The Crystal Maze US

By | January 16, 2020

You will definitely need to use the Dark Arts for this, but Nickelodeon have put up the first episode of The Crystal Maze US a week before it airs. Here’s the Youtube link, but it’s geolocked so get your VPNs ready.

Main takeaways:

  • They’re into the first game within two minutes.
  • Despite that they only get 8 games + Dome. The Megacrystal is also in effect. Plenty of between game chat, and certainly before the Dome.
  • Graphics have been touched up a lot – zone map transitions look great, as does the VR game from last series.
  • Games from all (modern) series have been used, a medieval game has been adapted for Eastern.
  • Games are a bit easier – extra lives, extra thirty seconds added for some of them.
  • Breaks mid-game because it’s America.
  • Dome is $100 per gold, -$100 per silver, more than 100 gold after deductions bumps the prize up to $25,000.
  • I hope you like high pitched screaming because there’s a lot of it.
  • Jury out on Adam Conover for me. There’s not really a lot of room for him to be funny in an endearingly odd way, and his corny jokes came across as a bit overtly scripted (although there was a bit with an exercise bike which suggests a fun direction). He’s doing a lite-version of the Ayoade “this is because of editing” schtick. Really it’s difficult for me to judge because I’m quite far away from the target audience.

So… not sure what to make of it, keeps many of the UK’s issues, improves some bits, does other things slightly worse… score draw? Fascinated to see what they make of it over there though. I kind of hope it’s successful, because imagine a set built with American money.

48 thoughts on “The Crystal Maze US

  1. Mika

    It was very alright. Probably the only episode I’ll watch since I’m really not the market for the direction they went, but it was alright.

    Adam started out a bit stilted, but he warmed up after a couple games. He was good interacting with the contestants, and I thought his asides were alright. But anything rules-related or on-script had that weird shouty-speak to it. But as I’ve said elsewhere, it’s *really* hard to think of anyone else (American) that would have been a better fit for “safe campy”.

    If this is the type of casting, well… “Likable but annoyingly overly shouting” is I guess what they’re going for, which is on par with US casting it seems.

    Honestly, this was probably about as good as one could have hoped for with “An American host and ‘family with kids’ playing”. Which is honestly probably the only direction they could’ve gone for an American version.

    Reply
    1. Mika

      The one thought I just had: I wonder what the lock-in frequency’s gonna be. With only 8 games, even a single one’s gonna be pretty brutal on the final tally. And while I can imagine one of the parents being left in, I really can’t imagine they’d leave one of the kids locked in, even if they’ve done their two games.

      Reply
  2. David B

    I’m a bit more positive than you. Love the crash start and getting on with Game 1 asap. Like the chat-on-the-run (even if there’s slightly too much). Actually think the cliffhanger breaks are a decent idea. Overall, they’ve took enough of the Brit quirkiness to still feel like the same show, but done enough to make it work for them.

    Reply
  3. Will Stephen

    I agree the crash start worked really well. Adam has definitely been scanning the RoB and Ed tapes with the mini skits during games which definitely helps the games that lack something.

    With 3 series of games to choose from its given them a good variety and fix any issues some games had. Water challenge having liquid coming out of a god was a nice touch, as was the crystal escape out of the house for the key game (though still hate that game).

    Adam much like R.A will probably need a few episodes to gel into the role, but he does feel more slicker to it. Some parts with the shouty-speak did get to me, but Drew Carey had a thing with rule telling when he first did TPIR which put me off to start with but overtime that will iron itself out.

    Eight games also means no one beats my record so yeaaaaaaaaaaa!

    Love the overlays, transitions and even the names popping up for each bit, grid nicely. I hope it succeeds.

    Reply
  4. Danny Kerner

    Well to be fair i did give you fair warning back on the 24th Dec that they were doing a preview episode on youtube thanks to a viacom insider. Although they didn’t give me a fair date they said check around the 15th. They did start their press push yesterday.

