You know, time was when I would seek out any new TV quiz show, watch it carefully, analyse it and then offer my opinion in this very blog. Well, that practice went the way of all flesh some time ago. Had it not been for the fact that this is the half term break from school, then I might never have seen ITV’s Winning Combination, which I watched for the first time earlier this week. Apparently this is the second series – I didn’t know there had ever been a first.
The show is presented by Omid Djalili. My first thought was that he might actually be too good for the show. I’ve enjoyed his stand up in the past and I was afraid his talents might have been wasted here but to be honest I thought he just about managed to stay on the right side of irritating in this show. In some of the very best TV quiz shows, a strong format means that you really don’t need a presenter whose personality fills the screen, but I don’t think that this is one of those. I think that a bland, generic presenter would be detrimental in this case.
As for the format, well it’s not without interest, but on the same hand, not without problems. There are three types of round. The first type sees a question being asked, and a range of possible answers start to pop up on the screen. Once two correct answers have popped up, you can buzz in and identify them. Get it right you go through to the next battle round. Once 5 players have progressed to the battle round, then we play said round. In the battle round each of the players starts with 5 points. They must buzz in to answer a question. Get it right and not only do they get another point, they also get to take one away from another player. Get it wrong and they lose one of their own. The player with the most points after 2 minutes and a tie break if necessary goes through to sit in the final combination. Each player has their own number. So if you had 9, for example, it would make more sense to sit in the thousands column. The other 4 players go back and join the rest. This continues until there are 4 players sitting in the final combination. The other 5 leave with nothing.
In the final, then, the team have 30 seconds to answer questions. So let us say that the final combination is 4321. The first player has to answer 1 question correctly, then it immediately passes to the second who must answer 2 correctly, then the third with 3, and the last player with 4. To make it possible, for every correct answer the team are given extra seconds. If they complete the combination, then each one receives an equal share of the £4321 jackpot. If they fail, then they don’t even get their bus fare home.
You might be surprised by what I’m going to say now, but there’s actually quite a bit that I liked about Winning Combination. I liked the finding the correct two questions in the selection rounds. That takes a bit of knowledge (or a lot of luck). I like a quickfire quiz, so I enjoyed the battle rounds as well. I wouldn’t mind playing in either of these rounds. I will be honest, when I watch a TV quiz I am rather misanthropic, inasmuch as I am not the least bit interested in the life stories of any of the players, and don’t care to be told any funny little facts about them. One odd thing about the show is that every now and then Omid stops the proceedings to ask one of them “Tell us something we don’t already know about you?” Well, frankly, we don’t know anything about them other than their name anyway, Omid, and what’s more, it’s totally irrelevant to the game. Omid is a little more acerbic than your typical host, and this makes this aspect of the show just a little more bearable.
I’ll be honest though, I do find the -selection round, then battle round, then selection round, then battle round and so on format to be rather repetitive. You get something similar in ‘Impossible’, but at least you only have 3 finalists in this show. By the time we got round to our 4th selection round in Winning Combination, then I was a little bored with it. Then there’s the final round. On the one hand it looks relatively fiendish. It makes sense that the player with the highest number sits in the thousands, and so he or she has the largest number of questions to answer, with the least amount of time. Fiendish. Except it isn’t really. If you combine 9 + 8 + 7 + 6 it comes to 30. Which is exactly the same as if you combine 6 + 7 + 8 + 9. So it doesn’t really matter what order you have to answer the questions in, your team still has to answer the same number of questions. What struck me, as I watched, was that the level of knowledge we’d seen from the contestants during the show meant that it looked extremely unlikely that they’d win, and indeed they didn’t. I’ve only watched one edition of the show, so I could be wrong on this, but I would have thought a team actually managing to win would be very much the exception rather than the normal outcome. It left me feeling a little flat, if I’m honest. I made a comparison with Impossible earlier. At least on Impossible you still have the possibility of taking home the daily prize pot, even if you don’t win the jackpot.
Did I like it enough to want to watch it again? Fair question, and all I can tell you is this. I watched the show on Monday. I haven’t watched it since. At no point have I said to myself – well, I won’t be watching that again – but also at no point in the last couple of days have I made the conscious choice to watch it, in the way that I make a conscious choice to watch Pointless and House of Games every day.