That’s Yer (Pi)Lot: High Stakes

By | March 10, 2011

We speculated about this here, it films tonight in Manchester.

I’m not going to be able to attend unfortunately, but it looks like one or two Bother’s Bar punters might well be. We welcome a recording report, either e-mail it or write it in the comments.

We are mainly interested in how it works and whether you think it’s any good. Feel free to use a pseudonym.

Update: The lovely Barney Sausage has done an excellent recording review for us.

26 thoughts on “That’s Yer (Pi)Lot: High Stakes

  1. Alex Davis

    There’s a format from Arizona Formats called Still Standing that involves dropping people. Frankly it looks like a large Russian Roulette ripoff, but regardless. Is High Stakes the same thing, just under a different title? Or do we have some coincidence here. I ask for a good reason.

    1. Brig Bother Post author

      No, the description we’ve been offered sounds quite different – it’s a game about avoiding trapdoors – The Million Pound Drop With People. It was also at one point (I don’t know if it still is) a co-production with NBC.

      I don’t think Still Standing looks that bad to be honest.

      1. Alex Davis

        Doesn’t look bad at all. I like shows like this. I’ll take what I can get. Looks better than Minue to Win It.

        1. Andy "Kesh" Sullivan

          You’ll have plenty to watch, Brig. There’s 12 whole episodes on there. I’ve watched a little bit of the first episode and it looks a good game. If a UK version was made, I wouldn’t mind a go at it.

          1. Andy "Kesh" Sullivan

            And for all you stattos out there, the top prize of 1,000,000 Israeli shekels converts to a shade under £174,000.

      1. Alex Davis

        And this is why I asked. NBC picked up Still Standing for 8 episodes. Just wondering if it was the same show, but nope.

        Still Standing is really just Russian Roulette without the fun and exciting randomness. It’s not bad, but it’s incredibly bland and repetitive as it is. I’m expecting some form of Americanization.

        1. Brig Bother Post author

          It’s not bad, but it’s incredibly bland and repetitive as it is. I’m expecting some form of Americanization.


          Oh Alex man! I think you’ve just set off the Bother’s Bar irony alarm!

  2. Barney Sausage

    Went to “High Stakes” tonight…never written a recording report, but I’ll have a little go here!

    I was expecting Jeremy Kyle…however, when we got in warm up man Ray Turner (absolutely hysterical, best thing about the evening by about a million miles!!) explained that they had filmed the UK one last night…tonight’s was for NBC, and the players would be playing for a million dollars!! That was quite exciting…

    The set…well, we went upstairs to take our seats because the whole kit and kaboodle is built up high, a bit like Million Pound Drop. There were about 300 audience seats arranged round a central platform with a video screen at one end, and assorted LED screen panels with a nice looking hoop design swishing around on them whilst they hid various sound and vision tech boys and girls. In keeping with the “high” theme, during gameplay these screens also showed wispy bits of cloud.

    The central platform was decked out in that lined patterned industrial sheet metal design, with a huge square recess in the middle. This was the actual gameplay area…a perspex floor cum giant video screen, with a camera mounted over the top of it looking down on the game board. There were the usual varilights and such…nice little design, lots of blue and white flashing lights etc.

    Our host was introduced…Mark McGrath from the American band Sugar Ray (sorry, never heard of them). He looked a bit like Donny Osmond, if you ask me…nice dark suit and cerise shirt without a tie…casual. He exchanged some pleasantries with the audience, then off we went…

    Here’s the game then…the floor turns into a grid, seven rows of a sequence of eight numbers – let’s use the example for row one as 8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15. The object of the exercise is to look at the first row, and choose a number…seven numbers are safe moves, whilst one number is a “fail”. You stand on a number, and if it’s a safe number you “win” that row, and the money it is worth…then you decide whether or not to walk away, or play on to win the next row. The problem is…in every subsequent row, one safe spot is replaced by a fail, making it harder to win. The grid is as follows….

