Monday, 27 July 2009

TV Watch - Guesstimation BBC1 Saturday Night

Haven't I seen You Somewhere Before ?

I've always thought that it makes sense for the BBC to build a quiz/game show around the National Lottery slot on a Saturday evening. After all, the possibility of winning cash you've never earned just by playing a game is surely the appeal of both. In their time the BBC have tried out a wide range of different formats in this particular slot. Some of them have been successful and relatively enjoyable. This is all subjective, but I liked The People Versus and Winning Lines. I know that In It To Win It and 1 versus 100 have their admirers too. My first TV appearence was actually in a Saturday night big money quiz - Come and Have A Go If You Think You're Smart Enough, with Nicky Campbell. Fact is that we weren't . However, I say this to prove a point, that I have no particular axe to grind against BBC Saturday evening offerings, and that I always try to judge each different show on its own merits.

Which brings me to Guesstimation. As a quiz this is very much towards the Game Show end of the quiz show spectrum. Basically the show involves two family teams competing against each other by making the most accurate predictions of the answers to a series of questions set by Nick Knowles. More about him later. The winners earn themselves a 'dream holiday to a mystery location'. Actually the location wasn't that much of a mystery. They did a little teaser to give a clue, and short of festooning the screen with kiwis and All-Blacks they couldn't have done a great deal more to give away the fact that New Zealand was the destination . Certainly it didn't require a huge amount of guesswork.

Actually to be fair some of the questions were quite interesting. Apparently there are 72 ( I think ) bathrooms in Buckingham Palace, and over 1200 steps in the Eiffel Tower. I found myself playing along, and seriously trying to work out an estimate of how much the victorious New Zealand Rugby League team might have weighed in kilograms. So far so good, then. There is actually the germ of a nice little quiz in there, albeit a quiz about things you are highly unlikely to know the absolutely correct answer to. Although having said that one of the questions was how fast in mph the world's fastest recorded serve in tennis was - and that's gettable. As it was one of the teams had 150mph, which is only 5 mph out.

However, the bugbear is that this is still a game show. Actually its at least two different game shows, that you've probably seen before. Now I don't mean to imply that formats have been plagiarised , or copyrights infringed. As Churchill once said - "Oh no no no no. " ( That's the insurance dog, not Sir Winston ). But if you're like me you do get a feeling that you're watching something familiar, rather similar to things you've seen before. This is a quiz show, meets Family Fortunes, meets You Bet. I know that there's a sizeable number of people out there who do enjoy the All Star version of Family Fortunes, and who enjoyed the original, but I'm afraid I'm not one of them. This probably has to do with the fact that a certain type of question master seems to delight in using Family Fortunes questions as a randomizing factor in his or her quizzes. They'll ask -
"In a recent survey . . . "
and the quiz maniac within me, never that far from the surface, longs to shout out - Oh yes ? Carried out by whom ? Under what conditions ? When ? Where ? etc. etc. However, I digress.
As for the You Bet element, since its a Game show, and a Saturday night, we have to have Big Star Mystery Guests. And to be fair, the two guests were very big boys indeed. Ex Wigan and Great Britain Rugby League star Martin Offiah, and Britain's Strongest Man Glen Ross to be precise. With apologies to the two gentlemen involved, I have to say that I found the "How Many full milk bottles are enough to balance Martin Offiah on a seesaw ? " and "How many times in 45 seconds can Glen Ross dead lift a family hatchback car ? " to be the least interesting questions of the evening.

Yes, its a game show, and so its obligatory that We Have To Get To Know The Families. Now, don't get me wrong, the two families involved seemed very nice and pleasant people. But that's not what I tuned in for. Actually what I tuned in for was to see if it was any good. So if you push me for an opinion, I'd say that it was alright. Nick Knowles, who made a decent enough fist of Who Dares Wins last year does a competent and inoffensive job with his trademark breezy and blokey style. To be honest, though, and this is no reflection on Mr. Knowles, I think he needs something a little more quizzy than this. Something as fun-and-gamey as this really cries out for an old fashioned comedian/presenter in the great tradition of the 60's, 70's and 80's. Bruce Forsythe may not be everybody's cup of tea - actually he may not be anybody's cup of tea nowadays - but I invite you to think back to his Generation Game heyday. Think what he might have done with the 'lets humiliate the person with the most ridiculous answer ' bit which followed each question. Nick Knowles is really a bit too nice on this bit. I know that this is Saturday evening family entertainment, but you can still be rude, or at least cheeky, with a smile on your face. Or put it another way, if you're not going to do it with conviction, then don't do it at all.

I'm carping. Its only the fact that a few questions are asked within the show that brings it within our remit at all in the first place. Its an undemanding, inoffensive if a little derivative, Saturday evening Game Show. Its not really my cup of tea, but then the whole family game show genre isn't really either, so who am I to judge ? I did like the fact that all the questions and answers came up on the screen, because it meant that I could watch most of the show on fast forward. For me it worked a lot better that way.

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