Growing up as a child in the 90’s was very different to what life is like now. There were no smart phones, no social media and no non-stop entertainment on the internet. Therefore, when you got home from school at 3 or 3:30pm, turning the TV on was a very normal activity. With only BBC One and ITV to choose from, there wasn’t a great variety of shows. Compared to Netflix and Youtube, kids in the 90’s had it a lot tougher.
However, there was always a special magic behind 90’s kids game shows that cannot be replicated. For the time, quite a lot of money was invested in the sets and structure of the overall show. Nothing could be imported on to the screen through CGI and computer graphics were not good enough to make a budget game show. If something got commissioned, there had to be a large investment behind it.
As a result of this, TV production companies would only take top-tier game shows and as a result, we were left with some great memories.
Here are some of the best game shows for kids that we all remember from the 90’s:
Knightmare was groundbreaking for its time. There was nothing like it before, or even after it stopped production. When it first came out, it used an £85 000 graphics system, which is the equivalent to £250k today. The idea behind the show was that the teams of children had to navigate a medieval style dungeon and solve puzzles in order to progress to the next stage. If you have never watched Knightmare, the best way to describe it would be to compare it with a more linear-style Crystal Maze.
Airing on CITV and presented by Hugo Myatt, the gameshow had 8 series and was very tough in terms of difficulty for it’s young contestants. At it’s height of popularity, Knightmare was getting 4 to 5 million views per episode (including re-runs), which is really crazy for a kids gameshow.
The show stopped broadcasting in 1994, but a one-off episode was filmed in 2013 for youtube, which can still be viewed here.
Another epic gameshow on CITV was Jungle Run. This was one of the most popular kids gameshows towards the backend of the 90’s and continued until 2006. Hosted by kids favourites Michael Underwood and Dominic Wood in earlier series, Jungle Run has a certain nostalgia that other kids gameshows simply could not recreate.
The premise of this show was extremely similar to the Crystal Maze. Kids would partake in various challenges to win bananas which were exchanged for time in the final temple. Various statues would win different prizes within the temple, with the kids having to exit without being trapped inside.
One lesser known and weird fact is that in the year 2000 (one year after the inception of Jungle Run), the set was used for an adult game show called Naked Jungle hosted by Keith Chegwin! This show is exactly as it sounds and was a truly bizarre, to this day, it’s not known how it got the green light.
Get Your Own Back
Arguably the most iconic and unique kids gameshow of the 90’s was Get Your Own Back (GYOB). The premise of this show was that a kid had been wronged by an adult (usually over a small trivial matter) and then was dragged on to the show. The losing adult would be gunged in the “dunk tank”, with the winning adult having a lucky escape.
Running for 15 years, the show was hosted by Dave Benson Phillips who was both the face and the voice of the franchise. In fact, when thinking of GYOB the first thing you can think of is Dave Benson Phillips, which is true when you switch both of these things as well.
The show also had a very memorable theme tune which immediately reminds those of the show as soon as they hear it.
Presented by Pat Sharp, Fun House was the gameshow during the 90s that every kid wanted to take part in. The show consisted of 3 distinct parts, the first of which usually involved gunge. This part of the show was not really too memorable compared to the other two parts, which were hugely iconic.
Second was the go karts, which was essentially a race around the outside of the Fun House set. This part of the show was extremely popular since this was fairly high budget for the 90’s and there weren’t any other kids shows with a racing element.
Perhaps most popular of all was the actual Fun House itself. In this section, kids would race against the clock and would be free to run around the Fun House as quickly as they could collecting prizes.
Whilst the BBC didn’t have too many popular kids gameshows other than GYOB, 50/50 was definitely a competitor to the dominance of ITV. Unlike other kids TV gameshows, 50/50 had a lot of contestants, with the name of the gameshow being literally what the competition was.
Entire schools of children would be competing against one another in a variety of tasks. Each kid would be numbered between 1-50 and the giant computer screen “Flynn” would announce numbers to compete in games. So for example, both number 12’s from each school would compete against on another in the same activity.
Although the show wasn’t as iconic as ITV gameshows, it was still hugely popular and lasted for 8 years spanning 9 seasons.
Hosted by Neil Buchanan, Finders Keepers had a 5-year run in the mid 90’s. This gameshow was not originally British and copied an American format which had already been successful.
This show was hosted inside a fictional house, which was a set built around a semi-constructed home that was cut in half so the audience and TV cameras could show what happened.
Two sets of teams competed against one another and had to find hidden objects within a room with a time limit of 30 seconds. The winning team that found the most items would be given a head start in the final round in which both teams would search for the same item in the same room.
To Me To You
Located on the fictional “Chuckle Island”, To Me To You was not a super successful gameshow, despite being hosted by the very well known Paul & Barry Chuckle.
The premise of the show was somewhat similar to a board game, with kids rolling a dice and then moving the trolley the amount of spaces they were told. Prizes would be won when the trolley was transferred to the “home” spaces at each end of the board. Certain spaces on the board would be challenge squares, in which teams would compete to win a coconut, which were exchanged at the end of the show for more prizes.
This show was not too popular and only ran for 3 seasons, however, it still has good memories for those who were watching TV in the late 90’s.