2. Took supper straight from the base of the food pyramid today: half a tin of tomato soup, a banana, a large cup of orange juice, a trifle with some pears in, a chocolate biscuit and a handful of sultanas. If Heinz's claim that half a can of tomato soup counts for two vegetable portions is to be believed, then that's my daily five portions of fruit and veg right there. Can it really be that easy or am I just kidding myself? (Admittedly, the rest of the day was a bit of a dietary disaster: I fried up yesterday's leftover potatoes, carrots and cauliflower for lunch and had a large Steak Premiere meal from McDonalds for dinner. First MickeyD's trip for a couple of months or so, though, so I don't feel bad about it.)
3. Haven't talked nearly enough about game shows for a while. Not a phrase that you'll find on many LiveJournals, that. A large part of the joy of watching game shows for me is getting to watch people play interesting games that couldn't be implemented anywhere else simply because they are too demanding, too grandiose or too intricate to be organised anywhere else except for the benefit of television. I therefore particularly look forward to new game shows just to see what new ideas they can bring to life.
Next week we'll see the first new game show that I've got excited about before the event since... let me see... the one-night revival of Superstars back in July. (An honourable mention to five's International King Of Sports back in September.) It'll be running weekdaily for four weeks on the CBBC channel from next Monday, it's an attempt to do a fantasy-themed game show, it's called Raven and there's very little buzz about it. It's a prospect that excites me, at least, so let me try to excite you.
I want to say that Raven represents the first such attempt at a fantasy game show (inevitably, traditional psuedo-medieval / Tolkeinesque / D&D fantasy) since the mighty Knightmare, but fear I may well have forgotten something in the interim. Needless to say, it's set to cater to modern sensibilities - an audience familiar with Big Brother, The Weakest Link and so forth. At this point, I shall retreat into a lj-cut so that I may go into as much detail as I like.
It is deeply uncool to be a game show fan in Britain. This isn't to say that there aren't popular game shows; indeed, game shows represent some of the most reliable and relied-upon staples of prime-time family entertainment. There are lots of people who watch game shows and don't particularly regard themselves as game show fans. The game show fandom in the UK is small, centred around the single Yahoo!group ukgameshows which has a little over 200 members. It's fairly typical as these things go - a few people with a mild bipolar streak - but at least it's really quite friendly and people are broadly well-behaved. In short, sadly, this is not necessarily true around the world.
Only a very small number of game shows have achieved their own small fandoms over the years. Interceptor had a series in the summer of '89 which caught a number of people's attention and which is fondly remembered to this day. (It also engendered the really top-class Interceptor's Lair fan site.) Wanted had a lot of flaws and tried to be years ahead of its time with technology which wasn't properly developed, but despite this (because of this?) it attracted a strong following for its two short series. Of the recent breed of "reality shows" (aaargh!) Big Brother attracted mass appeal and The Mole garnered a faithful following - though, sadly, not quite a large enough one for a third series. Among more regular quizzes, there's a distinct "hard quiz" community who take part in quiz leagues, Fifteen-to-One and Mastermind, the latter of which is now radio-only; the Krypton Factor used to engender some cameraderie between its contestants, too.
Lastly, there was Knightmare, which is as close to stereotypical D&D as you will ever probably get. An adventurer, aged 11-14, explores a dungeon; he is blinded by The Helmet Of Justice so that he cannot see the inside of the dungeon and must rely upon guidance from advisors. The advisors see the same view as the viewers: computer graphics overlaid through Chromakey onto the blue studio in which the adventurer and the real actors (yer NPCs) interacted. The earliest series involved the adventurer trying to get through three levels to retrieve some Miscellaneous Magical Item; from series four onwards, things got a bit more ambitious but simultaneously a lot more same-y from contestant to contestant. At its best (series three, which is being repeated on the really-quite-good-these-days Challenge ? TV channel over Christmas) it was one of the finest game shows I've yet seen: tense, clever and surprising by turns with a delightful sense of humour.
Incidentally, the show was hosted by one Hugo Myatt in the role of dungeon-master Treguard, also known as the dude pictured in this user icon. He ad-libbed an "Ooh... nasty" in response to one particularly mock-cartoon-grisly demise and it stuck as the closest the show ever got to a catchphrase.
By no means a perfect show, especially from series four onwards, but it caught many people's imaginations over its eight series from 1987 to 1994. The show still has a reasonably sized fandom to this day, focused around a fantastic fan site, with people as obsessive about its minutiae as for many other fantasy or sci-fi shows. It suffers on a global stage from only ever having been shown in Britain, though we hear that the short-lived Spanish version was quite interesting in its own way. I feel confident that most of the fantasy fans, role-playing fans or even Harry Potter fans who see this would probably enjoy an episode or two of the show at its finest, though I can't promise you'd turn into big fans.
