Sellotape and Hope

Graham Kibble-White on Bob Monkhouse and The Golden Shot

First published July 2003

If the game show annals ever come to be written a special section will have to be put aside for ATV’s The Golden Shot. Arguably the most unselfconsciously eccentric of game shows, The Golden Shot is a hard-to-categorise conglomeration of sharp-shooting, star turns, wisecracks, social action and calamity. For nigh on eight years The Golden Shot courted disaster, but in every instance struggled from the wreckage with increasing ingenuity and charm. Somehow it seemed that the more things went wrong for The Shot, the more they came right.

This is an attempt to tell The Golden Shot story, from its introduction to British screens in 1967, to its glorious final lap in 1975. In researching this story OTT was fortunate enough to speak to the person who unarguably became the central figure in it: Bob Monkhouse. Being as generous with his time and knowledge as his reputation would suggest, the man’s recollections of the show were characteristically eloquent, funny and insightful. As such the following story – which is in many ways his story – has been presented in Bob Monkhouse’s words wherever possible.

“Up a bit! Down a bit!”

Let’s travel back, then, to Lew Grade’s ATV in the mid 1950s and ’60s, and a time when Bob Monkhouse was looking for his next television vehicle …

I had enjoyed quite long runs in a series of game show and quiz shows and I found it was the best way to keep myself on the screen and keep the public aware of my presence without burning up a lot of comedy material (like doing a sitcom or a stand-up). I’d had quite a comfortable run in the ’50s with a show called Do You Trust Your Wife? – I don’t think that’s a title you could use today! – but it simply was asking the husband: ‘Would you like to answer this one yourself, or do you trust your wife to answer it?’ It was an American format that had been done in the States by Johnny Carson and by the ventriloquist Edgar Bergan. Lew Grade had bought it and put me in it and I had a nice comfortable run. I’d thought ‘Well, this is good.’

Then I got another game show that ran for a while called Bury Your Hatchet. After that things quietened down and so I invented a show of my own called Mad Movies using my own collection of silent films, and we did that in 1965.

In the meantime I was looking for some other vehicle. In the early ’60s I did Candid Camera for three years, and that kept me on the screen, but I was looking for another game show if possible. I heard about Der Goldener Schuss and that Lew was negotiating with a Swiss-German to buy this programme (which had been invented by Werner and Hannes Schmid). It was quite a success in West Germany so I started negotiating quietly to try and get myself into it. Lew, however, had decided that the Canadian singer Jackie Rae was just the guy for it. The reason he’d done this was because there’d been a Charlie Drake half-hour in which Charlie took part in a game show, and the game show host was Jackie Rae. Now Lew, for all his shrewdness, was quite naïve about certain things. He didn’t realise that the part was scripted and that Jackie had learnt the role. He just thought he came over as a rather dapper quiz master, so he signed him to do The Golden Shot.

I was disappointed because I had hoped I was in the running for that role and I thought it might be a good thing to keep me on the air for a while – maybe six months or so because normally Lew would sign a show up like that for 26 weeks. So I supposed that I’d lost about 26 weeks’ work by not getting it. – BM

In 1967 ATV began trailing The Golden Shot. Across a fast-paced montage of targets and crossbows the soft-spoken singer and record producer Jackie Rae (already a familiar face on TV who’d been hosting Granada’s Spot the Tune since 1959) intoned: “It’s new! It’s exciting! It’s a completely different television show where contestants aim to win a big cash prize. It’s … The Golden Shot!” Alongside the television campaign press adverts were trumpeting this new series as “The liveliest LIVE show ever!” With its unusual format and live interactive element public interest was high.

