For a time there, I wasn’t doing so good. OCD, which for years I’d managed – just about, to a degree – had rendered me incapable of leaving the house. All I did was sit on my couch and think, a life hijacked by thought. I thought. I felt sad. And every night, at 2am, I watched Bullseye.
I’d loved Bullseye as a kid, the darts-based quiz show that celebrated its 40th birthday this year. I wasn’t alone; at its peak, somewhere in the mid-Eighties, the Central TV show boasted a viewership of over 20 million. Contestants came for the audacious prizes – most famously, a speedboat! They stayed for the warmth, kindness, and community. Every night on the couch, I retreated to the comfort of a childhood pleasure. As my mind raged against me, I lost myself in the memory of a simpler time.
When I got better, the BBC let me make a documentary about Bullseye to celebrate its 40th year. With that came a budget to visit the show’s former contestants around the UK.
Those reruns of Bullseye on Challenge TV didn’t just deliver nostalgia but harked back to a time that just seemed kinder.
These days, it’s not unusual to see a prime-time gameshow in which a squirming celebrity is asked to eat a kangaroo penis or is doused in cockroaches. There on the TV, the warm glow of the screen illuminating the darkness, Bullseye host Jim Bowen patiently engaged with the contestants – asking them about the realities of their lives. I recall two brothers, both striking miners and obviously strapped for cash.
Hard times for humble people. Jim might as well have thrust the evening’s prize money into the pair’s hands within minutes of the show starting.