Show Discussion: Letterbox

Weekdays, 6:30pm.
BBC2

New word game from the mind of “Devious” David Young (a nickname I have just invented), two teams attempt to find passwords to earn letters which will solve the final letterbox with £2,500 in it.

The show is hosted by Mel Giedroyc, the game is described as “simple and addictive”, let us know what you think in the comments.

36 Comments

  1. Nico W. says:

    I wish they’d use a letterbox aspect ratio at some point in the show!

  2. Cliff says:

    Turns out watching people play hangman for half an hour isn’t particularly thrilling.

  3. Barry says:

    DOGSH_T

  4. Tom H says:

    Well there’s half an hour I’m never getting back. Best bit was the perspex money platform rising out of the letterbox at the end.

    A couple of observations:

    1) Was the only reason the producers made the contestants keep giving letters until they’d spelt out the entire word to make proceedings vaguely different to Wheel of Fortune?
    2) Think there was a dodgy edit towards the end – where Mel asked the finalists to pick their ‘third letter’ after they’d only given one.

    There were fewer than 100 tweets about the show during the entire broadcast. I think this’ll be a tough sell.

  5. Cheesebiscuits says:

    Ouch. That was the most boring show I think I’ve ever seen…

    Format rundown:

    Heat 1: Single members of two pairs take alternating turns to guess a letter in the password. Should they get a letter they take another go. Else the opponent gets a go. Best of three. If you win a round you take two letters out of the “letterbox”. Although if it goes to a tiebreak you don’t do this.

    Heat 2: Exactly the same

    Semi-Final: One two word password this time. Same rules but you play in pairs. You don’t take any more letters out of the letterbox

    Final: The contestants must try to guess the 8 letter password to release the cash from the letterbox. As 8 letters have already been removed, there are 18 left of which 10 are wrong. There is a £2500 prize but should you pick a letter not in the password, £500 is lost

    Why the winning players need to take two letters from the box I don’t really know. It’s not like knowing the letters before the final helps anyway and if you lose, you just give your letters to the winner.

    This must have been a bet of how bad a program they could make.

    Easily a hall of shame this year.

  6. Andrew Sullivan says:

    A rather basic game, I think.

    Round 1 sees 2 pairs play a best of 3, cracking words of 6-7 letters in length with a basic clue to help them (e.g. ‘City’ or ‘Human Body’). If a correct letter is picked, it appears in the puzzle and the player in control picks again until a wrong letter is picked, handing control over. The winners of each password get to pick 2 letters from Mel’s titular Letterbox. 8 of the letters are red and cannot be picked as they make up the final password, leaving the other 18 letters of the alphabet to be picked from which aren’t in the password. Should both pairs win a game each, the winner of the third game inherits the letters of the losing pair. This is repeated with 2 more pairs.

    Both winning pairs go through to the semi-final. This time, Mel is looking for the name of a famous person, living or dead. First pair to complete the name inherits the letters of the losing pair for a total of 8 letters.

    For the Final, Mel reveals the 8 letters that aren’t in the final password. To open the Letterbox and win the £2500, all 8 letters of the final password need to be revealed. For each incorrect letter picked, £500 is deducted from the jackpot.

  7. Clive of Legend says:

    I don’t think it was that bad, honestly. Admittedly nothing that hadn’t already been done before, but at least it had a lovely set and a lovely host. Shame that the lovely sting was the only sting they bothered making and I was a bit sick of it by the end.

  8. Scousegirl says:

    Desperately boring. Mel’s trying hard with rubbish material, not helping with fatuous remarks such as telling two blokes they look like the Proclaimers. OK, they were wearing glasses but that was it.
    I don’t understand why they have to spell out the whole word, it doesn’t give them any advantage. The Beeb as ever, are incredibly stingy, £500 is too much to forfeit, £100 per letter would be more reasonable. I won’t be wasting my time again!

  9. Brig Bother says:

    Genuinely baffling commission, like something you might get on an English as a Foreign Language course for “a treat”, or a version of Wheel of Fortune aimed at toddlers. Did David Young pitch this for a gag and then acted surprised when the BBC said yes?

