Catchphrase (UK game show): Wikis


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Format Game show
Created by Stephen Radosh
Presented by Roy Walker
(1986 - 1999)
Andrew O'Connor
(Family Catchphrase: 1994)
Nick Weir
(2000 - 2001)
Mark Curry
Narrated by Nick Jackson
(1987 - 1992)
Ted Robbins
(1994 - 1996, 1998)
Charles Foster
Robin Kermode
(1998 - 1999)
Chris Jarvis
(2000 - 2001)
Peter Dickson
Country of origin  United Kingdom
No. of series 16
No. of episodes 339
Producer(s) TVS
(1986 - 1992)
Action Time for Carlton
(1994 - 2002)
Running time 30mins (inc. adverts)
Original channel ITV
Picture format 4:3
(1986 - 2000)
(2001 - 2002)
Original run 12 January 1986 (1986-01-12) – 19 December 2002 (2002-12-19)

Catchphrase was a game show based on a short lived US game show of the same name. It ran on ITV in the United Kingdom between 12 January 1986 and 19 December 2002. It was originally hosted by Northern Irish comedian Roy Walker.

Two contestants would have to identify the familiar phrase represented by a piece of animation. The show's mascot, a golden robot called "Mr Chips", often appeared in the animation.



Main game

In the main game, at the start of each round, one contestant stopped a randomiser which consisted of money amounts by hitting his/her button. The value that was landed would then be the amount for the normal catchphrases. On each normal catchphrase, the computer would draw it on the screen. When it was done, a bell would ring, signifying the contestants to buzz-in when they think they know the answer.

A correct answer won the contestant the predetermined money amount, plus a chance to solve the Bonus Catchphrase, which was hidden behind nine squares with the show's logo (or random shapes in the Nick Weir/Mark Curry era) on each. The contestant chose a square by hitting his/her buzzer to stop a randomiser on one of them. That square was then removed, and the contestant had five seconds to come up with an answer. If they were right, they won the amount of money in the Bonus Bank. If not, another normal catchphrase was played.

If the Bonus Catchphrase was not solved after all nine squares had been removed, normal catchphrases would be played without the bell, the first contestant to buzz in and answer correctly winning the amount of money remaining in the Bonus Bank.

Unlike the US version, there was also the Ready Money Round, in which there was no bell (so the contestants could buzz in and answer whenever they wished) and all normal catchphrases were worth a fixed amount of money (originally £50). In the TVS series, this round was played only once (always after the commercial break), subsequent rounds being played as standard with the bell and randomiser. In the Carlton series from 1994-9, however, all of the rounds in part two (up until the end of game klaxon) were Ready Money Rounds.

When Nick Weir and Mark Curry hosted the series, this was replaced by the Cash Countdown, in which each catchphrase had a maximum prize of £500, which very quickly counted down towards zero. The quicker the contestant answered, the more money they could win.

The player with the most money won the game and played the Super Catchphrase. Both players kept their money.

After 1995 in Roy Walker's era, the Round the World Prize was replaced with a standard one holiday destination, and before the main game started one of the players stopped a randomiser to choose a destination.

From 1996-99, the 'Around The World' holiday was placed in the centre of the holiday randomiser. In 1996, with no 'Around the World' option, the holiday changes after the holiday is lit whilst the board is still running. (e.g., Tokyo was a holiday destination on the randomiser, then it was lit up, but the contestant did not buzz in. After the square stopped lighting up, the holiday destination changes to a different holiday (e.g., Tokyo changed into Honolulu.))

Super Catchphrase

The final round involved a game board with 25 lettered squares with catchphrases hidden behind each. The winning contestant had the task to capture five random squares in 60 seconds. If they could do that by identifying five such phrases, that player won £50 for each square (later £100 from 1997 onwards), but if the winning player went through the centre "M" Square in either a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal line, they won a holiday.