    Anyway to the review, we all had a feeling 10 games would not have been possible on American timings. 8 seems right for a chance of getting 100+. The transition map is beautiful and puts ours to shame. They made industrial green which is odd. Do they not like purple. I think the added 2 lives for children seem right however it has now made easy games look too easy. We will see as time goes on if this may be costly if they are given high amounts away. We now also know that medieval games will be making appearances elsewhere in the maze. A total of 80 games will be played this season. how many of these would potentially be repeats we do not yet know. The tension breaks actually do work however if we attempt them it may piss a lot of people off. Burning straight in felt right although entry into the maze should have been included. I guess this move would have knocked another game out of the show. The mega crystal format actually means something here due to how much potential time could average out at around 25 seconds.
    Now to the dome, we knew gold meant $100 but from the trailer that went out last week we didn’t know if silver would be involved and it turns out it is by doing -$100 dollar damage. the maximum cash before the grand $25k is $9,900 but that is very unlikely to occur. I’m glad they are using an onscreen timer as i’m still annoyed we don’t use one. Especially when Ayoade doesn’t count down untill 10 secs to go.

    Overall this production is far more superior to ours which is embarrassing to say the lease. After all their VR graphics are much better.
    8/10

    Reply
    1. Danny Kerner

      i agree, just shows C4 true intentions. More a mockery than a true reboot. Ironically the Americans have made a better product than the UK. i think another channel needs to have a go. Also, this sadly means getting rid of Ayoade.

      Reply
  5. Clicky

    I’m looking forward to seeing what this is all about! I started following this site because I was obsessed with WIDM and The Genius.

    I just recently started watching Taskmaster for the first time. I have been missing out!

    This was next on my list, so as a US resident, it’s awesome to see they’ll be a US version!

    Reply
  6. Lee Turner

    On a unrelated note. Apparently Crackerjack returned today on CBBC.

    Reply
    1. Chris M. Dickson

      Iain recommended it, as did the Guardian’s TV critic. I’m happy to join the queue. I suspect it may get a better ratings performance in the over-40s demographic than anything else on CBBC yet has, though I doubt later episodes will be nearly such a nostalgia fest. The spirit was spot on. Best bit: a Ted Robbins cameo that went under the radar until the credits. Glad to know he’s doing better these days. While formats are good things, let’s hope that the variety has some, y’know, variety in future episodes.

      Reply
      1. Danny Kerner

        nope, i recognised the voice. it was in that clown skit with the pies.

        Reply
  7. Danny Kerner

    Something i did notice which i’m sure from photos of crew who worked on the show is that they did filmed bits from outside the zone. so it makes me wonder did they film the show like the uk but then depending on the network if they cut this out as it wouldn’t fit timings. Also they didn’t spin the futuristic turntable.

    Reply
  8. Chris M. Dickson

    I don’t want to use loaded words like “better”, but I’m looking forward to seeing future episodes of the US version in a way that I’m very ehhhhhh about watching new episodes where I know Richard Ayoyade will insult me for watching. The US version has brought a graphics package to the table that I dearly hope the UK could claim as part of its licensing deal, and I like the theme rearrangement as well. I’m even OK with the cliffhangers within the games, though this may partly be because WTTBAM? has done it for decades and because you don’t have to sit through an ad break when you’re watching online. The games were largely in the top half of the ones we’ve seen in the UK over the series. I’ll start using words like “better” when the US starts using games that I’d like to see in the British version. (I can’t remember whether I’ve seen the one with the trapped key-bunches and the closing wall before or not, but it was definitely very decent…)

    The real inside-baseball treat was the final (? final but one?) credit for one Mandel Ilagan, Nickelodeon’s VP of unscripted development, which I suppose makes him along the lines of a commissioning editor or similar; I don’t know to what extent that gives him the authority to tell the producers that the channel would like the show to be a bit more this or a little less that. Anyway, Mandel is known as a quarter-century old-school game show fan made good. (I’ve had issues with a little of his sense of taste in the past.) I don’t know to what extent he was familiar with the Maze before he was in a position to commission it, but all the same I hope it’s a channel-redefining home-run of a success for him.

