GAME ON; THE BROADER PICTURE

As the big-band music swells, enter Cilla. Cue audience applause. Miss Black (basso profundo): "Surprise, surprise / The unexpected hits you between the eyes / The unpredictable, that's the surprise / Surprise, surprise!" It's not much of a song; yet Surprise, Surprise, the successful TV show in which Cilla explores the Schopenhauerian randomness of human experience, is finding willing imitators beyond these shores. In Britain, we have Cilla; in Italy, they have Raffaella Carra, host of Carramba! Che Sorpresa.

Cilla isn't the only British star with a continental alter ego. As the rights to British show formats such as Pets Win Prizes, That's Life and Noel's House Party are sold to European production companies, unfamiliar incarnations of Dale Winton, Esther Rantzen and Noel Edmonds are grinning to camera in studios all over Europe.

Some pedigrees are more recognisable than others. Just from the goats running round the studio, you can tell that Germany's Hamster TV is a Teutonic Pets Win Prizes. And Mr Blobby's presence betrays the origins of Denmark's Greven pa Hittegodset. But you'd need Belgian assistance to work out that Raar Maar Waar, a lively looking show performed in a plaster replica of a classical ruin, was the spawn of That's Life.

Formats mean money like points mean prizes: successful formulae are notoriously elusive and will only be sold by their originators for the right price. But the question of ownership can be legally tricky. Granada TV co-operates with an American and a Japanese network in the making of You've Been Framed - yet it is just one of 44 companies worldwide who are making programmes along the same lines, each with its own local version of a Jeremy Beadle hosting scenes of camcordered disaster. "It's big international business," explains Bill Hilary, controller of entertainment at Granada. "And definitions are difficult - for instance, what's the difference between Blind Date and Studs? They're both just a screen and a few questions."

Colin Jarvis, general manager of format licensing at BBC Worldwide, is the man who sold Mastermind to Israel and The Generation Game to Slovenia. "Once people have acquired the rights, we go over there to give them the know-how," he explains. Pets Win Prizes has been pounced on by six foreign channels, and Noel's House Party has five incarnations across Europe (the presenter of the Danish version has even imitated the Edmonds facial hair). And formats dead on their native shores can find new life abroad - Jim'll Fix It (deceased 1994) lives on in Austria, and That's Life (axed here in 1993) is still going strong in Germany. Conversely, many familiar British shows are actually based on imported models: Countdown was originally French, How Do They Do That? is Australian and - rather shockingly - Call My Bluff hails from the States.

However, Surprise, Surprise has proved to be British TV's most marketable light- entertainment concept. Brite, the company employed by LWT to sell the format, confess to being a little bemused by some of the material produced in their name. The Portuguese Surprise Show is quite unlike anything you'd find on ITV on a Sunday night. In one recent episode, presenter Fatima Lopes fulfilled a male audience member's darkest desires by giving him a Madonna makeover - the show's finale had him writhing around on the studio floor in a conical bra and blonde wig, pouting and mumbling flatly to "Like a Virgin" as his mother cheered her approval from the audience.

Other interpretations are more innocuous: Holland treats its public to host Henny Huisman encouraging a woman to perform with seals, before reuniting a young girl with a horse. But the version most like a Channel 9 sketch from The Fast Show is Italy's aforementioned Carramba! Che Sorpresa. Raffaella Carra is the enormously tall all-singing, all-dancing hostess with a decibel-level to match Cilla's. She selects a man from the audience, and plucks an antique watch from her abundant cleavage. It's some sort of family heirloom, and the man looks, well, surprised by its emergence from the Carra bosom.

Then it's off to an outside broadcast, in which Raffaella's assistant - the Italian equivalent of Bob Carolgees - doorsteps a pair of newlyweds in their hotel room, bustling them up to the most vulgar bridal suite in Europe. There awaits a grand piano and a gigantic chocolate cake. Raffaella's sidekick produces a handful of lingerie and starts bouncing up and down on the bed. Then someone opens the bathroom door - and standing there in a tuxedo is Richard Clayderman. Carramba! Che sorpresa! (The grand piano was the clue). As Clayderman makes beautiful muzak, a priest pops in with a copy of the marriage vows and, before the victims' jaws are off the carpet, it's time for a messagio promozionale - for cheese, appropriately enough. Raffaella hovers over a table groaning with ripe parmesan and tells Italy to go buy. Fantastico. That's entertainment in any language. !

UK: SURPRISE, SURPRISE

Host: Cilla Black

PORTUGAL: SURPRISE SHOW

Host: Fatima Lopes

HOLLAND: SURPRISE SHOW

Host: Henny Huisman

UK: PETS WIN PRIZES

Host: Dale Winton

GERMANY: HAMSTER TV

Host: Thomas Koschwitz

FRANCE: LES ZANIMOLYMPIADES

Host: Yves Lecoq

SWEDEN: LYCKO JURET

Host: Martin Timell

UK: NOEL'S HOUSE PARTY

Host: Noel Edmonds

SPAIN: VAYA NOCHECHITA!

Host: Pepe Carroll

DENMARK: GREVEN PA HITTEGODSET

Host: Eddie Michael

BELGIUM: BINDEN ZONDER BELLEN

Host: Koen Wauters

UK: THAT'S LIFE

Host: Esther Rantzen

GERMANY: WIE BITTE?

Host: Geert Muller Gerbes

BELGIUM: RAAR MAAR WAAR

Host: Karl Symons

SPAIN: ASI ES LA VIDA

Host: Carlos Herrera

ITALY: CARRAMBA! CHE SORPRESA

Host: Raffaella Carra

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas Pynchon in 1955, left, and Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix in Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of his novel, Inherent Vice

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Nicole Scherzinger will join the cast of Cats

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Fans were left surprised by the death on Sunday night's season 26 premiere

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lady Mary goes hunting with suitor Lord Gillingham

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck, finds himself at the centre of a media storm when his wife is reported missing and assumed dead

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lindsay Lohan made her West End debut earlier this week in 'Speed-the-Plow'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Artist Nathan Sawaya stands with his sculpture 'Yellow' at the Art of Brick Exhibition

art
Arts and Entertainment
'Strictly Come Dancing' attracted 6.53 million viewers on Friday
tv
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant plays Detective Emmett Carver in the US version on Broadchurch

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor goes undercover at Coal Hill School in 'The Caretaker'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ni , Rock of Rah, Vanuatu: The Ni live on one of the smallest islands of Vanuatu; Nelson flew five hours from Sydney to capture the 'isolation forged by their remoteness'
photographyJimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style
Arts and Entertainment
David Byrne
musicDavid Byrne describes how the notorious First Lady's high life dazzled him out of a career low
Arts and Entertainment
Sergeant pfeffer: Beatles in 1963
booksA song-by-song survey of the Beatles’ lyrics
Arts and Entertainment
music'I didn't even know who I was'
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl was left in a conundrum with too much talent and too few seats during the six-chair challenge stage
tvReview: It was tension central at boot camp as the ex-Girls Aloud singer whittled down the hopefuls
Arts and Entertainment
Kalen Hollomon's Anna Wintour collage

art
Arts and Entertainment

TV Grace Dent on TV
Arts and Entertainment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
    Why do we like making lists?

    Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

    Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
    Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

    A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

    As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
    Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

    Paris Fashion Week

    Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
    Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

    Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

    One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
    10 best children's nightwear

    10 best children's nightwear

    Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
    Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

    Manchester City vs Roma

    Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
    Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

    Trouble on the Tyne

    Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?