Jackie Rae started the show and it turned out that he was not really right for it. He found a great difficulty in ad-libbing and he couldn’t remember the rules. The programme itself was humourless although it was the same show that had succeeded in Germany. But its only novelty, of course, was the fact that people phoning in could affect events in the studio by watching a live transmission through the camera strapped on top of the cross-bow. That was the only novelty. The targets were very boring; they were circles and triangles and squares and they had no personality, no comedy in them. The guest stars simply came on and fired but for no purpose, they didn’t win anything and they didn’t do anything. And the contestants were unexciting. Well, frankly the show stank and it began to sink down in the ratings. It had a big interest when it first came on Saturday nights but the viewers just dropped. – BM

Jackie Rae’s tenure on The Golden Shot became a quintessential example of a performer trying to work within an environment totally unsuited to his talents. Last Christmas the digital channel Challenge? screened a gift-box selection of episodes from The Golden Shot, thoughtfully including an example from the tenure of each of the show’s four regular hosts, almost as though they wanted to invite comparison. It’s from this selection that we’re able to consider a Jackie Rae hosted edition of the show. Before the credits even roll Rae’s episode gets off to a clunking start as in real time he attempts to direct the crossbow and score a bullseye – “Right, right, right – stop. Up, up, up – stop. Left – stop! Right a little – stop! Left a little – stop! Up, up, up – fire!” It’s hardly slick stuff.

At this stage in its life The Shot employed the talents of three “Golden Girls”; Carol Dilworth, Andrea Lloyd and Anita Richardson. To the show’s detriment none of them are given the opportunity to exhibit any element of personality, whilst Rae himself comes over as personable, but a little staid. When he asks the trio “all set, kids?” he seems more of an anxious parent than a game show host. The show proper begins with the introduction of a celebrity shooter, and it’s here a curious footnote from The Golden Shot story is played out.

Jackie Rae turns to camera: “If you’ve been reading this week’s Television Times you’ll have seen that our celebrity this week was to have been Bob Monkhouse, but at the last minute he got a call to go to Aden to entertain the troops and of course all we could say was ‘good luck’ and agree with him and hope he could be with us another time.”

One can only speculate on what would have happened to the show’s fortunes if Bob Monkhouse had been free to fulfil this commitment. Would he have gone on to steal the show on this appearance as he would do later? As it is, John Junkin fills in and is gestured into The Shot‘s soundproof booth to shoot at the target. And when he does so, he’s escorted straight off again. As Bob Monkhouse points out above, there seems to be no reason for his involvement, it stands at a tangent from the main business at hand and makes the show feel as though it’s got off to a false start. Finally we get to the game as the phone rings and Rae speaks to a contestant who claims he’d previously appeared on Rae’s own Spot the Tune. After he is given a crack at the target, a studio contestant is wheeled on, and then it’s back to the phones again.

Throughout this continual cut and shuffle between telephone and studio contestants Rae appears uncomfortable and uncertain. His rapport with the contestants is curious, to say the least. At one point he directs his assistants to “take Mr Hunt to the booth before he gets too upset.” Later on poor Mr Hunt is made to feel even more uncomfortable as Rae comments: “Now your hands are a little perspire-y, no need to be nervous,” and then gestures towards Hunt’s opponent, “look how calm he is.” Although Rae is cognisant of the stresses the contestants are under he seems uncertain how to react to it. In this instance we’d expect a game show host to allay fears, calm the players down and reassure them whilst still acknowledging the tension of the game itself; Rae instead unnerves them still further. In fact, if there is one overriding criticism that could be applied to his marshalling of The Golden Shot it’s in his failure to find a rapport with both the contestants and the audience.

On top of all this, it’s very hard to follow where the game is going, with contestants brought on and off again seemingly at random. There is an attempt at identifying a hierarchy between them with gold, bronze and silver medals denoting degrees of success, but that aside the show seems directionless with no progression and fails to build towards the final “Marksman of Week” showdown.

On the evidence of this episode Jackie Rae wasn’t the root of The Golden Shot‘s woes – but he certainly wasn’t going to be its saviour. As the viewing figures plummeted the press were calling “The liveliest LIVE show ever!” “The deadiest DEAD duck ever”. Something had to change.

By this time The Golden Shot was hiring comedians to go on and try and liven it up. I think I tell the story in my autobiography of how my agent said “I want you to do it” to which I replied “I don’t want to do it” but he insisted: “You go out there and murder them”. So I planned for a week to do the best possible slot that I could, and it went tremendously well. – BM

Bob Monkhouse’s guest appearance on the 10th episode of The Golden Shot has since become the seminal moment in the programme’s history. Taking the effort to rig up specific props (including converting The Shot‘s video booth into a shower) he proceeded to wow the audience, uncovering new potential for comedy within the staid format. Provoking the studio audience into gales of laughter, his slot overran and a planned musical act had to be dropped. When he heard about this decision, Lew Grade was angry; he’d promised EMI he would promote their artist on the show and felt personally embarrassed at the change of plan. Upon enquiring why the overrun had occurred, he discovered that a recording of the show had been made (at Monkhouse’s request) and viewed the tape. Impressed with what he saw he decided to replace Rae with Monkhouse, who took over on show 15.

