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18th Feb 2019

A scene by scene breakdown of the time Catchphrase got very saucy

Snake charmer lol ok sure Jan

Ciara Knight

Mr. Chips was detained for questioning shortly afterwards on the grounds of suspected public indecency

Remember that time on Catchphrase when things got a bit sketchy?

You do. Divine intervention took place. It looked like Mr. Chips was “frying his chips”, if you know what I mean. You do.

Yeah, see? You do. It honestly looked an awful lot like Mr. Chips was performing a lewd act upon himself.

Well some of us around here *gestures broadly* welcome the events of a simpler time. One where a CGI oblong yellow man appeared to be having a quick tug of himself.

Forget about the nonsense that’s happening in the world today. Allow yourself a quick break. Go back in time. Feel joy again.

Let’s talk about that fateful round of Catchphrase.

Act I, Scene I – Blind Optimism

Marita and Sean are ready to attack the next Catchphrase board, both dressed in what they deem to be perfectly suitable attire, hands forcefully hovering above their respective buzzers. This is a big moment for them. It’s 1994, they’re on the television, 9/11 hasn’t happened yet, life is good. They’ve no idea what’s about to unfold. Although visibly sizzling under the heat of tens of studio lights, Marita and Sean are still very much in the dark. They’re expecting another rousing round of Catchphrase to unfold. Although their prize money varies greatly at this particular moment in the game, their ignorant sense of ease with the situation remains the same.


Act I, Scene II – Status Quo Is Threatened

With Marita’s choice to remove the centre square, we catch our first glimpse of mayhem. Mr. Chips is partially revealed. He’s wearing a tuxedo complete with a bold red bowtie and he’s gently rocking back and forth in a determined manner. With every thrust, Mr. Chips lets out a quick wink. Is the wink crucial to the scene? Is the tuxedo? Marita hasn’t a clue. She answers ‘dumb waiter’, you know, the common catchphrase so often used in everyday life. Shockingly, Roy Walker must withdraw his offer of £300 as it’s the wrong answer. Marita isn’t phased, she knew it was incorrect. Things are just getting started.


Act I, Scene III – Giddiness Emerges

As the camera moves to Sean for his turn, there’s something arresting about his smile. He nods to acknowledge that it’s his time to shine, but there’s something deeper in his eyes. Standing so close to the board and having the advantage of not being under immediate pressure to produce an answer, Sean may have clocked that Mr. Chips appears to be engaged in something untoward. He’s dressed as a young business professional and that’s precisely how he acts as he prepares to reveal another square on the board. Sean is the expert keeper of a dark and naughty secret, he will take it to the grave if necessary. That glimmer in his eye is a private matter, you should mind you own goddamn business.


Act II, Scene I – The Fateful Second Square

Looking at the board, this is a flawless lesson in comic timing. Had any other square been revealed at this point, the game may well have been over. The bottom centre would’ve ruined the illusion that Mr. Chips is having a rollicking good time alone, the top middle is probably quite uneventful, as is the bottom right. Although Sean had little control over choosing the square as he hit the buzzer, it’s exciting to imagine that he did it on purpose to maximise the comic effect. What if Sean was the mastermind behind this entire thing? Sure, Marita set things up with the first square choice, but Sean teed things up for greatness with his move. This is high art.


Act II, Scene II – Roy Walker Loses It (Part I)

Triggered by the audience, Roy, swiftly followed by Sean and Marita, loses his composure. This is fully understandable because it looks like Mr. Chips is thoroughly getting his jollies to completion. He’s wearing a tuxedo, thrusting backwards and forwards, winking at regular intervals and now he appears to be patting the back of his head in satisfaction. There is no other answer to this Catchphrase round, ‘When the Chips are down’ will surely win the jackpot. Roy is a professional, he’s been hosting the show for eight years at this point, coming across Mr. Chips engaged in all manner of questionable activities during his time. But this time, it’s saucy. This time, the chips are being fried. Accompanied by sauce.


