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June 6th, 2003


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05:25 am - Scavengers, scram!
This summer's trend in the world of British game shows seems set to be to feature the genius as celebrity.

Three years ago we had the battle of the 24/7 formats, with Big Brother and Survivor taking the opposite roles in this country to the ones they did in the US, with The Mole and I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here! spiritual descendents. Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? with Ticklish-Feet Tarrant is now approaching a positively geriatric five, but it wasn't until much more recently that we saw its competition over here (Shafted, the semi-super-big-money The Vault and In It To Win It; even our Greed was delayed and so forth). The other trend has been imitators of The Weakest Link, minus questions plus "stuff" - Friends Like These, Dog Eat Dog, All Or Nothing and more than a hint of it in In It To Win It. daweaver might have observed this summer's trend a couple of months ago while I wasn't watching but I don't think the mass media commentators have spotted it yet.

This summer, though, we have at least four shows which seek to celebrate the unusually gifted. We're still coming off the end of the The Weakest Link kick, so most of them have a bit of a spike to them. Still a definite shift compared to the shows of last year, though:
  • Eggheads channels the spirit of the American Double Dare (no, not that Double Dare, the wilfully obscure 1970s quiz Double Dare) by having a panel of four spoilers take on contestant teams drawn from pub quizzes;

  • via the Demon cache, Nobody Likes A Smart Ass features an average studio audience of 100 taking on a single expert from a panel of six, though a later report (third one down) cuts the 100 down to 50;

  • Beat The Nation (eheu, registration with Quizzing required) isn't quite how it sounds - it's apparently really quite accessible - but it is being hosted by two-thirds of the Goodies;

  • Channel 4's Superhumans tests not just brains but also brawn, bottle, brilliance, bollocks and bonhomie;

  • there was a suggestion that BBC Manchester were working on a project somewhat akin to Mental Gladiators, but nothing more has come of it, so we assume that it Didn't Make It;

  • Stephen Fry's "QI" features celebrities primed with lots of useful, useless, interesting and boring facts pretenting to be celebrities due to their genius rather than due to their, well, celebrity;

  • Britain's Brainiest Kid does what it says on the tin and...
Starting at 8pm on Friday is Grand Slam, which may prove to be the most famous of them all simply by being the first high-profile one to make it to the screen. Sixteen contestants, all of whom have impressive quiz credentials, in a single-elimination contest to find an overall winner. Each one is sticking £1,000 of real money into the pot for Late Night Poker/Stake Out-style larfs and it is thought that the winner's overall jackpot is going to be bumped up to an even fifty large in order to make this an even slightly +EV game for most of them.

The other interesting thing about it is that the presentation of Grand Slam is set to be top-flight quiz as sporting event, with hosts Carol Vorderman (long associated with initiatives of smartness) and James Richardson (last seen as slightly wise-cracking host of their Football Italia) at the helm. It has also reportedly had slightly more run-throughs, pilots, technical rehearsals and the like than you would have expected for a show about whose format the broadcaster was certain. Nevertheless, soon enough we will find out whether the chess-clock-inspired game actually makes interesting viewing or not.

There ought to be more about it at Channel 4 soon but, as I type, all we have is a mocked-up "quiz champion trading card" - this sample features "Marcus" with "IQ 154" who claims "he never loses". I'll swap you that for a quiz_master_man any day. (Actually, if this catches on, maybe hmtriplecrown might get one of himself soon.) One of the other cool things about the show is that radinden knows probably more than half the contestants already, and at least one of them, the spectacularly-named Olav Bjortomt, has blogged about it himself already. Anyway, not long to go now; more about it soon if it's any good or if it's spectacularly bad.

In a link that Anne Robinson would doubtless have words about, there was another British game show called "Scavengers" in 1994/1995 which was a remarkably spectacular failure. It had a wonderful set but suffered from games which weren't particularly interesting to follow on-screen, a wildly overblown concept ("game show set on space ship - grab space junk and goodies from the wreckage") and a host with radically deficient acting skills. It was such a failure that half-way through the series they took it off-air and burned the remaining episodes on Monday mornings over the next summer holidays, which is about as ignominious a way for a show to go as possible. Nevertheless, I loved it to pieces, mostly because of its funky music and its wild pretentions. Oh, and because the single prize the show awarded was apparently a pair of rather tacky badges.

The reason I mention it - and here's that spectacularly weak link - is that there's an event in Coventry City Centre called Scavengers this Saturday; £10 per person in a team of up to four, 10am to 6pm, winning team splits a grand in the hand. Unfortunately the only Friends I have near Coventry are daweaver and mhw; the latter would not be so much about the running around town, but his mighty brain and remarkable nous would doubtless propel a team well towards victory. Perhaps Coventry's not so far away from Oxford that the Oxford folk might come up from it and play even with a lack of local knowledge. There's not much else going on, after all, apart from - and I still keep harping on about it - the last two days of Uncle Roy in London. Someone try it, please! Someone! Anyone! Uncle Roy finishes on Saturday, so move swiftly.

titanic_days and sophie10 will have to wait until tomorrow for their interviews, I fear, because today has proved that you can indeed have too much of a good thing; ericklendl, j4, leiabelle, missingdonut and altricial a little longer. Today was quiet but pleasant; Mum celebrated a birthday, so we went out for a reasonably serviceable, pleasant meal. Oh, and in other news, my bedroom lightbulb has stopped working, so I've been typing this in the dark.
Current Mood: In The Dark