Well, I was just following my agent’s advice. I don’t think he said, “steal the show”, I think what he said was just do an enormously successful spot, because he knew that no one was happy with Jackie Rae and that they wanted to replace him. I wasn’t aware of that situation and so I was surprised 10 days later when my agent said to me “Lew wants you to take-over the show”. I was delighted, although I did feel bad for Jackie. But Jackie had another show, I think it was called Stop The Music, so he wasn’t out of work. – BM

Did Monkhouse have any qualms about associating himself with another game show? Was there any issue in his mind with crossing the line between the comedy and compèring?

That was never an issue really. I was perfectly prepared to take anything that would run a long time. I wanted the income and I wanted the exposure. And also at that time if you were hosting a game show or a quiz show – that’s the reason you were there. You had an excuse to be on the screen, because you were hosting the show. So if you were funny as well it was a bonus. – BM

“Up, up, up!”

From the start Monkhouse set about making changes. Two of the “Golden Girls” were removed leaving just Carol Dilworth, whilst the uncatchy catchphrase “Heinz, the bolt!” became the far more mellifluous, “Bernie, the Bolt” (Bernie embodied by special effects expert Derek Young). The game itself was streamlined from seven rounds down to just four, and each episode was now themed (using topics such as the RAF on Monkhouse’s first episode, Old Time Music Hall and the then new Gerry Anderson series Captain Scarlet) lending the show an extra coherency, as well as giving the designers a reason to customise the targets each week. Alongside all these innovations a comedy butler was introduced in the form of Norman Chappel. His role, however, soon became superfluous.

They decided that because they’d altered all the rules and things were happening that were unexpected due to the live nature of the show, they’d have a butler who could interrupt at anytime to say, “Oh Mr Monkhouse I think we should do this or do that”, or, “We’ll have to chop that because we’re running out of time”. It was supposed to be an elegant way of keeping me on the straight and narrow. However, within a few weeks we found it wasn’t necessary or very effective. Norman was charming and funny but what he had to say wasn’t very funny because he was really interrupting me and it began to irritate the audience. – BM

Under the new regime The Golden Shot flourished. By the 26th edition ratings were up by 50%.

The show picked up in the ratings and we made a success of it by using themed programmes. So we just juiced up the whole thing and made it much more exciting and entertaining. – BM

But there was more change to come …

Young Michael Grade remarked to his uncle Lew, “You know, there’s nothing on Sunday afternoons – that’s why the cinemas are full”. That’s when Lew had this inspiration of moving the show to Sunday afternoon – or early evening – and it did, of course, what subsequently The Antiques Roadshow has done, enormous business [the show peaking at 16 million viewers]. At that time of the day people have come in, whole families have gathered and they want a family show. So the programme then ran the best part of 10 years – we had a tremendous run out of it. – BM

As The Golden Shot built on its successes, the decision was made in 1968 to move its production from the Borehamwood studios up to Birmingham, emphasising ATV’s role as broadcaster for the Midlands. It was here that the show would enter into the definitive phase of its life, and establish an enduring production schedule.

When we moved to Birmingham we appointed a new Bernie the Bolt [Alan Bailey]. I used to get to the studio late mornings, travelling from wherever I’d done a nightclub the night before (a Saturday). I’d arrive with usually my fiancée/secretary driving. Round about noon we’d make sure everything was shipshape, talk to [Golden Girl] Anne Aston, make sure the script was OK, make sure the cue-cards were all written and that everybody felt happy. Then we’d break for lunch and after that, around about 2.30pm, we’d do a full run. If the run went well at about 4pm we’d probably tidy up a few bits and pieces and then we wouldn’t do anymore dress-run until we went on the air. – BM

The Bob Monkhouse episode of The Golden Shot shown by Challenge? comes from 1970, and it’s the penultimate episode from that year’s series. More importantly it’s a testament to the innovations he brought to the show. Proudly proclaiming “live from Birmingham!” it opens with the studio pitched in darkness. Monkhouse walks on holding a candle, before the lights go up and he announces: “The work to rule is over!” referring to the then ongoing power workers strike of 1970. From the off this moment of topicality marks The Shot out as something different from your standard game show, and pays testament to the team’s improvisational skills in responding to topical events.

