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 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.
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 the introduction of Bully driving the team bus in the opening titles. These also featured cartoon depictions of Eric Bristow, John Lowe, Dave Whitcombe, Keith Deller, Cliff Lazarenko, Bob Anderson, Jocky Wilson and Mike Gregory at the back of the coach.
A new set was introduced in the 11th series, with Jim 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 changed again and featured Bully jumping out of the sign on the back wall and charging around, trashing the set.
The character Bully was ambidextrous. In the opening credits of the show, he was shown to throw his darts with his right hand; however, prior to the advertising break midway through the show, he could be seen to write "End of part one" using his left hand.
Jim Bowen once described Bullseye as "the second-best darts-based game-show on television". There were no others at the time.
The revived series presenter Dave Spikey had appeared as a contestant on the show in the 1980s.
In 1989, John Cooper appeared on the show. He was later convicted of multiple burglaries, armed robberies, and, in 2011 following advances in forensic science, two double murders, one rape, and another sexual assault. Footage of his appearance on the show was later used by the prosecution to match him to witness reports at the time.
In round 1, the darts players threw one dart at a board in which each sector represented a different category of question (such as Pot Luck, Faces, Places, Sport, Showbiz, Affairs, History, Books, Words, Britain, Spelling). The first round of questions were worth £30 each, the second round of questions were worth £50, and the final round of questions were worth £100. The cash prize for hitting the board varied depending on what part of the board was hit; the outer ring was £30, next inner ring £50, then £100 and £200 for the bullseye. If contestants hit a category which they had not chosen, they would win no money for the throw, and could only win money through answering the question for that category if it had not already gone.
Up to and including series 7, the lowest-scoring couple would be eliminated at the end of the first round, but from series 8 onward, all three couples would stay in the game for the second round. After this the couple with the highest score went through.
The dartboard sectors in Series 1 had lower values compared to later series - (In order of moving into the board) £20, £10, £30 and the Bullseye was worth £50 (which also give the team the chance to answer a question from any category for any value on the board). The teams earned money by getting the question right to where the dart lands in the corresponding value. It was also preceded by an on-screen "order of play" tournament, by the closest dart to the bull on a special gold board, which was done off-screen in later series.
In round 2, the darts players threw three darts at a traditional matchplay dartboard, with the highest scoring player winning the question for their partner. The value of the question was the winning score. An incorrect answer passed the question to the other couples in value order. Initially, if the throw resulted in a draw then a re-throw by the tied players would take place for the value of the original throw. In the later series however, the re-throw wouldn't occur - the question would be open to either team on the buzzer instead. After three rounds of play the pair with the highest total winnings went through to Bully's Prize Board.
The other pairs received a set of darts, a tankard (silver goblet for female contestants), a 'Bendy Bully' and the money that they had won from the two rounds, which was counted during the ad break.
In the first series "pounds for points" didn't apply. Whichever team scored the most from throwing three darts, each time would get the chance to answer a choice of a question valued for £25, £50 or £101. If 2 players got the same score, they would again throw closest to the bull on the gold board.
At the beginning of part two, a professional dart player (or occasionally a celebrity up to and including series 4 and the 2006 series) would throw nine darts for a charity of the winning couple's choice. If the dart player scored 301 or more the donation was doubled. Celebrity players were given a 60-point head start but often performed badly and would often add some of their own money to beef up the prize fund.
Officially the highest score is 401 held by Alan Evans (in series 4) and the lowest was 95 by Cliff Lazarenko (in series 7). The first player on the show to achieve 301 or more with nine darts, was professional darts player Linda Batton, who scored 304 on the second show of the first series, she also scored 180 on her 2nd throw.1985-86: John Lowe
1986-87: Lionel Smith
1987-88: Ray Farrell
1988-89: Mike Gregory
1989-90: Eric Bristow
1990-91: Bob Anderson
1991-92: Mandy Solomons
1992-93: Mike Gregory
1994: Kevin Painter
In this round the final pair were faced with a large prize board containing large black sectors, smaller red sectors and a large red bullseye. They threw nine darts (three for the non-dart player and six for the dart player) and won a prize for each red sector they hit (however, if they hit a red sector twice, the prize was lost - hence the catchphrase "Keep out of the black, and in the red; nothing in this game for two in a bed". However, they could win the prize back by hitting it again). Sometimes though, in special charity episodes, contestants did win the prize twice. The bullseye represented 'Bully's Special Prize'.
For most of the programme's original run prize values were restricted by the Independent Broadcasting Authority, which may explain the perceived poor quality of prizes on offer. Although some prizes (such as a remote-controlled toy car or legendary "TV with wired remote control") were laughed at by the studio audience even then, smaller prizes were taken for granted at the time, and they seemed relatively lavish compared to those on offer in BBC game shows such as Blankety Blank. In a 2006 episode, Bully's Special Prize was a fully functional Bullseye Fruit Machine.
During series 1, the prize board had a green-red colour scheme; however this was replaced in series 2 with the board that would remain for the rest of the series.
In the 1991 Christmas special of the show, Dennis Priestley and John McCririck playing as a professional darts player/celebrity guest combination managed a 100% record with their nine collective darts taking out all eight main prizes and Bully's special prize, all of which went to nominated charities across the UK.
