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From Kklak! issue 3, June 2001
The recent death of Ted Rogers caused the media to briefly reminisce about his seminal game show 321. Yet, while several talked about it as a glossy piece of entertainment (clearly the writers hadnít actually seen an edition recently!) not one obituary really got to the heart of the strange and hallucinatory experience that was 321. Incredibly, the series seems to have been overlooked by the recent tranche of nostalgia programming. Whereas Bullseye got rightly singled out as an exercise in extreme sadism (take two Northern working class pub darts player, and send them back home with a speedboat - just the thing for getting round those deprived inner city areas!), 321 was largely ignored, which is strange as there arenít many tv shows that literally bend the rules of reality. Every week, Ted Rogers would usher unsuspecting ordinary members of the public on a wondrous journey into another dimension, where logic didnít work and the very English language itself had completely changed its meaning.
To begin with, Ted would lure his unsuspecting victims into a false sense of security with a blindingly obvious question and answer round of the "What day follows Tuesday?" variety. (The sort of question that these days is considered difficult on Big Break.) Those couples lucky enough to graduate to the second round found only madness awaiting them. A succession of bizarre variety acts would herald the arrival of the clues. Oh dear, those clues... You needed to really keep your wits about you to fathom out those clues - or at least, you would if they had obeyed any of the basic rules of cryptic clue setting. Inspector Morse would be unable to fathom out these clues, because the answers were basically made up. A typical clue would be something like this: "I have four wheels, and I can go far. You fill me with petrol. Could I be the car?"
That sounds like it could be the car - letís go for that one. So Ted starts to read the answer, and suddenly weíre in a Kafkaesque world where rules of life change by the second. "Iíve got four wheels - but if the wheels were broken, youíd have to throw them out like rubbish - and we all know that rubbish gets thrown in a dustbin. Congratulations, youíve won Dusty Bin!"
(Of course, youíd think the contestants would have fathomed out that the clue which sounds so obviously like the car is bound to be the dustbin, but they fell for it every time.) Ted would play with their minds, offering them the chance to hear two of the clues again. As if theyíre actually going to make any more sense a second time!
So farewell, Ted Rogers, the game showís equivalent of Rod Serling. I never thought Iíd say this, but thereís a part of me that misses 321 and the other game shows of the seventies and eighties - sad and tacky as they undoubtedly are. (I still canít decide whether itís supreme self-confidence or extreme desperation, when the announcer on Sale of the Century proclaims so proudly: "Now! Live from Norwich!") Todayís products may be slick and glossy, but are completely vacuous. I hate the appalling false matey-ness of Tarbuck on Full Swing: "What charity are you playing for?" "Multiple Sclerosis." "Thatís great!" Itís not if youíve got it, you stupid scouse git.
And then Jim fucking Davidson makes me want to punch the tv screen. As if
Big Break wasnít bad enough (he tells the contestants the answers, for
Christís sake! - the total antithesis of the Ted Rogers approach...) - they
give him the Generation Game. Is nothing sacred? Do they actually think that
man can follow Brucie, or the camp majesty of Larry Grayson? He never was
funny, of course, but now that he canít slag off minorities, his
"humour" consists of appearances by Mr Blobby and Blakey? Words
canít adequately express how much Jim Davidson disgusts me. As the rest of
the country says goodbye to Ted Rogers, I do rather find myself wishing I was
writing Davidsonís obituary instead...
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