The show then zings along with customary Monkhouse witticisms and catchphrases (“pick a pomme, do”). When the special guest is revealed halfway through – Jack Douglas in the guise of Alf Ippititimus – he is given a couple of minutes to ply his comedy before being asked to shoot at the target to benefit a “Golden Partner” (a needy viewer). This is followed by the only moment in show when proceedings seem to become slightly derailed as before the end of part two Monkhouse is gestured at off-camera: “I’m getting the sign that someone’s getting tied up with their knitting, or the floor manager’s got chewing gum on his fingers … you want me to stretch?” It is, however, a small bump and smoothly navigated.

Part three opens with The Golden Shot in unfamiliar territory again, as Monkhouse is now standing at a map of the UK and talk us through the achievements made by the programme’s “Kidney Machine Stamp Appeal”. He’s then joined by Sister Macguire from Belfast City Hospital and declares: “We’re hoping to present two machines next week on our last Sunday”. It’s an unusual segue between game show and fundraising and a potentially disastrous one. And yet it works somehow – a testament to The Shot‘s robustness, perhaps. But how did the show come to strike out in this direction in the first place?

We did that quite independently of ATV’s bosses. We became a little unit unto ourselves and we had these ideas and we used to go ahead with them without telling anybody. The result was we’d occasionally bring on celebrities to receive these donations. We’d also have the Golden Partner for someone who needed a bit of luck. We thought that was quite an important function. We also used to have people like the Mayor of Birmingham come on to represent the city and make sure that everyone knew we were in the regions and not stuck in London.

I guess because I had a series of different producers and directors we didn’t stick with the same staff. I was the only constant for all those years so most of my ideas were accepted by people who were coming in to do the show for the first time. And a great many of them were directors and producers who were fairly inexperienced and had been allocated to The Golden Shot as a learning experience. So quite a number of those directors from John Scholz-Conway through to Anthony J Bacon – I hardly remember all the names! – they were people who were just given the job and they were inclined to come along and say ‘OK, what do you want me to do?’

It meant a great deal of the invention came from me and whoever I had working with me on the script. We introduced things like the dialysis machine appeal, purely because I got a letter from somebody saying wouldn’t it be nice if you did. And then – I forget whether it was me or someone else – suggested we could do this with green stamps. We got a hell of a lot of those dialysis machines and a great many wheelchairs created by Lord Snowden which we managed to get too. I thought it was important that the show not only had a family feeling but it also had a kind of social conscience. – BM

The programme ends with Monkhouse addressing the camera from behind rolling credits (“We’re live at 4.44 – that doesn’t rhyme”) and then walks off set. The difference between this edition of the show and Jackie Rae’s is marked. This programme has a sense of momentum, moving towards a climax. More importantly it has a host who is in control of all the elements, rather than being buffeted along by them.

Aside from The Shot‘s acknowledged eccentricities, the programme’s relationship with its contestants is also worthy of discussion. Unlike game shows of today, The Golden Shot didn’t seek to foster any real relationship with its contestants. Rather they became more a part of the gaming mechanics than personalities in their own right.

At that time we didn’t feel that we needed to bond with the people very much! Generally speaking they weren’t people who’d passed any kind of test. You know with most game shows you have the contestants apply to be on the show, and then your game show organisers – the people who choose the contestants – would make sure they were presentable, intelligent, articulate so that you only got the best possible people from the various applicants. But with The Golden Shot there was some sort of ruling at the time from the Independent Broadcasting Authority that we had to take contestants in rotation. I never understood that, but it meant we got a lot of people who weren’t very interesting and some very inhibited people – and one occasion a partially-sighted woman with a twitch! – BM

After The Golden Shot‘s move to Birmingham the show quickly became notable for its continuing technical problems. In retrospect it’s hardly surprising that things went wrong – this was a complex live show in a television era that was not best suited for such an endeavour. Cameras were large and relatively unreliable, and there was the additional wildcard element of flying crossbow bolts and explosive targets. Nevertheless, the constant mishaps seemed to help cement the show in the public’s affections.