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Comments:


[User Picture]
From:ericklendl
Date:June 6th, 2003 12:34 am (UTC)
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Mine can wait longer, as the twist is not remotely within the spirit of the game and I didn't expect your list of interviewees to be quite so long. :-)

Apparently Channel 5 have the "Ultimate Reality" format in mind, somehow bringing together past contestants from all the previous reality formats. Colour me unimpressed with the concept.
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:June 6th, 2003 06:17 pm (UTC)
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Apparently Channel 5 have the "Ultimate Reality" format in mind, somehow bringing together past contestants from all the previous reality formats. Colour me unimpressed with the concept.

Absolutely. It's the game that's interesting, not the contestants. (Hmm - this may be a relatively autistic viewpoint, but it's the one I take.) If they decide to put ten not-reality-damnit TV contestants together and play The Mole again, that would be wonderful. If it's something no more interesting than Big Brother, that would be rather less good.

I really think they ought to have J.J. from Jailbreak and Survivor on, just because she's done two of the things. (Ditto short-lived Survivor and much-missed Wanted Tracker Sarah Odell.)
[User Picture]
From:bopeepsheep
Date:June 6th, 2003 03:40 am (UTC)
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The Scavengers thing sounds interesting - shame we're not mobile and I'm not up to it, really. I have run scavenger hunts before (in West Oxfordshire and Headington) and have some fairly good ideas about how and where to acquire bizarre objects as a result. Sending seventy people round Minster Lovell looking for jellybeans was fun - almost no one sussed that pubs often have jellybean machines (and other sweeties) these days, and at least a dozen people drove back to Witney to buy them...
[User Picture]
From:bopeepsheep
Date:June 6th, 2003 03:43 am (UTC)
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Oh, and I was one of the trial competitors for Greed, when they were still tinkering with the format. Should they ever make series 2 I'm guaranteed a go. :-)

I've done quite a few not-for-tv shows, actually - apart from the fact you don't win anything I find it more interesting than the ones that make it to broadcast status. (I've done six that have been broadcast, I think - counting's not my forte right now.)
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:June 6th, 2003 06:05 pm (UTC)
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You organise scavenger hunts and take part in run-throughs of game shows? Crikey. I fanboy you, for I am (a) most impressed and (b) inevitably not worthy. I'd love to know about the ones you've been on, particularly the shows that didn't make it to broadcast, to find out what game shows we might have been watching had the dice fallen differently. :-)

If you ever asked me to interview you then the first question would be "What can you tell us about the first not-for-TV game show you ever played?", the second one would be "What can you tell us about the second not-for-TV game show you ever played?" and so forth. I look forward to reading whatever you have to write about the shows whenever you write about them. But hinty hinty nod nod, yes. :-)

Oh, and I tried to post this to your journal but failed due to non-friendship:
Ooh, that's interesting - someone has taken jiggerypokery without the underscore. I might well befriend her just to spook her out.

popsock is the poster formerly known as Joolz The Jet Girl? Wow. It's the umtms coming back, as Estonia didn't sing.
[User Picture]
From:bopeepsheep
Date:June 7th, 2003 11:56 am (UTC)
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Heh. I'm not sure I'm all that worthy of fanboydom on your part, there are many more people out there who've done far more than I have. :-)

I'll write them up at some point. More prominent in my life at the minute are postal quizzes - have you come across the Great Brain Quiz? Mum and I have been doing this for years now and have roped imc in recently, so now we get to research things like "which island where fierce fighting took place in WW2 is also the word for a chief magistrate in Spain?" and "why do Adam, Alice, D'Arcy, Maria, Rosalie and Simon look down on Stanley?" (Go on, have a go...)

I'm not sure why the non-friendship thing would cause a problem (I haven't really read much about LJ settings) - I've probably just not got around to adding you. Sorry! And yes, that is Joolz.
[User Picture]
From:mhw
Date:June 6th, 2003 06:33 am (UTC)
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Alas, the wombatty brain and nous are devoted this weekend to sorting out chapter two (Introductory Brain Anatomy and Function) of The Book, so I should be unavailable.

Oxford next Saturday, for sure, though. I haven't the least idea what time I shall arrive and depart yet, but barring disasters I shall be there for at least some of the day.
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:June 6th, 2003 06:12 pm (UTC)

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Oxford next Saturday, for sure, though. I haven't the least idea what time I shall arrive and depart yet, but barring disasters I shall be there for at least some of the day.

Hooray!
[User Picture]
From:ericklendl
Date:June 6th, 2003 12:36 pm (UTC)
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Anyway, not long to go now; more about it soon if it's any good or if it's spectacularly bad.

It's not spectacularly bad, but it's really not very good. There's so little interesting gameplay that the show stands and falls on making you care who wins, and it doesn't manage it.

I guess it might have been worth a speculative punt after all as the format would have reasonably suited me - on this evidence though, I can't imagine that there'll be a Series 2.
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:June 6th, 2003 06:14 pm (UTC)
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I thought it was decent, all things considered. The questions were pretty good and the gameplay admirably simple and pure.

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