    Row one 7 safe, 1 fail $1,000
    Row two 6 safe, 2 fail $2,500
    Row three 5 safe, 3 fail $10,000
    Row four 4 safe, 4 fail $50,000
    Row five 3 safe, 5 fail $100,000
    Row six 2 safe, 6 fail $250,000
    Row seven 1 safe, 7 fail $1 million

    After the first row, one number at a time is selected as a fail, and you have to avoid it – so it’s not a simple case of “stand on a number, we’ll reveal the fails and see if you go on”. Instead, a number is selected as a fail, you “make your move” (a deliberately awkward exercise in walking to your chosen number and standing on it) and then the fail is revealed. Assuming you survive that fail, you walk back to Mark, then another number is selected as the fail, you “make your move”…once you have survived the relevant number of fails, you win that row and are given the choice of leaving or carrying on.

    As with most games, it’s not just guesswork. You are given 11 clues – Mark called them “avoids” – which you can play as and when you want to. These take the form of a question with a numerical answer…you have to work out the answer to the question (for example – how many keys on a full sized piano), and avoid that number – because for that move, the answer will be the “fail” number (so, having had that question, if you know there’s 88 keys you know to stand on any other number than 88 in that row, on that turn – 88 will be revealed as the fail, and you survive.)

    Obviously then, sometimes it pays to use an avoid to better the odds…though cleverly, if you want ot go for the big bucks you will have to make some guesses and be brave. you will have to stand on 27 numbers, if you’re to win the million…you have 11 avoids, even if you know all the answers…so you must ration them as you think fit. The first row is given to you – you get a free avoid, which you can only use on that row, you can’t bank it – so you’re guaranteed a grand. Once you stand on a number and decide it’s the one you trust, you are asked to “commit”..and a cool lockdown noise happens, the lights all go red…very cool effect.
    Now, if you should hit a fail…the reason why we’re all perched 30 feet up becomes apparent…dum dum noise plays, and the recessed gameboard “sinks”, complete with player waving goodbye…he slides out of view, whilst the overhead camera shows his descent…and we all clap and go “awwwwwwww”. It seems – it wasn’t clearly stated – that if you fail, you go back down to the last position on the money tree and win that instead.

    In the case of the best contestant from tonight – Matt – he went for the $250,000, lost, and ended up with $50,000. However, we got to see lots of Matt…Mark the host wasn’t the greatest host – fluffing lines, forgetting to ask people to commit, he seemed a bit unsure of the rules…he did say he had jet lag, but still…and so there were endless pick ups – including Matt having to film his wrong answer and descent into the pit three times, which I thought was fairly cruel!! He also had to re-do his introduction, well after the game had finished…so it seemed a bit amateurish. Lots of people left early, despite Ray the warm up variously taking the piss / making jokey threats / virtually begging them to stay – so by the end, there were about half of us left.

    It strikes me as one of those not a lot of gameplay but endless pondering and aimless tension gameshows…lots of “talk to me” / “what are the numbers saying to you” guff. Not bad, not fab…but not a great host. Dunno about the UK version, but I wouldn’t push to watch the US one.

    Hope that gives you a flavour…my step-daughter came along, and though she’s not a gameshow fan it was her first experience of being in a studio audience. It says something about the crew and the game – but mainly about Ray the warm-up – that she thoroughly enjoyed herself, despite it being a VERY long evening…and wants to go to more shows!

    1. Alex

      Cheers for the write up! I was supposed to be there too but arrived to late and got turned away (out of curiosity, around what time did you turn up outside the studio?). The game sounds pretty similar to what I was expecting, only much less interesting! I was half expecting it to be the same type of thing only the contestant chooses ‘Russian Roulette’ style trap doors.

      Having one fail at a time rather than all of them for that row does just seem to be there for drawing the game out longer.

    2. The Banker's Nephew

      Seems okay. I wouldn’t make it appointment viewing but DVR it, definitely. Sounds like it would be a hit over here, anyway.

    3. Ryan

      Mark McGrath hosted “Extra”, one of many syndicated entertainment shows before this season where he moved onto “Don’t Forget the Lyrics!” and is currently a cast member on Celebrity Apprentice.

