Game On – Tipping Point (ITV); The Chase (ITV); Pointless (BBC1)
Once upon a time (that is to say in the 1970’s), daytime telly on ITV consisted of schools programmes in the morning, pre-school shows at lunchtime, an Australian soap, the news, something farm house and kitchen like, Crown Court, something else, another Australian soap, kid’s programmes and then a quiz show. Then in the late 80’s it all changed and the schedules were inundated by sofas (introduced earlier in the decade by the advent of Breakfast TV. Learn more about that here), property shows and cookery programmes. One genre that hung on in there though was the game show. The first programme to be screened on Channel 4 on November 2nd 1982 was a game show, Countdown….and it’s still hanging on in there. All the major channels have their own daytime game shows and while they may not have the prizes or status of their primetime cousins, boy do they have a loyal following.
One of the BBC’s earliest forays into a lunchtime game show back in 1987 was Going for Gold hosted by the genial Henry Kelly (“You’re playing catch up in the two zone”) where the big prize was a trip to the 1988 Seoul Olympics (Going for Gold…a gold medal, get it…good). That worked well for series one, but the producers seemed to have overlooked the fact that the Olympics only take place every four years, so there was either going to be a big gap between series one and series two, or they would have to come up with some other gold related prize, which they did with a trip to the gold coast of Australia. (Neighbours was also the cornerstone of the new BBC 1 daytime schedule and teenagers were obsessed with all things Australian, including adopting that awful upward inflection at the end of sentences making every statement sound like a question?)
Today there is a plethora of game shows around teatime (which is defined as anytime between 4:00 – 6:00 pm if you live in the South, when it then becomes dinnertime. In the North dinner is between 12:00 and 2:00 pm and teatime can run all the way up to suppertime, which can be as late as 10:00 pm. Supper in the south runs from 8:00 – 10:00 pm and generally consists of more than a bowl of Corn Flakes whilst watching News at Ten. But most TV channels are run from the South so we will just go with their timings). Tipping Point is one such show that can only really be enjoyed whilst consuming a hot beverage and a chocolate Hob Nob (other biscuits are available). Many game shows are simply the reworking of existing games. Crosswitswas basically just doing a crossword; Gambit was Blackjack and Celebrity Squares is noughts and crosses. Tipping Point is the TV reimagining of the Penny Falls, the game that has infuriated generations in seaside amusement arcades. (Come on admit it, you’ve given that machine a good nudge once or twice haven’t you? Thought so.)
Proceedings are overseen by Ben Sheppard who tries to instil a sense of drama and strategy into a game that is essentially potluck depending on where the coins fall. On TV the game isn’t played around a machine with contestants looking through glass that has been smeared with ice cream, burger grease and frustration; Tipping Point has a massive 15 foot high machine which drops coins the size of Dominos pizzas. The whole machine looks like a cool piece of engineering and the dropping somehow always impresses me, even though I know that in reality the coins are just being shoved in by a stage hand wearing baggy shorts and a black T Shirt. There are some general knowledge questions, but this game lives or dies by how the coins fall.
The Chase on the other hand has a LOT of questions. The premise of this game is that a team of four contestants take it in turn to face “The Chaser” i.e. a right clever dick. The chasers are all expert quiz players who are just too big (in The Beast’s case, literally) to play as part of a team like they do in Eggheads. The Chasers all have nicknames that come across a being more derogative than threatening. Mark Labett is 6 feet 7 inches tall and weighs 380 lbs so is nicknamed “The Beast” (I think the PC brigade would call that borderline bullying, but there you go); Anne Hegerty is nicknamed “The Governess” because of her austere appearance (bit hash) and Shaun Wallace is called “The Dark Destroyer” because he is….errrr…welll….yeah I think you can guess. Perhaps the comic book nicknames are designed to lull the contestants into a false sense of security as this bunch are international professional quiz contestants. The drama in The Chase is actually when a Chaser gets an answer wrong, which to be honest, this rarely happens. Nothing quite beats the feeling of getting an answer right when they get one wrong. Especially if I’m dunking a biscuit at the same time. That is effectively multi-tasking.
The other star is host Bradley Walsh. He is genuinely personable and can’t help but corpse at vaguely rude question or answer. Don’t believe me? Then watch him here…or here…or here for that matter. If you like a straight forward pub quiz with a David and Goliath battle thrown in (oh blimey I’m doing it now. They are not Goliaths because of any physical attributes; just because they are really, really clever. Good. Glad we got that cleared up), then The Chase should be your game show of choice. If on the other hand you like a bit of a survey, a bit of general knowledge and you can actually work out the rules, then Pointless may be more your cup of tea (and biscuit. Don’t forget the biscuit).
The basic premise (I think) is that 100 people are asked a question such as “Name one of the Angels in Charlie’s Angels”. The trick is to give the correct answer that no one else has given. So everyone would have said Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith or Cheryl Ladd…but what about Shelly Hack or Tanya Roberts (Who???? Exactly!). Various rounds with slight variations on the theme are played until the end game when they have to get a pointless answer to win the game. The prize money isn’t as good as on The Chase, but they do have to pay for two presenters; Alexander Armstrong (comedian, actor, presenter and singer) and Richard Osman (TV exec, game show creator and really tall person…unless he is stood next to Mark Labett in which case he is just a normal sized person, or Greg Davies, in which case he is a short person). They have a bit of forced, posh boy banter but keep proceedings bobbing along and the chats with the contestants are ok if not that riveting.
Like we concluded the other week with cookery programmes on TV (see here) it depends what you want out of your game show. If you like living in an oversized amusement arcade, then Tipping Point’s your fella; if obscure answers float your boat, then Pointless is for you; if you like loads of questions and occasionally smutty breakdowns, then head on over to The Chase. At the end of the day, you pay your money, you take your choice. Actually, that’s given me an idea for a game show….
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