Well this almost didn’t happen. As you may have been aware, there was a lot of snow about on Sunday, and whilst I was quite fortunate in that trains to and from Cambridge weren’t affected too badly, loads of production staff (and Phillip Schofield!) were delayed by several hours (six, in the floor manager’s case). The handful of us that managed to turn up for today’s early recording were told we could wait for several hours at BBC Elstree, abandon and go home, or in a last minute intervention, go and see the Top of the Pops Christmas and New Year’s Specials being filmed over at the other Elstree as they were spectacularly short of audience with the opportunity to come back later. Well obviously I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to be part of such an august institution and so look out for the most middle-aged and innappropriate TOTP audience ever split amongst the two festive specials. It was a fun experience and what must be a health and safety nightmare, with thanks to the studio assistant regularly manhandling me and other members out of the way of the cameras. The sets quite good.
Anyway thanks must go to SRO who were pretty exemplary thoughout, e-mailing us to thank me for turning up, and then sending another e-mail to thank us for staying. We were also let into Elstree early to get out of the snow. You don’t get this with Applauseshite.
- We were actually let in during the last part of two shows being filmed that day, with a very quick turnaround between the episodes. The set is different – one large video wall at the back, one big desk, the audience in the round like previous (although it looks like with less seats), room for 400 in the audience bleachers. These were practically empty. The walls of the set are now space-esque, there’s a large U-style pen surrounding the floor. There are two large top down screens at the front of the set for the contestants.
- To be honest after a nightmare day, this initially felt and sounded like a nightmare record – it took about 20 minutes to load the iPads up with a question that had been thrown to their family and friends because of various technical difficulties. I almost didn’t bother staying for the second record. Glad I did though.
- The format has changed signficantly. The five gold rings are lined up tunnel style for each pair each side of the desk. Each pair will take it in turns to answer a question. In round one they will use the largest ring worth £1,000, round two the second largest ring for £2,500, then £5,000, £7,500 and £10,000. However they only get one thirty-second go at each question. If they get it right the money is banked. If they fail, the other team get fifteen seconds to move the ring to wherever they think the answer is. If they are right they take the money for themselves. If not the money disappears. So potentially you could win £52,000. Although they say £50k for simplicity presumably. This is actually a pretty solid move, it’s no longer two games of solitaire and ties going into the final (which otherwise hasn’t changed) ought to be much rarer.
- Questions continue to be quite creative, even if there were probably quite a few that fell into ‘what’s a third of this?’ territory. There was quite a difficult one where the Ashes had been scaled up to the size of the FA Cup and the contestants had to guess what size the Ashes would be if it was scaled down to the correct size.
- The floor seems much more unimpressive in real life than it looks on television. For all its apparent technical wizardry, and the boast that “just a single pixel had to be in for it to win”, the floor (or whoever decided the floor) gave what was considered after adjudication as the wrong result for a close call and they had to reshoot.
- The clock is now represented by a circle around the floor turning from blue to red rather than the 30 strip lights from last year.
- You can still Flip the Floor and you can still ask your team of five (differently to previous this time the team’s guesses stay on the floor whilst you have your guess). The floor is turned off whilst they do their deliberating, but interestingly it looked like, glancing across, that in games involving animation the question on the pad isn’t animated.
- There’s new clock music and it’s pretty good, more in keeping with the style of the theme rather than the Dutch Sonic 3-style music they used last time (which I liked). However the sonar reveal is now just an endless procession of boring whooshes that goes on for too long (no issue with going round five or six times apparently), whilst it keeps last year’s electronic reveal sting for no discernable reason. Come on, pick a style and stick to it.
- I always love watching Phillip Schofield in a TV environment and tonight didn’t disappoint. There are so few people who make hosting something like this look so effortless who can also deal with entertaining an audience as well. And we always enjoy watching Mark Olver as warm-up.
- They’re still pushing the app because there’s nothing TV people like more than hidings to nothing. I think Phil is aware that most people are much happier pointing at the telly though.
- I think it feels like a better game this time round, although whether this will translate to a more highly watched show I don’t know.