Jim Bowen isn’t just a pretty face. He’s also famous for giving away money and prizes on classic ITV darts quiz show Bullseye. Every week, one lucky couple had the chance to walk away with a shedload of cash and a selection of prizes. Even the losing couples won so much cash that Jim Bowen needed an entire advert break to count it out.
Watching reruns on Challenge recently got us wondering – was it ever possible to really clean up on Bullseye? Sure, it was pretty easy to win a couple of hundred quid which, back then, was not to be sniffed at. But how much could you win if everything goes in your favour? What’s the absolute most you could win on Bullseye? We decided to try and work it out.
In the interests of consistency, we’re going to look at the 1991 series, and work with that format. This will be relevant later on, when we get to the Prize Board.
Round 1 (the category round)
In the category round, there are 9 potential questions to answer. Each player gets one go at the board three times, and in each sub-round the questions are worth £30, £50 and £100 respectively. Add to this the possibility of each player hitting the bullseye every time. If a player hits the bullseye, £200 is added to the couple’s total.
Let’s start simply, with couple A (Derek and Mavis). For each turn, Derek hits the bullseye, giving the pair £600. Mavis answers all the questions correctly, adding £180 to the total.
Let’s then assume that dart player for the other team hits their category, but the question answerer gets the question wrong. Mavis could then answer the questions herself, earning her and Derek £360. Mavis would only win the money for the questions, and not the money for the dart player hitting the category.
So far, Derek and Mavis’ total is £1140. And the other couples really, really hate them.
Round 2 (pounds for points)
In the pounds for points round, each dart player throws three darts at the board, and the highest score gives that couple a chance to answer a question for the cash equivalent of the score. There are three sub-rounds in the pounds for points round, so let’s assume that Derek wins all of them by scoring the maximum of 180 each time. If Mavis gets all her questions right, this will give the couple a further £540.
Their total is now £1680, but they’re probably the least popular people in the building.
Bully’s Prize Board
Here’s where we’ve had to do a bit of guesswork. In order to correctly estimate the value of the average 1991 Prize Board, we’ve come up with a selection of prizes seen frequently on the show, and have priced them up using the 1991 Argos Catalogue. The value of some of the prizes actually surprised us, considering the reputation the show had for giving away cheap tat. In a lot of cases, this reputation is certainly deserved, but some prizes are pretty valuable.
Right, let’s put our best Tony Green voices on –
A carriage clock
These range from £7.99 to £49.75, so we’ve plumped for one in the middle, costing £24.99.
A set of garden tools
Every week. Every bloody week. Handy if, like us, you live in a first floor flat. We’ve gone for this six piece garden tool set, costing £29.99.
A set of luggage
These are roughly all around the 50 quid mark, so we’ve gone for this fetching green set, costing £49.99.
A Sega Master System
It was a toss up between this or a kids’ battery powered jeep. However, because this is Den Of Geek, we naturally went for the console. This Master System 2 comes with Alex Kidd In Miracle World built in, and costs £59.99.
A crystal rose bowl
Again, one of those things they must have had hundreds of, because this appeared most weeks, along with the garden tools. This crystal flower bowl is the closest match in the Argos catalogue, but we reckon it’s close enough. Not surprisingly, it’s not one of the more expensive prizes, costing just £9.99.
The model most frequently seen on Bullseye is similar to this one, with a clock on it, and decorated with nice early 90s flowers. This automatic tea and coffee maker will set you back £54.50.
A pair of His and Hers watches
We’ve gone for this Rotary gents’ quartz watch, and this Rotary ladies’ quartz watch, coming it at a total of £119.98.
A charming hostess trolley
This model has a “large heated cupboard”, and “walnut laminate finish”, and costs £149.
And Bully’s special prize –
The special prize can vary wildly, anything from a BMX to a decanter set. We’ve gone for one of the nicer special prizes – this Alba video recorder, costing £199.99
Total – £698.42
So, this is the sort of amount you can win, assuming the non-dart player actually hits the prizes, and not the back of Tony Green’s head.
The star prize
Finally, we have the gamble. This is the point where the entire audience, and probably those in the studio next door too, will shout at you to “gamble!” whether you’re any good at darts or not.
Up until series 11, you were only required to gamble your prizes, while the money you’d won earlier was safe. From series 11 onwards, you also had to gamble your money. To lose the gamble after series 11 would result in being left with nothing but your “BFH – bus fare home”.
If you choose to gamble, you must score 101 or more with 6 darts. Obviously, Derek and Mavis are going to gamble, and they will win the gamble. This means that on top of their money and their nine Prize Board prizes they also have the star prize.
One thing to note here is that it was never clear whether or not the two contestants must share the star prize, or whether they got one each. A third possibility is that the contestants had the option to redeem the cash value of the prize, which they could then split.
Of course, we didn’t really have a choice but to have a speedboat as the star prize. The speedboat was generally won, in a cruel twist of fate, by the couples who lived in Birmingham, so it would make sense that, if given the choice, they would redeem the cash value instead.
However, in terms of cash value, it didn’t matter too much which star prize you won, as they all had a rough value of around £4000. The show was unable to give away a more expensive star prize due to the restrictions placed on it by the Independent television Commission, and before that the Independent Broadcasting Authority. These restrictions were relaxed for the last two series (of Jim Bowen’s tenure) during which the star prize would occasionally be ‘Bully’s Treasure Chest’ – a straight £5000 cash.
Working on this information, then, we can safely assume that, in 1991 at least, the star prize adds £4000 to your cash total. This in turn raises a question which we are unable to find a satisfactory answer to. Assuming you won all the previous money and prizes, and the star prize would take your total to more than £5000 (The ITC limit), what would happen? Would the producers have been ready for this eventuality, and substituted a cheaper prize, or was only the star prize subject to the winnings cap?
Does this explain why a couple would sometimes win the star prize, only to be greeted with a laughably cheap set of clothes or a set of dining room furniture? We can only speculate on this for now, but if you have any information on this, do let us know in the comments.
To sum up – you could make a tidy sum out of appearing on Bullseye, if you were a darts champion and Mastermind winner. But you certainly couldn’t win enough to retire on, which we all probably knew already.
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