Game for Anything; If the Likes of Amanda Holden, Simon Cowell and Geri Halliwell Make You Cringe Now, Thank Your Lucky Stars You Never Saw the Antics of Their Younger Selves in These Low-Rent Gameshows

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Byline: Paul Connolly

SIMON COWELL Sale Of The Century

He wanders onto the set in a dark suit, hair as precipitously high as a double decker bus, and with that trademark smug grin already in full working order. It was 1990, and the 30-year-old Cowell was making his debut television appearance, as a contestant on Sale Of The Century. He was swiftly off the mark with some quick answers that reflected his deep knowledge of selling cheap rubbish to the masses ('Which kind of store is Gerald Ratner associated with?' asked host Peter Marshall. 'Jewellery,' Cowell answered, quick as a flash). Perhaps surprisingly, given some of Cowell's musical discoveries as a record company boss (the Teletubbies, Bob The Builder...), he also answered a music question correctly ('Who was the lead singer of The Boomtown Rats?' 'Bob Geldof'). Cowell, needless to say, won, but only walked away with some kitchen utensils rather than the top prize of a Fiat Uno.

AMANDA HOLDEN Blind Date

Just a year after Cowell's TV debut, his Britain's Got Talent co-judge popped up as a contestant on Cilla Black's Blind Date. Clear-skinned Holden, a stupendously cocky 20-year-old, was soon discarded by the male 'chooser'. She should care - four years later she'd bagged a rich comedian, Les Dennis. Oddly enough, Holden's skin seems to have become even smoother and tighter with age.

STEPHEN MERCHANT Blockbusters

Ricky Gervais' lanky co-writer of The Office and Extras appeared on the Michael Aspel-hosted Blockbusters in 1997. 'Steve', as he seemed to prefer being called in those days, dwarfed his fellow contestants, but although he got off to a lightning start, showing a firm grasp of pop music and taxation, he was easily beaten by the opposition in the end. 'I was on my own versus a team of two - I never had a chance,' he said later. Merchant also had a terrible haircut and displayed zero charisma - isn't it amazing what a dash of fame can do? …