Based on the Dutch TV show Een van de acht ("One of the Eight", the format devised by Ms.Mies Bouwman a popular Dutch talk show host) it was first broadcast in 1971 under the title Bruce Forsyth and the Generation Game and ran until 1982 and again from 1990 until 2002.
During the 1970s, the gameshow began to become more popular and started to replace expensive variety shows. New studio shows were cheaper, compared to hiring the theatre, paying for long rehearsals and a large orchestra, and could achieve as many viewers. For the smaller ITV companies (not ATV, Thames Television, London Weekend Television, Granada Television or Yorkshire Television) it made economic sense as they would pay most of their money to the 'Big Five' to produce the bulk of the ITV programming. With less money for their own productions, a gameshow seemed the obvious idea. As a result many variety performers were recruited for gameshows. The BBC, suffering poor ratings, decided to make its own gameshow. Bill Cotton, the head of light entertainment, believed that Bruce Forsyth was best for the job. For years, the Generation Game was one of the strong shows in the BBC's Saturday line-up. However, things were about to change. LWT, desperate to end the BBC's long running ratings success on a Saturday night, offered Forsyth a chance to change channel to host 'The Big Night'
Alan Boyd, producer of the Generation Game at the time remembers, that there were many proposals as to who should take over. However, he felt he did not want the new programme to be comparable to Forsyth's Generation Game, (he did not want the audience to be able to compare the two shows to think that Bruce was better or that the new host was better) so he cast Larry Grayson to take over, with a new theme tune and scenery, and a new Co Host, Isla St Clair. It worked. 'The Big Night' failed to beat the Generation Game and was off the air within three months.
The show reached its peak under Grayson, with audiences of more than 18 million. (It should be pointed out that its highest figures in 1979 were due to a strike that blacked out the ITV network, meaning the two BBC channels were the only ones the public could watch). The combination of Grayson's camp, limp-wristed behaviour and Isla St Clair's fresh-faced innocence proved became the plank of the BBC1 Saturday evening schedule. Grayson was loved for his apparent incompetence and inability to remember what was going on — all of which was carefully contrived.
In August 2008, it was reported on Digital Spy that the BBC were in talks with comedian Harry Hill for a revamped Generation Game. Later in the month, a spokeswoman for the BBC denied rumours of the BBC being in talks with Hill. They did not say, however, that news of the resurrection of the show was true or not.
The two highest-scoring couples then competed against each other in the final (or End Game as Larry Grayson called it). This was often a big set-piece performance; in the series presented by Bruce Forsyth it was usually a drama or farce, in later programmes a musical or dance performance. The couple that scored the highest went through to the final 'conveyor belt'.
At the end of the show, one member (or in later series both members) of the victorious team watched prizes pass on a conveyor belt, and then won as many as could be recalled in a set time. A trademark of the show was that a cuddly toy was always among the prizes. This led to an affectionate joke: "Dinner service...fondue set...Cuddly toy! Cuddly toy!", which is often quoted whenever the show is mentioned.
It returned in 1990 with original host, Bruce Forsyth, who after moving to ITV was replaced by Jim Davidson. This incarnation was thought to have been axed in 2002 after again being beaten by ITV, this time by Pop Idol.
GENERATIONS of Jokers!; A LOOK BACK AT THE WINNING PARTNERSHIPS WHICH MADE THE GENERATION GAME AN ENDURING FAMILY FAVOURITE
Aug 28, 1999; REMEMBER the days when Nuneaton entertainer Larry Grayson used to complain about the dust on the Generation Game conveyor belt...
Generation Game Given Celebs' Spin by Norton; Graham Hosts Tribute to Classic 70s Show Generation Fame, New Year's Day, BBC1
Dec 23, 2005; LIFE is the name of the game and I wanna play the game with you" - so crooned Bruce Forsyth at the opening of every edition of...
DIDN'T HE DO WELL AGAIN; Generation Game Is Back with Bruce BRUCIE'S CONVEYOR BELT COMES ROUND FOR 3RD TIME
Apr 05, 2007; Byline: By Anita Singh BRUCE Forsyth is returning to host The Generation Game for the third time. Bruce, 79, is all set to revive...
MY GENERATION GAME; in This Stunning Photo, Bruce Forsyth Presents His Incredible Extended Family. Didn't He Do Well!
Apr 11, 2009; THE picture is extraordinary.Bruce Forsyth's very own real-life Generation Game, taken on the lawn of his Surrey mansion. For...