Something Completely Different: Cultural Exchange and Supermarket Sweep

Cultural exchange became a lot weirder with television. No, not in the sense that many Americans clamor over the latest episode of Doctor Who or Sherlock, but instead in the myriad of ways other cultures have taken television shows from abroad and redone them for their own audiences.

Games shows are a great example of this phenomenon. Many game shows began in the United States during the ‘50s. They would be resurrected over and over again in the States, but they also were easy imports for foreign markets.

I was first introduced to Supermarket Sweep, a game show where contestants race through a supermarket to win cash, when it was brought back briefly here in the US in the early ‘90s. The shows original run only lasted from 1965 to 1967, but the concept must’ve stuck with someone. Variations of the show have made their way into at least ten other countries over the years.

More than television ever could, the Internet has made cultural exchange even weirder and a lot more frequent. Through its infernal sorcery, I recently managed to watch the United Kingdom’s version of Supermarket Sweep from 1993. I thought it would be fun to compare it to my childhood memories of both the American version, the early ‘90s (I was born in 1988), and what little I know about the UK.

Before we dive into the UK version, I wanted to include a few reference shots for the 90’s run of the show here in the United States.


Americans will rarely admit their love of the French. Despite the assist in the revolution, we really can’t stand any country with a self-inflated sense of importance that can rival our own.

None of this stopped some women in the ‘90s from copying Louis XIV’s hairstyle.


Here’s our host complete with a very, very hideous sweater. I get that he’s standing near the produce and that’s obviously the colder part of the supermarket, but could he wrap himself in anything less gruesome? Perhaps a fun suit would’ve been better.


“What do these ladies do for a living?” If you guessed anything other than SCHOOL TEACHER, then you obviously had a magical childhood where women who looked exactly like this didn’t torture you on a daily basis.

Let’s move from the American to the English.


Two things about the British show’s opening introduction. First, the announcer says you can win up to 2,000 pounds. Was that a lot in 1993? My immediate response was, “Of what?” I am not ignorant what the Brits call their money, but things get confusing when we discuss it with a supermarket as the backdrop. As an American, that’s the one place where pounds matter.

Second, this audience is REALLY white. I almost feel like this could be a rare color photograph of the original American show from the ‘60s.


Well, one more thing: the announcer says, “Fill your trolley as high as you can.” I get crap for calling a shopping cart a ‘buggy’ by my cousins in the north, but I bet they would think a Brit calling it a trolley would be adorable or even sexy*.

*It probably would be if Idris Elba were saying it.

English television has conditioned me to believe usually one of the characters is almost always a man dressed as a woman. “Surely, the contestant on the right was a participant in this grand tradition,” I thought.

Nope, that’s just the early ‘90s.


A fun suit IS NOT better! I think this suit’s color was originally intended to be camouflage so Dale Winton could blend in with the citrus behind him, but that suit will never blend into anything.


Steve’s challenge was to find a specifically-labelled bottle of freshly-squeezed orange juice somewhere in the store. He spent 20 of his 30 seconds staring at a single section which seems to contain boxes of fizz/pop/soda/Cokes.

There may be an argument that his mustache was sentient and his body largely a machine to provide it nutrients, but is likely a stretch.

Every time some European complains about America’s obsession with “plastic” food and artificial, manufactured junk, I’ll remember Steve, the man who thought freshly-squeezed anything could be canned, boxed, thrown on a shelf, and remain freshly squeezed.

For the record, they showed what he was looking for after his time was up. It was in a ‘chill cabinet’.


This is how my generation looked too … in our high school chemistry labs.


One of the games played to earn more shopping time asks the question “In what city am I?” after the host reads a few food and culture related facts. He mentioned a city that it is famous for its clam chowder, great to visit in the Fall, the people shout “Cheers” at the local bars, and a famous tea party was once held there.

The two guesses were Paris and Chicago. Susan (on the left) thankfully remained silent.



These are the Christmas sweaters you get if your ‘mum’ teaches ‘numeracy’ at a ‘primary school’. (Thanks Google)


No one thought to ask Helen why she was carrying around a stuffed bear. Also, I’m still not sure about Val being an Englishman in drag.


Val and Helen win and their screams will haunt me until I die. 


16 thoughts on “Something Completely Different: Cultural Exchange and Supermarket Sweep”

  1. Supermarket Sweep was one of a number of shows that persisted in the UK for a lot longer than it might have done because of a large, presumably ironic, following among students. I was out of University by then but I also watched it quite often while I was unemployed (it was on at 9.30 in the morning if I remember correctly). Dale Winton went on to present an even more demented gameshow called Pets Win Prizes. I watched that, too.


    1. Yeah, I watched a lot of game shows at that age too. They are mindless but entertaining enough to pass the time.

      I hate that I missed out on Pets Win Prizes though. That sounds like a gem!


    1. It really is. I never knew about the UK’s House of Cards until the US aired it’s own modern version. So I watched the old one on Netflix. That would make for an excellent comparison, given how they’re both about politics.

      Murf, this article was golden. 80’s fashion …geeez. So glad I was poor back then. I have no pictures looking like these folks to regret!


      1. Yeah, I haven’t checked out UK’s House of Cards. I was really excited to watch In the Loop after seeing Veep, and Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares after his American version.

        Each seems better or worse in distinct ways, which makes it a lot of fun to see both.

        Alas, I was born in the 80’s, but thankfully I didn’t have to live in them. Hopefully we can dig up some polaroids of you in an attic somewhere.


  2. Did you ever have Ready Steady cook over in the States?
    As mentioned earlier the crystal maze was immense and Fort Boyard is along the same lines. Jungle run was a similar kids gameshow that I watched and it was great. You should check them out.


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