Bullseye is a British game show television programme, with a darts theme. It was first made for the ITV network by ATV in 1981, then by Central from 1982 until 1995, and was hosted by comedian and TV presenter Jim Bowen.
The show had an animated mascot named Bully – an anthropomorphic, large, brown bull – who wore a red/white striped shirt and blue trousers.
Bullseye was created and owned by Andrew Wood (with comedian Norman Vaughan), who came up with the idea after research into aspects of game shows with mass appeal. Programme associates on the show were Mickey Brennan and Roger Edwards.
The series was centred on darts. Three pairs of contestants (each pair with one person to answer questions and one darts player) were pitted against one another to win prizes ranging from major prizes (such as a new car, a speedboat, a caravan or a luxury holiday) to consolation prizes of a set of darts, a tankard (for male contestants), a silver goblet (for female contestants) and a ‘Bendy Bully’ (a rubber model of the show’s mascot).
The show originally aired on Monday nights in September 1981 and was produced by ATV. In 1982, Bullseye was moved to Sunday afternoons, and a new co-host, Tony Green, a professional darts referee and commentator, was brought in to keep track of the scores; this helped to achieve around 17 million viewers. Green (who appeared in the first series as a charity thrower) was initially brought in merely to act as a scorekeeper and commentator, but over the years his role grew: by the time the show ended he was essentially the co-host.
Bullseye was moved from Sunday afternoons to Saturday afternoons from 1994 to 1995. A 15th series was planned in 1996, but Andrew Wood refused since the ITV network centre required new conditions, and he believed it would lose its appeal. After an eleven-year hiatus, Bullseye was revived for a new series, which was recorded for the digital channel Challenge. It was produced by Granada at Yorkshire Television in the Leeds Studios, and was hosted by Dave Spikey.
On screen, the show evolved as follows:
The first three series had the players throwing (from the point of view of the viewers and the audience) towards the right for the first round and to the left for all subsequent rounds. From the fourth series, all three boards in use rotated on a single pillar, and all throws were to the audience’s right. The first four series featured opening titles of Bully jumping out of a sign and walking into a pub to play darts; this was shortened from series 2 onwards, with new theme music and musical beds from series 4. The opening credits of series 1, much longer than the version used from series 2 onwards, although containing numerous elements of what would become the show’s familiar theme, feature a noticeably different arrangement of the theme tune.
From series 5, the entire set was essentially inverted. The studio audience would now be seen in shot throughout the show, and the viewers would see all darts being thrown to the left. From the studio audience’s point of view, everybody continued to throw to the right. Series 5 also saw Bully driving the team bus in the opening titles and ejecting himself from the driver’s seat to ride a flying dart. These titles also featured cartoon depictions of Bowen at the front of the coach, and Eric Bristow, John Lowe, Dave Whitcombe, Keith Deller, Cliff Lazarenko, Bob Anderson, Jocky Wilson and Mike Gregory at the back. This same title sequence was used for the revived series, but featuring depictions of presenter Dave Spikey at the front of the coach and professional darts players of the 2000s at the back.
A new set was introduced in the 11th series, with Bowen – who since the second series had opened the show by coming through the audience – now making his entrance through the opening that would then drop a panel behind which the star prize would be hidden. In the 13th series, the opening titles consisted of Bully jumping out of the logo at the back of the studio and charging about to cause chaos on the set.
For Comic Relief in March 1993, a special crossover between Bullseye and the BBC‘s snooker-based game show Big Break (the creation of which had been partly influenced by Bullseye) was planned, with guest comedians as contestants, and with Bowen and Big Break host Jim Davidson, along with scorers Tony Green and Big Breaks John Virgo, effectively taking their counterpart’s role within the game for humorous effect. Bowen and Davidson were both very enthusiastic about the idea; however the proposal never came to fruition, reportedly after ITV wanted the rights to repeat broadcasts as a self-contained programme, to which the BBC declined.
Bowen once described Bullseye as “the second-best darts-based game-show on television”. There were no others at the time