Shaw Taylor: Dots Before His Eyes 

29 March 2016

Dotto 19600403-13From the TVTimes for week commencing 3 April 1960.

Every Thursday, several quiz contestants go Dotto.[1] And Shaw Taylor,[2] the man who counts the dots and looks after the pounds, gets dottier and dottier. The show he likes. The word Dotto[3] he is beginning to hate.

“It haunts me everywhere,” he says. “Wherever I go somebody is sure to come up to me and say Dotto, often imitating the voice of Bill Clothier, the show’s announcer.

“Recently. when I drove into a garage for some petrol, the attendant said the usual ‘I have met you before, haven’t I?’ I said ‘No,’ but he wasn’t convinced. ‘Were you in the RAF?’ he asked.[4] I said I was. and we went through the camps we had been stationed at. But none coincided.

“Then we went through our life stories, without success. But when I got back in the car and he saw me through the screen-shaped window frame he exclaimed: ‘Of course; you’re on television. DOTTO!’

“Viewers tell me television makes me look much older. It’s odd. but television seems to be unflattering to men and flattering to women.”

Despite these hazards, Shaw enjoys the quizmastership hugely.

“I auditioned for Dotto before it first went on the air in September’58.” he told me.

Auditions were being held for Keep It In The Family[5] at the same time.

“There were some famous people present, as well as near unknowns like myself. I was out of luck that time.”

A few months later, Shaw Taylor did get his quizmastering opportunity – in This Is Your Chance,[6] an audience participation show.

It is more lonely being a quizmaster than being chairman of a panel game.

Then he became chairman of the panel game Tell The Truth,[7] and next – after a 10-day holiday in the South of France – he went straight on to Dotto.

“It is more difficult for me than Tell The Truth because it is more lonely being a quizmaster than being chairman of a panel game,” Shaw continued.

“I like Dotto’s rules,[8] though, because contestants cannot lose the money they have won. I am delighted when they make a lot. I hate nothing more than to see a contestant go away empty-handed. Admittedly they let themselves in for it. But it is quite an ordeal to stand up in front of 15,000,000 viewers and look a clot. Very often, anyway, a losing contestant is not a clot but just nervous.”

Shaw is not given to worrying about his job.

“If people like you, that’s fine,” he says. “If they don’t, there is nothing you can do about it: you are in the wrong job.”

Shaw works hard to make sure he does not become repetitive.

“I always have the programme recorded on tape[9] by my wife,[10] and then I listen to it carefully to pick out phrases I use too often.”

It was a long time ago, when working as an announcer,[101] that Shaw stopped bothering about the possibility of things going wrong.

“Viewers are always on your side,” he says, “and anyway they love nothing better than to see mistakes. So I just relax if I drop a brick – and try to pick it up.”

If people like you, that’s fine. If they don’t, there is nothing you can do about it: you are in the wrong job.

Dotto comes from the Alpha television studios in Birmingham,[12] and Shaw – who sometimes drives there from his home in Streatham, South London – is very grateful for the new M1 motorway;[13] which has lopped almost an hour off his journey.

“But I find the long straight drive makes me sleepy,” he says. “In fact, if you watch very carefully during as pause in Dotto while a contestant is trying to answer a question you might see me nodding off!”

I was not sure if he was kidding, so I looked at his face. But I couldn’t tell: his eyes were closed. Now I will never know because I hadn’t the heart to wake him and ask.

  1. Dotto was an American formula, running January to August 1958 on CBS during daytime and NBC in the evening. It was suddenly cancelled as part of the “quiz show scandal” when it was discovered that the show, along with a number of other quizzes, was fixed.
  2. Eric Stanley Taylor MBE (26 October 1924 – 17 March 2015).
  3. ATV’s Dotto first aired on 13 September 1958. It was presented by the now largely forgotten Robert Gladwell, then by Jimmy Handley and finally by Shaw Taylor. The last edition aired on 23 June 1960.
  4. Conscription during and after World War II, known as ‘National Service’ and running until 1960, meant that it was common at the time to ask a person where and when they served if you thought you recognised them.
  5. Bill Owen got the job; the series wasn’t a success and is now missing.
  6. Apparently similar to ABC’s Opportunity Knocks!, history records the host as being Pete Murray. Either way, it only lasted 6 episodes and ATV did not keep any recordings.
  7. Taking over from David Jacobs. Again, ATV didn’t keep any recordings. The format reappeared on Channel 4, produced by LWT, in the mid-1980s, and on ITV via TVS in 1989/90.
  8. A join-the-dots puzzle appears on a board in front of the contestant. They answered questions and dots were joined for each correct answer. They then had the chance to guess who the celebrity being drawn was and if correct won money for each dot that hadn’t been connected up.
  9. Reel-to-reel audiotape.
  10. Jane McKay (died 2008).
  11. For ATV London, the weekend contractor in the capital from 1955 to 1968.
  12. A former cinema in Aston, just outside of Birmingham, turned into jointly owned studios by ABC, the weekend contractor, and ATV, the weekday contractor for the Midlands from 1956 to 1968.
  13. Opened between Watford and Rugby in November 1959 and extended to Yorkshire in the 1960s.

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