Tonight saw the return of the 2009 Lammy award winner for the Best New Quiz Show - The Chase. You’ll maybe remember that I’m not the greatest fan of Divided. I think its needlessly mean, and gameplay is too slow - just my opinion and feel free to disagree. So I welcomed this show back with pleasure. I will come clean, I did know that my friend Anne Hegerty has joined the Chasers, and although she wasn’t on duty in tonight’s show, I can assure you that any contestants who think they’ll get an easier run against Anne than against Shaun or Mark had better think again !
Tonight then, featured among the challengers none other than my friend, Mastermind Grand Finalist Les Morrell. Well done for getting onto the show, Les. Well done to the producers as well for allowing on a quality contestant as well. More about that a little later.
Gameplay seemed very much as I remembered it from last year. Each one of four contestants plays in turn to see if they can make it into the team for the Final Chase. They are asked 1 minute of quickfire questions, and given £1000 for each one they answer correctly. Then they meet the Chaser for the show, and their total is put onto a ladder. The total they have won is a couple of steps below where the Chaser starts from. If they elect to start from the next step up they get offered a higher amount, and if they elect to go from one lower, then they play for a reduced, and often much reduced amount. Both challenger and Chaser answer the same questions simultaneously. Correct answers take you one step down the ladder, and incorrect ones leave you where you are.
Tonight’s Chaser was Mastermind champion 2004 Shaun Wallace. Shaun, who is the only Humphrys era champion I don’t know either personally, or via the interweb, is pretty much perfect for this game. He has a certain warmth about him, and his little digs at the contenders are said with a twinkle in the eye and a tongue in the cheek. He took a while to hit form tonight, though. 3 challengers managed to make it to the bottom of the ladder, and even though none of them took the gamble of going for the highest amount, the £16,000 they carried through to the final chase was certainly a nice little earner. Who was sent packing in the first round ? Unfortunately it was Les. Host Bradley Walsh made a couple of comments about Les being a Mastermind Grand Finalist, and Les certainly carried the highest amount through onto the ladder, a cool £14,000. However, and I have to speak as I find, of all the sets of questions I think he was given the hardest . Not that it necessarily makes any difference, since Shaun had exactly the same set of questions, and he got more of them right which is why he caught Les. Still, I think Les would have certainly fancied his chances a lot more if he’d had any of the other three sets. Just coincidence , or the producers hedging their bets ? Lets say that it was just bad luck.
So on to the best reason to watch the show, The Final Chase. You know how it works. The contenders are asked to answer two minutes of quickfire questions. There were three people in the final team, and so they started 3 steps along the ladder . For each question they were asked they had to buzz in, and either offer an answer or pass. The challengers received no penalty for wrong answers. The Chaser then, being set a target, had to catch them in his own 2 minutes. If the Chaser gave a wrong answer, then the clock would stop, and it would be offered to the team, and if they answered correctly, then the Chaser was put back a step. However, offsetting this was the fact that the Chaser did not have to buzz in to give an answer. We know from last year that keeping out of reach of the Chaser can be done, but it ain’t easy. For tonight’s team it was made harder by the fact that the best quizzer among them was probably the one who was already sitting in Hospitality. They scored 19, but as we saw last year, the Banker never pays out for anything less than 20, and preferably more than that. Shaun was ahead of the clock by the minute mark, and yes, he got a couple wrong, but the result was never in doubt.
Look, it is what it is , right ? It’s a teatime show, and its not University Challenge, Only Connect or Mastermind. It is entertaining, though, and I like it. If you’re thinking , well, I would say that since two of the Chasers are my friends, and the other one, Shaun, is someone whom I would like to be my friend, well, yes, I would. But thankfully I can say this without my nose growing at all. I liked the show last year, and I liked it again tonight. I said last year that I think it’s a better pro-am format than Eggheads – which is not meant as a reflection on the Eggheads themselves, merely on the format of the show – and I stick by that. I’m looking forward to seeing Anne’s first run as Chaser, which I’m guessing will be either tomorrow or Wednesday. Bring it on !