THUMP THUMP THUMP
Just watched last night’s premiere of The Great Escape (from the US TNT network), it’s almost very good but there are a number of things that count against it.
First of all: how it works (I’ll hide specifics and criticism under a spoiler at the end):
- Three teams of two go to a place and are locked up. The first team to escape by finding four bits of the Great Escape Key win $100,000. For the first episode they’re escaping Alcatraz.
- The teams begin in “the detainment zone” where they are locked into cells. They need to find the Great Escape Map which will show them the escape route and they need to find a key to escape the cell. They can move on to the first stage.
- There are four stages located at various points around the location. For each stage there is a task. Completion of the task earns a quarter of the circular Great Escape Key (to unlock the treasure) and an object to help them escape.
- Between locations guards are patrolling. If a guard spots them, they must drop all clues and go back to the Detainment Zone where another key has been hidden. STEALTH ACTION!
- All four bits of key found, when put together it spells out the location of host Rich Eiser and the treasure chest. They must race to the Transportation Zone to meet up with ‘an accomplice’ and pick up transport and get there. The first team to arrive wins the money.
- Whilst this is all going on, team progress is relayed to the other teams via a cold woman’s voice on a tannoy.
Spoilers under the cut.
First of all, Alcatraz is obviously a brilliant location for this sort of thing and I very much look forward to seeing what other locations they use. When you think of Alcatraz you’re probably thinking tense and claustrophobic and dark and moody.
However you wouldn’t know that from the music and editing. In fact you can tell the people behind The Amazing Race are behind it, it’s all hurried and exciting and thumping and it doesn’t work here AT ALL. This is fine where the action is more manic and the setting more open but here I found it really really detracts from the action and the setting.
The tasks, whilst showing initial promise, are not that interesting either. In this week’s episode:
- Find a locked box in one of the 300 plus cells, then use some tools to open it. Inside, you get a torch and a multiplication problem in the form of a riddle. Use the answer to unlock the padlock on a gate.
- Use a magnet on a string to pull a bag towards you. Inside the bag is a navigational map and compass.
- Shift ammo boxes and sandbags until you find a boat key.
- Search the area for a jerry can.
Initially this shows a bit of promise but the fact remains these are pretty light ideas for challenges. They’re not Now Get Out of That. They’re not even Jailbreak. They feel like Amazing Race roadblock cast-offs when they should be Mole-esque or Crystal Maze style tests of ingenuity or Boyard-esque fun.
Please note that if you get into prison for real it is unlikely someone will have left a map for you and challenges along the way.
The objects that get picked up should feed into later challenges ideally instead they’re just carried along for narrative really, so they can use the boat. But we don’t really need that narrative because the GE Key performs the exactly the same function, telling the boatman where to go and drop them off. It should be one or the other.
Host and sports journalist Rich Eiser is entirely adequate having pretty much precisely the same rhythm and intonation explaining challenges as Phil Keoghan does on The Amazing Race but with less of a New Zealand accent.
This is a show with potential and it’s much easier to get angry at a show that shows promise but doesn’t quite get there compared to a show that has nothing going for it in the first place. They need to drink less coffee before going into the edit suite. The challenges need to be a bit more ingenious. I’d even go as far as to suggest they should combine this with Bother’s Bar favourite Drop Zone and have it as a weekly elimination competition with losers “stranded” at the locations and the final teams escaping for very large cash prize.
I hope someone picks it up to make it their own.