Friday, 28 May 2010

One Million Pounds Dropped, and an Opportunity Missed

Let me choose my words carefully. The 1 Million Pound Drop Live burst onto our screens this week, and like it or loathe it, I couldn’t ignore it. Actually the truth of it was that I did none of the above. I can’t say that I particularly liked it, for reasons which I shall explain later, but on the other hand it really isn’t aimed at people like me anyway, and as such its inoffensive and I certainly don’t hate it.

So, if its not for my particular demographic, and I’m really ambivalent towards it, what am I doing bothering to review it ? Well, I do like to think of myself as at least a student of the Quiz show genre, if not a connoisseur, and I think that any show that tries to offer us something new is at least worthy of notice.

What’s new about The 1 Million Pound Drop Live ? Not the host , certainly. Davina McCall, or ‘Shouty Gurny Woman’ as she is known in certain circles, had a go at the Big Prize Quiz Show a few years ago with ITV’s The Vault. Screamin’ ‘Vina’s regular Big Brother gig ends with this year’s series, so she’s on the lookout for a new regular earner. Sorry, love, but I wouldn’t put a million pounds on this one being it.

How about the Prize ? No, sorry, winning a million on telly has been around since the 90s. The format , then ? Well, yes, to some extent. For one thing each contestant, or pair of contestants, starts with £1 million. They are asked a set of multiple choice questions. Put the million onto the wrong answer, and it falls down a hole and its goodnight Vienna. So you can hedge your bets, and spread the money around several answers. You’ll lose some, but you still carry some through. Well, I’ll be honest, I haven’t watched the show through from the start, but I have yet to see anyone get through all of their 8 questions without losing the lot.

You see , some of he questions are bloody hard. Most of them , in fact. I’ve seen a lot of questions of the – which of these happened first ? – genre. Trouble is, all of the options happened pretty much at the same time. These are things you are not meant to know. In fact I’ll go further. These are things you are meant NOT to know. So it’s a guessing game. There’s a place for guessing in a quiz, but there’s also a place for having a decent grounding in General Knowledge. I don’t think that this would get you very far in The 1 Million Pound Drop.

Is this why the show pretty much leaves me cold ? Its one of the reasons, certainly, but its not the only one. For one thing its obviously aimed at a younger demographic, the Big Brother Generation. There is a school of thought that says that all of the contestants will go straight into the Big Brother house and become the new set of housemates. Could be. But it means that the succession of contestants tend to merge into each other, and I found myself longing to see a scruffy, little balding bloke in his fifties for a bit of light relief. Fat chance of that. For another thing, I’m sorry, I’m sure she’s a lovely person when she’s off duty, very good to her mum and all that sort of thing, but I’m afraid that I find Screamin’ ‘Vina’s on screen persona very irritating. But above all else, it seems that the show is trying to set a new record for the least number of questions asked during a long show. Its pace is positively funereal.

So while I applaud this attempt to breathe life into the seemingly moribund big money quiz genre, I can’t help thinking that , as for The 1 Million Pound Drop, ‘dropped’ is exactly what it will be at the end of its run.

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