Act II, Scene III – Marita Falls Behind

Perhaps she’s not as juvenile as the rest of us, or perhaps she simply refuses to laugh at something that she deems to be unfunny, but either way, Marita falls behind the pack. The entire audience is crippled with laughter, Sean is laughing, Roy Walker is struggling to carry out his very easy job. But Marita just wants to get the damn game wrapped up. Her prize pot is already significantly lower than Sean’s. Laughing is just wasting time, and since they’re nearing the end of the game, Marita is out for blood, and rightfully so. Much like her sleeveless denim jacket and also Mr. Chips in his current state, Marita is here to carry out a job. She has no time for childish matters.


Act III, Scene I – The Third Square

After patiently waiting for things to get firmly back on track, Marita quickly selects the third square to be revealed. Again, we’re looking at perfect comic timing. The picture now adds a finer detail, one where we see Mr. Chips raising and lowering his hat in time with the thrusting motion. Originally, he appeared to simply be patting himself on the head, but this is a far better outcome. He’s also got a pocket square, should he need to do any cleaning up afterwards. Not for the first time, Roy struggles to be heard over the volume of laughter coming from the audience. What we are witnessing here is magic unfolding, both literally and metaphorically.


Act III, Scene II – Sean Loses It Again

After a brief intermission bonus round, Sean secures another meaningless win, then begins to giggle. Again, he’s preempting what’s to come. Sean knows that they’re about to see another square being revealed on the board. If all goes to plan, the next tile should give some context to Mr. Chips’ seemingly inappropriate activities, but given how this game has run thus far, Sean knows that it’s very likely we’re going to become more confused, but also more certain that Mr. Chips is doing an unsightly deed. He chuckles like a giddy schoolboy during assembly, bowing his head to regain composure. Sean is winning the game, but he’s also winning the hearts of the nation with his relatable struggle.


Act III, Scene III – The Antics Intensify

As the fourth square is revealed, a new player enters the equation and the plot doth thicken. There lies what appears to be some kind of dinosaur / lizard / snake hybrid looking on in delight at the actions of one Mr. Chips. Whatever’s going down, it’s undoubtedly a very satisfying spectator sport. Add to that, the similar rocking motion between the two characters and what you’ve got here is the very essence of Catchphrase. Nobody cares if a stitch in time saves nine, what we tune in for is innuendo, witty back and forth between the presenter and contestants, a smidge of whimsy, some competitive yet tame smack talk, but also to see Mr. Chips looking like he’s beating the living daylights out of his little chipolata.


Act IV, Scene I – Roy Walker Loses It (Part II)

Unsurprisingly, Roy loses his reason yet again because of this latest development on the board. He’s only human. We can’t expect the presenter to remain impartial when the Van Gogh of the Catchphrase world is being painted right in front of our very eyes. No amount of stern words in his ear from the producer are enough to deter Roy from his insatiable appetite for banter. Everyone is having a spiffing good time, he doesn’t want to be left out, he doesn’t want to be the teacher who stands idly by at the theme park, nursing a cup of tea and chatting to the loner student who’s too scared to go on the teacups. Roy Walker is there to have a laugh and who are we to deny him that God-given right?


Act IV, Scene II – The Bell Tolls

Like the rain beginning to fall at a bouncy castle themed birthday party, the final buzzer sounds, signalling the end of the game. Roy is clearly pained to call time on what was one of the most exquisite Catchphrase rounds ever to be produced, but he must uphold his role as the presenter. He visibly doesn’t want this to end, but soldiers on, informing us that Sean has indeed beaten Marita by quite a margin. They’re both going home without empty pockets, which is good, but they’re also going home with the memories of a lifetime and probably some things to unpack during therapy in their later years. With the formalities out of the way, there’s just one thing left to do.


Act IV, Scene III – The Final Reveal

Of course! Mr. Chips was charming a snake by having a little hand shandy beneath the hidden squares! Don’t Marita and Sean look foolish now for not figuring out such a blatant conclusion any sooner? They should forever hang their heads in shame at the spectacles they’ve made of themselves on national television, in front of Roy Walker of all people. Don’t we all look silly now, giggling over what was so innocent. Mr. Chips was merely doffing his hat, stroking his cane, winking and also not wearing any pants. Those are standard practice techniques in the snake charming community. Call off the search party, the answer has been found. A conclusion has been reached. Everyone return to your useless existence. The dream is over.



Images via YouTube