It’s funny how some years there’s almost no new quizzes – I think of 2010 particularly – and then other years they come thick and fast. Some are faster than others, and some of course are thicker. Here we are, not even one quarter of the way through the year, and we’ve already had enough new quizzes to have a wide selection to choose from for this year’s LAMMY for the best new quiz show of the year. Well, that’ s a long time away from us yet.
I finally sat down for a brief rest from my labours this afternoon at about 10 to 5, and came upon the BBC’s latest entry in the medium level prize, teatime quiz stakes. This is Breakaway, no less. Presenter Nick Hancock, fondly remembered for the early years of They Think It’s All Over, before it became a caricature of itself, earned his quiz spurs on the underrated ITV prime time show Duel. So we were in good safe hands there. As for the quiz itself, well, we were firmly in the land of the game show, but then there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that, if it’s a good game. Now, you need to accept that the show had already been on for a while when I tuned in, so I didn’t see it from the start, and it’s not impossible that I might have got the wrong impression about some aspects of the show. Forgive my error if this is the case.
Basically it involves a team of players, standing on a walkway, graduated with 30 steps . To take a step forward, a question must be answered correctly by one of the team. If it is answered incorrectly, then they have to all take a step back, and the money is wiped off. At certain stages of the walkway, the players are offered the opportunity to breakaway. This means that they get the opportunity to go it alone, while the others have to wait for them to make a mistake. They can invite another player to join them. When they do make a mistake, then they lose a life, and can be sent home. The sections between the breakaway questions belong to different categories. For instance, in tonight’s show I saw categories of Inventions – Pot Luck – Football. Either one of the breakaways will work, or the team themselves will eventually get through the line. Whatever money they have managed to build up, that’s what gets shared by the first through the line – breakaway or team.
Maybe it sounds a little complicated, but it wasn’t really. What I liked about the questions was that they did seem to get a little harder as they progressed through each category. What a refreshing change to see that the contestants were actually required to come up with answers, rather than to choose between options as well – there’s far too much of that going on at the moment. Tonight’s show was won by a breakaway, and the lady who broke away had the sense to invite someone who actually knew something to come with her. Alright, questions like “How many presidents are carved on Mount Rushmore ? “ and “From which musical does the song – There is Nothing Like A Dame – come from ? “ are never going to give a proper quizzer sleepless nights, but how often do we see such innocuous stuff tripping up nice, decent members of the public on any numbers of shows ?
It’s early days, and it’s always best to give shows like this a bit of time to bed in before making hard and fast pronouncements on them. But I quite enjoyed this, and will watch it again. Which is pretty much the point, when you come to think about it.