|William G. Stewart (1988–2003)|
Adam Hills (Celebrity, 2013–2014)
Sandi Toksvig (2014–Present)
|Anthony Hyde (1988–1989)|
Laura Calland (1989–2003)
Philip Lowrie (alternating)
Sarah Wynter (substitute)
Jennie Bond (Celebrity, 2013–2014)
David Riley (2014)
Bill Torrance (2014–Present)
|Broadcast (Channel 4)|
|Regent Productions (1988–2003)|
Remedy Productions/Argonon (2013–Present)
Fifteen to One is often said to be the greatest quiz show in the UK.
The 15 contestants stood in a semicircle, each behind a lectern with a number from 1 to 15. (A similar layout was used by the later The Weakest Link game show.) Though the design varied slightly over the years, the essential elements were a number on the front of the lectern, a name badge either on top of the lectern or worn by the contestant, and three green neon lights to represent the lives of the contestant. The numbers were allocated by drawing lots from a bag before videotaping. Upon elimination from the game, a contestant had to sit down and his or her spotlight went out.
A separate lectern was moved in place for the third round, with the semicircle behind it no longer lit.
During the first two rounds, 12 contestants had to be eliminated.
Each of the 15 numbered contestants began the quiz with three 'lives'. Each contestant was asked a general-knowledge question in numerical order and given three seconds to answer. If an incorrect answer was given, the contestant lost one of the three lives. After all of the 15 contestants were each asked a question, another round of questioning began in the same manner. Any contestant who failed to answer both of their questions correctly lost both remaining lives and was eliminated. Stewart's succinct explanation of Round 1 was "Two questions each in the first round: one correct answer from you to survive."
The outcome of Round 1 could vary considerably. Sometimes nobody was dismissed at all, while on other occasions there were as few as five contestants left standing. There was never a case when only three or fewer contestants remained from Round 1 (making Round 2 impossible) although William G. Stewart once jokingly said that, if this happened, he would give a talk on the Parthenon Marbles to fill the time. Stewart is an outspoken supporter of returning the Marbles to Greece, and once presented a Fifteen to One special on the subject.
At this point, each contestant had either 2 or 3 lives remaining. As in Round 1, questions were asked to contestants 1, 2, 3, etc. in turn, with one life lost for an incorrect response. As soon as one player answered correctly, the player could begin nominating – choosing and calling out the number of the next contestant to face a question. If the nominated contestant did not give a correct answer, the nominee lost a life and the nominator had to nominate again. A correctly answering nominee became the new nominator. Loss of a contestant's final life removed him or her from the game. Towards the end of the show's original run, a new rule forbade contestants from nominating the person who had just nominated them (this rule was abandoned in the revival series). When only three contestants remained, the first phase of the quiz was over and the programme paused for a commercial break.
Round 2 had no fixed duration or number of questions; it varied depending on how many players survived from Round 1 and how well they performed. It was possible, however, that it could keep going on if there weren't any wrong answers given, thus the questions would all be used up. To prevent this from happening, the questions gradually became more difficult and obscure, resulting in more incorrect answers and eliminations.
Round 3: The FinalEdit
The end game (usually called "the final") was played for points. Before it began in earnest, the three contestants were restored to the full set of three lives; also, after the first few series, the number of lives that each contestant had remaining at the end of Round 2 also became part of the contestant's score. Thus, for example, those contestants who had three lives left started the second phase with a score of three points. This serves to give contestants who had not lost a life in the first phase of the game a small advantage.
Before the round started, a brief introduction to each of the three contestants was made by the voice-over, naming occupation and hobbies or interests (the introductions often being lengthened or shortened to accommodate an unusually short or long game).
In the end game, up to 40 questions were asked, with the number of remaining questions displayed at the bottom right-hand corner of the televised picture. A wrong answer cost one life (three lost lives spelled elimination, regardless of score), while correct answers scored 10 points. The first question was open to all contestants to answer on the buzzer. Once one of them answered three questions correctly, he or she was given the choice to answer the next question or to nominate one of the other two players to answer.
