I’m on a ride and I want to get off BUT THEY WON’T SLOW DOWN THE ROUNDABOUT. Happily, friend of the Bar Martyn With A “Y” Not An “I” was better avaliable to go and see Reflex at MediaCity on Friday and he had this to say about the whole affair. Or at least the first half of the affair. Like the last pilot review, I’m experimenting with emboldening the most important points. Over to you Martyn:
A (maybe) not for broadcast Objective Productions pilot for an unspecified Saturday slot on BBC One
So, Reflex, then.
No wonder Channel 4 threw it back at Objective last year. The show has no proper genuine ideas for itself. It’s borrowing or plain stealing this and that from every other physical gameshow that’s ever been aired. A true multi-ideas pile up on the motorway of programme formats.
So, let’s then survey the wreckage.
Host – Jake Humphrey. Good, slick, worked using only cue-cards and no autocue, and mostly nailed his pieces to camera in one take. He does his F1 routine, by holding a mic throughout with the Reflex show logo in a triangular box on the front of it. Appears to be the only voice on the show doing everything. Presenting, commentating, interviewing and game rule reader. Had the audience on his side for most of the recording, but blotted his copybook by taking a rest on part of the set towards the end of the afternoon recording, when most of us were really suffering, because..
The audience are standing up the whole time. Which leads us onto…
The studio – The show was using HQ1 at MediaCity, which is one (if not the) largest studios outside London, and felt cramped and cluttered. The game sets are dotted around the place, with the audience herded around the studio from round to round, standing behind the five game sets a la Top Gear.
It may becuase it was a pilot, but they lit the bare walls of the studio using light blue coloured uplighters placed on the studio floor. Which I didn’t think would work, but I caught a live feed on one of the monitors and it did look ‘different’ and gave it almost a hi-tech warehouse feel.
Didn’t hear any music, didn’t see any graphics (apart from the show logo, which is different from the minimalist design used in the SRO ticket shout out. The new one has the ‘Reflex’ in a white embossed font with bits of some letters picked out in colour – middle line of the ‘E’ in blue, the left side of the ‘X’ in red ect)
Technicals – 5 regular handheld cameras on tripods, one steadcam (doing Jakes links and game play walkthoughs) and a jib crane. Oh, and 3 slo-mo cameras 4 super slo-mo cameras and a ‘timeslice’ camera rig on a rail. So, on to the show itself.
Each edition running time – unsure. It’s being made with “sometime on a Saturday evening” in mind. The top prize is (upto) £50,000 each week – so that would put it in the lottery wraparound show, but, it would be hard work to watch as there would be a lot of slo-mo’ and super slo-mos to pad it out (101 ways to leave a gameshow, anyone?). It could find itself in a earlier 30 mins slot, which wouldn’t turn it into a endurance contest for the viewers at home to see each show through to the end.
Round 1. Slaphead
Our 5 contestants stand on a silver stage in a left to right line around 8 ft off the ground, on a small ledge. Directly In front and below them, some white comfy soft crashmats.
Behind them, a rounded cornered moveable outward square cut-out at shoulder and head height. They stand facing outwards, hands on the wall by their sides, wearing a side and back head protector (rugger fans, it’s what the props wear for the scrums) and on their forehead a large red button (same size as those Comic Relief car grill noses).
Game starts. Whereas Phil starts every game with “Cube, start the game” here Jake starts every game or round with “The game is now..LIVE”.
After a short tension building gap, a beep sound is heard, and the contestants have to smack the red button on their foreheads the quickest. The winner of that round then gets revealed by being shoved off the ledge by that square shape I mentioned earlier and they fall onto the crash mats. Jake then goes and interviews them, and it’s repeated losing the quickest one each round until the slowest on the final two head to head goes out of the show altogether.
It’s one for the slo-mo shots here, as you get the forehead slap and the shove/fall from the ledge – plus, audience reations and celebrations from that contestants friends and family.
Seen before on - The Cube, the comedy nature of the game is a lift from Total Wipeout, and the round winners ejection from the game is from 101 Ways To Leave A Gameshow.
Midly diverting for the first couple of rounds, tiresome after that.
But we still have four left and that leads us to..
Round 2. ‘Fear Reflex’
So, in a line, we have 4 1 metre long runways, with what looks like a big version of those Dyson fans at waist height off the ground – the centre hole is around 1 meter in diameter – oh and the hole is covered by a circular piece of darkened sugar glass. Infront of that (as the cameras look at it) a large crashmat (different coloured for each contestant), and right at the end of the crash mat, a flat button to be pressed.
Rules – simples. It’s a race. Wait for the beep, run on the short runway, jump head first though window, land sprawled on the crashmat, crawl over the shattered pieces of glass and be the first to hit the button which wins the round. Again, winner though, and process is repeated until two left and the slowest one is elimated.
