The series, which was launched by ATV back in 1981, could be making a return to screens with a new run of episodes.
“Channel 5 are over the moon with how Blind Date has gone. Despite having a new host the old format has still done well with viewers. They are now knocking around a few old classics such as Bullseye with the idea of bringing them back. In an ideal world they would have someone like Bradley Walsh hosting it, but there’s bound to be many celebrity fans who’ll be keen too.” – A Channel 5 ‘insider’ speaking to The Sun
Darts gameshow Bullseye, a staple part of the ITV schedules for over a decade, is set to make a telly comeback according to tabloid reports. The new version is being mooted as an idea for Channel 5 following the success of their revival of old LWT coupling show Blind Date. The Paul O’Grady fronted primetime dating format, first fronted for ITV viewers by the late Cilla Black, has recently returned for a second series on Channel 5.
The Sun reports that telly executives ‘reckon the cult series could be their next hit, especially given the rise of darts in the UK.’ Bullseye ran from 1981 until 1995, hosted by legendary comedian Jim Bowen. Bowen is on record as noting the entire first series was ‘sh**e’. Mainly due to his lack of experience as a game show host, however, he proved popular with audiences and remained in the role as host for over 300 episodes. In 2005 a one-off special returned to ITV as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations, hosted by Ant and Dec. It proved a hit and returned again for another one-off outing in 2007 with Vernon Kay as host.
The show was revived in 2006 by Challenge, produced by Yorkshire Television in Leeds, with fellow comedian and game show host Dave Spikey in the role. It ran for two series and was praised for keeping true to the original show with a similar set, theme tune and titles.
Sky 1 also recently attempted a darts-based game series with One Hundred and Eighty.
Hit the TV Spot
Bullseye wasn’t ATV’s first dart based game show, back on February 20th 1956 the broadcaster launched Hit The Limit. Produced by future Crossroads and Neighbours producer Reg Watson the show, from Birmingham, was first seen only in the Midlands region of ITV before later being networked. It was a major hit for the early commercial network with a 60% audience share in the Midlands when it launched – making it the most popular show on ATV at the time. Despite its success, only three series were made with the first hosted by Pete Murray, followed by Jerry Desmonde and later Leslie Sands.
It was also quite a unique format in the game show genre with the series both featuring studio and on location footage including the canteen of Imperial Chemicals. Contestants would answer questions in return for cash prizes while the dartboard varied the amount won.
There was another successful hit the target game from ATV when in 1967 the company brought to the airwaves the live Golden Shot. This weekend extravaganza mixed game show with variety and music and became a Sunday night smash with Bob Monkhouse as host. However rather than darts, the show used a bolt and bow to hit random targets of value. Other popular personalities to front The Golden Shot included Norman Vaughan and Charlie Williams.
It wasn’t until 1981 that ATV Network at its Birmingham facilities returned to the dart board. Bullseye, produced in the same studio as its predecessor The Golden Shot, initially didn’t look like it would have the same success as the bolt and bow show of the sixties and seventies. While Hit The Limit had been promoted with the slogan “Fun and fortune await lucky contestants in this happy-go-lucky half-hour,” Bullseye’s arrival was listed as more matter of fact information. ATV’s publicity listing noted “Jim Bowen hosts a quiz show based on darts. Three teams of contestants, in pairs, test their skills at scoring on the dartboard in order to answer questions and win money and prizes. The winning team then can gamble their winnings for a major star prize”.
The first series was quite different to what viewers would come to know and love; with no sign of the famous Bully mascot ‘bendy Bully’ prize (although he did appear in the opening titles and in the set of the studio) nor was there former darts player Tony Green as the scorer, and co-host. This series remained locked away within the ITV vaults until 2013 when it, along with the second series, finally had a second airing on Challenge.
Bullseye proved a hit with the television audiences until 1995, when ITV decided to change their weekend schedules. It has been suggested that the broadcaster was looking for more ‘upmarket’ quiz shows, and Bullseye didn’t quite match the demographic Central and ITV sought. Despite this, the programme became one of ITV’s longest-running game show formats and continues to pull in the viewers to Challenge with its regular reruns of both the ATV and Central Television years.
The enduring popularity of Bullseye was celebrated by Challenge in 2015 when they aired a specially commissioned documentary charting the darting in You Can’t Beat a Bit of Bully. Produced by Sky Vision Productions, the hour-long one-off special saw contributions from host Jim Bowen, referee and co-host Tony Green plus celebrity fans and former contestants all fondly reflecting on the production which at its peak commanded telly ratings of over fifteen million viewers.
In February 2016 Jim Bowen, now 80, was voted Britain’s Best Game Show host in a poll by Quiz Britain. Bowen, a former teacher turned stand-up comic, found fame on Granada Television’s The Comedians, topped the vote with 26%.