’. And the audience would cheer. The expert who’d done the demonstration would be brought back in to give out scores.

Brucie's distinctive pose - well no-one else would look that idioticThe reason that the show was called Generation Game was because it would involve eight teams of family members, generally mother-son or father-daughter. The team who won in the tasks round would compete with the team who won in a quiz round in the final game which would be a performance of a show. This usually meant getting dressed up in silly costume and singing a short solo as part of a larger show which involved professional performers. Bruce was an all-round entertainer himself and would sing the opening music, dance and would also do this silly pose in silhouette at the beginning of the show, which looked a bit butch and camp at the same time. Another catchphrase was “Nice to see you, to see you, nice!” and all the audience would shout on the last ‘nice’.

The team who won that game would then at the end of the show play the conveyor belt game. They would sit and watch a series of prizes pass by on a conveyor belt and then after it had all gone, they would have a minute to list the prizes. Those that they could remember would be the ones they went home with. Bruce often helped with this if the contestant seemed like they weren’t going to remember many. There was always a cuddly toy, and even now if I’m listing a series of items, I’ll say ‘canteen of cutlery, cuddly toy’ as a joke. Sadly, as time goes on, fewer people laugh. Heartbreaking really, considering The Generation Game could well be a national treasure.

After Bruce left, The Generation Game continued through the Eighties with Larry Grayson hosting. He added his own unique stamp on the show and it became even more popular. The Generation Game has continually reinvented itself and Bruce recently hosted a ‘Generation Game Now and Then’ clips show. There is also talk of Harry Hill presenting a new Generation Game.

Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

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