    The meta game is rubbish as the finalists will get all the tiles earned by everyone throughout anyway, so you’ve not really earned them.

    Mel earns her money for acting surprised after each letter.

  10. Callum J says:

    I don’t think it was awful, but it was certainly nothing special. I would take it over Debatable, which I find far too slow.

  11. Delano says:

    Whoever got the guts to make Letterbox happen: clear your desks and head to JobCentre. A S A P.

  12. Brig Bother says:

    I don’t understand what the pull is. With 100s of different channels why would anyone choose Hangman but without the jeopardy?

  13. Alex McMillan says:

    Currently winning the 2017 award for “Set Which Looks Most Like The Logo”

    • David B says:

      Except that they’ve missed the opportunity to do the ‘money shot’ of the end of the title sequence merging into the set going ‘lights up’ seamlessly.

  14. Oliver says:

    I think it’s deathly boring aside from the end-game which is kind of interesting and fun. It’s only half-an-hour yet, despite 3 rounds, felt far far longer.

    Maybe it works better if you’re half-watching while doing something else at the same time, because it is the type of game that you can play along with.

  15. Mart With A Y Not An I says:

    Or he pitched it to the BBC – exepcting them to ask him to add ‘something else’ to the format, as it feels like it’s missing a step somewhere and come back at the next round of open pitches for the new weekday BBC Two 6.30pm shows and try again.

    It’s not good is it? This makes Babooska look like Mastermind in comparison.

    It’s as though David Young has been watching a lot of Wheel Of Fortune repeats on his Post-12 Yard gardening leave, and saying to anyone who will listen “I can do better”.

    The letterbox is completely underplayed in terms of set design. The main stage shape looks like a child of 4 drawing Mickey Mouse’s face.

    The letters in the background might have been nicked from the It’ll Be Alright On The Night set.

    Mel is dangerously close veering into parody of herself presenting a gameshow (a’right my loves?).

    Cheap and grim – even for the 6.30pm slot.

    Hint: My score for Letterbox

    FO_R OUT O_ T_N

  16. Brig Bother says:

    Another issue I have is that because the words are relatively short and there 26 letters, the first two or three minutes of each word is them failing to correctly guess letters. Every time!

  17. Arun says:

    I’m sorry but that was garbage. I watched it on iPlayer and I was bored out of my mind. Skipped the second heat and I don’t think I missed much. Why is there no opportunity to guess the puzzle? IT just gets to the point of being ridiculous. Assume the puzzle was “LETTE_BO_”. We’re simply getting to the tedious position of ‘can they spell a nine letter word? Could it be lettenbov?’
    That high tech money lifting gizmo, it just looked bad how Mel had to pick up the bundles of cash, it would be far better if it was all on show and the money dropped for every error.
    What a waste of half an hour.

  18. Arun says:

    Basically Wheel of Fortune without the wheel. Or the fun, the jeapordy or being worthy of being watched.
    This show could easily be called “Of Very small fortune that you’ll probably lose anyway”
    I see why they went with Letterbox.

  19. Michael J says:

    Good Lord this was poor. How can anyone with half a brain let something so mind-numbingly boring be filmed… and then broadcast!? I agree with the previous comments – it felt like a ‘learn English’ game. For toddlers.

    Quite frustrating to think of all the decent formats that are not on air and this one made is. #BringBackDuel

  20. George F says:

    This would have been a mildly interesting show that would have fit Channel 5’s daytime schedule back in 1997

    Just too boring these days.

  21. David B says:

    For all the cleverness of the Letterbox gadget, it was strange that (a) it couldn’t bring up the right amount of money, and (b) it couldn’t display the answer automatically.

    And were those lighting changes on every single eliminated letter really necessary?

  22. This is so low-octane that it’s practically water, but there’s just a little wit to it with the selection of passwords habitually containing obscure letters and some of the camera angles showing what teammates think. It doesn’t seem like such an unlikely piece of commissioning to me when Wheel of Fortune has been off the screens for years and other shows as light as Eggheads, Tipping Point and, yes, even Countdown can do the business, to at least some extent. We’ve all seen worse; at least there’s play-along-at-home value.

