Show Discussion: The Family Brain Games

By | June 16, 2019
It’s science, it’s Dara!

Monday to Thursday, 8pm, for two weeks,
(Except for viewers in Wales in which case eps 1-4 are Tuesday-Friday 6:30pm),

Join Dara O’Briain and eight families across the two weeks as they battle it out to be called Britain’s Brightest Family win The Family Brain Games.

Still don’t think the title shouts mass appeal. However it’s got the ever popular Dara and the games look quite good in the adverts.

It’s also quite interestingly scheduled, almost weekdaily across the next two weeks, heats in the first week, three-semis (with the four winners and two best runners up) and three-way final in week two. That’s quite brave, especially for a show like this, although if it does look like taking off that’d give BBC2 a decent annual returning strand alongside the likes of Springwatch.

Of course we can’t not mention that Friend of the Bar David Bodycombe is a consultant and commentator on this. This will not stop us being FEARLESS in taking it apart if it’s rubbish though.

Let us know what you think in the comments.

38 thoughts on “Show Discussion: The Family Brain Games

  1. David B

    The style is quite a lot more documentary than you might get from most quizzes, but equally you will get more real-time gameplay than Child Genius. The games in the heats (this week) are all the same, but there’s new games for the semis next week and again for the final. But the families have quite different dynamics, and various incidents happen on each show, so I hope you’ll stick with it.

  2. John R

    I was always quite upset that Beat the Brain with former Newsround presenter John Craven never got a second series…

    1. Greg

      Watching this at the moment. So far so good. I am a bit more forgiving that we are 20 mins in and 1 question has been asked as It’s more about the comedy than the game.

      For ITV2 this is quite big budget. £2500 top prize, nice set, Joel is doing very well as host.

      1. Greg

        I didn’t hold out much hope for that before I went in, but it was really good. I think Taskmaster fans will certainly enjoy it as it’s a similar sort of humour.

        Will certainly be back next week

      2. Alex McMillan

        I really want to like this, I really do. I love the set, the graphics package, the format is really nice, but I think it suffers from being lumbered with ITV2 talent.

        I think I could have loved this on Dave, or on BBC Two, but the talent is ruining it a bit for me on ITV2. I’ll give it another go next week I think.

        (Also, not sure how much I believe the “calling unsuspecting people” bit just yet)

        1. Greg

          Funny you should bring that up. My first thought was this is very much a show that should be on Dave. However I changed my mind. I think part of the charm was the low budget nature of the guests. They are a lot less polished and therefore made the show a bit more natural and funnier to me.

          1. Alex McMillan

            I think with the guest line-up as it is, the jokes being made are entirely distinct from the show itself, the format doesn’t play into the humour at all. I think that’s where the issue lies for me.

  3. Brig Bother Post author

    Oh my days.

    I think there’s quite a lot to like here. As a working class person I thought all the teams were going to annoy me (I fear, without looking it up, social media will not be kind to them), however I found myself rooting for Team Arya Stark from about halfway through. The documentary style didn’t annoy me as much as I think it could have done – at least the editing was quite straight with cutaways to Dara and Hannah explaining things rather than having the contestants explain what had just happened.

    I like the set and the noodly background music. And of course David Bodycombe does a highly professional job as The Voice Of The Cube.

    The games were pretty good, clearly with a couple of “homages” to Schlag den Raab, round two was pure Relatively Speaking with Gordon Burns. It’s a shame that we’re getting the same games this week as there are games in the trailer (I hope we’re not getting two minutes of that every night) look more big scale and involved. Opening game felt like it went on a bit.

    My beef, I think, is that for a show that’s about communication at its heart Eight Things completely disregards the idea for a straight memory test which feels like a missed opportunity, and Broken Calculator – again a fine idea – doesn’t have much of a communication element. You don’t really get to see them thinking aloud or bouncing off of each other.

    I think Dara strikes the right tone with the families, and Hannah Critchlow was a good communicator of ideas and I think the editing is fairly sympathetic when it could have easily been “have a laugh at aspergic kids”.

    Basically I didn’t love it love it, but it doesn’t really do an awful lot wrong. I don’t know how often I’ll tune in for it this week, but I’ll almost certainly catch a semi-final and final to see what else has been come up with.

  4. Brandon

    This is basically all I did like about Child Genius, with all the stuff I didn’t like about that (most of it) taken out, with a bit of Britain’s Brightest Family thrown in. I know that’s the most obvious comparisons, but it’s true.