In the TVS era, it was prize dominated. Every square contained a prize and a catchphrase, getting five squares meant winning a special prize (A TV, Hi-fi, microwave etc.) and then going through the M square wins the star prize, the holiday.

In the Nick Weir/Mark Curry era, the Super Catchphrase was changed so that, in order to win, the contestant had to get from the left hand side of the screen to the right making adjoining moves (in the same fashion as on Blockbusters). Passing on a catchphrase meant that they were blocked and had to find an alternative path.

Production history

It was originally made by TVS at their Northam studios in Southampton. The show was subsequently moved to their Maidstone facility, now known as The Maidstone Studios in Kent. After Television South lost their licence to broadcast, the show was put on hiatus towards the end of 1992 and all of 1993. In 1994, the format was picked up by Carlton Television and produced by Stephen Leahy's Action Time Productions, which had been involved in a consultative role on the TVS version.

In 1996, Catchphrase moved to Carlton's (formerly Central Independent Television) Studios in Lenton Lane, Nottingham where it stayed until its demise in 2002.

Walker left Catchphrase in 1999 and was replaced by Nick Weir, who presented three series of the show between 2000 and 2001. In 2002 Weir left the show and gave way to ex-Blue Peter presenter Mark Curry, who presented the show for one series until its demise in December of the same year.

Catchphrase ended in December 2002 after 16 and a half years because of the declining ratings. Many viewers felt that Roy Walker's departure had seen the quality of the show suffer although some episodes which Nick Weir filmed in his third series at late 2001 were shown on the ITV network during 2003 and 2004, often on a Sunday evening or Bank Holiday Monday.

In homage to the show a popular radio spoof of Catchphrase, entitled Car Park Catchphrase was broadcast on The Chris Moyles Show on BBC Radio 1 from January 2004 until December 2005. It returned to the airwaves on 8 January 2007. It was taken off the air again because of the phone-in competitions being suspended. The format in comparison to the TV show slightly changed, and required callers to play from their cars and 'honk' their horns when they knew the catchphrase being described. Roy Walker himself recorded voice samples for the game.

The UK version's second host, Nick Weir, became more famous for falling down the studio steps and breaking his foot while recording his first series in 2000, than for actually hosting the show. Several episodes show him wearing a cast, and once on the programme they actually showed when it happened, he was running down to present when he fell and broke his leg.

Snake Charmer

One of the most famous moments of the show's history included a bonus catchphrase where the answer to the puzzle was "snake charmer". The puzzle was revealed in such a way it appeared to show the partially-revealed Mr Chips masturbating, or perhaps being felated by the snake. The real action was that Mr Chips was taming or charming the snake, using a cane.[1] This episode was broadcast on 18 November 1994. This moment can sometimes be seen on Challenge whenever Challenge shows the 1994 series.

Theme music

Catchphrase's original theme tune and incidental music were composed by prolific television composer Ed Welch whose original version of the theme was used for the TVS incarnation of the show up until October 1992. It was also used on Family Catchphrase in 1994.

The show returned on 30 September 1994 with a brand new look and now being produced by Action Time for Carlton Television. The show's theme and incidental music was re-tuned, and was composed by Simon Etchell whose version was used from 1994-99, with some slight alterations made in 1998.

From 2000-02 a third version of the Catchphrase theme music was used. It was a re-mixed and "jazzed-up" version of the previous theme, composed by Simon Etchell and was used alongside a revamped title sequence followed by a new studio set.


