At last I’ve managed to catch up with the BBC’s new(ish) daytime offering, Pressure Pad. Now, before I start, let’s set a few ground rules. I know that this is never intended to be a search for the UK’s finest quiz team, and I know that the show is not designed to especially appeal to serious quizzers. So I will try to consider the show on its own merits.
It’s presented by John Barrowman, whose last quiz gig, I seem to recall, was the Beeb’s god-awful The Kids Are Alright a few years ago. What can you say, other than you know what you’re going to get from John Barrowman. He’s a professional, and despite being born in Glasgow he spent his formative years in the USA, so everything he does in the presentation line is going to be slick. He seemed warm enough, and the conversations with the contestants ( of which I not a fan in any show, I’m afraid) looked genuinely friendly.
So to the mechanics of the show. Two teams of five people face each other. These would be friends/family/ work colleagues/whatever, but, if the evidence of the show I watched is anything to go by, not quizzers. Each team has a captain, and the other members go head to head in a series of quiz games which take place on the eponymous pressure pad. I’ll be honest, seeing two teams squaring off against each other in individual games is unhappily reminiscent of Family Fortunes – a show which has probably been responsible for more terrible pub quiz questions than any other. Well, it’s better than that, certainly. Basically all the games I watched involved using the gimmicky pressure pad. Just to give you an idea, the first game I saw was a king of question tennis, if you like. The two adversaries stood on either side of the pressure pad. A red line was in the middle between them. It started moving towards one of them, and the only way he could reverse its direction was by answering a question correctly. The other opponent then had to answer to try to reverse the direction. If it reached an end sector, then that contestant lost a life. 2 lives lost and the game was over. Another involved being given three options – say the number of UK top 40 singles by three different groups, and picking the right sector of the pie chart appearing in the pressure pad to represent one of them.
The questions were certainly no harder than you’d expect for a show at this time, for a general audience, and one suspects that conspicuously useful teams were weeded out during the application and audition process, so the level was certainly appropriate. There were more entertainment – and dare I say it, quite current entertainment questions than any other category. Pressure Pad is not alone in this. Following the tried and tested ‘Eggheads’ format, the contestant who wins a head to head can rejoin his/her team for the final game, while the defeated one is out. In the final game the two captains stand on each side of the pad. In front of them are a series of steps into the centre. The first step has two options, the second three, the third four and so forth. The captain with the biggest team left goes first. He has to pick the right options, with help from his remaining team members, as answers to a set of questions to get him into the middle and take the cash. If he gets one wrong he stops, the other team gets their set. If the other team gets one wrong, then we go back to the same question where the first team stopped, and they take another guess, having already eliminated one wrong option.
That’s almost it. One team will have won £2000. They are then given the chance for a Bullseye style gamble. They see six options. They will be asked a question, and have to pick the right option from the 6. Now, they don ‘t have to take the question, in which case they can walk away with £2000. £1000 is added to the jackpot every day that it’s not won. If a captain takes the gamble, and gets it wrong, then the team get nothing. Judging by the fact that the jackpot was up to £10000 on the show I watched I would say that a lot of teams were showing discretion rather than valour.
Well, there we are, then. That’s Pressure Pad. Did I like it? Not that much. Did I hate it? No. Would I go out of my way to watch it? No. Would I pay it that much attention if someone else happened to be watching it in the same room as me? Probably not. But hey, it’s not aimed at people like me in the first place. In line with a lot of shows in the genre, it’s a good ten minutes too long, and maybe fifteen. The FAQ ( Faffing About Quotient) is high – it isn’t just that it’s getting on for five minutes before the first question is asked, but then there’s the chat before each head to head as well. The games are alright, John Barrowman is alright, the questions are alright, although there’s nothing like enough of them. Not a lot more to say about it than that.