Long running ITV game show Mr & Mrs is to welcome gay couples for the first time into the mainstream version as the Welsh series, first screened in 1964, returns to television network S4C.
Derek Batey is the best remembered host of Mr & Mrs.
The series known as Sion a Siân in Wales has been revived once more in its originating UK country of broadcast – now hosted by Stifyn Parri and Heledd Cynwal. Mr & Mrs was devised by Roy Ward Dickson for Canadian network CTV who sold the format to Television Wales and West who in turn produced two versions of the show for the ITV West and ITV Wales regions.
In the UK, despite popular culture saying otherwise, Alan Taylor was the original host of the series which originally ran until 1967 when TWW was replaced by HTV as the regional company serving ITV Wales and West.
The new S4C series has introduced what the broadcaster describe as fresh, new elements that make the popular couples’ format even more entertaining. The production, from ITV Wales, is for the first time open to same-sex participants in the mainstream version.
Presenter Stifyn Parri says, “The contestants are the real stars of the show. People of all ages, from all over Wales, and of all sexualities. And by answering only one question they could win £1,000. That’s what makes it so entertaining.” Stifyn adds, “The show’s format is simple – and that’s the key to its success. The contestants are the focal point and in Wales, the series has a certain tradition as it was broadcast here before the English version of Mr & Mrs was shown across Britain.”
Previously comedian Julian Clary hosted a rather saucy version for network ITV, which included gay partners. However this kitch camp version proved a major flop and ended after one series in 1999.
The first gay couple to be seen in the regular S4C series is Berwyn Rowlands and Grant Vidgen, who have been in a relationship for nearly a quarter of a century. Rowlands told Pink News;
“We were approached to take part and I thought, ‘Why not?’ I had no desire to be on a game show really, in fact the thought was absolutely terrifying, but I agreed because I thought the time was right. This is the 21st century after all. Civil partnerships have been around now for several years and Sion a Sian is a celebration of two people cementing their relationship so our decision to go on it was a political gesture, I suppose. There has never been a gay couple on a show like this.”
The famous sound-proofed booth remains a central part of the quiz but only one of each pair wears the mask and headphones while the other answers the probing questions. There is a new second round which allows couples to earn up to £600 and the pair with most points then compete against each other to answer the ‘Big Question’ worth £1,000.
Susan Cuff and Derek Batey on the set of the show for Border Television in the 1970s.
Presenter Heledd Cynwal adds, “Presenting this series gives you a warm glow. You just can’t help hoping the contestants win the jackpot. It’s instinct, I suppose, as you do get to know them quite well while filming.” Continuing, “It’s been a privilege to host this series because the brand is so well-known and respected,”
In the same year that TWW went off air Border Television executive Derek Batey saw a tape of the format and decided to locally produce a version for the smallest ITV region in the UK. It became a local hit between 1967 and 1971.
In 1969 Anglia Television attempted a networked version with Norman Vaughan as host. While Border TV’s series was produced in their Carlisle studios Anglia took a different approach with the series travelling around the East and recording at different venues. The first Anglia version was recorded in a Town Hall in Hellesdon, near Norwich, in May 1969. The series however didn’t prove popular with ITV bosses and a network slot wasn’t gifted. It ended in September 1969 with the final edition airing from Hull.
With the advent of daytime broadcasting on ITV in 1972 Mr and Mrs was picked up as daytime game show to air across Scotland and England. The Border production, which had been on air since 1967, was finally networked. At the same time Sion a Siân was revived for Welsh viewers by HTV with Alan Taylor returning as presenter.
Taylor would also front an English language version once more for HTV – this time also networked. A rare case of one game show having two presenters, produced by two production companies, alternating in the schedules with each other at the same time.
In 1976 Dai Jones replaced Alan Taylor as the HTV host and the Welsh version finally said farewell in 1987, the Border version ended in 1988. The most recent network revival was a celebrity version, All Star Mr & Mrs, hosted by Fern Britton and Phillip Schofield.
Phillip Schofield and Fern Britton re-launched Mr & Mrs for ITV audiences.
Mr & Mrs Trivia
- Hostess Susan Cuff was a former Miss Great Britain who married former BBC North West sports reporter David Davies. He went on to become an Executive at the Football Association.
- The famous ‘Mr & Mrs, be nice to each other’ theme tune was composed by Tony Hatch with lyrics by Jackie Trent. They also went on to write the theme to Australian soap opera Neighbours.
- While the Border version used the Tony Hatch theme the HTV version used musical number Getting To Know You from the Rodgers & Hammerstein production, The King and I.
- Border Television not having any colour facilities in 1972 produced the first networked daytime series in Newcastle Upon Tyne at the Tyne Tees Television studios until Border could afford colour equipment.
- Questions would range from the obvious to the ridiculous, such as ‘When driving does ‘George’ always wear gloves, sometimes wear gloves or never wear gloves.’
- Mr & Mrs was spoofed by comedian Stanley Baxter in which the ‘Mrs’ contestant claimed that her husband wouldn’t save her from a flood. Instead he’d leave her to die and claim her life insurance.