Worst to Best
Blankety Blank
Series Sixteen

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14 Episode Eighteen

Guest Panellists: George Baker, Claire Sweeney, Rory Underwood, Liz Dawn, John Leslie and June Sarpong.

It would be improper to accuse anyone involved in the production of unprofessionalism, but if Paul O'Grady's partner was one of the Executive Producers of the show, does that compromise objectivity? Certainly, Blankety Blank in this era is dominated by the host in a way like none other, unless we count the atrocious 2016 Christmas Special with David Walliams, which thankfully never made it to a series.
     But Blankety Blank in this era is the ultimate vanity vehicle, a relentless parade of narcissism, used to deliver non-stop gags of the lowest common denominator, masquerading as wit. In amongst the usual inappropriate remarks from Lily, including asking a sweet elderly male contestant if he's "let one go", or alluding to oral sex in front of him, there's another inappropriate question from the writing team who don't seem to grasp that innuendo is what you don't say. Here a question is about a neighbour wearing wooden knickers because she's "so scared of men", a question which sits uncomfortably close to a tale of a woman scared of being raped.
     One fun element when covering the original version of Blankety Blank (or "Proper Blankety Blank" as it's known here at The Anorak Zone) is focussing on the lesser-known panellists who may be forgotten in the present day. The odd lowly-rated stand up who got the gig at short notice, or a half-hearted impressionist who was quite big at the time but has since been forgotten. This element of Blankety Blank won't be taken up for this run, largely because confirming the identity of panellists that people aren't likely to know would make the article about five times as long. But it's also that it's nowhere near as intriguing to delve into a background only to find they were a presenter of an afternoon DIY show, or a bit part actor in two episodes of Holby City.
     However, just for the record, then Rory Underwood was a rugby player, and the other five names should be at least vaguely familiar, even if only via osmosis. Yet the real panellist of note here is George Baker, pictured, who was a panellist on the very first episode and didn't come back until this revival version. Rather aptly, he didn't come back after this appearance, either.

13 Episode Eleven

Guest Panellists: David Easter, Kathy Staff, Gray O'Brien, Siân Phillips, John Leslie and Troy Titus-Adams.

One of the bonuses of publishing these Blankety Blank articles is that occasionally people will share their memories. One such person was the first male contestant in this episode, Rick McWhirter. Rick admitted to being a bit of a saucy bugger himself in this edition, cracking a "Pussy Galore" gag, but he joins in with the spirit of the show.
     Rick's recollection was that his episode was recorded on 26th November 2000, so a decent time ahead of its March 2001 airdate. His main recollection was one that has been echoed by others who attended recordings of Lily's shows: that they're a lot funnier than they seem on TV. Now, admittedly, expecting the show to be funnier than it seems on TV isn't exactly the flight of Icarus, but it does make you wonder why they supposedly threw away the wrong bit during editing.
     This said, anyone who has seen clips knocking around on YouTube of Lily outtakes will be aware most of her schtick is just to swear and be even coarser than the transmitted version, so it's humour that, at the very least, isn't fit for the programme it's a part of. Another of Rick's recollections is that the show was recorded without rehearsal and very little guidance, with no preplanned gags. Despite Rick's preference for the original run of the series, he believed that no one could have hosted the show better in the more modern age of this revival, and that Lily's friendliness and generosity towards the contestants after recording made it a great personal experience.

12 Episode Ten

Guest Panellists: Donald Sinden, Sue Jenkins, Richard Thorp, Liz Dawn, Bradley Walsh and Kaye Adams.

As speculated in some articles covering the original series, there's perhaps the sense that Blankety Blank doesn't have a place in the modern age. Even during the Les Dawson era, as great as it could be, there was the increasing feeling that its foundation of what was basically seaside postcard humour was looking out of place in a world where Colin in Eastenders was telling Barry that he'd "pissed him off". If your mainstream primetime show pushes language boundaries, it does make other shows seem old hat by default.
     Such anachronisms aside, with the restrictions on prizes lifted, Blankety Blank with better prizes simply doesn't work. A comedy game show where contestants actually want to win the prizes only leads to frustration when the panellists are messing around. It's still far from Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? levels, but if you lose a week's holiday instead of a toaster because someone's not taking the game seriously, it's a different level of frustration.
     Despite all this, a 2020 Christmas Special made a decentish fist of things with Bradley Walsh as host. It did all naturally feel a little passé, but managed to claw back a lot of the show's core "family viewing" principles that were thrown out in the Lily Savage era. Yet times have moved on, and there's perhaps only a really specific area of time where the show could ever really have existed. The issue with trying to "modernise" or "update" TV programmes for the modern age is that by doing so, you often throw away what made them unique in the first place, and Blankety Blank's special kind of humour does look incredibly quaint when trying to be recreated thirty years after it was originally cancelled.
     Bradley Walsh appears here for his second of two episodes, after a guest spot in a BBC Lily episode three years earlier. Bradley's enthusiastic and tries to add some fun to proceedings, though it's all very forced and over-the-top. As with the many clips from The Chase where he giggles like a 10-year-old schoolboy at any answer that sounds slightly rude, there is perhaps a feeling that he puts it on as part of an act. Nearly falling off his chair trying to see up Lily's skirt is juvenile stuff, but Walsh must at least be credited for making the effort. Also putting in some work is Donald Sinden, one of Lily's regulars with six appearances throughout her whole run. However, he never appeared on the original show, and it's curious to wonder what Donald and some of the other panellists would have been able to achieve given more of a free reign under the earlier hosts.

