Catchphrase is a British game show based on the short-lived U.S. game show of the same name. It originally aired on ITV in the United Kingdom between 12 January 1986 and 23 April 2004. A currently running revival premiered on ITV on 7 April 2013.
Catchphrase was presented by Northern Irish comedian Roy Walker from its 1986 premiere until 1999, airing weekly at night. Nick Weir took the programme over in 2000 and hosted it until the end of series 16 on 23 April 2004. Mark Curry replaced Weir for the final series, which moved to a daytime slot and ran from 24 June to 19 December 2002. When the series was revived in 2013, Stephen Mulhern was named presenter and it returned to its weekly nighttime period.
In the original series, two contestants, one male and one female, would have to identify the familiar phrase represented by a piece of animation accompanied by background music. The show’s mascot, a golden robot called “Mr. Chips”, appears in many of the animations. In the revived version of the show, the same format remains, but there are three contestants and there is no particular attention paid to gender.
Catchphrase was a creation of Steve Radosh, who created the American series that the British programme was derived from; due to this, he is given credit for creating this show as well (as was producer Marty Pasetta and distributor Telepictures).
In the main game, at the start of each standard round, one contestant stopped a randomiser consisting of money amounts by hitting his/her button. The value landed on would be the amount for the normal catchphrases in that round. At first, the minimum value for the first two rounds was £10 and £20 in each round thereafter. After the second episode, the minimum value reduced to £5 until 1994. The maximum value started at £50 in round one and increased £50 for each round thereafter. During the first five series, the maximum value remained at £150 from round three onward. In series 10, the values were £35 to £75 in the first round and £35 to £100 in round two. From series 11 to 13, the values were £50 to £100 in round one and £60 to £125 in round two.
In the Nick Weir series, there was no money randomiser; the cash prize was set as default to £100 in round 1 and £150 in round 2. In Weir’s third and final series, the round 2 amount for a normal catchphrase was doubled to £200, and for the final series with Mark Curry, these were replaced with the corresponding points values.
The cash prizes of £100 and £200 respectively for the two standard rounds were retained for the revived Mulhern series in 2013. A third round was played in the celebrity special, where the cash prizes were worth £300.
For the first round, the computer would slowly draw a catchphrase on the screen accompanied by background music (the 2013 series uses CGI computer animation). When most of the catchphrase had been revealed, a bell would sound and the contestants could then buzz in and try to guess the answer. If the player that buzzed in guessed incorrectly, the other player would be offered the chance to guess. If a player guessed correctly, he/she would win the predetermined amount and then have a chance to solve the bonus catchphrase.
When Nick Weir took over as host in 2000, not only would contestants win the money allocated but they would also win spot prizes if a sound was played after the contestant guessed a catchphrase correctly. During the 2001 series, this new feature was changed, with the (now different) sound to indicate a spot prize could be won being played before the catchphrase was shown, this was carried over into the revived Mulhern series. In Weir’s last series, the spot prizes were removed and instead, one catchphrase in the first half of the game was also worth a ‘Travel Bonus’ prize, which was generally a weekend/short break away in a European city. If one player got a normal catchphrase wrong and the other player incorrectly guesses the same catchphrase, the game would just continue with neither player getting the predetermined amount of money or a chance at solving the bonus catchphrase. There was no bell used for the first half of the game for the Weir/Curry/Mulhern era.
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 on each (or random shapes in the Nick Weir/Mark Curry era). 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.
In series 1, the bonus bank would start at £100 and increase by £100 each round for the first two episodes and for the rest of that series, it would start at £50 and increase by £50 each round. However, in series 2, the bonus bank increased with each regular round, not counting the Ready Money Round. This format carried on from series 2 until series 9. In series 10 (the first Carlton series), it would start at £150 and increase by £50 each round, but £10 would be deducted for each square removed. From series 11 until series 15, it would start at £200 and increase by £50 each round, again with £10 deducted for each square removed but in series 16 (Nick Weir’s third and final series), the bonus bank still started at £200 in round 1 and £400 in round 2. In rounds 1 and 2, it would still eliminate £10 for every random shape removed. In round three, the bank would start at £1,000 and reduce by £100 increments. The bank for round four would start at £2,000 and would reduce by increments of £200. For the final series (with Mark Curry), the pound values were replaced with corresponding point values.
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.
