Bruce Forsyth: The Scores on the Doors
During the 1970s, game shows became increasingly popular on TV – and none more so than Bruce Forsyth’s The Generation Game. First launched in 1971 by the BBC, it spawned many a catchphrase that remain the mainstay of pub quizzes nearly five decades later!
Strangely, however, one of the most famous catchphrases from The Generation Game – namely “What are the scores on the doors?” – is often attributed to Forsyth, although he never actually said it! Read on to find out how one of Brucie’s legendary catchphrases was actually invented by another entertainer, but was hijacked by Forsyth fans…
The Generation Game, which was first compered by Forsyth from 1971 to 1977, involved four couples competing against each other. Each couple was made up of two generations of one family, hence the show’s title. The couples faced off against each other in a series of tasks that were first demonstrated by an expert. These included anything from wallpapering an overhang or using a potter’s wheel, to more unusual tasks such as window dressing or plate spinning! The contestants were normally useless and the show’s hilarity revolved around Forsyth’s sharp wit and their ability to laugh at themselves.
The winners of the final played a conveyor belt game in which prizes whizzed past them on the famous conveyor belt and they could take home as many as they remembered afterwards. Invariably, there would be a cuddly toy of little value, which literally everyone remembered!
Forsyth even wrote and performed the show’s famous theme song, which began, “Life is the name of the game and I want to play the game with you.”
The most famous catchphrase associated with the show in the ’70s was the aforementioned “What are the scores on the doors?” – said to be something Forsyth uttered to his sidekick, Anthea Redfern, to check who was winning. As show hostess, she brought the contestants on to the stage, handed out prizes, kept track of the scores and even joined in the games.
The doors in question referred to the famous sliding doors that were an integral part of the show, along with the conveyor belt and the clock that used to count down how much time the contestants had to complete the challenges.
Although the “scores on the doors” has been linked to Forsyth for more than 40 years, the late star – who died in August 2017, at the age of 89 – never actually said it! The catchphrase was invented by his successor, comedian Larry Grayson, who took over the Generation Game from 1978 to 1981.
Bruce’s famous one-liners in the show included his greeting to the crowd at the start, “Nice to see you, to see you,” to which the audience responded, “Nice!” and also, “Give us a twirl,” which he unfailingly said to Redfern so she could show off her glamorous dress, but when checking the scores, Bruce always said, “Let’s have a look at the old scoreboard!”
It was 1978 when the “scores on the doors” catchphrase was first used by Larry Grayson, who took over The Generation Game after Bruce’s departure. His sidekick was hostess Isla St Clair and Grayson would turn to her and say, “What are the scores on the doors, Isla?”
The phrase made sense because the contestants’ scores were actually displayed on doors, which they weren’t in Forsyth’s day.
Despite the blip in popular culture and most people attributing Forsyth with a one-liner he never used, the late, great entertainer, comedian and presenter had plenty of catchphrases of his own during his long career on the stage and television, which spanned more than 75 years.
Forsyth’s one-liners were legendary: a poll of Sky television viewers in 2017 voted, “Nice to see you, to see you … nice,” as his best catchphrase of all time, with 56% of respondents saying it was their favourite.
His other popular catchphrases included, “Didn’t they do well?” – always said to contestants after completing their tasks – and, “What a lovely audience – so much better than last week!”
From 1980 to 1987, Bruce also hosted the game show, Play Your Cards Right, based on a pack of playing cards. He then became known for some new catchphrases, such as, “What do points make?” when the audience would reply, “Points make prizes!”
He also hosted Sunday Night at the London Palladium, when his catchphrase was, “I’m in charge!” and later went on to host Strictly Come Dancing, when he was known for the enthusiastic catchphrase, “Keeeep dancing!”
However, it’s part of the mystique of show business that Forsyth will always be remembered for saying that famous phrase that he never actually used: “What are the scores on the doors?”
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