|Genre||Comedy panel game|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||18|
|No. of episodes||266 (inc. 12 Christmas specials, and 8 that were unaired)|
|Running time||30–60 minutes|
|Original release||18 January 1979 –|
Blankety Blank is a British comedy game show which started in 1979 and is still running today, albeit with some sizeable gaps.
The original series ran from 18 January 1979 to 12 March 1990 on BBC1, hosted first by Terry Wogan from 1979 until 1983, then by Les Dawson from 1984 until 1990.
A revival hosted by Paul O'Grady (under his drag alter-ego Lily Savage) was produced by Pearson Television's UK subsidiary Fremantle (UK) Productions for BBC One from 26 December 1997 to 28 December 1999, followed with ITV from 7 January 2001 to 10 August 2002 as Lily Savage's Blankety Blank. David Walliams hosted a one-off Christmas Special for ITV on 24 December 2016, with Bradley Walsh hosting a 2020 Christmas Special of the show for the BBC, which in turn led to a second revival series that premiered on 2 October 2021.
The show is based on the American game show Match Game, with contestants trying to match answers given by celebrity panellists to fill-in-the-blank questions.
Two contestants compete, each attempting to match as many of the six celebrity panellists as possible in a series of fill-in-the-blank statements.
The main game is played in two rounds. The contestant with initial control in each round is given a blind choice of two statements, "A" or "B", and the host reads the chosen one aloud, with one word missing that is indicated by the word "blank". Statements are frequently 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 blank."
While the contestant thinks of an answer, the celebrities write their responses on cards, without conferring. Once all six have done so, the contestant states their answer and the celebrities then reveal theirs, one at a time. The contestant scores one point for each celebrity whose answer is either an exact match or reasonably close, as determined by a panel of judges. The opposing contestant then takes a turn with the unused statement.
Initial control of the first round is determined by coin toss, while the trailing contestant after the first round starts the second. Only the celebrities that a contestant fails to match in the first round participate on that turn in the second. If a contestant makes all six matches in the first round, they sit out for the second and the opponent is given one chance to tie the score. Should the trailing contestant fail to at least tie the score, the game ends immediately without the opponent having to take a turn.
The high scorer after two rounds wins the game and advances to the Supermatch. Ties are broken with one final question in which both contestants write down their responses and the celebrities then give their answers, one at a time. The first contestant to match any celebrity wins; if the tiebreaker ends with no winner, a new question is played.
The "A"/"B" choice was eliminated when Les Dawson became the host, and reinstated once Lily Savage succeeded him.
The contestant is presented with a fill-in-the-blank phrase and must attempt to choose the most common response based on a studio audience survey. They may ask any three celebrities for help, then use one of those responses or offer one of their own. The contestant earns 150, 100, or 50 Blanks for matching the first, second, or third most popular answers, respectively. Failing to match any of these answers ends the round immediately.
A second main game is then played with two new contestants, and the winner plays the Supermatch as above. The winner who scores higher in the Supermatch becomes the day's champion; any ties are broken as in the main game. The champion then chooses one celebrity to match against on a short phrase, and an exact match doubles the number of Blanks earned in the Supermatch. Regardless of the outcome, the champion receives a prize whose value depends on the final total of Blanks. Each episode offers a star prize for 300 Blanks, requiring a contestant to match the most popular answer in their own Supermatch and win the head-to-head final.
On Lily Savage's Blankety Blank, the contestant with the highest Supermatch score or winner of a tiebreaker played the head-to-head round for an additional prize. In the current revival, both players play the tiebreaker even without a tie.
Prizes on British game shows prior to 1990 were poor by modern standards. The Independent Broadcasting Authority restricted the value of prizes on ITV shows, and BBC-programme prizes were also of a modest value. Channels regulated by the Independent Broadcasting Authority were limited to the giving away prizes with the maximum value being equal to a small, new car. The poor-quality prizes on Blankety Blank became a running joke throughout the show's various runs, particularly during the Dawson era. Dawson drew attention to the fact that the prizes were less-than-mediocre, not pretending that the show had "fabulous prizes" as others did, but making a joke of it, such as referring to them as "fire salvaged" prizes. On one occasion, the 300 Blanks star prize was a trip on Concorde. As the audience (expecting the usual cheap prizes) clapped and cheered appreciatively, Dawson waved them down with "Don't get excited—it goes to the end of the runway and back."
