Sunday, 29 March 2009

The DOND Syndrome - Are You ANOTHER Egghead ?

A Few Observations - A Few Questions

Mrs. C. wasn't feeling too clever last night, and so took to her bed earlier than usual. This explained why number 2 daughter took control of the remote control, or to give it its technial name, the hoofer - doofer, and that explains how I came to watch Chris Tarrant's "The Colour of Money " last night for the first time. If by any chance this leads you to think - hang about , that's a game show and not a quiz show, which is outside our remit in "Life After Mastermind"- well, yes, you're absolutely right, but it is relevant. Allow me to explain.

Cast your mind back to about this time last year. Now, what was the big game show on a Saturday night on ITV ? Nick Hancock's Duel. At the heart of that show, as you might recall, was a quiz. Put it another way, you had to know stuff to win. ITV were reportedly disappointed with the audience the show received, and its noticeable by its absence this year. "The Colour of Money" is worrying confirmation of what I call the "Deal or No Deal " syndrome. Put in simple terms, for me it is proof that the big prize quiz show bonanza which we have enjoyed since "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire " first burst onto our screens in 1998 seems to be over.

Why call it the "Deal or No Deal " syndrome ? Well, the afore mentioned show is the first show that Channel Four have managed to come up with that replicates the popularity of the much missed Fifteen To One. I feel ashamed to say it, but I quite enjoy DOND, but Fifteen to One it's not. Who cares ? Not Channel Four, and certainly not the daily audience. Look at the appeal to the makers. Everyone wins something eventually. Incredibly simple format. No questions to compile. The first time I ever saw DOND actually was in the Yorkshire TV studios in Leeds when I was a stand in for the Mastermind semis of 2006. They make Countdown there, and so I guess that they had been watching it in the green room, and couldn't be bothered to change channel. When I saw it I did think that this was a development that could spell trouble for genuine quiz shows.

So where does the Colour of Money fit into this ? Well, its different from DOND in as much as not everybody wins something on the show. However it is about making the correct, or should I say lucky , choices, and knowing where to stop, and that's pure DOND. But its prime time Saturday night. I don't know what the ratings are like on the show, but if its a success, then I'm thinking we can kiss goodnight to the chance of any more massive jackpots for a genuine quiz show. Wouldn't it be strange if the highest jackpot for a genuine quiz on TV actually became the BBC's top prize for In It To Win It , or 1 v. 100 ? How long before the BBC decide that big money quizzes are past it, and they make their own 'choose your own cash' show ? Anyone who thinks that the BBC wouldn't go that far need only watch "The Wall Game " and "Total Wipeout" to see just how populist the Beeb are prepared to go. The worst thing is that I do actually quite like both of those shows.


Conversely, however, quizzes thrive at the moment on TV in the early evening slots. "The Weakest Link " and "Eggheads " continue, with seemingly a lot of life left in both of them. In the last twelve months we've had two series of "The Battle of The Brains " and "Terry Wogan's Perfect Recall ", we've had the BBC's own elimination quiz, "A Question of Genius" and also we've had "Are You An Egghead ? "

Now, to get to the point, the word is that 12 Yard Productions, makers of "Eggheads" amongst other shows, are looking to make a new series of "Are You An Egghead ? " From a TV quiz fan's point of view, that's pretty good news. "Are You An Egghead ?" was an enjoyable series, although you could make criticisms of it in the same way that you could criticise any show if you put you mind to it. There were a significant number of truly superb quizzers who took part, of whom Barry was one, and a worthy winner. However since I heard the news, I can't help saying that a number of questions have occurred to me. I'll share them with you now.

* Is one of the Eggheads leaving, or are they going to rotate 7 Eggheads instead of 6 ? Let us say that you get paid according to the number of shows you play in. 7 players would mean that you play in 5 shows out of 7, rather than 5 shows out of 6, which is less work, and therefore less money, which makes the prize less attractive than last year's.

* If one is leaving, then are they going of their own volition, or are they being pushed ? I formed the impression last year when I considered applying for the first series that the contract for the winner was only guaranteed for one year. Apologies to all concerned if I am wrong. However if that is the case, then it doesn't strike me as being very fair to Barry. Of course, its always possible that one of the Eggheads may wish to go. Be honest, though - if you were being paid for quizzing, would you ?

* Will the unsuccessful contestants from last year be allowed/encouraged/ asked to reapply for this series ? I've got to be honest, if I was to apply this year I'd feel my chances were a lot better knowing that luminaries such as Olav Bjortomt, Ian Bayley, Pat Gibson, David Edwards and Mark Kerr, to name but a few, were not taking part because of their appearance in the first series. This is actually an important point. Consider the two series of Battle of The Brains. Now, for the second series they didn't actually have a rule banning teams who had been in the first series exactly, but the rule was that no more than three of your original team could appear in the same team this time round. Its quite possible that a number of last year's teams didn't actually want to take part again for various reasons. Now don't get me wrong. There were some fine teams who played in the second series. Yet in my opinion, the average level of ability of the teams in this series was not as high as the average level of the teams in the first series. So lets think about the generally very high standard of the competitors on the first "Are You An Egghead ? " How do the producers aim to get such a high level of competitor again ? Even if they don't set their sights so high this year, they surely still want as many good competitors as possible to avoid any total mismatches.

* What are the conditions if, heaven help us, you win ? I ask myself this because I am not close enough to retirement age yet. If I was, then I might be tempted to say what the hell, and have a stab. With a job that pays a decent wage - although if my local authority wanted to offer me more I wouldn't turn them down - and a large family, I'm afraid that I couldn't afford to take a cut in salary, or risk being on the Old King Cole in a year's time if I won. I expect a significant number of other serious quizzers probably face the same problem.

OK - so if I did apply there's no guarantee that I would even get on the show. The rumour persists that Mark Bytheway applied for the first series and didn't get on. If that's true, then it would seem to be a glaring, and to be honest, rather despicable omission. Yet the Mastermind thing would seem to count for something. Its also struck me that although I have applied for other shows in the last 12 months, I'm the only Humphrys era Mastermind Champ who hasn't appeared on a TV quiz in the last few months. We had Shaun Wallace in "Are You An Egghead ?", Pat in "Are You An Egghead?" and " Battle of the Brains ", Geoff in "Battle of the Brains" and Andy in "Battle of the Brains". Perhaps this is trying to tell me something. Not sure what, though, that's the problem.

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