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Take Your Pick (1955-68)

Courtesy of David Lucas/Michael Miles Ltd

Main image of Take Your Pick (1955-68)
Arlington Television & Radio / Rediffusion for ITV, 23/9/1955-26/7/1968
Nearly 500 x 30 min edns, black & white
ProducerMichael Miles
DirectorsAudrey Starrett
 John P. Hamilton
Devised byMichael Miles

Host: Michael Miles; Announcer: Bob Danvers-Walker; Hostesses: Jane Murray, Elisabeth Kingdon

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Michael Miles hosts the hopefuls competing to win big prizes. But first they have to negotiate the Yes No Interlude, and avoid the booby prizes.

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The first of the give-away quiz programmes to be featured on the new ITV network in late September 1955, this popular series represented a wide turn from the generally 'egghead' quiz programmes of the period to a parlour game atmosphere with broad humour and simple questions aimed at the average family audience.

Like its stablemate show, Double Your Money (ITV, 1955-68), which premièred just a few evenings later, Take Your Pick embraced the participation of both the viewer and the exuberant studio audience, whether the contestants reached 'tonight's star prize' or failed to answer their questions.

The resident question-master was the genial New Zealander Michael Miles, a fast talker who established a slick style for conducting the fast-paced show. The format, devised by Miles himself, involved taking contestants from the studio audience and putting them through a series of obstacles before they could get a shot at the prizes. There were forfeits: a 60-second spot where the contestant had to answer rapid-fire questions without the use of the words 'yes' or 'no', and finally three questions which would win the contestant the key to a numbered box of their choice. Seven of the ten boxes had genuine prizes and three had 'booby' prizes (a humorous but worthless item). One also held the key to the coveted Box 13, which could reveal either an expensive household item or a disappointing booby.

Then Miles would turn up the heat with some snappy cash bidding for the key, with contestants forfeiting their right to a prize, while the studio audience launched into competing chants of 'open the box' or 'take the money'. This particular will-they, won't-they sequence evoked a powerful psychological involvement for the viewer (in a pre-phone line television age).

In its original 13-year run, the show persistently figured in the Top Ten ratings while simultaneously attracting criticism for being deliberately down-market and catering to the lowbrow viewer. In the 1968 TV franchise changes, when Thames Television took over from Rediffusion (for London), Take Your Pick was dropped. In 1992, the show was revived by Thames (with Des O'Connor as host), accompanied by a delightfully cynical piece by the Daily Mail in March 1992, in which it was suggested that the theme of placing a cash value in advance on something whose actual worth was uncertain bore a distinct resemblance to that other great game of chance - the awarding of TV franchises.

Tise Vahimagi

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Video Clips
1. A tin of corned beef (4:09)
2. A quite expensive potato filler (4:04)
Complete 1968 episode (25:19)
Double Your Money (1955-68)
Associated Rediffusion / Rediffusion Television
Game and Quiz Shows