Bullseye: here’s what you should’ve kept!

comedian Jim Bowen VIt’s not hard to see why the TV gameshow ‘Bullseye’ was considered essential viewing for many families in Britain. Early, every Saturday night, you could test your quizzing skills, see amateurs fail miserably to hit a dartboard divided into quiz-category sections, and wince at Jim Bowen’s deliberately lame jokes.

All in all- I did feel sorry for Jim’s co-host Tony- who would commentate, standing to the side of the board. The contestants might have missed the dartboard, but Tony was a big chap and not hard to miss due to the fact. And then, although it was not exactly CGI in those days, you could even see the cartoon of the dart-playing 'Bully’ prance across the bottom of the screen like a weird Desperate Dan morphed into bovine form to reveal the right answers. As comedian Peter Kay- a great fan of the show -once said, “It were so bad, it were good!” The programme had a wonderful 'low budget’ feel about it, and that hallmark made it so endearing.

Moving right along...

The prizes ranged from what seemed like the returns from a catalogue company’s warehouse, through to oddly extravagant things like speedboats and caravans. lts’ host, comedian Jim Bowen, frequently cracked awful jokes about the prizes or messed up the delivery in asking simple questions. It was all part of the charm, and it was glorious. But with cult TV status comes the inevitable herding nature of humans to form fanclubs, swap stories, and sometimes even host TV-themed events where like-minded people show you their treasure trove of collectables. The marketeers soon latch on to a successful 'brand’ and Bullseye was no exception. They produced a mass of lucrative souvenirs and memorabilia.

A huge swathe of merchandise that people bought and collected was produced. With the same passion that people today buy Star Wars-themed products, many different products based on the programme were snapped up by the fans, particularly just in time for Christmas Day for one of the many special festive screenings. There were board games, Bully key rings, online casino games, dartboard sets and darts, keyfobs, tankards, quiz books, masks, even an alarm clock (so as not to miss the next show, presumably). So it may be time to go up to your attic and dust down what you may have bought all those years ago. Some of it may even be worth more than the teasmaid that 'you could have won’...

Jim favorite taunt when a contestant failed, but a consolation prize like a tankard or key fob always given. Such items are now to be found- with accruing value- at collectors’ fairs and, of course, on eBay. A vintage bendy Bully toy can fetch up to 100 pounds. The main fan club- and they are still taking members- that is subscribed to by the likes of celebs like Chris Tarrant- a friend of Jim’s, so you can still reminisce, even now. And you can still buy a Bully costume, tankards through the website- there is no sign of it stopping. And the 'brand’ is not dead yet: there was a Lottery scratch card featuring Bullseye’s Bully with a top prize of 80, 000 pounds a few years ago, despite the last new show being screened in 1995. There were 14 gloriously naff years of the programme, and yet its fanbase is not diminishing. Re-runs on satellite, cable and on YouTube ensure that new audiences can still delight in the fact that someone could win a speedboat without knowing how to get it home to Manchester, or what they would do with it when they got it there.