    In other, more exciting, news, “The 6th of September they’re launching a Dutch TV show based upon escape rooms. Summary: 12 ‘famous’ Dutch persons will battle eachother in huge escape rooms (existing (non-escaperoom) locations will be turned into escape rooms). They’ll play in random teams, but they win alone. Will they share information / clues or not? They’ll play multiple escape rooms per episode and each episode one person has to leave.” For more information, including who they are, see escapetalk.nl, in .nl-ish. The Dutch often do This Kind Of Thing well, so fingers crossed for a fansub.

    In other other news, there will be a Teletext Fest in Wigan later this year. Oh man!

    • Brig Bother says:

      “Wheel of Fortune hasn’t been on television for years, I think what TV really needs right now is a similar sort of thing, but one where for several minutes at a time people call out letters yet none of it provides any forward motion because we’ve deliberately used words that mainly use letters nobody would call out until last.”

      “Commission x 30.”

      • It’s funny ’cause it’s essentially true.

        They should do a series.

      • Scott R says:

        US Wheel of Fortune actually does the “set puzzles that do not have common letters” from time to time for reasons.

        But they also edit out situations with three consecutive misses, making the show faster (and no one at home notices)

        I wonder if there are shows that would benefit from editing out chunks of missed answers.

        • Brig Bother says:

          Even if they miss letters there’s still a wheel spin between each guess which is vaguely engaging.

          I also get that a lot of the bonus puzzles are written to avoid obvious letters but that’s OK as it’s done quite quickly and rather than have to spell every letter of the puzzle out you just solve it.

  23. Whoknows says:

    Not much more to be said really. Extremely poor. I can’t imagine even the production company is happy with what they’ve done here.

  24. David says:

    You also have to figure how many 8 letter words there are that have no repeated letters that are recognizable- for every CHAMPION there’s a ZELKOVAS (plural of ZELKOVA- a type of Japanese tree related to the elm family known for its resistance to Dutch Elm Disease)

    • David B says:

      Using a very simplistic wordlist on Crossword Compiler, there’s 230 words including SHOULDN’T which probably ‘shouldn’t’ be allowed (ho, ho). They are:

      abruptly, absolute, acquired, anchored, angriest, argument, articles, becoming, birthday, blankets, bonfires, boulders, boundary, branches, breaking, brightly, brushing, builders, bungalow, bursting, butchers, calories, captured, category, champion, chapters, charming, children, chimneys, clearing, climates, climbers, clothing, combined, combines, compared, compares, complain, computer, confirms, confused, conquest, consider, counters, courtesy, covering, crashing, crawling, creating, creation, crowding, crushing, cupboard, curtains, customer, cylinder, daughter, daylight, dialogue, dinosaur, diplomat, directly, discover, disgrace, distance, document, dolphins, domestic, doubling, drawings, dreaming, equality, equation, escaping, excusing, explains, favoured, festival, fighters, flashing, floating, forecast, forgiven, fortunes, fraction, friendly, frighten, gasoline, glaciers, goldfish, graceful, grateful, handfuls, handsome, headings, holidays, hospital, hydrogen, imported, improved, includes, industry, informal, informed, insulted, interval, invaders, isolated, jealousy, journeys, kilogram, kitchens, laughter, launched, launches, lifeboat, luckiest, machines, magnetic, majestic, majority, marching, markings, matching, merchant, minerals, mistaken, moisture, numerals, obtained, organise, organism, outlined, outlines, particle, payments, peculiar, personal, physical, pictured, pictures, platform, playtime, pleasing, ploughed, polished, powerful, precious, previous, problems, produces, products, projects, promised, proteins, provides, province, punished, purchase, pyramids, quacking, question, quickest, reaching, reaction, relation, removing, republic, romantic, rustling, sandwich, screwing, sculptor, security, shoulder, shouldn’t, shouting, singular, snatched, somewhat, southern, sparkled, speaking, spectrum, sporting, sprinkle, squirted, stamping, starving, steadily, stealing, steaming, strained, strongly, studying, stumbled, stupidly, suitable, sunlight, surfaced, switched, tadpoles, teaching, terminal, thankful, thousand, throwing, touching, towering, triangle, tropical, troubled, troubles, tumbling, twinkled, twinkles, uniforms, upstream, vanished, velocity, vertical, viaducts, violated, violates, watching, whistled, wrinkled, yachting, youngest, yourself