Well it all came about by accident. The Aston studios were closing down and facilities were very poor – many of the cameras were old fashioned and tended to breakdown and a lot of the technical stuff was very dodgy. It had been battered for round about 10 years – since ITV started in the Midlands in 1957 – and we were there in ’66 – 67 I think, so a lot of that equipment was really ropey and held together with Sellotape and hope. So the accidents began purely fortuitously and they gave the show a kind of a cachet – it became a little bit of a cult that we were there.

So when we moved up to what was originally called The Paradise Centre, the colour studios up on the hill, it became even more frantic because the new equipment was worse than the old equipment in that nobody knew how it worked! People were inclined to wheel colour cameras forward and pull plugs out, and detonators were put in by inexperienced armourers that would blow up and set fire to the target.

Because I was very smooth and very polished in my presentation – which could be irritating – the fact that hell and fury was going on all around me was very humanising. I adored it because it gave me an opportunity to ad-lib and people loved the fact that I was making jokes on the hoof that couldn’t have happened in any other circumstance. So that really was a very big plus for me as a comedian because instead of a prepared script all the time I could talk quite freely about what was going on around me. I mean the doors on the soundproof booth constantly stuck – we couldn’t get the guest star out, or get them in sometimes. It was extraordinary! – BM

And so The Golden Shot continued, delighting audiences and befuddling critics, remaining a stalwart in Lew Grade’s schedules. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to last …

“Down, down, down”

Francis Essex had enjoyed two decades in television before he became ATV’s Head of Light Entertainment at the start of the 1970s. Initially a film and theatre score composer he joined the BBC in 1953. In 1960 he moved over to ATV and received the Producer of the Year award from the Guild of Television producers in 1965. That same year he took a sojourn to Scottish Television as Controller of Programmes, but returned to ATV in 1969 as Productions Controller.

An “ATV man” through and through no one expected Essex to rock the boat in his new role. It came as some surprise, then, when he announced that he was appalled by The Golden Shot and felt the show was being exploited by an “old boys’ network”. The production team soon found themselves under Essex’s scrutiny who looked on with suspicion. Shortly afterwards Bob Monkhouse found himself erroneously implicated in a bribery scandal after he was spotted receiving a gift from Wilkinson’s Sword representative Bob Brooksby. The following weekend a “his and hers” Wilkinson Sword grooming kit was featured as the bronze prize on The Shot and Essex smelt collusion. In reality the gift Monkhouse had received was only a collectable book, “The Shy Photographer” but perhaps surmising he was rooting out the old boy’s network, Essex visited Monkhouse at home and told him he was going to dismiss him from the show. The public were to be told that the decision to leave had been Monkhouse’s with ATV issuing a statement to the press that read: “Bob is being released to find opportunities for his abilities elsewhere”. Indeed that was how things remained until Monkhouse himself revealed all in his sublime autobiography “Crying With Laughter”, published in 1993.

It was now 1972 and The Golden Shot needed a new host. The decision was made to bring in Norman Vaughan. On paper, Vaughan seemed well suited; like Monkhouse before him he’d made a success of hosting Sunday Night at the London Palladium and regularly plied his trade as a stand-up comic. Here was a performer with live experience, and a funny man to boot. But for some reason, he seemed to become quickly overwhelmed by The Golden Shot. It was as if the sheer weight of the programme described by its original producer Colin Clews as “a brute” was squeezing out Vaughan’s ebullience and throwing him into panic.

The Norman Vaughan hosted episode shown by Challenge? found the host a year into his reign on The Golden Shot. It gets off to a terrific start as the standard title sequence suddenly seems to break down. Vaughan appears in view: “Something’s gone wrong here,” he says, then adding wryly, “very unusual for this show!” An idea hits him: “Why don’t we have a new set [of titles]?” and with that The Golden Shot‘s new title sequence and theme debut. It’s great stuff, an inventive and funny way to highlight the programme’s new look – but unfortunately this is probably the most successful aspect of the whole episode.

