If you've read many of my reviews of new quiz shows over the last few years you might find difficulty in believing this, but the fact is that I do try very hard to give every show a fair hearing, er, viewing. I don’t actually enjoy saying the same things, pointing out the same flaws, bemoaning the same missed opportunities. So I’m afraid that I’m not going to enjoy writing this review of “Fanatics” very much.
“Fanatics” is a Sky 1 show that began on 7th January. The stated aim of the show is to pit three ‘superfans’ of various things against each other to supposedly find out whose knowledge of their chosen subject is greater. The winner wins a prize they have chosen connected to their area of interest, and the runners up don’t.
Now, last night’s show, on paper, should have been very much of interest to me. The three contestants were a lady who is very much involved with DWAS (The Doctor Who Appreciation Society), a former professional boxer with actually a pretty good professional record, and the current holder of the world record for visiting all stations on the London Underground network in the shortest time. Now, as I said, a programme testing knowledge of Doctor Who, Boxing and the London Underground ought to be a winner as far as I’m concerned, being as I’m very partial to all 3. Yet it wasn’t. Where did it all go wrong?
Well, this is Sky 1. You really shouldn’t expect anything particularly intellectually stimulating at 8pm on Sky 1 – well, at any time really. As a quiz it was very unsatisfying. Let me explain how it worked last night. In the first round, the Doctor Who fan was shown a composite picture made up of 4 pieces of faces of actors who played either a Doctor or a companion. These really didn’t seem that difficult. The boxing fanatic was shown a composite picture made up of 4 faces of well-known boxers – 3 easy, and one a lot more difficult. As for the Underground man, well, he was shown a composite photo of the exteriors of 4 different London underground stations. Now, even someone as useless at identifying faces as I am knows that recognizing faces from small parts of them is a hell of a lot easier than recognizing parts of buildings. For example, the stations designed by Leslie Green, with their ox-blood tiles, superficially look very similar, and when you only get a small part of it I should imagine its extremely difficult to tell them apart. For me, this put the Underground guy 3 points behind, and the nature of the show meant he had little chance of pulling back the deficit.
The second round was a sound round. The Doctor Who fanatic was told she was going to be played the sound of an alien dying. All she had to do was name the species, and the planet they came from. Now, the insistence on the planet meant that even before it was played, Jess and I turned to each other and said simultaneously , “Slitheen - Raxacoricofallapatorius” – it just seemed so obvious. It was too. The third round – well, in the third round they were blindfolded, and given an object to identify, and a subsidiary question. Shades of “They Think It’s All Over” and the ever popular feel the sportsman round. Cue yet another break. Then the jigsaw round. Each contestant was shown a board of blank jigsaw pieces, and asked to pick one to reveal. If they could identify what was beneath, they could have 3 points, if they needed 2 pieces, then they could get 2 points, and if they needed 3 pieces, then they could get one point. In this case it was the boxer who was asked for the ‘bleedin’ obvious’. He was asked to identify a popular boxing venue. Even before he revealed one piece I predicted it would be Madison Square Garden – and of course it was.
Finally, in the last round, we at last came to something worth watching. A 60 second round of quickfire questions against the clock. This part I enjoyed – but we’d had to wade through so much nonsense and filler to get there in the first place.
So, let’s start to summarise. There is very little actual ‘quiz’ in this quiz. The rounds, such as they are, are incredibly bitty and short, and frankly a lot more thought needed to be given to the questions/tasks to ensure that the contenders were all on a level playing field. To make up for the lack of quiz here, there is a huge amount of filler. Host Baz Ashwamy is not someone whose work I was previously aware of, and I have to say that I found his inane grin and false bonhomie rather irritating at best. He wasted minutes asking them about how they developed their specific interests in the first place. Then a little later we were shown a filmed insert of each of them, where they told us exactly the same thing! At the end of the day, I love (good) quizzes, I love Doctor Who, I love boxing and I love the London Underground. Yet I found this show to be extremely tedious. So how on earth must people who have no interest in any of the above have reacted to it?
Not for me.