Gameshows. The staple of television channels, alongside cookery shows, home make-overs and reality shows. When I was younger I’m fairly sure the game show went along the following format.
1) The host would introduce the show and tell a contrived story about how something happened to them once. Everyone would laugh and applaud and then the contestants would be revealed.
2) The contestants are introduced, one by one. You find out what their name is, where they live and how old they are. You tend to find if they’re married, have kids and where they work as well. If you’re incredibly lucky you get to hear a story about how, once, when they were little a relative tricked them into believing Narnia was real and they spent several hours locked in a wardrobe before being released by a parent. For example.
3) The game begins. Round one, or whatever it is called, starts. A question is asked, an answer is given, and they move onto to the next question.
4) This process is repeated until the end of the game. Then there’s an big end game which is a lot like the main game but bigger or done in subdued lighting conditions.
5) A hilarious out-tro and a “same time next week” before the credits roll.
Nowadays though, the gameshow format has changed. It’s no longer that straight forward. Now we have things like Deal Or No Deal which is, essentially, a giant guessing game. The problem with “Deal” as its fans like to call it, is the way it’s portrayed. The contestants are often praised for playing a strategic game. I don’t know a lot about strategy but I know that picking random boxes which have already been chosen at random in order to elimate the small money from a game board is not a strategy. It’s guess work. No amount of shrewd deals and over-enthusiastic studio wooping are going to change the fact that Deal or No Deal is just a massive game of “try and pick a box that’s not crap”. It’s just luck. You’re not being strategic.
I recently watched the BBC’s latest offering, 101 Ways To Leave A Gameshow, which runs for 8 episodes and has something like 5 or 6 different exits from the show. So that’s 48 ways to leave a gameshow at best. And it’s not really different ways either, as most of them involve falling. So it’s one way to leave a gameshow – gravity – spiced up with a variety of different ways of introducing gravity into the mix – giant hammers, a bike ride into nothingness, a rather awesome plank that gives way and drops you straight down. If it was really 101 ways to leave a gameshow I’d be looking at dissolving in acid, eaten by ants and burnt alive as three of the suggestions. You can even combine them with the tried and tested gravity method as well if you wanted to, Mr BBC.
101 Ways, however, served to reinforce the thing I hate about gameshows nowadays. In days gone by, as detailed above, you were asked a question and expected to give an answer. Now, however, you have to explain why you’ve chosen the answer. And no-one ever says “because it’s the right answer”. They always make it sound like they’ve put a huge amount of deductive reasoning into the selection of an answer – yes, selection, because nowadays everything’s bloody multiple choice to give people a chance at guessing the right answer. You usually get something along the lines of “I’ve heard of so-and-so, but I’ve not heard of doodah” or “well, so-and-so is a name you associate with whatever the question is about and doodah isn’t someone you’d automatically think of in this case and because my cat’s also called so-and-so”. Just once I want someone to say “I’ve chosen that answer because it’s the right answer. No stop insulting my intelligence and get on with it.”
And then there’s Eggheads. Eggheads. A quiz show with a group of super-intelligent people on it. Including Judith Kepple, the first person to win £1,000,000 on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. I don’t think that qualifies as being a qualification for genius.
And yes, that is my final answer.