Thanks very much to Lewis Murphy of Fifty 50 fame for being our roving reporter at the Celebrity Squares pilot last night, here’s what he thought:
– It was filmed at ITV Towers, conveniently on the south bank for the evening’s Puzzled Pint I was hoping to make after recording. More on that later.
– Studio 1 for this, as you’d expect from having to build a 3-story set. Strangely, not through the usual entrance to the usual seating area, but through the side. Not sure why they couldn’t build the giant octothorpe in another corner, but apparently they couldn’t.
– Warmup was Andy Collins. This will turn out to be the highlight of the evening.
– The set is exactly as you’d expect: giant 3×3 grid filled with “celebrities” in one corner, contestant and host podium on the opposite side. Of course by today’s modern standards we need black curtain backdrop making the whole thing “dark”. Funnily enough the grid is tilted back so the celebs actually can look up and down at each other somewhat, I think this is a nice touch.
– There were two pilots recorded, but of the 9 celebs in the squares only two changed out. In the first game we had (working left to right, top to bottom) impressionist Francine Lewis, Westlifer from last year’s Strictly Nicky Byrne, comedian from forever ago Mick Miller, Coronation Street actor Simon Gregson, Pussycat Doll from last year’s I’m A Celeb Ashley Roberts, former football manager girlfriend Nancy Dell’Olio, DJ and host of Fake Reaction Matt Edmondson, heptathlete Louise Hazel, and Rufus Hound. In game two, Francine Lewis switched out for lady with too much lipstick Ellie Taylor, and Matt Edmondson switched out for comedian I can’t stand Joe Wilkinson.
– A lot of the original show’s watchability comes from the interactions between celebs of course. Much of this was scripted in the original, but looking over the names you’ll see one or two who probably wouldn’t pay any attention to a script anyway. There were certainly some who interacted well (Nicky Byrne and Louise Hazel fit the show surprisingly well) but others seemed to turn the comedy moments flat.
– And last but not least, the host of the show, pint-sized actor Warwick Davis. Warwick’s a good actor. He’s done well in various things, even unscripted stuff like An Idiot Abroad. However, he seemed not to do very well reading from an autocue, several lines needing to be re-recorded 2 or 3 times. He consistently managed not to remember the rule about not winning a deciding square when your opponent gets it wrong, and twice managed to call a contestant in the second show by the wrong name, referring to her by the name of one of the first show’s contestants. These are all issues I’m sure would be overcome about half way into recording a full series, but it dragged out recording time for the pilot.
– Oh yes, recording time for the pilot. As I mentioned, they recorded two shows, however each was only meant to be a 30 minute show having only one break. Doors were meant to open at 6, but opened at about 6:20 (due partly to the outpouring of the Paul O’Grady audience), and by 9:40 I decided to leave for the pub so I could actually meet with people I’ll be commentating with on Saturday. They had managed to get to the final of the second show at this point, but I wanted to get that drink in.
– A brief description, since you all know the basics: first round is played for £500. Second round is also played for £500, with the mystery bonus square having… a £1000 bonus, added separately from your regular winnings. Not a prize of any sort. Third round is the “speed round” worth £1,000, or £100 per square if the klaxon goes off before it’s won. Whoever has the highest banked total (don’t know how ties are resolved) goes through to the final.
– The loser actually gets to keep their money! Of course it’s usually in the order of £500, and this was a pilot where nobody’s getting given actual prizes, but nonetheless seeing that happen was the second highlight of the evening.
– They apparently had two different finals to record. As I left before the second I couldn’t tell you about it, but the first was underwhelming, and nothing at all like any previous incarnation that I know of. Basically it’s speed Would I Lie To You, each celeb having a short statement about themselves and the contestant having to agree or disagree with it, getting around the board in 40 seconds. £10,000 for getting the lot correct, £500 added to their total for each square if they didn’t get them all correct. None of the statements seemed particularly too bizarre and obviously lies, and the contestant this time around managed to get only two correct.
– As a recording it was just plain tiring. The throws to some celebs, expecting a comedy moment and falling flat, were too frequent. Rufus Hound managed to get more laughs out of the audience for shouting at them than for any actual jokes. Warwick Davis having to constantly re-record, stretching out the amount of time we were there. No idea how this will edit but to sit through it was one of the worse audience experiences I’ve had, and I hope my curse of recordings lasting far longer than they should ends next month when I go to see some Pointless.
So there we are, thanks Lewis. Incidentally, something else he linked to earlier on his Twitter which I had seen before but not for a while, the Graham Norton production company unbroadcast pilot for Channel 5 a decade ago:
Not a bad selection of celebs, that. The host is DJ Tom Binns.