The Golden Shot was a British television game show produced by ATV for ITV between 1 July 1967 and 13 April 1975, based on the German TV show Der goldene Schuß. It is most commonly associated with host Bob Monkhouse, though, three other presenters also hosted the show during its lifetime. Hostess Anne Aston was on hand to read out the scores achieved by the contestants, and each month a “Maid of the Month”, usually a glamour model of the era, would demonstrate the prizes and announce the contestants. When Bob Monkhouse returned to present the show in 1974, he was joined by co-hostess (to Anne Aston) Wei Wei Wong, a recent “Bond Girl” and an ex-member of the Young Generation and Second Generation dance troupes. This was one of the earliest regular appearances by an East Asian woman on British TV.
The show involved the “Tele-Bow”, a crossbow attached to a television camera guided by a member of the public. It shot a bolt at an exploding target embedded in an apple positioned on a topical backdrop (usually an enlargement of Bob’s own cartoons). In the first round, the crossbow was operated by blindfolded cameraman Derek Chason receiving instructions from a contestant, either playing at home by phone, or in studio from an isolation booth (“Up, up, up, STOP, left a bit, STOP, down a bit, STOP, left a bit, STOP . . . FIRE!”). First round winners from previous shows would be invited to the studio to compete in pairs using crossbows fitted with rifle butts, sights, and triggers mounted on stands. In later rounds, the contestants operated the crossbow themselves, first by remote control using a joystick, and finally handling the “Tele-Bow” directly for the ultimate prize. The last and most difficult task was to fire the crossbow bolt to cut a fine thread holding a small door closed. Breaking the thread opened the door producing a shower of gold coins.
Contestants who successfully negotiated seven (later four) rounds of targets won a reasonable prize; those who missed got a negligible prize. Most who reached the final stage operated the Tele-Bow like a rifle, with mixed results. One winner simply stood next to it and used a light touch on the rifle butt, sighting using the TV screen.
The show’s first host was Canadian singer and record producer Jackie Rae. Bob Monkhouse was a guest star on the tenth episode, and his autobiography reveals he did so fully intending to demonstrate to the producers that he should replace Rae as host. The plan worked, and Monkhouse took over as host from the 15th show onward. His quick wit, and willingness to revel in the show’s chaotic nature led the Monkhouse era to be regarded as the show’s golden age – by programme 26, the viewing figures were up by 50%. Due to the programme being live, (a requirement, because contestants took part over the telephone) Bob Monkhouse often chatted to the participants to fill in whilst the crossbow was adjusted after the previous round.
The next host was comedian and entertainer Norman Vaughan, who was assisted by regular hostess Anne Aston and for several months “Maid of the Month” Cherri Gilham. In theory, Norman Vaughan was an ideal host for the show but the pressure of the live show seemed to overwhelm him and he was never as confident a host as Monkhouse. Audience figures began to drop and in late 1973, he was replaced by comedian (and former footballer) Charlie Williams. Williams, of Barbadian ancestry, was rather a novelty on British TV at the time, being a black man with a broad Yorkshire accent. Despite his cheerfulness and amiability he proved unsuited to handling the pressure of a live TV show where things frequently went wrong. After six months, Williams was also replaced.
ATV’s production controller, Francis Essex (who had fired Monkhouse in 1972 for accepting a gift from razor manufacturer Wilkinson Sword) met with Monkhouse to invite him back onto the show. Monkhouse had no hesitation in accepting the offer, though, his agent negotiated that he would only return if ATV took up an option on the American game show The Hollywood Squares. This was agreed, and Monkhouse returned as host of the new season of The Golden Shot on 14 July 1974. Very soon it was obvious that the show was back at its peak; however, the last edition of the show was transmitted on 13 April 1975. ATV felt that the show had a long successful run, and it was retiring various old shows to make way for new ones, including Monkhouse’s version of Hollywood Squares, Celebrity Squares, which debuted on 20 July 1975.
The show’s catchphrase became “Bernie, the bolt!” (originally “Heinz, the bolt!”, as Heinz had been brought over from Germany when the show was imported). The instruction was from the host to the armourer that the crossbow bolt should be loaded. Three people acted as “Bernie” on the show; Alan Bailey, Derek Young, and Johnny Baker (a film unit grip). There was an element of mystery associated with the crossbow loaders, as they were not introduced by name and said nothing.
In 1991, the idea was used for the final round, “The Dart Through the Heart”, of the Bob Monkhouse gameshow for newly married couples, Bob’s Your Uncle. The winning couple would compete for a jackpot where one partner was blindfolded and the other guided them in trying to shoot a dart into a heart-shaped target. The armourer for this was female, and introduced by the request, “Donna, the dart”. [Wikipedia]