Saturday, 3 May 2014

Ejector Seat

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.


George Millman said...

Do you remember the short-lived quiz The Chair? It was a Saturday night thing with John McEnroe, and it involved the contestants being hooked to a heart monitor, and not being allowed to answer the questions until they were calm enough.

Oddly, Perfection involves the contestants sitting during the three rounds and standing in the final.

Londinius said...

Hi George
I do remember the Chair - although I never watched more then one or two. It was during the early noughties period when the BBC was trying to create its own popular prime time big money success. It only lasted one series.

Yes, while you mention that about Perfection, in Only Connect while we sat for rounds 1, 2 and 4, we did actually stand for the Connecting Walls.

George Millman said...

I really enjoyed The Chair, although I wouldn't enjoy it now. I was only about ten, so I suppose to me at the time it felt quite grand to be staying up late on Saturday nights and watching television, especially since I was already interested in quiz shows.

I think the Only Connect thing is probably more to do with logistics than anything else. The Connecting Walls would be quite hard to do at the tables the contestants sit at for the rest of the game. It's actually quite refreshing for a decision to be made for logistical reasons rather than for the sense of tension for the audience! I don't really like shows that try to increase tension all the time, they make me feel quite uncomfortable. It took a while for me to get into Pressure Pad because of all the flashing lights and things, but I enjoyed the gameplay enough to stick with it.

On Perfection, I don't think that they're especially strict about the chair thing. There has been the odd contestant who has been allowed to sit in the final without appearing especially disabled, so they may just allow it if someone asks. In fact, I think I recall an episode where a contestant was nervous and Nick Knowles said, 'Are you all right? We can get the chair back if you like.'

By the way, I've decided not to apply for Perfection this time - I was considering it, but I have too much to think about with Uni to add that extra pressure on myself. Perhaps next time they put out a casting call. I really enjoy Perfection actually - I wasn't sure about it at first, but it has grown on me. The only thing I would say is that there is a big flaw in the format - as the Usual Suspects have to change the answers knowing how many the contestant has got wrong, it is actually more advantageous to answer two questions wrong than only one, as there's less of a chance that the Usual Suspects will get them. I think it would be better if they had to change the answers knowing that at least one was wrong, but without a specific number given.

Andrew B. said...

I've never understood in Perfection why they don't get to pick one category each if nobody "achieves perfection".

George Millman said...

They do if no one achieves it in the final round. I think it's because it's a bit of an all-or-nothing type thing; if you went by your suggestion, if you were a Usual Suspect and the player had got a question wrong, you'd know that you'd get to pick one of their categories whatever happened next, and your decision would just be for who would pick the other one. The way it is, the Suspects have to achieve perfection just as much as the player does, because otherwise they might not get a chance to pick any categories.

Calum Smith said...

hi everyone
the chair was a great tv game show and i really thought it was a good idea for someone to think to do that. did you know ejector seat got the idea for tipping contestants out of there chair from the graham norton show!and i love it, i made a replica of the seat but it doesn't work yet, i just have to make the smoke tube work and the seat isn't the same because its black and its smaller than the real ones. my chair only can make you fall back, it doesn't make you go forward and back. i have been working on it for 14 months and i want to actully work. i thought if i make 5 or 6 then i can make my own studio in the garage, i just need movers that they use in shops and stick the bottom of the chair to it and get lights from my conservatory but i need a lot of buttons to make it work with the sound effects and the smoke and people think its blue gas but its just smoke and a blue liht changes the colour of it and if you saw episode 19 then in 1 the smoke turns red because the side of the chair was red and the smoke went through it.