Having completed Bully's Prize Board, the winning pair had "the time it takes for the board to revolve" to decide whether to gamble their winnings from the prize board for the mystery Star Prize which was "hiding behind Bully" (in reality, hidden behind a screen in the studio adorned with the Bullseye logo). From series 11 onward, they also had to gamble the money they had won earlier in the show (it was at this point that the "Bus Fare Home" phrase came about). If they gambled, they then had to score 101 or more on a standard matchplay dart board with six darts (three darts each & non dart-player first). Contestants who failed to reach 101 were then invited to "come and have a look at what you could have won". The crew would then wheel out the Star Prize from behind a screen to the sounds of a remixed "sad" version of the theme music.
If the couple who took part in Bully's Prize Board refused to gamble, the second-placed couple from the second round was asked to gamble their money. If the second couple declined, the third couple was asked. On the rare occasions that no couple took up the gamble (this happened for the first time in Series 4 and again in series 7), the Star Prize was revealed and the show ended.
The Star Prize was usually a holiday (especially in later series), a car, a caravan or a speedboat. Sometimes in the earlier series, less lavish Star Prizes (fitted kitchens and the like) were given away so as to fit within the IBA's prize limits. In the last two series, after prize limits had been lifted, the Star Prize would sometimes be "Bully's Treasure Chest" of £5,000.
If in the event both the second and third place couples had tied on equal points (series 8 onwards), then both would be asked if they wanted to gamble. If both said yes, then the dart players would each throw three darts at the standard dartboard, the higher scorer winning.
On the show, it was never made clear if the two winning contestants had to share the Star Prize or if they got one each.
Bullseye was one of several game shows to be released as an interactive DVD game for Christmas 2005, although the game did not feature the voice of Jim Bowen, and 'Bully' was redesigned. A Bullseye board game was made around the same time. A 'Classic Bullseye' DVD game was released the following year, which featured the voices of both Jim Bowen and Tony Green and also classic footage from the show. A second edition of the board game was also released in 2006.
In 2005, it was announced that programme creator Andrew Wood had signed a contract with Granada Media for Granada to produce a one-hour long celebrity special Bullseye show to be hosted by Ant & Dec. This Bullseye special was part of Ant & Dec's Gameshow Marathon, in turn part of ITV’s 50th anniversary celebrations, and was aired on ITV on 22 October 2005. Vernon Kay and Coronation Street star William Roache were the contestants, accompanied by professional darts players Eric Bristow and Andy Fordham, while Tony Green reprised his role as co-host.
Subsequently Granada decided that a new series of Bullseye would be produced early the following year, on Challenge and that the show was to be hosted by comedian Dave Spikey. Bully was also redesigned for the new series, albeit very similar to the Bully used in the original series.
The new series of Bullseye returned on Challenge in April 2006. The show maintained the style of prizes from the original, bar white goods— none of the cash prizes had increased in value since the second series in 1982, although the bullseye on the category board had decreased to £150 from the £200 of the original series. Some of the prizes from Bully's Prize Board were of more modern gameshow standard, such as a TFT television and an MP3 player. Dave Spikey and Tony Green commented on BBC Radio 1's Colin and Edith show on 19 April 2006: "...[Bullseye is] The only gameshow on the television in which the prizes get a round of applause...".
The revived series was strikingly similar to the original series. Whilst refreshed, the show maintained the original theme music and stings and used a remade version of the original's second title sequence, Bully driving the team bus. A cartoon version of Dave Spikey replaced Jim's in the titles. The Challenge revival ran for thirty episodes.
On 19 May 2007, another one-hour long celebrity special was aired on ITV, this time as part of Vernon Kay's Gameshow Marathon. This time the contestants were newsreader Andrea Catherwood, footballer Graeme Le Saux and another Coronation Street star, Michael Le Vell, paired with professional darts players Martin Adams, Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld respectively. Once again, Tony Green reprised his co-host role. Jim Bowen did not appear on the Bullseye episode; instead, he appeared on the marathon's remake of The Golden Shot, acting as "Bowen the Bolt" (instead of "Bernie the Bolt"). At one point, he did make the comment to Kay, "Vernon, this is a bit like Bullseye used to be...throwing arrows for prizes!"
The theme music for the show was written by John Patrick, who was Head of music department at ATV and Central.
The show was unusual in having two different closing theme tune arrangements — a rapid, upbeat version (in the style of Spike Jones, complete with comical sound effects) played when the contestants won the Star Prize, and a more bluesy one in a minor key played when they lost or nobody took the gamble.Jim Bowen (1981–1995) (Original version)
Ant & Dec (2005 Gameshow Marathon)
Dave Spikey (2006 remake)
Vernon Kay (2007 Gameshow Marathon 2)
Referee/ScorekeeperTony Green (1982-1995, 2005, 2006, 2007)
AnnouncerNick Owen (1981–1982) (uncredited)
From Series 1 to 9, the show was recorded at ATV/Central House in Broad Street, Birmingham. In Series 10, it moved to Central's purpose-built studios at Lenton Lane in Nottingham, where it remained until its first demise in 1995. The Challenge revival was recorded at the Yorkshire Television studios in Leeds, and the Gameshow Marathon one-offs were produced at the London Studios.