    Reply
    1. Brig Bother Post author

      The closing walls game was used in Medieval and they’ve changed the wallpaper for Eastern.

      Intrigued to see how much they repeat games, it’s quite possible with this initial series they won’t that much (in theory there are 110-ish tk choose from), although it’s a bit of a shame given they’ve done up the VR one.

      I think I prefer the US theme arrangement to our one, which might have worked in another context but feels a bit like OTT taking the piss with the one we have.

      Reply
    2. Nick T

      I just thought of something. Over on The Crystal Maze blog, one of the composers of the US music package said “After the full-length version was locked in, we made twelve cuts to serve as the crystal dome timers in 5sec intervals from 5-60sec.”

      A sixty second dome timer cue when the US needs 45 at the most (8 games won, including the Mega Crystal)? Hmm…

      Reply
      1. Brandon

        Someone on the comments on there guessed that the format might not have been nailed down until quite late in development, so the music was made longer just in case

        Reply
  9. Danny Kerner

    You can now listen to the full 50 sec theme on the fan page (https://thecrystalmazefangroup.blogspot.com/) as they managed to get an interview with the new US composer (Ryan Lofty) about how he got the gig plus what requests were put in place with the company. Also more interestingly is that the final dome music has been composed for a full one minute run even though the maximum time can be only 45 secs. if that is not a sign of potential transition to the UK maze for the next season then i don’t know anything.

    Reply
    1. David B

      It’s more likely a case of “we’ll cover all the bases”, in the same way they made the original Countdown clock to go to 50 seconds ‘just in case’. Until you’re in the thrust of production, you don’t know what things you might need. 12 would’ve been seen as an upper limit to aim for.

      Reply
      1. Brandon

        Someone on the comments on there guessed that the format might not have been nailed down until quite late in development, so the music was made longer just in case

        Reply
  10. Danny Kerner

    We have official confirmation that they have brought over the official A.L.I.S naming during last nights episode plus 7 of the 8 games played were brand new to US viewers. There was one repeat from ep 1 even though this was the 7th produced episode. There was evidence that there was an entry to the maze scenario however it was edited out. i saw production crew photos with this team with the eastern door closed. The flow from Adam was much better tonight so he did get into the groove during the second production cycle.

    Reply
  11. Mathew Palmieri

    watched the second episode on demand. enjoyed the cage challenge in industrial and the balance game in aztec.
    did not like the commercial break cliffhangers (mostly its annoying for me cuz i could not fast forward it on demand thanks to my cable provider.) Its clear adam conover’s hosting skills are aimed somewhat at the target demographic for this, witch is kids. (i imagine it being a bit different if a adult version is produced for the future… him acting all energetic and somewhat talking down to the group is a bit tropey for a kid’s show host. Not that the alternative ayoade is better… Almost make me with for a crossover between the two host’s at some point.) really loose on timed lock ins for the key game in eastern and the laser game in future. Ultimately i prefer this, but not by much. the fact that those cliffhangers are quite annoying IMO. Hope that this is successful due to me wanting a live experience to be built here in the US.

    Reply
    1. Mathew Palmieri

      also, ain’t it ironic that the guy known for deconstructing and ruining everything buys more into the fantasy of the crystal maze, and that the other host is deconstructing and ruining everything IN the crystal maze while he’s hosting it? Life’s funny sometimes.

      Reply
      1. Jon

        I think there is zero chance of an US adult version being created. It doesn’t have the advantage the UK one had of nostalgia so it just look like a kids show to them.

        I think kids/family editions is the best way into the international markets for the format. It’s interesting that Banijay now have three different formats from Fort Boyard origins to sell now.

