Over the last few months I’ve been watching some episodes of old TV game shows from the 1980s and early 1990s. I’ve watched a few different shows including Catchphrase, Take Your Pick and Family Fortunes. But I’ve mainly been focusing on Bullseye.
These shows provide a really interesting document of social change. For a start the prizes reveal the things that were aspirational at the time, the leisure activities and the technological developments that were reshaping everyday life. With canteens of golden knives and forked, sat by early computers, trouser presses and garden furniture. With the star prizes being caravans, holidays, cars and even speed boats.
But what is really interesting is how the people have changed if we compare these shows with TV today. There aren’t as many game shows now but when we see what used to be called ‘members of the public’ on TV now it is noticeable that they are much more media savvy. The contestants on Bullseye are uncertain, reserved and the sense of awkwardness is palpable. Now TV contestants know what to say, how to present themselves and even what to wear. People are now media trained in a way that they weren’t on shows like Bullseye. We are in a much more media savvy age. Documents like these old TV shows are really revealing but it is an archive that tends to be ignored.