Depending on how long it took to solve the bonus catchphrase, another game would be played with a higher possible amount in the randomiser and a larger amount in the bonus bank.
In the revived 2013 series, the bonus catchphrase is set at £500 for round 1 and £1,000 for round 2, but does not reduce when a square is removed (just like in the TVS years). On the celebrity specials, a third bonus catchphrase earned £1,500.
From series 2, (the Roy Walker era) a new feature which was not seen in the US version, the “Ready Money Round”, was introduced. This round followed a similar structure to a standard round, except that all catchphrases were worth a fixed amount of money (originally £50) and there was no bell, so the contestants could buzz in and answer them whenever they wished and as many times until the puzzle is solved or time runs out. In the TVS series from 1986 to 1994, this round was played only after the second normal round, subsequent rounds being played as standard with the bell and money randomiser. In the Carlton series from 1994 to 1999, however, all of the rounds in part two (up until the end of round klaxon) were ready money rounds. The amount for a normal catchphrase in the first Ready Money round increased to £100 for series 11 and £125 for series 12-13. From series 11-13, each catchphrase would be worth £150 in the second Ready Money round. If the end of round klaxon sounds and the bonus catchphrase had yet to be solved, the panels would be gradually removed until a player buzzed in with an answer. If neither player guessed correctly, a normal catchphrase would determine who won the bonus bank money.
The player with the most money won the game and played the Super Catchphrase. Both players kept their money. In the Curry series, the player with the most points won £250 but the player who didn’t win was given a consolation prize, usually a digital camera.
In the Super Catchphrase, the winning contestant faced a 5 x 5 board of 25 squares, each marked with a letter from A to Y in ascending order. The contestant chose a square and attempted to solve a catchphrase behind it. During the Roy Walker era, the aim was to get five squares in 60 seconds.
Catchphrase was originally made by TVS in association with Action Time at their Maidstone Studios from 1986, produced by Graham C Williams and executive produced by John Kaye Cooper. In 1994, the format was picked up by Carlton Television and fully produced by Action Time Productions, in 1996 (series 11), Catchphrase moved to Carlton’s (formerly Central Independent Television) studios in Lenton Lane, Nottingham where it stayed until the show’s demise on 19 December 2002.
Roy Walker left the show in 1999 and was replaced by Nick Weir in January 2000, whose first moments as host saw him tripping on the stairs; the next moments were from when the taping resumed a day later, with Weir using a cast and crutches. After three series and two years of presenting, Weir was dismissed due to unpopularity and was replaced by ex-Blue Peter presenter, Mark Curry. This was a move from weekly nighttime to a daytime series with changes including no longer having a studio audience and instead using canned applause as well as re-using Catchphrases going as far back as the Walker era.
The series’ original mascot is a golden robot called “Mr Chips”. The figure often appeared in the animations for the catchphrases. Mr Chips was originally depicted as being quite tall, but as the series progressed, he became a smaller figure. Variations of the mascot sometimes appeared in the animations, such as Mr Chips with a lemon for a head (for the catchphrase “Lemonheads” on the episode broadcast 2 December 1994).
Along with Walker, the Mr Chips character was not featured outside of the closing credits in the 2000 series. Instead, a family of a father, mother, son and two other men appeared. These characters were also featured in the opening sequence, showing the family trying to ‘catch’ the ‘letters’ of the phrase “Catchphrase”, the family themselves as the letters of “Catch”. This family were not as popular as Mr Chips, but despite this, the family appeared until the series finished in 2002. Mr Chips returned to the main game for the final 2002 series, and he was also brought back for the current revival series.
Catchphrase‘s original theme tune and incidental music were composed by television composer Ed Welch, whose original version of the theme was used for the TVS incarnation of the show, until 28 October 1994. It was also used on Family Catchphrase in 1994.
The first series was voiced by Andrew Lodge. Nick Jackson replaced him from series 2 until series 9 where the original run ended. Ted Robbins took over the voiceover’s mascot, followed by Charles Foster briefly in series 11 (Robbins later returned for series 12), and finally Robin Kermode during series 13, which was Walker’s final series.
A number of board game adaptations of Catchphrase were released over the years. Paul Lamond Games released the first edition in 1987, followed by a “Junior Edition” in 1990, and two separate editions by Britannia Games in 2001 and 2002. An adaptation based on the current series was released by Drumond Park in 2013, followed by Classic Catchphrase, released by Ideal in 2014.