        I think the show is deemed a success a live version is quite likely to happen stateside, we already know Little Lion had plans to go into the US, the question is do the rights for different markets?

        Any idea on ratings yet?

        Reply
  12. Jon

    I don’t think you can say Ayoade, isn’t known for deconstructing everything, that’s very much his shtick. He’s even written a book deconstructing a film. Whether it’s right for The Crystal Maze is a different question but that’s what the producers/channel 4 wanted as that’s how Merchant played it as well.

    Reply
  13. Will Stephen

    So I’ve watched episode two (but listed as 7) and here are little minor talking points without spoiling too much.

    ALIS is used as an acronym on the show.

    Hook and keys makes an unwanted return from the medieval to the Eastern zone. Has a real nice aesthetic using blossom flowers? to hide keys, otherwise still a game I loathe.

    The crystal in the dragon game is more crystal like than I thought (thought it just be a light up ball)

    The mega crystal also has a frosted version for lighting effects on particular games.

    I very much like the added in pop ups of names/Alis etc it works very well.

    Pipe mania got a better upgrade that is at the right difficulty too by making it bigger and the pipes are actual pipes not just painted lines.

    Wooden maze in industrial also got a bit of an upgrade by adding mid section columns, still looks way too easy though.

    I’ll continue to watch the other episodes as Family dynamic is definitely working well. Adam is very easy to gel, only downside is the recaps between zones happens on both sides which is unnecessary . This will be more because I think they wanted to do breaks before zones and changed their minds in post with the cliffhanger. If it gets a season two which I don’t see why it shouldn’t then I’d imagine they’ll fix these small things.

    I want back in the maze!!

    Reply
    1. Alex McMillan

      Out of curiosity, what methods did you use to view it? All my usual tricks failed me.

      Reply
      1. Danny Kerner

        well, my method which so far hasn’t let me down is using either android or iPhone/pad to download the nick app. Then VPN to watch as currently both eps are unlocked without a subscription. However i have just found out recently that all the eps will be available to purchase from us google play and iphone accounts. Youtube also has a channel but all 3 need vpn’s. also iphone pad method needs you to change your country of residence and add a fake us address to get past the mandatory parts. $2.99 per hd ep $20 for season pass.

        Itunes – https://itunes.apple.com/us/tv-season/the-crystal-maze-vol-1/id1493446701?ign-mpt=uo%3D2
        Youtube – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=ELMAasuKnj7rfsHVbBAaUv0A

        Reply
  14. Danny Kerner

    Viewership numbers so far:

    Episode 1 – 686,000
    Episode 2 – 504,000
    Episode 3 – 466,000

    The drop is decreasing but not quick enough. I think the number might freeze at around 430,000 as the loyalty factor has kicked in. Either way with almost certainty season 2 is going ahead so 2021 is covered for some crystal maze. wether the UK will join them we will soon see.

    Reply
    1. David

      Ep 4 went up to 585,000…so I guess about 500K-550K seems to be the point for it (though when they add in repeats and DVR’s who knows)

      Reply
      1. Danny Kerner

        I’m taking the actual night as a key measurement point. I say +7 will add another 30k I say. Glad to see the word might have finally got around but also it is the first week where a film lead into the program. This past week was stuck between the SpongeBob marathon so that could of maybe helped. People stuck around to see what it was about maybe.

        Reply
  15. Mathew Palmieri

    watched the third one….
    i think the problem is time and pacing really. Remember how in jungle run how their were less games to offer per episode (was it 3-4 ish) But the show made up for it by having more idol’s/bananas on offer? I think the big problem with it is how theirs only 2 games per zone, and with the music pumping it up it kinda feels like the games are being propped up bigger than they should be. i know why (Commercials…. Always hated the idea off those cliffhanger into commercials, kind of feels like blasphemy to this format.) but the fact that only 1 person plays each game is a bit off to a viewer like me nowadays…. i cant “quite” put my finger on it. wich is a shame, really. i do enjoy adam more than ayoade and his snootyness. if only it had a bit more games to offer, cuz only 8 games per episode feels a bit empty, IMO.

