Saturday, 5 April 2014

The Long Awaited Return of Fifteen to One

New Fifteen to One

Now, those of us who were around to watch it at the time know that Fifteen to One was a great TV quiz. A great, great TV quiz. No nonsense wasting time getting to know the contestants, just questions. Lots and lots of questions. Easy questions - medium questions, hard questions and what-the-hells.

Now, when you revive such a dear old favourite, you’re never going to please everyone. I don’t think you could really have improved on the original 15 to 1 that much – but all I was hoping was that they wouldn’t ruin it.

When it was first announced that Sandi Toksvig was going to be the host I was worried. That’s no reflection on her – if you listen to Radio 4’s News Quiz you’ll know that she’s a droll old soul, and perfect for that sort of chatty, panel game genre. But that’s not 15 to 1. So I was worried that an inordinate amount of time would be spent on ‘getting to know’ contestants. Let’s be honest, with 15 you’re never going to be fair to everyone in terms of how long you talk to them, so you wonder why they she singled out three or four of them before the start of round 1 as she did. Why bother anyway? It’s just not necessary, or indeed desirable. Having said that, though, after an initial burst of introductory tedium there wasn't a lot of time wasted on this in the rest of the show.

The rules seemed to have stayed the same, with each contestant asked 2 questions in turn. Those who got both of them wrong were out. However one nice development is that they get to come back since everyone gets three chances. Nice, I approve of that, although it does mean that you actually need fewer contestants in a series. As regards the pace of round 1, well, we started at 5:15, and round one only ended by 5:40, so it certainly wasn’t as fast moving as the original. I had a horrible feeling that when we came back from the break Sandi would start chatting to contestants again, but thankfully she didn’t. Round 2 was a question and nominate round, just as in the original. Actually this round was pretty close to the original in terms of pacing and interest, and I really rather enjoyed it. As in the original 15 to 1, the majority of the questions wouldn’t keep you awake at night, but every now and then a real stopper would come in, and if those are the ones that you get asked, then that’s just your bad luck. Still, it did seem to me that the best quizzers in the bunch got through to the final three. One of them was Nic Mortimer, LAM reader, and devotee of the In the News questions. Anthony Fish, one of the others, is from Torfaen. I can’t say that I recognized him from the South Wales circuit, such as it is. However I do know that he was a semi finalist in Brain of Britain 2013.

The final round progressed just as I remembered from the original. However there was one thing I wasn’t sure about, which was whether you get to come back if you’re knocked out in the last three. From what Sandi said to Cliff the Landlord, who was the first of the last three to be knocked out, I would guess not. Which isn’t very fair when you think of it, considering those knocked out before this stage get two more bites of the cherry. There we are – the original 15 to 1 could be brutal as well. Anthony was next to go, and LAM reader Nic went a question later. Didn’t matter – he won, to set the first target on the leader board. Well done!

So overall, what is the verdict? Well, as I write this, Saturday’s hour long show has just finished, and I feel a sense of relief about the whole thing. I mean, it is not without its faults. For one thing, it’s too long. You’re not getting anything much in this version that you didn’t get in the original, except quite a bit more chat, which isn’t necessary. It’s most noticeable in round one, which proceeds at a very slow clip compared with the original. But once that’s over, well it picks up then, and has some of the appeal of William G. Stewart’s classic show. It’s still rather vicious in the way that maybe up to a dozen questions will go by where you think – easy – easy – insult to the intelligence - easy – very easy – then suddenly with no warning comes an absolute snorter. I couldn’t see any pattern to it, and that’s why I think that, had my application been successful, I might well have fallen flat on my face. Still looks like fun though, and I shall be watching it again. It’s an admittedly cautious yes from me, Simon.


Jack said...

I thought it worked really well. I too was dreading there would be a lot of padding talk, but there didn't seem to be much apart from that bit at the start. Once that was gone, the rest of the show flowed well, though I, like someone I spoke to earlier, think the break halfway through the first round was a bit unnecessary.

We shall see how the rest of the series works out.

Addy said...

If this lurker to your blog may offer an opinion, I too was wary about the return of the show as remaking such brilliant shows always risks disaster *laments the sorrowful modernisation of "Catchphrase"*.

But as you said, the questions appeared much the same as last time, with plenty of very easy ones and the occasional one that requires extremely specialist knowledge. As always, luck plays a huge role, since you might be fortunate enough to miss out most of round 2 if other contestants don't nominate you, or else you could face every other question if the others are playing tactically and see you as either a threat or an easy victim.

Still, aside from the needless explanation of the answers in round 1, the removal of which would have shortened things considerably, I liked it. Toksvig is usually an enjoyable watch and so it proved again. I think I'll be sticking with this one.

Dan said...

I agree that the pace needs to be picked up a bit, especially in those first two rounds. However, I suspect it's partly down to the need to slot ads in - since the original series, C4 has gone from three to four breaks per hour, which doesn't suit the format so well. Maybe they'll go back down to three just for this. I also thought that some of the questions were satisfyingly tough, although they'll find the right level soon enough.

I applied, but I don't expect to hear for some time, if ever - too close to my forthcoming MM semi-final (Good Friday, apparently).

Dan said...

OK, so I've just seen Beth Webster, who was in last week's Mastermind semi. So that's my theory down the drain. Go hum.

Nic said...

Thanks David, I would broadly agree with your comments here on the new format...keep up the good work with the blog.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I don't get that either. It was half an hour long before. There's been no increase to the content of the programme - so why does it need a whole hour timeslot now?