Bullseye - all you need to know about the classic ITV darts gameshow

Bullseye Jim Bowen ITV
(Image credit: EMPICS Sport)

Your complete guide to Bullseye and how it helped catch a murderer

Bullseye, fronted by the late great Jim Bowen, was one of the truly memorable gameshows. It also helped to unmask killer John Cooper, whose story is told in new ITV drama The Pembrokeshire Murders.

How did Bullseye help catch a killer?

Keith Allen Pembrokeshire Murders

Keith Allen plays John Cooper - aka 'The Bullseye Killer' - in The Pembrokeshire Murders

Bizarrely, part of the evidence used to eventually convict Cooper of the killings of Peter and Gwenda Dixon was his appearance on Bullseye. This led to him being known as the Bullseye killer.

A clip of Cooper appearing on Bullseye in 1989 shortly before the Dixons were killed was shown to the jury, with the prosecution saying his appearance matched an artist’s impression of a man seen withdrawing money using a bank card that belonged to the Dixons.

Cooper was convicted in total for four murders.

How did Bullseye work?

Bullseye hit upon the genius idea of combining the ability to play darts with answering general knowledge questions. Three pairs of contestants would take part, beginning with one player answering questions while the other - hopefully a good player! - chucked the arrows.

To start with the dart player would throw at the Bullseye board, which had various categories of questions like showbiz marked. If the player hit the showbiz section they’d win a bonus for their team. If they didn’t Jim Bowen would simply move on and ask the quizzers a question worth some money.

The team that accumulated the least amount of money is then knocked out. The first team knocked out collected the cash they’d accumulated, a set of darts, and, in later series, a “Bully” mascot.

The two remaining teams moved onto round two using a normal dartboard. The darts players would throw three darts and the highest scoring player would win the right for their partner to answer a question. If their partner got their question right they’d win the total scored by the dart player. At the end of this round whoever had accumulated the most cash would go through to the final round.

What happened in the final round?

The remaining team of two would then be faced with another special dartboard, this one with numbered red zones. Hit a red segment and the team would win a prize, like a stereo or a teas made! And if they hit the bullseye they’d win a special prize! Before the game starts, Jim Bowen delivers the immortal line: “In this game, keep out of the black and in the red, you get nothing at all for two in a bed!”.

The team is then asked if they want to gamble their prizes to win the star prize. If they leave with what they got, the team that came second would get the same chance. If they don’t want a crack, then it’s the pair who came third. Whoever goes for the gamble has to throw 101 or more with six darts.

Did people win rubbish prizes on Bullseye?

Well compared to what you might get on BBC rival Blankety Blank the Bullseye prizes were pretty good! However, it was always a joy when a couple from Wolverhampton looked at each other and thought what are we going to do with this speedboat we’ve just won?!

Who commentated?

Tony Green, who’s 81, provided the commentary. Tony was hugely popular for his commentating skills for both Bullseye and the BBC’s darts coverage.

Was Bullseye revamped?

Yes, Dave Spikey fronted a version on Challenge.

David Hollingsworth

David is the What To Watch Editor and has over 20 years of experience in television journalism. He is currently writing about the latest television and film news for What To Watch.

Before working for What To Watch, David spent many years on TV Times magazine, interviewing some of television's most famous stars including Hollywood actor Kiefer Sutherland, singer Lionel Richie and wildlife legend Sir David Attenborough. 

David started out as a writer on TV Times before becoming the title's deputy features editor and then features editor. During his time on TV Times, David also helped run the annual TV Times Awards. David is a huge Death in Paradise fan, although he's still failed to solve a case before the show's detective! He also loves James Bond and controversially thinks that Timothy Dalton was an excellent 007.

Other than watching and writing about telly, David loves playing cricket, going to the cinema, trying to improve his tennis and chasing about after his kids!