What is it about chairs and quiz shows? Obviously the most iconic quiz show chair of them all is the famous Mastermind Black Chair. In my opinion it was perfectly comfortable, and not as daunting as, say, being in another well-known quiz chair, the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire hotseat. Almost all the quiz shows I’ve ever appeared on involved answering questions while sitting in a chair – the only exception being my very first – Come And Have A Go If You Think You’re Smart Enough (we weren’t). So there’s nothing unusual about a show in which contestants sit in a chair and answer questions. The gimmick, for want of a better word, of ITV’s new daytime quiz show Ejector Seat is that the chair begins to move backwards when they answer incorrectly, and then when they reach the end of the track it tips them unceremoniously out of the show.
Alright, alright, you know that I’m rarely all that complimentary about new, mid prize range daytime quiz shows. I’m not the target audience in the first place. But I promise that I will try my best to give this a fair crack of the whip.
The show is hosted by Andi Peters. Now, if you are familiar with Mr. Peters and his oeuvre, then you won’t be expecting anything too cerebral, and nor should you. He’s there as a good, safe pair of hands who will be calm, natural, and not say anything to upset the audience. This is not a quiz show for great quizzers- well, to be brutally frank it isn’t really a show for quizzers at all - this is for ‘give-it-a-go-innit’ members of the public. I was pleasantly surprised that, when I played this on the ITV Player less than two minutes went by before we were off with the first round, and some of that was taken up with the opening credits. 6 players sit facing Andi. They are each in a lit up armchair, which is at the near end of a lit track. In round one Andi asks them a series of questions. They have to buzz in to answer. If they buzz in and answer correctly, happy days, they’re through to the next round. If they buzz in and answer incorrectly, though, you’re out, and we progress immediately to round 2. If five people answer correctly with no incorrect answers, then the player left behind is out. For the purposes of the show, this means that the chair slips rapidly back along the track, and then tips backwards a la the red chair on the Graham Norton show. Whether the player has to extricate him or herself from the clutches of the chair, or whether they are tipped back into some glorified Thunderbirds Tracey Island-esque chute which deposits them safely back into their dressing room, that we don’t get to see.
Now, Round Two is where the FAQ (Faffing About Quotient) starts to rise. Andi turns to each player in turn. After exchanging pleasantries (yawn yawn) he asks a question. If they get it right, they stay where they are, and he moves on to the next player. If they get it wrong the chair starts to move backwards. He keeps firing questions at them until they get one right, or until they are ejected, or until they press their panic button. Getting one right stops the chair. Once the chair reaches the end of the track, they are ejected. Once during the game a player can press a panic button. This stops the chair, and Andi gives them a sudden death multiple choice question. Get it right, and they are moved back a little way up the track. They get it wrong, and they are ejected. During this round I rather nastily kept hoping that the contestants would get the questions wrong, simply because it kept the chat down and the questions coming. We keep passing along the contestants until two of the contestants are ejected and we are down to 4, and the speed of the chair ramps up slightly as we go.
In the third round the three remaining players fight it out for a chance to get to the final. Basically it’s about buzzing in to answer a question. Let’s say the first person buzzes in correctly. Then the next two contestants fight out the next question. If one of them buzzes correctly , then the other starts moving backwards, and keeps doing so until they answer one correctly. And so on until just one remains. In the final round, the contestant has to face three rounds of questions without being ejected. Surviving one round brings £500. Two rounds - £1000, and three rounds - £10,000. By my reckoning you need to get perhaps three questions right in the first half dozen or so to guarantee £500. Basically, if you get your first two questions right, you’re pretty much laughing, because you don’t start moving back until you get one wrong.
Right then, let’s make a few observations before I give you my verdict. For the kind of show that it is you know that there’s going to be quite a bit of chat and you just have to accept that if you’re going to watch it. The gameplay itself is relatively simple, and this is a positive point. At the end of the day it is about answering more questions correctly than the other people, and that’s essentially what a quiz ought to be. The nature of the show is that it is rather stop-start, which means just as you’re getting up a decent head of steam on the questions they stop. As for the questions themselves, well, they’re for the average, non-quizzing public and as easy as you’d expect. Which never stopped the Weakest Link becoming very popular. I’ve only watched one show, but if the players on this one were typical, while I can see quite a lot of £500 and even £1000 pay outs, I think the production company won’t be writing too many cheques for £10,000.
So to my verdict, then. Altogether now – this particular subgenre of quiz show really isn’t my cup of tea – Ok, so allowing for that, and judging it for what it is rather than what it isn’t. For its type I really thought it was quite good. Negatives for me are the usual ones for this sort of thing, that it’s too long and there’s too much chat. Having said that, though, I can see it working among the ‘general knowledge really isn’t my subject’ crowd, which actually is probably the target audience. So even if it’s not the most difficult show in the world – and it isn’t – and even if this sort of thing isn’t my own particular cup of Darjeeling – I have to say that you have to give it some credit. As a show of its type, for its target audience, there’s been quite a few worse out there.