Most famous, because it was a constant across all series, was the consolation prize—the Blankety Blank chequebook and pen, which Dawson would often call "The Blankety Blank chequepen and book!" The "chequebook" consisted of a silver trophy in the shape of a chequebook. When one contestant had not won anything, Dawson 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?" However, despite Dawson's constant jibing of the consolation prize ("Never mind love, you might have lost, but you'll never be short of something to prop your door open with now..."), the chequebook and pen are now worth a great deal, as they were never commercially available and only a limited number were made.
A Blankety Blank chequebook, minus the pen, was one of the items uncovered by Andy in Mackenzie Crook's BBC comedy Detectorists.
By the time of the 1990s revival, the IBA prize limits had been lifted, and the star prize was generally a holiday.
In the 2021 series, the Supermatch prizes consist of £500, £750, and prize worth over £750.
Blankety Blank returned to British screens in November 2004 as a one-off edition as part of the BBC's annual Children in Need telethon, in which Terry Wogan reprises his role as the host of the show, accompanied by his wand microphone.
In 2006, the show was brought back this time as an interactive DVD game, with Terry once again reprising his role of host and once again being accompanied by his magic wand-type microphone. However, the theme tune to the DVD game is not the original theme, but a version that was used for the ITV revival.
Another one-off edition was shown on 21 April 2007 as part of ITV's Gameshow Marathon hosted by Vernon Kay.
Yet another one-off edition of the programme was recorded, in aid of Comic Relief's 24 Hour Panel People, on 6 March 2011. The recording was broadcast live on the Red Nose Day website and, in an edited version, on BBC Three on 14 March. Paul O'Grady returned as host, this time as himself.
On 22 August 2016, it was announced that David Walliams would front a Christmas special on ITV. The episode aired on Christmas Eve from 6.30–7.30pm and had seven panellists instead of the usual six, with the Chuckle Brothers playing together at one position.
On 14 December 2020, it was announced that Bradley Walsh would host a Christmas special on BBC One and the episode aired on Christmas Day from 7.00-7.40pm. At 5.26 million viewers, it was the third most watched Christmas Day programme in the overnight ratings. This special was so successful that the BBC announced on 30 April 2021 that it had been commissioned for a full series to air on Saturday nights later in the year on BBC One. A further series of 10 episodes (including a Christmas special) has been commissioned for transmission in 2022.
|Series||Start date||End date||Episodes||Presenter|
|1||18 January 1979||10 May 1979||16||Terry Wogan|
|2||6 September 1979||20 December 1979||16|
|3||4 September 1980||11 December 1980||15|
|4||3 September 1981||17 December 1981||16|
|5||4 September 1982||27 November 1982||13|
|6||3 September 1983||3 December 1983||14|
|7||7 September 1984||14 December 1984||13||Les Dawson|
|8||11 January 1985||26 March 1985||11|
|9||6 September 1985||21 March 1986||21|
|10||5 September 1986||3 April 1987||21|
|11||18 September 1987||26 February 1988||21|
|12||9 September 1988||16 December 1988||12|
|13||7 September 1989||12 March 1990||20|
|14||8 May 1998||19 September 1998||13||Paul O'Grady as Lily Savage|
|15||26 June 1999||30 October 1999||12|
|16||7 January 2001||17 June 2001||20|
|17||4 May 2002||10 August 2002||12|
|18||2 October 2021||4 December 2021||9||Bradley Walsh|
|19||24 September 2022||19 November 2022||9|
|25 December 1979||Terry Wogan|
|26 December 1980|
|26 December 1981|
|27 December 1982|
|25 December 1983|
|25 December 1984||Les Dawson|
|27 December 1985|
|26 December 1986|
|26 December 1987|
|27 December 1989|
|26 December 1997||Paul O’Grady as Lily Savage|
|28 December 1999|
|24 December 2016||David Walliams|
|25 December 2020||Bradley Walsh|
|25 December 2021|
|24 December 2022|