“He’s fallen over!” – Billy J Smith
Let us rewind the time machine to 1985. Comedian and larrikin Paul Hogan has become Australian of the Year. Bob Hawke is Prime Minister. AM ‘stereo’ has been introduced to compete against FM radio. Mad Max III hits the cinemas.
On the cathode ray tubes, Channel 10 / 0 began broadcasting an overseas game show format that would bring delight to families and children alike, filled with mazes, costumes, physical exercise and plenty of slapstick, hosted by a radio personality and the sister of a TV personality. The show?
It’s A Knockout! beams into the Australian family rooms. Yes, there was the UK spin-off Almost Anything Goes, which was on air from 1976 to 1978, but we’re just going to put that aside for this time.
Hosted by TV and radio personality Billy J Smith and Fiona MacDonald (the sister of well-known TV personality Jacki MacDonald) the hosts would introduce the four teams competing against each other in a specially designed field, filled with walls, a pool, and mazes, surrounded by grandstands. The show was filmed in Dural, located in North West Sydney, using an old soccer field ‘Englefield Stadium’, which has been since demolished and suburban houses put in place.
The teams were labelled after four states in Australia – New South Wales in Red, Queensland in Yellow, South Australia in Green, and Victoria in Blue. These teams would be narrowed down to a particular suburb in that state, which would be the name of that team.
At the start of each show, Smith and MacDonald would drive out in their golf buggy or a novelty car of some sort, and present the upcoming events and teams. Depending on how far into the season the show was, they would present a summary on how each state and suburb were going point-wise, in the lead up to the finals.
Each episode had a special guest Umpire; either a sports star of the time, entertainer, or actor. Such people who had done the job were Iron Man Grant Kenny, Actor Peter O’Brien and Entertainer Ricky May.
There were many themed games to play, from Pirate Boat Race, Mountain Climbing, Bridge The Gap, Assaulted Peanuts, Loch Ness, pedal races, bee racing and many more. Four points were awarded to the winner, and Two points to the runner-up. You can see the entire list here on this archived Geocities It’s A Knockout! fan site.
Appearing as a simple concept, with colourful commentary from Smith and MacDonald, and the crowd cheering on from the grandstands, the show lasted from 1985 to 1987 before it was shut down, amid the neighbourhood surrounding the area complaining of the atmosphere, attention and budget costs. Episodes were replayed in the early hours of the morning in the early 1990s which exposed Generation Y to the fun format, which has resulted in years of fans complaining about either replaying the episodes again or bring the show back entirely.
In 2006, Channel 10 tried to tap into that nostalgia feel by putting a mini version into the reality show Big Brother and call it Friday Night Games, but went nowhere. Then, there was the comparison to the US game show Wipeout, but it had a different feel to it.
In late 2011, all hope was restored when Channel 10 announced It’s A Knockout! was coming back for 2011 – 2012 summer ratings, with hosts HG Nelson and Brad McEwan in charge of the hot-seat. Radio and TV personality Charli Robinson was given Umpire duties. This sounded great – until it was unearthed that the ‘Knockerdome’ would be based in Kuala Lumpur (a far reach from any Australian suburb) and that it would be riddled by McDonald’s branding. This was due to basically McDonald’s covering the cost for most of the show coming back. Our childhood was sold out.
Even the teams had changed. Still sitting with four, there was Victorian Firefighters in Green, NSW Paramedics in Blue, QLD Lifesavers in Yellow, and Team Macca’s in Red. However, all four teams weren’t competing at the same time in the episodes – just two teams per episode. Plus with Macca’s replacing South Australia, you do feel kind of sorry for the state that has the city of churches and survive on Farmer’s Union Iced Coffee.
The stadium itself was already used by The Biggest Gameshow In The World: Asia, so everything was set up and recycled. The size of the arena appeared so small, the games were limited in size and space, so it looked like it could’ve easily been done in someone’s backyard. No matter how colourful it shone, the fun had been taken out of it.
The reboot lasted 9 episodes, and quietly slipped into oblivion, never to be spoken about again.
Now, for nostalgic reasons, here’s a blooper reel which puts an even more cooler perspective on how fun the 1985 version was. Geeze, it was tops!