    Reply
    1. Will Stephen

      Pacing is a huge thing that the revamp has struggled with, watching the old episodes and you notice the sort of hectic nature of getting the games in there as quick as possible. The camera work also makes you feel part of the action and not just watching the team. That doesn’t happen in the revamp, it’s organised, structured which has it’s pros/cons for camera placement and storytelling. I don’t think it was ever a bad thing to be rushing around the zones to get the dome in time, rather than saying, 4 games left, now only 2 games left etc. It also avoided repetition by only saying the amount of crystals at the start of a zone rather than saying it before and after breaks.

      Reply
  16. Tom B.

    Just got to watch Episode 5 on DVR, and the fact that they had a family with several deaf members was pretty cool (they had a 6th member who acted as their ASL interpreter, who also did go into the game cells with the deaf members to relay the advice from the team, but could not help with the games). I also noticed this time they started the show outside Aztec and showed them lifting the rocks to get in. The games this week were mostly already shown ones, though they did have a new one in Eastern, a variation on Tiered House Balance, though this one involved building a panda statue on the tilting platform.

    Reply
    1. Danny Kerner

      And the ball vacuum game in Futuristic with the inclusion of a cannon, which so improves the cheapness effect of someone throwing two buckets of balls over the wall. Now I do want to know if that redesign was due to nickelodeon or was down to time since its creation in production season 2 that came from the game designers.

      Reply
  17. Danny Kerner

    Crystal Maze USA has set new record ratings.

    Episode 1 – 686,000
    Episode 2 – 504,000
    Episode 3 – 466,000
    Episode 4 – 585,000
    Episode 5 – 702,000

    If by Episode 10 we are at 900,000 or higher i will be pleased by the results.

    Reply
    1. Danny Kerner

      Episode 6 – 523,000

      The curiosity regarding the deaf contestants clearly helped the viewers rating as we have returned to average numbers.

      Reply
      1. Danny Kerner

        Episode 7 – 504,000

        When i know the full correct production order I will see how the figures would of been if these were shown as produced.

        Reply
  18. Danny Kerner

    We have hit the lowest rated episode so far.

    Episode 8 – 458,000

    Reply
    1. Danny Kerner

      Episode 9 — 562,000 an increase again. Once this fridays figure is revealed next monday i can order the figures by production order rather than broadcast order to see if any patterns do emerge in terms of quality.

      Reply
  19. Danny Kerner

    The official viewing ratings as of production order, not broadcast order.

    101 (EP 1) – The Walls Are Closing In! (Friday 24th Jan) – 686,000 (1 of 2 eps that went out in the right order.)
    102 (EP 4) – The Foggy Abyss of Doom! (Friday 14th Feb) – 585,000
    103 (EP 10) – Put A Ring On It! (Friday 27th March) – TBC Tuesday
    104 (EP 3) – That’s Gonna Leave a Mark! (Friday 7th Feb) – 466,000
    105 (EP 7) – I Can Read But I Can’t Do That! (Friday 6th March) – 504,000
    106 (EP 6) – Keep Your Eyes On The Panda! (Friday 28th Feb) – 523,000 (1 of 2 eps that went out in the right order.)
    107 (EP 2) – Swing It Like a Boss! (Friday 31st Jan) 504,000
    108 (EP 9) – Space is a Difficult Place! (Friday 20th March) – 562,000
    109 (EP 8) – Show The Maze Who’s Boss! (Friday 13th March) 458,000
    110 (EP 5) – What’s The Sign For Winning? (Friday 21st Feb) – 702,000

    As you can see, if they stuck to this order they would have finished with the best figure of the season. I’m expecting this weeks figure to be around 590,000 but with this season the numbers have been all over the place.

    Reply
  20. Alex McMillan

    I reckon this gets another series, and I do think it deserves it.

    Reply

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