    4. Joe

      Sounds terrible if I’m honest. Not enough gameplay, too much faffing around talking and lack of suspense. Viewers won’t like that. If ITV Studios think this is going to be a worldwide hit, they’re in for a shock. It doesn’t sound particularly good at all. I still believe Control is the best of the 3 game-show pilots ITV has filmed recently.

      1. Brig Bother Post author

        I’m actually inclined to agree, and I also think the odds are a bit off to be compelling.

        Thanks very much Barney!

        1. Barney Sausage

          Joe, I’m inclined to agree – no ‘ real’ tension, but plenty of ‘ waiting around / shots of pensive player / audience reaction edited in of someone biting their lip’ false created tension…mind you, that’s endemic of most game shows today, isn’t it? In terms of odds, it seems weighted for lots of fifty grand wins, with the ever present threat of a million bucks serving more as a talking point than an attainable target.

          Having slept on it and having had some toast (helps me think, you see!), I reckon it would make a decent round within a show, rather than a show itself. And Alex – we got there around 4.15pm, line was fairly small then. Applause Store staff, I have to say, were not particularly great at audience wrangling…we were herded into the fake Rovers Return pub which used to serve beer on the Granada Studios tour, if I recall correctly, and has a little glass atrium thingy built on…then it became a free for all – when the time came to go to studio, they had everyone squeezing out through one door…cue ignorant chavvy people shoving in from the sides etc. One lady behind me complained that some idiot had barged past her, elbowing her in the stomach…and she was pregnant, so that shows you the level of thoughtless cretin making up about 10% of the crowd!

          1. Brig Bother Post author

            Interesting, it was similarly a bit poor at The Whole 19 Yards last year at Pinewood which was also Applause Store. No real problems with them at the smaller venues like the London Studios and the Beeb though.

      2. Paul B

        It’s shocking that you should think that, Joe, it really is.

        It certainly doesn’t sound like a particularly elegant format on paper, but neither would something like Secret Fortune, I suspect, and that seems to be doing alright.

    5. art begotti

      I’m really conflicted. On paper (or at least, in a block of text on the internet), this sounds like a pretty dull format, but I still sorta like the concept of trying to weigh out the ideal strategy. Going by the description though, I don’t think it’d be anything I’d watch. I’ll take on the mantra of “If anything worth watching happens, it’ll be on YouTube.”

      1. Brig Bother Post author

        It’s basically round one of Winning Lines except dragged out to an hour with a procession of people winning decent money with little inherent jeopardy on a raised stage so that they can make a pun in the title. With Jeremy Kyle. That no-one will win the jackpot on.

        Why would people watch it?

    6. Weaver

      Mr. Sausage, many thanks. This does sound like a familiar setup – eliminating the incorrect answers to give the right one was the basis of It’s Not the Answer (ITV, 2001), while giving clues to numbers is the sort of thing a Primary 5 teacher might do to make mental arithmetic a little more fun. The fatal flaw is that the final rounds are going to be very samey: contestant picks a number, locks it in, pause, reveal, walk back to host. Rinse and repeat, up to six times in a row, and for each repetition the audience is going to drop off. Possibly literally.

      If it’s played with pace and vigour, the show could work. Start with a minute of questions for which the answers are all numbers, and mark the answers on the grid (a CGI production, all the host and contestant see are eight trapdoors). Then the contestant is asked to find the right number of right answers (being the fewer of safe or unsafe squares) and can walk at the end of each round. How much pace? Starting a show with a new contestant, they should be able to have the last decision of round 4 as the 22-minute break, and complete all seven rounds in an hour.

  3. Gary

    Hmm. I was hoping it would be live action Knightmare causeway puzzles for a million quid. Never mind.

  4. Pingback: High Stakes comissioned? | Bother's Bar

  5. Pingback: Watching Telly: High Stakes | Bother's Bar

  6. Pingback: Show Discussion: High Stakes | Bother's Bar

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.