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RIP Tony Green - Darts Commentator

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  • RIP Tony Green - Darts Commentator

    Things and people who were regarded as Sunday institutions in 1980s Great Britain are very easy to write about, and this gentleman that I am paying tribute to was someone who was a Sunday institution himself in his day. Imagine that it is around 5.00 pm on an very British early Sunday evening in around about 1988-1989: you've had your roast beef and Yorkshire pudding some four hours ago; you have had the black forest gateau for dessert, and with all the dishes laying idle in the sink because Nanette Newman has not turned up with her Fairy Liquid, it's time to become a couch potato and absorb some telly. Two hours of a Cary Grant film or some sport, (the irony of Darts perhaps?, but certainly not the EastEnders omnibus), after all that it's now time for a bit of Bully - after all, it is school tomorrow, and I don't want to face that sort of Bully either. Twenty minutes into the show, we get the most exciting thing to happen on a Sunday since that morning's church service.

    Innnnnn one... "something for the wife... a brand new washing machine" - well, he didn't actually mention the prize itself but, but he did mention the prize number in which one would lose if hit twice by a dart. (Repeat eight times until one gets to "And Bully's Special Prize...") That was the shape of Sunday teatimes in the late 1980s; if Jim Bowen was the face of ITV at around 5.00 pm on Sunday, then Tony Green, who has died from a long battle with Alzheimer's aged 85, was certainly the voice of it. (Watch out for several Challenge TV tributes coming up in the next week or so). OK, he might have been to Bullseye what the Dolly Dealers were to Play Your Cards Right, but one could just about think of him as being within celebrity status. Of course, Green didn't just do Bullseye; he also oversaw Thatcher-era professional Darts players such as Eric Bristow, John Lowe and Jocky Wilson on the main sports events, where sometimes the sport and Bullseye would appear in the same Sunday afternoon schedule, and some of them such as Bristow even made it onto Bullseye, providing comparisons with the amateur contestants, known as the "throwers" on the show. (Those who answered the questions were the "knowers" of course).

    Tony Green's association with the Darts game show was back in its first series 1981 when it appeared as a Coronation Street warm-up on Monday nights just before ATV became Central for the second series; he had appeared on screen as a player. As a matter of fact, around the same time there was another programme called Bullseye on BBC 2 which was also a Darts competition. Bowen (who had to do everything on the show in those days) had to shout the scores out. By the mid 1980s Green was seen more prominently on Bullseye in the "Pounds for Points", the Prize Board and the Bully's Star Prize at the end, provided that: A) at least one of the teams had agreed to lose their £150 and only get a total of 73 between six darts; and: B) they had plenty of room in their front garden to keep a speedboat because Wolverhampton is at least 150 miles away from the coast. By 1988, his role on Bullseye was promoted to commentating or "telling the story" on the category board during the first round. "Well, he went for History, and it's ended up in Showbiz", or: "he went for the Bull and he's hit Faces". It was around this time when the three couples were kept in for the second round, not to mention the nicer blue tube lights in the studio, and that was when Green was properly noticed as being part of Bullseye as Jim Bowen was. After the commercial break, it was a case of "keep out of the black and in the red; nothing in this game for two in a bed" which provided a bit of Carry On-esque innuendo due to the latter part of that catchphrase. Two in a bed... ha-ha-ha!

    By 1993, the producers being influenced by Big Break, and the semi-official Davidson-Virgo double act, Green became the straightman to Bowen, appearing in a few cheesy opening gambits when Bowen arrived in the studio via the car or speedboat entrance, and it didn't really uphold much in the run up to the forthcoming games, and Saturday evenings seemed like a demotion from Sundays, a la That's Life!, trying to attract the "back from the football crowd" viewers on an early Saturday teatime, known as the Metal Mickey or Worzel Gummidge slot over a decade before. The original Bowen era ended in 1995, probably because of the move to Saturdays, although repeats were still being shown in its traditional Sundays slot in the Central region. Still, he helped Bullseye to be an institution as Bowen's "assistant" with some episodes reaching up to 20 million during the winter months, sometimes even beating Coronation Street in the BARB ratings.

    Jim Bowen may have retired from Bullseye by the mid 2000s, but Green revived his old role for the Challenge revival with Dave Spikey as host, even though just like a lot of 21st century game show revivals, it did feel like too much of a parody of the original Bowen era, and the sub-Sun newspaper models just being "ornaments" when the star prize was unveiled at the end. Give me Bowen any day of the week, but preferably Sundays. Here, Tony Green was more Tony Grey for his black sub-Jimmy Tarbuck hair in the Bowen-era became grey by 2006 when the Spikey version was made, but at least it wasn't Spikey hair! Since Bullseye, Green had narrated a Comic Relief special on the sport, and in 2010 he was treated for cancer of the tongue. He has had more of a lowkey profile since the 2000s and apart from guest appearances on shows such as Game Show Marathon, he was in semi-retirement, at least.

    Tony Green was super, smashing, and great as well - he was well worth all the speedboats in the West Midlands.

    I've everything I need to keep me satisfied
    There's nothing you can do to make me change my mind
    I'm having so much fun
    My lucky number's one
    Ah! Oh! Ah! Oh!