Jim Bowen: Comedian and former Bullseye host dies at 80

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Jim Bowen with Bullseye mascot Bully

Broadcaster and comedian Jim Bowen, best known for hosting darts-based game show Bullseye in the 1980s and ’90s, has died at the age of 80.

His wife Phyllis confirmed the news to BBC Radio Lancashire.

The former deputy headmaster, who lived in North Lancashire, began his career as a stand-up comedian on the club circuit in the 1960s.

He became a household name when he began presenting Bullseye in 1981. The Sunday tea time show ran for 14 years.

It attracted 17.5 million viewers at its peak and involved three pairs of contestants – with a “thrower”, who would throw the darts, and a “knower”, who would answer general knowledge questions.

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Bullseye’s prizes included cars and speedboats

Bowen became known for catchphrases including “Super, smashing, great”, “You can’t beat a bit of Bully!” and “Let’s look at what you could have won”.

Another favourite phrase – “keep out of the black and in to the red, nothing in this game for two in a bed” – referred to the segments of the darts board that the players had to hit.

His warm-hearted and quick-witted rapport with the contestants was a big part of the show’s appeal.

Bowen became Bullseye host after appearing on ITV show The Comedians, alongside the likes of Frank Carson, Russ Abbott and Bernard Manning.

He also had a number of TV acting roles, including in Muck and Brass, Jonathan Creek, The Grimleys, and as Hoss Cartwright in the second series of Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights.

Bowen started out as a teacher but was inspired to take up comedy after watching Ken Dodd perform two shows – lasting a total of seven hours – one night in Blackpool.

“I watched seven hours of Ken Dodd and I watched him completely decimate 7,000 people. He left them in ruins with laughter,” he told Radio Lancashire last year.

“And I thought, that’s some feeling that he must get after that. And so I learned his act.”

Bowen died two days after his hero.

Between 1999 and 2002, Bowen presented a live morning magazine programme on Radio Lancashire. He resigned after making a racist remark on air.

Fellow comedian Ted Robbins, who took over Jim Bowen’s Radio Lancashire show, said he was a “very generous, kind man” who was “greatly loved” by the nation.

His agent Patsy Martin told the Press Association: “I will very sadly miss Jim. He was a very lovely, genuine man.”

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Bowen had been president of Morecambe Football Club

In 2011, Bowen said he had learned to “appreciate all the things in life” after suffering two strokes.

Family friend John Pleus said Bowen died on Wednesday morning with Phyllis by his side after several weeks in hospital.

“He passed away very peacefully, she was with him. We are all shedding a tear,” he said.

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