Telly Today: You Can’t Beat a bit of Bully with Jim Bowen

One to Watch: Challenge, the game show network, tonight will celebrate the late Jim Bowen with a rerun of their Bullseye documentary, followed by some classic episodes.

Tonight Challenge celebrates Jim Bowen via his best known, and loved, series – the game show Bullseye which was launched by ATV back in 1981.

The darts based series became one of ITV’s most successful weekend game shows, based around darts and general knowledge, and with reruns of the show still pulling in the viewers to Challenge; the quiz channel is to air a retrospective documentary looking back at the series.

Bullseye started life in ATV’s Birmingham studios, produced in the same studio as its predecessor The Golden Shot it initially didn’t look like it would have the same success as the bolt and bow show fronted by Bob Monkhouse in the sixties and seventies. 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 scorer, and co-host.

It did however have a weird looking red, green and white set. Host Jim Bowen went on record stating the first run of episodes were “sh*te”. Bowen in the establishing series had to multitask across the show – asking the quiz questions as well as trying to count up the darts scoring. The only role he didn’t occupy was that of announcer which was left to ATV’s sports presenter Nick Owen. This series remained locked away within the ITV vaults until 2013 when it, along with the second series, finally had a second airing.

In 1982 new production company Central Television took over the series and revamped the show, however despite the not so polished performance by comedian Jim Bowen as presenter he wasn’t replaced by a slicker host such as Leslie Crowther – instead the powers that be decided to give him another chance and of course brought in darts commentator Tony Green to deal with the scoring and commentary side of the show, leaving Jim to the comedy and questions. It’s this format which became a staple part of the ITV schedules and pulled in huge audience figures for the channel.

The series 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 the Central Television years.

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. It was good news for those who couldn’t beat a bit of Bully in 2006 when Challenge commissioned a new run of episodes with Dave Spikey as host and Tony Green in the role he’d become famous to TV viewers for.

This evening the documentary, You Can’t Beat A Bit Of Bully, which first aired in 2015 is repeated in memory of Jim Bowen who passed away aged 80 earlier today.

The show, charting the darting, was 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.

You Can’t Beat A Bit Of Bully – The Bullseye Documentary, Challenge, 9pm

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