Seen before on – The Cube (Bigger version of Shatter) International King Of Sports (the head long dive) Total Wipeout (jumping though things). The replays will look good once slowed down, and we have the timeslice cameras in action as well. 2 down, 3 to go, and that leaves us at Round 3
But first – at this point I look down at my size 8′s and mutter…
Because, things had taken so long it was knocking on 5.20pm (we were in the studio at just before 1) standing up for that time, patience wearing a little thin over the length of recording breaks and retakes for Jake’s links (Not his fault I may add). And in F1 terms, the floor manager threw the red flag on the afternoon recording session. The rest of the show would be recorded in the evening session – which I didn’t have a ticket for.
So, the rest of the games and proceedures were obtained by talking in the last two recording breaks to two different memeber of the senior studio team. This is how, based on what they said is how the rest of the show plays out.
Round 3. Explosion
The remaining three are lined up around 8 feet from a perspex window fronted large silver box (shed like dimensions), in front of them are three lighted cubed buttons marked A, B, C. In the box are three podiums also marked A, B, C. On each are a clear light bulb and a containter of sweets (A) large red beads (B) and a water melon (C).
From what I’ve been told, inside the shed, after the beep, one of the clear lightbulbs will flash, and then all three have to press the corresponding lettered box in front of them. If all three press the correct box, then all remain in the game – but if one presses the wrong one, that option is then blown up, and we have our two semi finalists.
Again, a game meant for super slo-mos with the button bashing and the enevitable explosion for the wrong answer. The bangs apparently were quite loud, and all members of the audience were supplied with a pair of foam ear-plugs. Would have been curious to see if they filmed the audience putting those in their ears in super slo-mo. Enough already – we have Duel for round 4.
Round 4. Duel.
Semifinal – best of 3 games.
Game 1. The two remaining players each lie face down on top of a 8 ft massive purple ballon/sphere. When the beep is heard at some point the ballons will be exploded, causing the players to fall on to a silver crash mat. They then have to scramble around and press a button to stop the game and win the point.
Game 2 – Sitting down on the crash mat, a smaller ballon is placed above their heads on a piece of wood. When they hear the beep, then then reach up and burst the ballon. First to do that wins the point.
(High concept stuff from the games development team, eh?)
No? – Ok try Game 3 then. Paintball.
The two stand side by side, in front of them a perspex window, and a can of paint. Hear the beep, pick up the paint and the first to chuck it at the window wins the game.
The one that won 2 games goes for the money..
Game 5 – Catch.
This takes place in a fairly large circular set. One half in front of the contestant is a above waist height semi circular curved silver wooden cupboard worktop type thing. The contestant stands on a slight raised circular podium, with the programme logo on it. Behind them a sliver squared metal fence. There are three lines painted onto the floor, and roughly on a clock face at 4, 6 and 8 o’clock.
From what I’ve been told, balls are throw by using cricket bowling machines (which I saw) at ground level to the contestant. They will have 100 of these launched at them in a random fashion. The balls will be various colours, but one colour will be on 50 of the balls (for explanation we’ll say green), with other colours making up the other 50.
For each of the 50 green coloured balls they catch, they will win £1,000, but catch any of the non-green coloured balls and £1,000 is deducted.
Again, going for a game with super slo-mo reactions, and no doubt, a bit of Timeslicing. Sounds a reasonable idea (if basic) for a cash game. The circle is quite big as it was used to round up the audience before we were moved around the studio to the game sets.
And that is Reflex. And there’s is nothing like a train journey back home to get some thoughts together. This is my opinion.
For the studio audience its a long old show, there’s a lot of setting up, a lot of standing around, (there really is nowhere in the current set design to put in seating) and the actual rounds for the games themseleves last around 1-2 seconds, which makes it less enjoyable than it should be – if it’s made into a series, I would ask anyone to consider this fact if you go – oh, and wear some comfy shoes.
Justin Moorhouse’s brother was the warm-up, and was largly ineffectual (and unfunny) We were told we would be shown some of the super-slo mos from the last round, during some of the recording breaks/resets. Never saw one. Think of your studio audience, Objective.
Another issue is the use of the super slo mos. The Cube could actually hold it’s own without the timeslicing and slo-mos. Reflex is different, it’s all about them. And as such, with wrong editing and pacing it’ll end up looking like a televised demo for the technical gizmos.
Additionally it will fall deep into the 101 Ways/Total Wipeout trap of showing everything from 6 angles, and a different slow speeds – this will get boring for the viewer, and very quickly as the rounds are repeated up to four times each game.
It may also be crippled by lack of variety in the games if commissioned. There are only so many slo mos of things being blown up or being smashed by contestants up your audience can take.
In summary. Channel 4 didn’t want it. Easy to see why. The edit job will have to be pretty good to stop BBC One, in turning their backs on it as well.
I expected entertainment seeing the next big thing in physical gameshows from a team experienced in making them and good afternoon out – I only got a free pair of unused ear plugs, and sore feet.
Thanks Martyn. It does sound a bit one-trick, although in this instance I would be very interested to see how it comes across in the edit.