As the show itself begins Norman is joined by two Golden Girls, Anne Aston and Cherri Gilham. He launches into a traditional opening routine, but seems ill at ease. The gags aren’t great and so he begins to concentrate on soliciting laughs from a group of women sat in the crowd, directing most of his comments at them – “isn’t that right, girls?” Within the mechanics of the game itself he appears equally uncomfortable, and like Jackie Rae before him is poor at establishing an easy rapport with the contestants. To one of the players calling in he says, “Listen Dennis, what shall we talk about?” almost as though he wants to offload his responsibilities as host.

Despite Vaughan’s difficulties, it would be wrong to write-off this edition as a complete failure. There’s fun to be had from some traditional Shot blunders, such as when everyone becomes unsure quite how one of the new booth doors close (“We’ve got our new telephone box this week!”), and later on when the directive comes out to “take it again Norman” due to some unexplained problem with one of the contestant’s shots. Alongside this, Larry Grayson puts in an enjoyable, if slightly pointless appearance, and there is some invention still evident in the targets themselves with this week’s £100 shot being a representation of what the contestants actually see through the crossbow – although confusingly it’s the sights on the crossbows that the players have to aim for rather than the depiction of the target itself.

Vaughan’s stewarding of the show is probably still more successful than Rae’s ever was in that there is some energy to the proceedings, albeit a nervous kind of energy. Unfortunately he falls a long way short of Monkhouse’s confidence and apparent calm. Watching him trying to steer through the game is a rather uncomfortable experience, with the message coming through loud and clear that this is a man who doesn’t want to be here. Unsurprisingly, viewing figures began to drop and later that year Vaughan was released from his contract with ATV (he’d later go on to co-devise the target-shooting game show Bullseye for ATV’s successor, Central). Another new host was needed.

The son of a Barbados-born miner who had settled in Royston, South Yorkshire and a former football professional for Doncaster Rovers, Charlie Williams first came to public attention on Granada’s ribald stand-up comedy show The Comedians. Considered something of a novelty in the 1970s, being both black and with a broad Yorkshire brogue, Williams’ star was in the ascendant. He was signed up to be The Golden Shot‘s third regular host, however unlike both Norman Vaughan and Bob Monkhouse before him, Williams had little experience in live television and none whatsoever in marshalling something as complicated as The Shot. If anything, his tenure on the show was even more disastrous than Vaughan’s.

The Charlie Williams episodes shown by Challenge? clearly illustrates this – always likable – host’s short-comings in painful detail. It’s when he’s required to react to events as they happen that Williams seems to come undone. At the start of the show a guest magician reveals a mouse out of thin-air, prompting Charlie to exclaim somewhat nonsensically: “Oh, it’s a good one!” But things get even worse, with Williams in an apparently befuddled state that just seems to get worse. “‘Ey up, what about the old – wotcha call ‘em? – what’s coming up? – er, Easter Eggs!” he fluffs to one contestant.

Fatally, Williams is unable to keep up with the pace of the show; at every hiccup he becomes completely derailed calling attention to the problems rather than quietly surmounting them. At one point he gets mixed up regarding which Golden Girl he should be speaking to next: “Lesley … Lee we don’t know where we are!” And then later: “Well, they keep changing things – don’t tell Williams he’s only t’gaffer!”

In many ways Williams’ time on The Golden Shot represented the show’s nadir. If The Shot had enjoyed the cachet of being “car crash television” before, under Williams it was starting to take on the distressing undertones that phrase implies. Watching this jovial and charming performer fail – and fail spectacularly – each week was unsettling. And still the viewing figures fell. There was only one thing for it.


Some six months after taking over the show Charlie Williams was hosting “the last edition – well for a few weeks anyway – of Golden Shot“. Although The Shot would be returning, Williams would not. There was an air of finality about the whole thing, with one of the original Golden Girls Carol Dilworth brought back especially for the event, and the show’s warm-up man Orton Douglas given an opportunity to perform his act in front of the camera. Williams, as ever, went through the whole thing seemingly perplexed by everything that went on around him, and was surprised by Dilworth at the end who interrupted him to declare: “On behalf of everybody at ATV, they’ve loved having you on the show for the last six months – you’ve been wonderful!” This in turn prompted an emotional Williams to lead a chorus of “More! More!” and exclaim, “Keep smiling all the time!”