From this point on, after each correct answer, the host asked "Question or nominate?". If a nominated contestant failed to answer a question correctly, the nominator again had a choice of "Question or nominate?". If a contestant chose to answer a question himself or herself and failed to answer it correctly, the next question was asked on the buzzer. After two contestants had been eliminated, the remaining contestant was asked the remaining questions one by one. Once all 40 questions were asked or the last remaining contestant lost all of his or her lives, the game was over. The contestant who survived longest was declared the winner. If two or three contestants survived through all 40 questions, the player with the top score (regardless of lives left) was the winner. In episodes where all 40 questions were asked, any lives that remained were added to the winning contestant's score, with a value of 10 points each. This meant the maximum possible score was 433 if they kept all their lives in the first two rounds, and correctly answered all 40 questions in the Final (this was only achieved once in the show's whole run).
Round 3 could vary considerably in length. Thus, the programme was structured in such a way that it could be shortened or lengthened easily. For example, if the recording was running short, Stewart could show the finals board to the viewers at the end, or show the trophies for that series. If it was running long, the contestant introductions before Round 3 could be cut short.
In the Grand Final each season (except the first seven), all questions in the final round were asked on the buzzer, until two contestants had lost all their lives. If and when this happened, the remaining questions were asked to the winning contestant in the usual way.
For the revived version, when a question is answered incorrectly on the buzzer, in the Grand Final, it is repeated for the other contestants who get a chance to answer it themselves.
The 15 highest-scoring winners and their totals during any given series were displayed in a table referred to at different times as the Finals Board or "Leaderboard". The board was cleared at the beginning of each new series, and the winners of the first 15 episodes were automatically entered onto it in descending order by their score in the final round. Beyond the 15th episode, earlier winners could be displaced from the board by being outscored, and newer winners who failed to surpass the last-place score did not earn a slot on it at all. If more contestants were tied for last place than there were available slots at the bottom of the board, they were said to be "on the sidelines," and were frequently listed off to one side rather than on the board itself. (E.g. three contestants tied for 14th place.)
At the end of the series, those people whose names remained on the finals board competed in the Grand Final. An unscreened playoff took place immediately before the Grand Final if there were still people on the sidelines tied for 15th place.
The format of a Grand Final differed in Round 3; after the first few series, all the questions were played on the buzzer. Presumably this was to prevent the player who correctly answered the first question from simply taking all subsequent questions themselves, and never nominating an opponent.
In the revived version, all participants have three chances to reach the final of an episode, and, since the third series, contestants who still have one or two chances left before the Grand Final, are allowed to come back for the first episode of the next series, if and when it is commissioned; however, if they do so on either of their first two attempts, they aren't allowed to return for the next episode. Because of this, there is more chat with the contestants in order for the host to learn more about the contestants as they play the game.
There was no actual prize for winning an individual episode. This meant that a lot of players would win one of the daily shows, but would not post a winning score to trouble the high-score board for a place in the Grand Final. All winning players were invited back for the next series. Some players became so regular that in the last few series, Grand Final winners would not get such an invitation. Initially, players who did not win were generally not permitted to compete again; this rule applied even if they had been previous winners. However, in the year 2000, the rule was altered to allow players who had previously played a while ago and had not gotten as far as the Grand Final to apply to be on the show again.
In the revived version, the winner of each heat wins receives a trophy, regardless if their score is high enough to go on the leaderboard.
The series prize tended to be a classical artifact (a Greek vase), and was presented to the winning contestant by the regular voice-over artist, Laura Calland (who married Stewart in 1997). Calland's voice-overs were occasionally provided by other presenters, usually Philip Lowrie and occasionally Sarah Wynter, but only Calland was seen on screen, when she presented the prize. In later series, the highest-scoring person on the finals board also received a minor trophy. Between Series 1 and Series 3 the original voice-over was Anthony Hyde, although he was never seen on screen, and William G. Stewart presented the prize himself in the Grand Final. Calland became the regular voice-over artist at the beginning of Series 4 after Anthony Hyde left Series 3.
The series prize on the revived version is £40,000; winners of this prize, however, are not permitted to appear on the next series.
1999 Schools SeriesEdit
In the spring of 1999, a schools' version of the show was made. 108 schools took part. Each episode featured three teams representing their schools, and each team consisted of five students.
Each contestant had two turns answering one question on each turn, with a correct answer scoring ten points.
Each contestant was asked three questions in turn; correct answers were worth five points if they had to confer, and ten points if they answered it without any help.
Each team's captain competed in this round, with 30 questions were asked on the buzzer, for a maximum overall possible score of 550. This was also the only time the three-lives concept came into play; if a contestant gave three wrong answers, they were eliminated.
At the end of the series, the nine schools with the highest scores would compete in three semi-final episodes, the winners of which competed in the Grand Final.
John M. Lewis