      Note that this doesn’t include Ep 2’s winning answer. If you use a larger word list, you start to include more obscure words, boring plurals, proper names and other oddities, making around 3,500 entries. Of those, I reckon 50% (at best) would be good enough to use. So call that 2,000 words before they have to start repeating.

      • Joseph Bolas says:

        I am most likely wrong in pointing this out, but so far both CHAMPION and WASTEFUL are words that have 3 vowels and 5 consonants, so that might be a pattern that they stick to, therefore you could possibly whittle that list down further.

        Out of curiosity though, I checked on Zyzzyva (which uses the Collins Scrabble Words 2015 dictionary) and there are 4,773 8-letter words which contain 8 different letters, with a 3-vowel 5-consonant ratio (but this has a lot of foreign words).

  25. Mart With A Y Not An I says:

    Although Letterbox did provide me with a chance to nail into the ground a minor irritant from a another gameshow.

    There’s no chance to bail out early if you know the word – and that scratched a reoccuring itch I have with the contestants on Wheel Of Fortune.

    I never understood why if the clue was: – TV Show you are currently on – and the letters on the board were

    W_ _ _L _F F_R_ _N_

    Some numpty would with the flash of recongintion still pulsing through the wrinkles of their forehead, scream “I know it Nicky/John/Brad” and then give the answer.

    I can’t be the only one to sit there and think “yeah but, spin the bloody wheel twice more, rack up the points with H & T. Unless the wheel is, heaven forbid rigged in some way, the chances of hitting the backrupt or miss a turn wedges are in theory, very low indeed”

    But watching Letterbox, I can see all sorts of advantages with an early bail out for correct guesses on WoF.
    With the hapless souls on Letterbox forced to plough on to the grim end of the word, exciting television it does not make.

    • David B says:

      The “Wheel of Fortune Principle” is a known thing in format development. It’s in the interest of the competitor to shut up and keep spinning, as the puzzle gets easier and easier for the viewer. All the while, they think they’re ‘cleverer’ than the contestant because they seemingly solved it before the player on screen did.

    • Brig Bother says:

      I think the odds on hitting a bad space are 1/8 IIRC, 24 wedges, 2 Bankrupts and 1 Lose A Turn although I look forward to being corrected on this in due course. Although in reality most people seem to naturally spin it one revolution to the dot so it would probably depend on what was nearby. I certainly do get it though, to win money you have to solve puzzles or it’s all for naught, and even in the UK version where all points counted the prizes for solving were usually a cut above the average spot prizes in other similar shows (in primetime at any rate).

      As a game WoF is arse about face really, the value of the puzzle should get lower the more gets revealed. But you can’t argue with 3X years near the top of the game so clearly it works as a show.

  26. Bob says:

    Shockingly bad
    Hangman with out the noose.
    Will this make the end of the run?

    • Thomas Sales says:

      Almost certainly. Letterbox is only broadcasting fifteen episodes according to my EPG, and I can’t remember the last time the BBC moved any show to a different slot before broadcasting fifteen episodes. That said, I really can’t see what’s wrong with this. Perhaps I’m biased, because I am very much a fan of word games and yes, there are few questionable production decisions, such as opting not to have a standard word length in the earlier rounds and bringing out the whole £2,500 at the end and only handing over some of the bundles (reeks of a perfunctory ‘have a look at what you could have won’), but I don’t mind waiting for them to reveal all the letters because finishing the puzzle takes seconds if you know the answer, and on the whole this is not a bad show. I’ve watched far worse this week.

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