Unfortunately for Williams although he had kept smiling all the time, his bubbly and positive persona just hadn’t been enough to steer him through the complexities of The Golden Shot. But then, perhaps a show so eccentric and unusual could only ever be successfully captained by one particular person anyway. On Wednesday 20 March 1974 Francis Essex met with Bob Monkhouse to invite him to go back to The Golden Shot. Did the comedian have any trepidation about taking such a step?

Oh no! I was eager to go back because I’d got this idea where all the contestants could be celebrating something; either a birthday, or a wedding anniversary, or a divorce(!) or whatever it was. And I knew that a hell of a lot of letters – as well as the ones I’d faked! – had requested my return. People were very keen for me to come back. So there was a great feeling of welcome there. I was full of anticipatory glee. – BM

Monkhouse’s agent, Peter Prichard negotiated that he would only return to the show if ATV took up an option on an American game show, Hollywood Squares which they would then have to allow Monkhouse to host once he’d turned The Shot around. The deal done, Monkhouse set to work overhauling the now tired format of The Shot.

On this series I worked with Dennis Berson and occasionally Tony Hawes would come up with ideas. It was my idea that we should switch the show to celebrants, who really had something to celebrate. And we had a new theme song [sings] “This is your golden day, everything’s coming your way”, which was written by Lynsey De Paul and Barry Blue [and performed by the band Rain, featuring Stephanie De Sykes as lead singer]. – BM

The new Golden Shot debuted on Sunday 14 July at 4.40pm, following a World Cup match. Guests on this first show were Peters and Lee, who rounded off proceedings with a rendition of Don’t Stay Away Too Long. Meanwhile Anne Aston had been joined by Wei Wei Wong a 24 year old dancer from Hong Kong. It was soon clear that under Bob Monkhouse The Golden Shot was back on top again. So why, on 16 March 1975, did the show come to a final end?

Suddenly ATV acquired Celebrity Squares [as Hollywood Squares was renamed] and they wanted to put that on at the weekend. Alongside that the IBA (or ITA as I think it was then) felt that “you’ve had 10 years or so out of The Golden Shot” and they were inclined to say you can’t go on milking the same cow indefinitely, so they closed down shows like Opportunity Knocks and others because they’d been running a long time. I think there was a feeling that we’d had a long run out of it and that was enough as there were new shows waiting to be done. – BM

On that final edition Monkhouse invited back previous hosts Norman Vaughan and Charlie Williams and the three of them sang a farewell song together. By this stage, however, Monkhouse had already been travelling back to The Shot‘s original home of Borehamwood, starting rehearsals for Celebrity Squares. The Golden Shot‘s time was finally over, but seemingly against all the odds it came off the air on a high.

I felt that one of the great things about The Golden Shot was that it was a cottage-y sort of quaint show. There were suggestions that it could be updated with laser beams and people floating in space and very modern targets of the Star Wars variety, but I always felt that would be a disaster. In fact if we ever revive The Golden Shot – and there has been much talk of it, particularly from Mark Wells the controller of Carlton – I’d always recommended that if they did that they must still go back to those creaky crossbows and the physical business of actually firing a bolt 35 feet across a studio which is still important to the oddity of the show. In fact I would push the show more in that direction to make it even more of a cottage industry. – BM

As the man himself says, much of The Golden Shot‘s appeal lay within its quaintness. The show became, in some respects, the sum of its deficiencies and quirks – but only to a point. Without a confident and able host at the centre of it all The Shot would quickly shift from (barely) controlled chaos, to just plain chaos where all the fun stopped. While it was on top The Shot always teetered on the brink, but when it did fall over it fell hard and fast producing the most terrible of wreckage. Although Norman Vaughan did go on to later successes, Charlie Williams in particular was very damaged by his disastrous stint on the show, and at a time when his career should have been in ascendant he found securing high-profile work difficult after The Shot. It would be fair to say, however, that neither were well served by the show.

But what of Bob Monkhouse? How does he look back on The Golden Shot some 30 years since its demise? As OTT finished up our conversation with the great entertainer we put this question to him. “It was a period of great joy for me.” He said quite simply, “I really enjoyed it immensely.”