Yes, whatever happened to the Consolation Prize ? You may have seen my recent post about Sky TV’s Show Me The Answer the other day, and there was this nagging question in the back of my mind. The two poor contestants, who had their chance of the cash snatched away from them, had to leave the stage with nothing at all. Now, this is perfectly natural now – it’s the way of the world now. But time was when a losing contestant in a show like this would be presented with something in the nature of a consolation prize. Nobody should have to walk away from a show like that with absolutely nothing to show for it. How did we ever get to this state of affairs ?
I freely admit that, at the more serious end of the quiz show spectrum, consolation prizes were never the order of the day. Mastermind, University Challenge, Fifteen to One, just never had ‘em. But at the game show end of the continuum there were, once upon a time, more consolation gewgaws than you could shake a proverbial stick at. To mention just a few of the more well remembered game show consolation prizes : -
3 – 2 – 1 had a ceramic dusty bin. Ted Rogers always used to say “You Know How Much They’re worth !” Actually I didn’t then, and I don’t now.
Bullseye had the famous Bendy Bully, and also a tankard and a set of darts.
Blankety Blank – the chequebook and pen
The Crystal Maze – I’ve cracked the Crystal Maze crystals.
Blockbusters - dictionary
and so on. My Mother in Law once had a little rose bowl which was the consolation prize for “Three Little Words”, come to think of it. No, I have no intention of making any jokes or rude comments about my mother in law. She’s far too computer literate for me to take the risk.
I’ll be honest now. I look at the quiz show spectrum, and off the top of my head I can hardly think of any show that offers a consolation prize. Why not ? There are a couple of theories that occur to me, namely : -
1)We’ve grown up as an audience, and grown out of the Lewis Carroll Dodo-esque idea that everyone must have a prize.
- The problem of this theory is, if we’ve grown up and become more sophisticated as a TV audience, then how do you explain BBC1’s Hole In The Wall ?
2) People are perhaps, as a rule, more affluent, so couldn’t give a stuff about being given a carriage clock or a canteen of cutlery to go away with as a consolation prize.
- Possibly true, but then lots of consolation prizes were of the useless memento variety, which you couldn’t actually buy for yourself, even if you wanted to.
3) Many shows are made by independent production companies, who don’t really want to shell out any more than is absolutely necessary.
Probably an element of truth in this one.
Personally, I can’t help wondering whether its all part of the TV quiz and game show culture that was ushered in by the amazing success of Millionaire. After all, lets be honest, apart from a tiny number of people, if you got through the fastest finger, then you were definitely going home with more money than you came. In such circumstances, then, who needs a consolation prize. So Millionaire doesn’t have consolation prizes – so why should any of the shows that followed it ? The Weakest Link makes a positive virtue of it, one of its main catchphrases being – You Leave With Nothing.
Do we actually want to see consolation prizes, anyway ? Well, all I can tell you is what I feel about it. Cards on the table, I am very lucky because I won Mastermind, which means I have a lovely Dennis Mann Caithness Glass Rose Bowl as a souvenir. But apart from that, I have nothing tangible to show for any of the other shows that I’ve been on. Come and Have A Go If You Think You’re Smart Enough was a lot of fun, but it would be lovely to have just a little something I could show and tell about it. Would it hurt 12 Yard Productions to, lets say, give each member of the challenger’s team on Eggheads a souvenir eggcup, perhaps emblazoned with the slogan ‘don’t Put All Your Eggheads In One Basket ‘ that Dermot is so fond of. Mind you, it would have to be a big eggcup to get that on. Alright, I messed up Millionaire and only went away with £1000. Well, I have to say that the money is long gone. Couldn’t they give you a chrome plated cheque, with the symbolic figure of £1 million pounds on it ?
Mind you, now I come to think about it, perhaps there is another reason why production companies don’t tend to give out consolation prizes any more. So here it is : -