The British version ran from 18 January, 1979 to 12 March, 1990 with 218 episodes on the BBC, hosted first by Terry Wogan and then by Les Dawson. In the late 90s a revived version fronted by Lily Savage (played by Paul O'Grady) was produced by the BBC from 26 December, 1997 to 28 December, 1999 with 27 episodes, and then in 2001 the Lily Savage version migrated to ITV, produced by Grundy (The producers of the Australian version) then Thames Television.
The main game was played in two rounds. The challenger was given a choice of two statements labelled either "A" or "B." The host then read the statement, when Les Dawson became the host the programme did away with the A or B choice but was reinstated when Lily Savage became the host.
Frequently, the statements were written with comedic, double-entendre answers in mind. A classic example: "Did you catch a glimpse of that girl on the corner? She has the world's biggest _________."
While the contestant pondered his/her answer, the six celebrities wrote their answers on index cards. After they finished, the contestant was polled for his/her answer. Frequently, the audience responded appropriately as the host critiqued the contestant's answer (for the "world's biggest" question, the host might compliment an answer such as "boobs" or "rear end", while expressing disdain to an answer such as "fingers" or "bag").
The host then asked each celebrity – one at a time, beginning with #1 in the upper left hand corner – to give his/her response. The contestant earned one point for each celebrity who wrote down the same answer (or reasonably similar as determined by the judges) up to a maximum of six points for matching everyone.
After play was completed on the contestant's question, the host read the statement on the other card for the challenger and play was identical.
The challenger again began Round 2, with two new questions, unless he/she matched everyone in the first round. Only celebrities that a contestant didn't match could play this round.
Tiebreaker rounds: If the players had the same score at the end of "regulation", a tiebreaker was used that reversed the game play. The contestants would write their answers first on a card in secret, then the celebrities were canvassed to give their answers. The first celebrity response to match a contestant's answer gave that contestant the victory; if there were still no match (which was rare), the round was replayed with a new question.
Another game was played with two new players, and the one who amassed the most from the Supermatch won the game (and if the two winners got the same it would go to sudden death). Here, they could win a better prize (doubling their blanks or a holiday). The player chose one of the celebrities who would write down their answer to a "word BLANK" phrase. The player would then give their answer, if they matched, they won and if not they didn't.
Regular members of the celebrity panel on the original BBC show included Kenny Everett, Lorraine Chase, Gareth Hunt, Gary Davies and Cheryl Baker. It was notable for making a running joke out of the poor quality of prizes on offer, particularly once Les Dawson had taken over as host. Dawson affectionately ridiculed the show, producing dialogue such as "And for the benefit of anyone who hasn't got an Argos Catalogue, here's some of the rubbish you might be saddled with tonight." On one memorable occasion, the 300 Blanks question was actually a good prize - a trip on Concorde. As the audience, expecting the usual poor prizes, clapped and cheered appreciatively, Les waved them down - "Don't get excited - it goes to the end of the runway and back." Most famously was the consolation prize, the Blankety Blank chequebook and pen, which Les would often deliberately mis-quote as "The Blankety Blank cheque pen and book." This consisted of a cheap-looking silver trophy in the shape of a cheque book. When one contestant had won nothing, Les rolled his eyes and asked her "I bet you wish you'd've stopped at home and watched Crossroads - do you want me to lend you your bus fare home?" Les's brand of humour - lugubrious, world-weary, cutting but never cruel or offensive - was ideally suited to the style of Blankety Blank. Prizes on British game shows of the 1980s seem very poor by modern standards; the Independent Broadcasting Authority restricted the prize values on ITV shows, and prizes on BBC shows were worth even less because the Corporation felt it inappropriate to spend licence payers' money on such things. Dawson was loved by the public partially because he drew attention to the fact, not pretending that the show had "fabulous prizes" as other shows did, but making a joke of it.
A spoof of the game show was shown in 2003 as part of Comic Relief. It took the form of a "lost" episode and starred Peter Serafinowicz as Terry Wogan. The celebrities were Willie Rushton, Su Pollard, Johnny Rotten, Ruth Madoc, Freddie Starr and Liza Goddard, played by Nick Frost, Matt Lucas, Martin Freeman, David Walliams, Simon Pegg and Sarah Alexander respectively. Morwenna Banks and Kevin Eldon played the two contestants, while Paul Putner was the star prize of a chauffeur.
When he was host, Terry Wogan had an unusual stick-like microphone (the Sony ECM-51, Gene Rayburn's microphone from the original US format) which he always referred to as "Wogan's Wand". On one memorable occasion Kenny Everett bent it in half (with Wogan, obviously not expecting this, carrying on valiantly through the show with the wand at a 45 degree angle). This led to a running gag on Everett's subsequent appearances on the show, when he would come up with new ways of damaging the wand, such as attempting to cut it in half with shears. (This instance at least was visibly planned, as Wogan deliberately bends forward for him to grab it, and when the wand refuses to break, Everett quips "It worked in rehearsals".) In his very first show when he took over from Wogan, Les Dawson broke Wogan's Wand in half across his knee, muttering "Been wanting to do that for years."
In a 1987 edition, Les Dawson's old friend Roy Barraclough made an appearance on the panel. Les had for many years played opposite Roy when they played a couple of grotesque old ladies, Ada and Cissie. On first seeing Roy, Les looked him up and down, looked puzzled and said, in his "Ada" voice, "I must say you look familiar have you got a sister?" Without even looking up, Roy replied he had no idea what he was talking about.
From 1993 until 1995 satellite channel UK Gold repeated all the series of Blankety Blank except for series 10 (1987).
In 2006, the show was brought back this time as an interactive version on a DVD disc with Terry once again reprising his role of host and once again being accompanied by his magic wand type of microphone. Note that theme tune to the interactive DVD version of Blankety Blank is not the original theme, but a version that was used for the ITV series which was called Lily Savage's Blankety Blank.
Fame Can Be a Drag for a Superstar & Housewife; PROFILE Blankety Blank Presenter Lily Savage Is Playing Hard to Get While the BBC Waits in Vain for a Sequel to Her Own Show. the Man Who Gilds the Lily, Paul O'Grady, Told Graham Keal Why His First Series Was Also His Last
Jul 03, 1999; Making an entire series of Lily Savage's Blankety Blank in a fortnight meant long days and an intensive schedule for the blonde...