It 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 began back in 1981, produced by ATV Network at its Birmingham facilities. 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.
An original Central series Bully joins us at the ATV Today HQ in 2011
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.
Look at what you could have won: Jim with a caravan. Speedboats were other often issued ‘could have won’ prizes on the show.
Now all this and the game itself is to be celebrated by Challenge with a documentary charting the darting in You Can’t Beat a Bit of Bully. Produced by Sky Vision Productions, the hour-long one-off special will include contributions from host Jim Bowen, referee and co-host Tony Green plus celebrity fans and former contestants. And we’re sure they’ll be given their BFH – bus fare home – at the end of the recording.
“Bullseye was a landmark for British TV gameshows, occupying a golden age of primetime TV viewing. This will be a great opportunity for viewers to witness first-hand how the show became so popular from the people who were instrumental in ensuring its success .” – Stephen Ladlow, Director of Challenge
The documentary promises to contain a speedboat full of classic clips from the series as well as darts stars, together with the producers and directors, warm-up men, question-setters and prize-finders.
Rehearsals for the Central production of Bullseye at Studio 1 in the ATV Centre in Birmingham in 1982
Jim Bowen introduces us to ATV’s version of Bullseye in episode one in 1981
Jim Bowen in a similar pose on the Central version of Bullseye in 1982
By the 1990s Bullseye was being produced at the Central Studios in Nottingham, here Bully and Jim pictured in 1994
ATV’s forerunner to Bullseye, the arrow and bow show The Golden Shot, with Anne Aston and Bob Monkhouse in 1970
Where it all began: An exclusive ATV Today photograph of Studio One at ATV Centre in Birmingham during demolition in February 2015. Bullseye was made here for its first ten years.
You Can’t Beat a Bit of Bully will air on Challenge later this summer.