Original series

Series Start date End date Episodes
12 January 1986
18 May 1986
4 January 1987
17 May 1987
9 January 1988
14 May 1988
8 January 1989
26 March 1989
2 September 1989
10 February 1990
1 September 1990
2 March 1991
19 October 1991
14 December 1991
27 June 1992
24 October 1992
30 September 1994
3 February 1995
2 March 1996
27 April 1996
27 September 1996
27 December 1996
3 January 1998
23 May 1998
21 November 1998
23 October 1999
7 January 2000
18 August 2000
13 January 2001
24 November 2001
24 June 2002
19 December 2002

Celebrity specials

Date Celebrities featured:
2 April 1988
Matthew Kelly
Jessica Martin
Bob Holness
Debbie Greenwood
31 December 1988
Chris Tarrant
Maggie Moone
Lionel Blair
Anita Harris
23 December 1989
Su Pollard
Ruth Madoc
Paul Shane
Geoffrey Holland
Debbie Rix
Nick Owen
Christopher Biggins
Steve Nallon
5 January 1991
Tessa Sanderson
Barry McGuigan
Wayne Dobson
Linda Lusardi
June Brown
Peter Dean
Pamela Power
Kenneth Waller

Catchphrase catchphrases

Appropriately, Roy Walker had his own catchphrases that he often used during the show:

  • Say what you see! ("Say What You See!" was used as a Bonus Catchphrase itself in 1998, but no one guessed it.)
  • If you see it, say it!
  • An elongated Riiiiiiiiiiight! - used upon a Bonus Catchphrase being solved.
  • Five seconds, here we go! - When the contestant chose a square, and had five seconds to guess the Bonus Catchphrase.
  • It's good, but it's not the one! - Said after some close guesses, or just sarcastically after obvious wrong answers. There were actually several variations of this catchphrase (It's good, but it's not right!), (It's a good answer, but it's not right!), (It's good, but it's not great!). Roy Walker stated in an interview that a contestant, frustrated with his lack of success, had threatened him if Walker said "You're wrong" one more time. As a consequence Walker developed the catchphrase he used for the rest of his tenure.
  • You can't win if you don't buzz in!
  • What's Mr Chips doing there?
  • There's no such expression - Said after the contestant says a catchphrase that doesn't make sense.
  • Keep pressing and guessing
  • The M Square, That's a difficult one
  • In 2009, Roy Walker appeared on a television advert for Churchill Car Insurance alongside the famous Churchill dog. When the waiter brings his curry, Roy declares, "It's good but it's not right - I ordered a korma!"

Mark Curry made a point of the fact he didn't have a catchphrase when he was presenting, and made a different one up on each show.

Family Catchphrase (spin-off)

In 1994, the Family Channel (now Challenge) produced a spin-off called Family Catchphrase, hosted by Andrew O'Connor. The game was played by teams of two related players (normally parent and child) and featured slightly different rules to the normal game. The teams played for points rather than prizes, and the second round would feature the players taking alternative turns, rather than answering the phrases as a team. The Ready Money Round was renamed the Fast and Furious Round (as there was no money involved).

The Family Channel was fairly new at this time, and so the prizes weren't as expensive as they were on the main show although the M Square prize wasn't revealed unless it had actually been won. It wasn't uncommon to see prizes such as a Sega Master System or a daytrip to Thorpe Park given away as prizes.

Although produced in 1994, (and also produced by Action time) the graphics and music were taken from the TVS version of the show (The Family Channel owned the rights to it, as they brought over TVS library).

Although made in the same year as Carlton/Action Time-produced series for ITV there is no connection.

One episode of Family Catchphrase featured a guest appearance from Stephen Radosh - creator of Catchphrase. Another episode featured an appearance by the then unknown Simon Amstell & his Aunt as contestants. Amstell was only about 14 years old at the time and says on the show that he is a budding magician. He then shows one of his tricks to the presenter, Andrew O'Connor (who was also a magician himself!).

Interactive DVD game

In November 2007, Walker returned to host an all new interactive DVD game of Catchphrase, complete with original theme music and Mr. Chips.

Roy Walker also voiced the interactive play along version of Catchphrase on wedigtv.


  1. ^ "Snake Charmer". [Television production]. United Kingdom: Action Time for Carlton. 1994-11-18. Retrieved 8 December 2009. 

External links

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