Big Break, 1991

Big Break was the snooker based game show that put Jim Davidson on the light entertainment hot list.

The show was in part, inspired by ITV’s hit show Bullseye.  in May 1990, an unbroadcast pilot show was filmed.  It was hosted by another comedian Mike Reid, alongside snooker player and commentator John Parrott.  However then BBC Director-General: Michael Checkland, felt that the structure and scoring of the show was too similar to ITV’s Bullseye.  He also felt that Reid and Parrott did not have the right ‘double-act’ relationship.

The idea was not shelved.  Instead in 1991 a one-off special was filmed with the intention of being aired during the Christmas period that year.

While it used the same set, the show was now hosted by comedian Jim Davidson alongside former snooker player John Virgo.  A decision was made to re-edit the special to become the pilot episode of a new series.

Big Break finally made it’s debut in April 1991.  The show ran for fourteen series clocking up mammoth two hundred and twenty two episodes (inc seventeen specials).  Episodes were thirty minutes duration.


Each show began with Jim Davidson performing a brief stand-up comedy routine before introducing the contestants. Three pairs of chairs were on the left of the studio, where the contestants and snooker players would sit in their teams.  At the centre of the set was a full-size snooker table which was used in each round.  A question board and desk appeared from a back wall during the second round

Contestants were asked to retrieve a coloured ball from Davidson’s bag.  When the colour was revealed,  John Virgo announced which professional snooker player would be on that team.

The game consisted of five rounds in which generally contestants would focus on answering questions, while the snooker players did most of the snooker related challenges. For each challenge, the player was allowed one free shot to disperse the red balls.  The timer began the next time they struck the cue ball. If any red balls are potted during the initial break, they are still counted.






Hosted By

Jim Davidson and John Virgo


Channel: BBC1
Created By: Roger Medcalf, Mike Kemp and Terry Mardell
Original Transmission Dates: 30th April 1991 – 9th October 2002

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