How did this one manage to sneak up on me? That’s not difficult to answer, I suppose. It’s on while I’m at work. In fact I wouldn’t have known anything about it, but I came home from doing the radio show earlier in the day, was flicking through the channels, and noticed our own Andy Tucker. – What’s this? – I wondered, and so I watched. In fact I watched yesterday’s show on the iplayer as well, just to make sure that my first impressions weren’t wrong.
”Beat the Pack” is a daytime, mid prize range show – it isn’t setting out to find the finest quiz brain in the land, so let’s try and judge it fairly, at least. 8 contestants start each show. One is picked randomly to play. There are 6 question categories, and all the player has to do is answer one question correctly from each. When the question is asked, they can play or pass. If they play the first and get it right, then that’s £2000 in the bank. If they get it wrong, then they’re outta there. I think. Another player moves from the pack to take control of the game. They don’t have to play though. They can pass, which means the next question is worth just half the previous amount. If they pass, if all the players in the pack have the question right, then they’re outta there. I think. I’ll be honest, the rules weren’t so much complicated as just rather soporific. If a player from the pack gets a passed question right, then they go back to the safe zone for the next category. If they get two questions in a row wrong, then they’re outta there. I think. Once the 6 categories have been asked, then we get through to the end game. We play for however much the player in control has won . However many of the pack are left, the player in control has to choose one to play against in the final. As for any others – well, they’re outta there. I think. The player in control has 75 seconds to answer questions. Keep answering correctly, and the money is theirs. Anything they get wrong is turned over to the last member of the pack. If the last member of the pack gets a chance to answer three or more of these, and gets three correct, then that player wins the money. If not, then the player in control wins. That’s all there is to it.
Well, as I said, even despite the presence of such a great quizzer as Andy Tucker, it isn’t trying to provide a serious test for serious quizzers. On the positive side I give the producers kudos for selecting such a fine quizzer to take part. I found some of the questions rather interesting as well. For a daytime show the potential prize pot of £12,000 is fairly serious dosh. For the record Andy won £10,000, which I would guess is far more than anybody else has or does in this series.
The show does suffer, in my opinion, from some flaws.
1) – Like many shows, the Faffing About Quotient is too high for my liking. With 8 contestants you will always have the potential for some serious time wasting, talking to them. It doesn’t have to be this way. Just look at the way that Fifteen-to-One used to handle 15 contestants every show. I timed the show on the iplayer, and it took over 4 minutes before the first question was asked. To put that into perspective, that’s 10% of the show’s run time. I’ve seen comments in various places that judicious use of the fast playback can reduce this show to about 10 minutes without losing any of the questions – I haven’t tried it myself, but it seems plausible. Certainly this is a show which would easily fit into a 30 minute format, and would doubtless be all the better for it.
2) You don’t get a lot of questions for your money. Or rather you don’t get enough questions until the 75 second endgame. The 6 category rounds have a mix of questions, so it seems, of differing levels of difficulty, but not all of them are totally without interest. However when you get to the 75 second endgame the level of difficulty of the question is lowered significantly. In terms of the mechanics of the show I can understand this. You want people to have to pass, or get some wrong during the category rounds in order to build up the tension. However you don’t want them getting too many wrong too quickly in the endgame. But it does mean that if you’re a regular quizzer you won’t be getting any wrong in the endgame rounds when you’re playing along at home, which can be a bit of a turn off.
I’ll be brutally honest, this didn’t really grab me. Well, that’s not necessarily a big deal because it’s not aimed at people like me, I’m quite sure. However it is possible to make a popular daytime quiz show which manages to have broad appeal , to both the general public and the serious quizzer alike – Pointless being a good example. This doesn’t manage that, still, if it’s popular enough with the daytime audience then the Beeb won’t worry about that. Time will tell. Congratulations on your win, though Andy. Very well done.