Another chance to see… Take Your Pick 

2 September 2021 tbs.pm/73618


Rediffusion and Thames

Associated-Rediffusion 1955-1964
Rediffusion, London 1964-1968
Thames Television 1992-1999

If you were one of the growing numbers to have a television set in your home on Friday 23 September 1955 you could enjoy the discussion programme Meet Jeanne Hall with an invited guest talking on a subject of his/her choice. This would have been followed at 8.15 by a US import The Burns and Allen Show and at 8.45 by Club Night, which this week featured the Inventors Club. However, if you were living in range of the Croydon transmitter with one of those new VHF Band-III sets, by tuning to channel nine you could indulge in the second night of broadcasting from the new ITA television service where, at 8pm, the first ever cash prize game show in Britain hit the screens.

Hosted by Michael Miles, Take Your Pick would kick-start the weekends on ITV from Autumn through to Spring for the next thirteen years along with its stable mate, Hughie Green’s Double Your Money which would debut the following Tuesday. It contained all of the elements that would typify game shows for many years to come including the smooth voiceover (in this case from Bob Danvers-Walker) introducing the prizes, along with the cheesy organ playing the show’s title theme and providing fanfares between each round, its double keyboard being featured in-vision at such times.

The show consisted of two games, the first of which was the ‘Yes/No Interlude’. Having been picked from the studio audience the contestants would come on to the stage to face up to sixty seconds answering questions about themselves, fired at them at a breakneck pace. The questions required ‘yes/no’ answers, the rule being that the contestant could NOT actually answer with a “yes” or a “no”; nodding or shaking of the head was also disallowed. Any such response would be met with co-host Alec Dane banging a gong and the next contestant being introduced. Every contestant received £1 for each second that they stayed the course.

 

 

Those who successfully avoided a ‘yes/no’ answer went on to the next round where upon answering three out of four general-knowledge questions correctly, they picked a key corresponding to one of ten boxes each containing a card announcing a prize. One of them would contain a card awarding a star prize (eg a small car or a holiday), six of them would contain cards for other more modest prizes (appliances, furniture or a £1,000 ‘treasure chest’), while three could contain ‘booby prizes’ such as a mousetrap or a tin of boot polish. No one, including Miles himself, knew what was in any of the boxes. Having picked a key the contestant would then be faced with Miles trying to buy it back from them, bartering with increasing amounts of cash up to £50, this being accompanied by friendly advice from the audience in the form of shouting “TAKE THE MONEY!”/”OPEN THE BOX!”. All good fun.

Once the contestant had made up their mind, be it money or box, Miles would then guide them over to the wall of boxes, the chosen one being opened by the contestant. Miles would take out the card and announce the prize (or what they would have won in the case of those who ‘took the money’). For those who were taking the prize though there was still a further potential catch, for inside one of the ten boxes alongside the prize card was the key to the mysterious ‘Box 13’, which would trigger another round of bidding, the contestant now having to choose between the prize in their chosen box or whether to gamble it all on the contents of Box 13, which again could contain the star prize or one of the booby prizes.

The show epitomised everything that was feared by those opposing the coming of commercial television to these shores. It was tacky, it was gaudy, it looked cheap and very ‘end of the pier’. The contestants were treated by Miles as mere fodder for his show, he really didn’t care for them one jot, unlike Hughie Green who, despite the flaws in his private life, realised that without the public participation in his Double Your Money (and later Opportunity Knocks), he was nothing. Speaking on an edition of the BBC’s The ONE Show, a former contestant recalled winning a holiday as the star prize. It was a holiday abroad for one, his wife wasn’t included in the deal. Part of the prize was £100 spending money, all of which had to be accounted for with receipts throughout the holiday, any leftover change to be returned to the production company.

 

 

But none of this really mattered to (or even occurred to) the audience who instantly took it to their hearts and loved it in their droves, it was rarely out of the top of the ratings during its long run. I have to say that from memory and also from the various clips that I’ve seen latterly, the show is fun to watch and enjoyable when viewed casually. It should also be remembered that as far as its makers Associated-Rediffusion were concerned, it was the cheap ‘tat’ such as this attracting the mass audiences – and therefore the advertisers – that paid for the quality stuff that would come later into the evening.

The show enjoyed a total of thirteen series, the final edition being broadcast on 26 July 1968, like Double Your Money its demise being a consequence of Rediffusion losing its ITV franchise. Michael Miles re-appeared a year later hosting Wheel Of Fortune from Southern Television, a pale imitation with numbers on a wheel instead of boxes (the studio audience now yelling “SPIN THE WHEEL/TAKE THE MONEY”). Bob Danvers-Walker was back doing the voice-over, as was the ‘Yes/No Interlude’ with Alec Dane banging the gong, even the cheesy organ was there with the same fanfares and title music, but it was all short lived coming off in just under a year.

Take Your Pick itself was revived by Thames Television in 1992, ironically the final year of its broadcasting franchise although it would continue production for ITV until 1999. Hosting the revival was Des O’Connor who was probably right for the job at the time but lacked the ruthlessness of his predecessor in keeping the pace of the original. Des was a genuinely nice guy, Miles was not.
Today’s daytime TV schedules are littered with all sorts of tacky game shows, any further revival of ‘Take Your Pick’ would simply be lost among them, although the sheer pace of the format might just allow it to stand out. Sixty-three years ago tonight though and the choice is yours, Meet Jeanne Hall or Take Your Pick? I make no apologies for which I’d choose.

 

You Say

3 responses to this article

Paul Wheeler 2 September 2021 at 9:32 pm

Michael Miles suffered with epilepsy and died on 17th February 1971,aged 51, so that wouldn’t have been long after ‘Wheel of Fortune’ was cancelled.

Or was it the other way round, and his death meant they decided not to continue with a new host?

Paul Bainbridge 3 September 2021 at 1:28 pm

There was a kind of revival of the format a while back when Channel 4 showed Deal or No Deal”.

Noel Edmonds even said in an interview at the time (to plug it) that his show was “just a modern remake of Take Your Pick”.

Ronnie MB 4 September 2021 at 1:45 pm

I agree that Deal Or No Deal was the successor to Take Your Pick, but it seems odd that it was just so s-l-o-w when most of the rest of tv had got faster.

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Liverpool, Tuesday 21 September 2021