We hear rumours that Challenge ? might repeat the show regularly in the future, that the show's production company have finally got the complete rights to the show and are considering relaunching it as an insert into some other live show (which would kill the detached-reality atmosphere of the piece stone dead) and that the production company are producing Timegate which will use similar principles and considerably more up-to-date technology in a science-fiction setting. (Without being another Cyberzone, we hope.) All promising possibilities, but not tangible.
By contrast, Raven starts next week and was reviewed by a panel of children in the most recent Radiotimes but one as being "like a cross between Lord of the Rings and The Crystal Maze" - a comparison enough on its own to make my ears prick up. Search around the net revealed little more - it's the potentially-fantastic new game show with apparently no buzz whatsoever.
That is, until today. Now ukgameshows mailing list readers may switch off at this point because I'm just going to cut-and-paste excerpts from my most recent post to that group on this subject in here. Repurposing my own content may well be LiveJournalism at its laziest, but I would hope to bring what I have found to a wider audience. That's the theory, anyhow.
BBC Choice are showing all of Robot Wars series six in four days over Christmas and the Radiotimes listings reveal disappointingly much about who makes it to the semi-finals and finals. Thanks, lads.
However, it occurred to me that the general technique can be applied usefully in a number of situations. That is, if we look at the descriptions for shows before they happen, we can get some idea as to what the shows might contain. I've worked out quite a bit about promising-sounding fantasy "reality" (shudder) kids' game show Raven (CBBC next week, 8:30am weekdays, repeated at 5:35pm weekdays) from the following episode summaries:
Monday 16th December
Fantasy game show. The mysterious Raven calls together six young warriors to face a series of challenges. Can they find the path through the Dark Forest, get past the Eyeless Demons and solve the Troll's riddle?
Tuesday 17th December
Fantasy game show. The six young warriors face new challenges as Raven searches for the Tournament Champion. Do the warriors have the courage to take the Leap of Faith? And the strength to defeat the Demons and get through the Way of the Warrior?
Wednesday 18th December
Fantasy game show. Another warrior is eliminated as Raven continues his search for the Tournament Champion. Today the warriors face the cold and uninviting waters of Deep Loch
Thursday 19th December
Fantasy game show. The mysterious character Raven continues his search for the champion warrior. Today the warriors battle through a forest of fiendish spider webs in their quest for the magic rings
Friday 20th December
Fantasy game show. In the final programme in the first qualifying round, the three remaining warriors endure a hair-raising high walk and attempt the Riddle of the Portal
Monday 23rd December
The second round of the fantasy game show begins with six new warriors struggling to defeat the Eyeless Demons, battling their way through the Dark Forest and attempting to master the Way of the Warrior
OK, here's my analysis.
We know that the show will have 20 episodes; I guess that they're going to break down into four weeks of five episodes each. In the first three weeks, we're probably going to eliminate six down to two each week. In the fourth week, we're probably going to take the six from the first three weeks and eliminate them down to a single Tournament Champion. It would seem likely that the challenges are going to be the same from week to week, though the final week might well be different to the first three weeks.
I also imagine that the shows will consist of separate games in which contestants earn numbers of rings (effectively, points). The contestant with fewest rings at the ends of each of the Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday shows will be eliminated, thus taking us from six down to two at the end of Friday. In the fourth week, they'll start the elimination on Monday, so at the end of the fourth Friday we will have our overall winner.
Pretty simple. It remains to be seen how interesting the games will be and how well the theming works. If the majority of them are races then the show's not going to be so interesting to watch beyond the first week, but if it's character-led and plot-led then it might well be a very interesting proposition indeed. Some degree of repetition between the weeks is a little disappointing, but if it means that they're able to spend more on the games and make them more interesting then it will turn out to be a reasonable decision.
Do you see what I'm getting at? If the show consists of a simple series of races, reach-something-inconvenient physical games and quizzes, it'll be of limited interest and a tremendously wasted opportunity. If, however, they have spent time and effort on a convincing and interesting (but inevitably fairly juvenile) fantasy and some decent puzzles then the potential could well be very exciting indeed.
We shall see. Not long to wait now; specifically, only until next Monday. The timing is a little inconvenient - the pm repeat will clash with the one-week-only new series of Treasure Hunt on BBC 2. Time to do interesting things with video recorders, which will unfortunately pose needlessly troubling parental logistics problems.
Something to look forward to for the next half-week, even though as ever it may well be better to travel hopefully than it is to arrive.
On a less happy note, Thursday will be the first anniversary of the passing away of Internet game show fandom standout Randy Amasia. Going to be a difficult day for a lot of us, many of whom are on my Friends list...