11 Episode Five

Guest Panellists: Donald Sinden, Carol Smillie, Darren Day, Denise Welch, Tim Healy and Gayle Tuesday.

One of the real issues with the show after its transfer to ITV is the over-reliance on soap stars and TV presenters to make up the panel. This is not to suggest that soap stars couldn't make impressive panellists, but ultimately, actors are people who are paid not to be themselves for a living. And with the guests frequently containing younger people, it also means they have less experience to draw upon in engaging audiences.
     Altogether, out of 120 guest slots for the sixteenth series, only 10 of those slots are filled by professional comedians. And that's if you count Bradley Walsh and four separate appearances by "Gayle Tuesday". There are some actors known for comic parts, such as Frank Thornton and June Whitfield, and Donald Sinden, as pictured, puts in the effort, but when you've got a panel made up of, say, two people from Coronation Street and the presenters of Changing Rooms, what you're essentially doing is bringing the "supporting panellists" to a comedy entertainment series.

10 Episode Thirteen

Guest Panellists: Donald Sinden, Liz Smith, Dean Sullivan, Carol Smillie, Sid Owen and Gail Porter.

A more enthusiastic performance from Lily in this one, as it's clear she genuinely likes the panellists and enjoys engaging with them. However, one of the jokes recycled from the old show simply doesn't work in this ITV era: the jokes about the prizes. While a holiday to Boston, or a runner-up prize of a CD jukebox aren't the most amazing prizes to be given away in quiz show history, they're a considerable step up from the original show's croquet sets and silverware, making Lily's derision of the prizes somewhat redundant.
     There are times, when she drops all the "I like rough sex" routines, where it's clear that Lily is inspired by Les Dawson's time on the show, including episodes where she talks about her dressing room being so damp there's an otter in it. But the derision of the show's production values doesn't work when those production values have been elevated to something half decent. Ultimately you're left with the host making the same hackneyed jokes about cheap prizes, the material not being updated for a new decade to accommodate the difference.

9 Episode Twelve

Guest Panellists: John Barnes, Sherrie Hewson, Jeremy Edwards, Julie Goodyear, Rhodri Williams and Josie D'Arby.

An episode that begins with another jaded Lily performance, deriding the show, but not in a fun way, and adding viking rape and oral sex references to her arsenal. Yet what makes it rate surprisingly highly here is the presence of elderly contestant George (surnames aren't always asked for in this version) who makes her laugh against her will. Telling her he auditioned for Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and only found out he was put on Blankety Blank instead just a few weeks ago, George provokes a response of genuine enjoyment for Lily.

8 Episode Fifteen

Guest Panellists: Junior Simpson, Louise Jameson, George Layton, Kerry Katona, Ross Kelly and Debra Stephenson.

Some reviewers suggest that Lily is a good host for the series in that she keeps the panellists under strict control. But, while the quiz keeps moving and never threatens to get derailed, it does beg the question as to what the point of hiring celebrity panellists is if you're not going to let them speak? Ultimately, because the various celebrities are allowed little more than to say their answer, it forces the show's only humour to come from Lily herself, a brand of acerbic remarks that can get wearying, and lacks variety.
     Her obvious disinterest in many of her guests doesn't help. She starts the show here by hoping that comedian Junior Simpson, in his sole appearance, will provide some laughs. Now, granted, even if she had let Junior Simpson speak, the most he might have provided would be a smile, or possibly a half chuckle, but the point is, he's not even given a chance. So Blankety Blank 2001 exists in an odd financial state, whereby the producers hire a comedian for the panel and then never let him tell any jokes.
     As this is a more recent programme, just celebrating its 20th anniversary - practically brand new television by Anorak Zone standards - then the ratings the series obtained are far more readily available. The series overall averaged at 6.1 million viewers, though this particular episode had the lowest ratings, with just 4.94 million tuning in.