  5. Chris M. Dickson

    This definitely feels like it fits its Factual Entertainment brief, rather than being an Entertainment commission, so it’s not entirely fair to compare it in game show ways, and Dara definitely recognised and played gently and appropriately to the distinction. The tension does ramp up through the show in a way you’d want from a good programme of any genre.

    The families are hugely impressive and definitely extremely capable. I went to an office runthrough of this months ago and recognised some of the games; from memory, we raced through what was (probably an easier version of?) the eventual final, but that says more about the deliberate nature they took when playing the game for real with a considerable emotional stake (we certainly didn’t get all the questions right!) and also the tension engendered by the studio setting. I would expect the families to become more comfortable and confident on repeat visits for later rounds.

    The games are the stars here; very much looking forward to seeing the other games next week.

  6. Setsunael

    France Television’s new season press news conference today.

    Some quite unexpected news : Jeux Sans Frontières will be back for a new series somewhere in the next 2019-2020 season – Nagui will be producer (at least on the French part) and since some rumors were popping about a reboot from Italian websites in the last few days, they should be on too.

    Boyardland teaser : . Nothing special, just putting some lore on Fouras’s fortune and talent for making trials on the Fort due to his past as a theme park owner.

    1. Setsunael

      Erm – seems that I replied on a wrong thread since it’s for a show discussion. Sorry about that 🙁

  7. Hard Hitting And Totally Original Political Satirist

    The Conservative Party have just voted to Schlag Dom Raab.

    1. Brandon

      I thought of that joke weeks ago but I wanted to think of a better variation on it before I used it.

  8. Brig Bother Post author

    I gather Tuesday got a straight mill and 5% up against the highly-rated Tory Leader debate. No idea how Monday did.

  9. Chris M. Dickson

    If you quite liked the first episode, I’d happily recommend watching the second one… and even go so far as to say as it was an outright better episode, on its own merits, rather than just being better through familiarity. Tuesday’s families are extremely sweet as well as very able, the outcomes of the games happen to be more exciting, Dara has loosened up considerably from the first episode (I wonder what the filming schedule was like?), his interplay with Hannah is improved, and – sneakily – you stand a better chance of beating the families through having had the benefit of practice yesterday, which the families wouldn’t have had.

    David has a very clear, soothing and pleasant voice, though every time he says that a family is awarded fifty points I think of him as being THE ICE MASTER.

      1. Chris M. Dickson

        This will continue to be extremely funny once every five years until we turn ninety.

        1. Brig Bother Post author

          I’m quietly annoyed in that I thought of the Icemaster thing during Monday’s episode, and completely forgot to say it anywhere.

  10. Brandon

    The set design is really quite interesting. It’s like the rooms from Double Cross crossed with a motion-capture studio, with the benches from Friends Like These.

  11. Will Stephen

    Thoroughly enjoyed the first episode, my only gripe kind of like with Robot Wars was a lot of time was spent on interviews/bios rather than focusing more on the puzzles. Alas that’s what a fast forward button is for I suppose.

    Definitely will be watching the other episodes on iPlayer as they get released.

    1. David B

      Just an automated trailer that kicked in at the wrong time.

  12. David B

    Interrogation on episode 4 should be worth the price of entry.

  13. Chris M. Dickson

    Presumably episode 4’s Mohammed family were also on The Button?

    I’m having difficulty comparing this to other puzzle shows that there have been in the past just because the emphasis is in such a different place, for good reasons. Very (and increasingly) good on its own terms, but also sui generis.

  14. Tom F

    Enjoying this a lot.

    For me, the semi-final really took things up a level with the two 2-player games, and the 3-d model. I do find the first 20 mins with the background VTs, and slightly weaker word games, a little less good, but the second half of the show, and especially the final, are electric.

    Something between the devious games, those downtime sequences in the comfortable rooms, and the measured but passionate tone makes me think this is the seventh-removed cousin of a certain Korean competition.

    1. Chris M. Dickson

      Agreed. The more you watch this, the better it gets… and, if you’re empathetic, it’s actually surprisingly tough viewing from the families’ perspectives. I wouldn’t be surprised if the families were to go looking and find this page some day; families, if you’re reading, thank you, and all the families I’ve seen so far (though, for completeness, I missed one of the first round episodes) have been admirable, if sometimes in different ways. Considering the move from the first round to the semi-final, will one of the rounds of the final involve making shapes in four dimensions… either a three-dimensional representation of a hypercube or by implementing the dimension of time?

