Big Break

Big Break is a British television game show featuring the game of snooker, mixed with traditional game show elements. It was broadcast on BBC One between 30 April 1991 and 9 October 2002. The show was hosted by comedian Jim Davidson and professional snooker player John Virgo.

Big Break
GenreSports game show
Created byRoger Medcalf
Mike Kemp
Terry Mardell
Presented byJim Davidson
StarringJohn Virgo
Voices of
  • Colin Ward Lewis (1991–96)
  • Zora Suleman (1997)
  • Charles Nove (1998 & 2001)
Theme music composer"The Snooker Song" by Captain Sensible
Composer(s)Mike Batt
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series14
No. of episodes222 (inc. 17 specials)
Production
Production location(s)BBC Elstree Centre (1991–93)[1]
BBC Television Centre (1994–2001)
Running time30 minutes
Release
Original networkBBC1
Picture format4:3 (1991–2001)
16:9 (2001–2)
Original release30 April 1991 (1991-04-30) 
9 October 2002 (2002-10-09)
Chronology
Related showsBullseye
Full Swing

Creation and format

The show was based on ITV's Bullseye. An unbroadcast pilot was filmed in May 1990. It featured Mike Read as the host, and snooker player and commentator John Parrott as his assistant. Michael Checkland, the BBC's Director-General, felt that the structure and scoring was too similar to Bullseye. He also believed that Reid and Parrott did not have the right 'double-act' relationship.

A one-off special was filmed with the intention of being aired during the Christmas period that year. While it used the same set, it was now hosted by comedian Jim Davidson, with former snooker player John Virgo as the assistant. It was instead re-edited to become the pilot episode of the first series. The original taping had been for a 45-minute special and had more rounds. Now being just under 30 minutes, continuity errors made the scoring inconsistent.

Each show began with Davidson performing a brief stand-up comedy routine before introducing the contestants. Three pairs of chairs were on the left of the studio, where the contestants and snooker players would sit in their teams. At the center of the set was a full-size snooker table which was used in each round. A question board and desk would appear from a back wall during the second round.

Contestants would not meet the snooker players until they were paired together during the taping. After some initial banter, Davidson would ask them to retrieve a coloured ball from his bag. When the colour was revealed, Virgo announced which professional snooker player would be on that team. Contestants would focus on answering questions, while the snooker players did most of the snooker related challenges. For each challenge, the player was allowed one free shot to disperse the red balls. The timer began the next time he struck the cue ball. If any red balls are potted during the initial break, they are still counted.

All contestants would go home with a Big Break trophy, snooker cue and their points converted into money. Snooker players would get their score made as a donation in their name to the charity of their choice. Some would waive their appearance fee to have it added to the donation.

The show's theme song is "The Snooker Song", from the musical The Hunting of the Snark composed by Mike Batt and performed by Captain Sensible.

Rounds

Red Hot

In this round, the team is given 10 seconds on a timer. The contestant is then asked three questions. An additional 10 seconds is added for each correct answer. The snooker player must then use that time to pot as many red balls as possible. For this round, there are only red balls on the table. Each ball represents one point. The team with the fewest points is eliminated.

In later seasons, teams were given 40 seconds initially, with 5 seconds removed for each incorrect answer.

Tie Break

This is only played between rounds if two teams share the lowest score. The contestant on each team must strike a cue ball so that it rebounds off the furthest cushion and returns to them. They only get one attempt each. Whoever gets their ball to come closest gets to stay, while the other is eliminated.

Virgo's trick shot

This mini-game was only played by the contestant who was eliminated after Red Hot. The table would be set up in a unique fashion, often using props. Virgo will then demonstrate a trick shot. The contestant then has one attempt to recreate the shot. If they succeed, they get to take an additional prize home. If they fail, Davidson will sometimes give them an obscure LP by a little-known band. If the player narrowly missed the pocket, Davidson or Virgo would sometime push the ball into the pocket with their hands.

A running joke was that Virgo sometimes missed the shot. This led to Davidson asking to try it and usually succeeding. Davidson would make a particular point to mock Virgo if the contestant succeeded after he had missed.

Pocket Money

In this round, the contestant stands opposite Davidson in front of the question board which has appeared. The snooker player must attempt to pot as many balls as possible within 90 seconds. If he misses, he must stop playing until Davidson gives him permission to continue.

Each ball has a cash value and subject. Their value depends on their regulation point in snooker. Red balls are the lowest value with £10. Black balls are the highest with £70. If the player pots a ball in the same coloured pocket, the prize is doubled. If he misses, Virgo will call out the colour, indicating the player must stop.

While the timer continues to lapse, Davidson will ask the contestant questions. The subject is determined by the ball colour; Pot Luck (Red), Past/Historic Events (Yellow), Music (Green), Places (Brown), People (Blue), Sports (Pink) or Screen/Film-TV (Black). This sequence keeps going until the contestant gets one question right. If the contestant is struggling, Davidson would give clues, or just give in. As there is no reward for the questions, it is imperative that the contestant answers quickly to give the player as much time as possible. The team with the lowest score is eliminated.

A common occurrence sees Virgo calling out a miss when a ball misses the intended pocket, but resuming play when the ball continues on into a different pocket.

Make or Break?

In the final round, the snooker table was set up normally, but with just six red balls. The team shared 90 seconds to complete their respective tasks. The snooker player would disperse the red balls before the round began.

The contestant is asked five general knowledge questions. The timer is paused once they are all answered, regardless of how many were correct. Before the snooker player takes over, he may nominate specific red balls that can be removed from the table. He gets one nomination for each correct answer the contestant gave. With the remaining time, the player must attempt to pot the remaining balls in order.

Each ball colour related to a different prize the contestant took home if the player potted it. The value of the prize increased with each ball in the sequence, with the black ball relating to the star prize. In earlier seasons, the player had to pot all red balls before the contestant won the first prize. Later, they only required one red ball. However, the player must ensure all red balls are potted before moving on to the next colour.

Transmissions

References

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