The money or the bag? The travelling game show and the host that united NZ

by Paul Little / 11 January, 2019
Selwyn Toogood rolls into town in his Fiat “bubble car”.

Selwyn Toogood rolls into town in his Fiat “bubble car”.

RelatedArticlesModule - related

By hokey! Selwyn Toogood and the great Kiwi travelling game show.

It takes a lot to shock us, but the following advertisement for a theatrical entertainment recently knocked us for six: “The Gameshow Network presents a live parody version of the classic Kiwi game show, It’s in the Bag. We’ve… scripted some of John Hawkesby’s most aggressive banter…”

John who? Lovely man. Consummate broadcaster. Could turn his hand to anything. But anyone with an ounce of historical sensitivity knows that Selwyn Featherston Toogood was It’s in the Bag.

Toogood is credited with originating the show on radio in 1954 and dragging it kicking and screaming (with delight) into the television age, hosting it on screen from 1973 to 1986.

The format, like that of all good quiz shows, was simple yet complicated. The simple bit was there were numbered bags containing prizes of varying value – from potato peelers to motorbikes, for instance. Contestants picked a bag, and neither they nor Toogood knew what was in it. He then offered them a cash alternative to the prize and they could take the money or the bag. He would increase the cash offer until they either took the money or he decided he had gone high enough.

The complications came in the various segments: “The Thing”, where the fewer clues it took to guess the answer, the bigger the prize; “Post Bag”, where people wrote in with a bag number and the amount for which they could be bought; “Travel Bag”, with the series’ grand prize; and the bit where he picked someone at random from the audience.

Toogood was a master – if that’s the right word – of the dad joke. One contestant was tempted with the possibility of a brand-new “polisher-scrubber” as a prize. Steadfastly, she insisted on taking the money, at which point Toogood revealed the polisher-scrubber was… a scrubbing brush. The wag.

It was regarded as bad form for contestants to take the money. And if you took the bag and got the booby prize, you had to staunch it out. The contestant who got the vegetable peeler in 1974 handled it magnificently, saying: “We needed one in the flat, anyway.”

When another contestant vouchsafed that she was a computer programmer – in 1974! – you felt Toogood was still coming to terms with the fact women had the vote. “How do you programme a computer, as a matter of scientific interest?” he asked her.

“It consists of writing a set of instructions for the computer to do something,” she replied.

“You’re going to make a wonderful wife for somebody, aren’t you?”

For a quizmaster, he could be a little slapdash on details. Someone was asked to define an oceanarium, or as Toogood spelt it out “o-c-h-e-a-n-a-r-i-u-m”. “Something to do with the ocean, I suppose,” ventured the possibly confused contestant. Near enough.

More than anything, if one is seeking reasons for the show’s success, It’s in the Bag worked because it connected with its audience in many ways.

It was helped by Toogood’s catchphrase: “By hokey!” It was truly national, being filmed live in small-town halls across New Zealand. The audience was included, not just as contestants but especially when Toogood asked them to help make up the contestant’s mind.

“What should she/he do, New Zealand?” he would ask, to which the packed hall would almost always respond: “Take the bag!” 

Watch an episode here, at NZ on Screen.

This article was first published in the November 2018 issue of North & South.

Follow North & South on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and sign up to the fortnightly email.

Latest

Saziah Bashir: 4 things you should do following the Christchurch terror attack
103634 2019-03-19 00:00:00Z Social issues

Saziah Bashir: 4 things you should do following th…

by Saziah Bashir

What can we do? Where to from here? People have to recognise the Muslim community is grieving.

Read more
Christchurch shooting: How the world is reacting to the terror attack
103651 2019-03-19 00:00:00Z World

Christchurch shooting: How the world is reacting t…

by Ryan J Holder

In the wake of the Christchurch terror attack, there is grief, despair, anger and a righteous sense that things need to change.

Read more
Captain Marvel is a rare movie in Marvel Cinematic Universe
103595 2019-03-19 00:00:00Z Movies

Captain Marvel is a rare movie in Marvel Cinematic…

by Russell Baillie

Starring Brie Larson as lead superheroine​, Captain Marvel actually gets better as it goes on.

Read more
Why Bill Cunningham was a rare creature in fashion
103319 2019-03-19 00:00:00Z Books

Why Bill Cunningham was a rare creature in fashion…

by Linda Herrick

Affable fashionista Bill Cunningham takes readers behind the scenes in the world of haute couture.

Read more
Four must-read books to counter Islamophobia
103636 2019-03-19 00:00:00Z Books

Four must-read books to counter Islamophobia

by Jenny Nicholls

An introduction to the writers who will help you see through toxic misinformation about Islam.

Read more
Measles outbreak: Fears virus could become endemic again
103624 2019-03-19 00:00:00Z Health

Measles outbreak: Fears virus could become endemic…

by RNZ

ESR public health physician Jill Sherwood said history showed the uptake of vaccinations would decide whether measles would once again get a foothold.

Read more
Could a tropical sea cucumber hold the key to treating cancer?
103622 2019-03-19 00:00:00Z Health

Could a tropical sea cucumber hold the key to trea…

by Sharon Stephenson

A search for new anti-cancer treatments led chemistry specialist Taitusi Taufa to the warm waters of his birthplace in Tonga.

Read more
Dîner en Blanc: What is it and why does everyone secretly want to go?
103618 2019-03-19 00:00:00Z Dining

Dîner en Blanc: What is it and why does everyone s…

by Alex Blackwood

For the last five years, thousands of Aucklanders have also donned their best whites, converging at a secret location to drink and dine in style.

Read more