      I dearly hope this gets a second series, not just because I’m all in favour of more work for lovely people, but because it would be fascinating to see what a second series would be like featuring families who have watched the first series and perhaps learnt from it. (Glad to see David’s tweet that the ratings are increasing; fingers crossed that this is giving the BBC what it wants, and that it can continue to gain over time.) An all-star team picking the strongest members from the various families would be scary.

      I love your second paragraph, and had been thinking something along the same lines myself when I watched this episode.

      1. Chris M. Dickson

        I’m going to go into this in more detail now. Spoilers for Monday’s episode (*) below, and I don’t feel bad about this now it’s Wednesday and this is no longer the most recent episode.

        I may not remember by the time it comes to the end of the year, but if we could collate nominations for “moments of the year” as the year went on, I would recognise the show’s brilliant capture and editing and nominate 56:18 to 56:26 of episode five, which I would attempt to transcribe as follows:

        Katie: Shall I tell you what I think our biggest problem was?
        Jonathan: Everyone wanted to talk over each other.
        Katie (almost simultaneously): Everyone was talking, and everyone was sure…
        (inaudible as Katie, Jonathan and Amelia all speak at once)

        The reason why I found Monday’s episode so difficult to watch – and this is tricky to phrase as I’m vainly going to assume that the people involved will eventually search for discussion of the show and see this, and mental health often makes people leap to assumptions about views based on what was not said – the edit seemed to make out that that the Ross family, who were absolutely stunning at all four main games, were really negative about their own excellent performances and, more than once, focused upon the few imperfections in their performances in a round despite having performed at an exceptionally high level. There were even comments that seemed to be based on an intense fear of failure.

        On the other hand, the Smith family (who came across as incredibly sweet, though I’m a sucker for any family that enjoys escape rooms and generates escape room style challenges for themselves) seemed to be genuinely happy throughout and enjoyed themselves no matter how they performed. It was adorable that the youngest Smith needed to stand upon a block in order to properly use the screen, and in keeping with a show which makes comment, in passing, on how well different ages can perform against each other. Arguably a certain degree of experience is necessary to have seen the sorts of games and snags that come up in the questions before.

        I do hope that the Ross family, when they look back at this, can take pride in their very considerable achievements as well as taking feedback from, but not focusing upon, the way the episode turned out, and that this can be a positive experience for them. When we chastise the likes of the ITV family’s Love Island and (non-game-show) Jeremy Kyle for not properly providing psychological support and aftercare to their participants, I would hope that we would hold the BBC to the same standards for participants in a show that is, intentionally or otherwise, also quite the psychological evaluation.

        (*) Can it be a semi-final as there are three of them? I’m facetiously tempted to call it a third-final, in the spirit of Countdown’s “third half”. Alternatively, considering the way that the US sporting journalism refers to the likes of the “round of 8” or the “round of 16”, perhaps this might be the “round of 6”.

  15. Alex McMillan

    FWIW I think Celebrity Brain Games would have legs

    1. Brandon

      I think that would live or die on the celebrities chosen, and the teams they are put into

  16. Chris M. Dickson

    Episode 7, Interrogation Question 3, green screen: I see what you did there!

    So much to like here, as ever. The closing theme tune has become a surprising earworm, even if the opening is about as basic as it gets (though at least different to that of the first week).

    Don’t spoil this for me, but in my head canon, I choose to believe that the families eventually become great friends with each other – or, at the very least, the kids who have immense respect for each other’s skills do. After all, The Mastermind Club has a long history for Mastermind contenders, I have half a recollection that The Krypton Factor did likewise, and even the families on The Button supposedly met up for a day at the seaside, so there’s no reason why the families here couldn’t do the same thing.

    Very much looking forward to seeing what you have lined up for the final, especially to see how cunning you get in the Interrogation. Tough scheduling for it, though, being up against England-Norway in a quarter-final of the Women’s World Cup which could well do 7-8 million even in this day and age, though as counterprogramming goes I guess it’s pretty different. My prediction for the football is that mo matter how tight it is, even if it’s scoreless for 120 minutes and ends up 15-14 in the penalty shootout, the commentator of the winning team will say Your girls took a hell of a beating.


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