Show Discussion: The Code

The_CodeWeekdays, 2:15pm,

New month, new attempt to find a daytime quiz hit which makes my job interesting at least. This one sees Matt Allwright and Lesley-Anne Brewis challenge teams of between one and three people to answer questions to find a combination to a safe. Inside is £3,000, but one wrong answer eliminates the team and £500 will be added. Quite big money by BBC Daytime standards, I would presume a fair few losers before finding a winner.

The show seems to have significant quizzing credentials both in front of camera (Lesley-Anne) and behind the scenes (my understanding is that most of the questions have been written by people who contribute to Only Connect). Do they have a winning combination? Will it prove to be any good? 25 episodes in the order, let us know what you think in the comments.


  1. Andrew 'Kesh' Sullivan says:

    First episode over, so here’s the run-down.

    At the start of the show, £3,000 is placed inside a safe and locked with a 3-digit code. For each set of contestants that fail, an extra £500 is placed in the safe for the next game.

    On a video screen to the left of the safe, 3 answers are shown. The players can look at all 3 questions associated with those 3 answers and must choose which of the answers is the correct one. If they pick the right one, they can choose a digit from 0-9, but if they pick one of the 2 wrong answers, they are out of the game immediately. Lesley-Anne performs a Richard Osman-like role and reveals the actual answers to questions that had wrong answers.

    After picking a digit for a correct answer, we see if that digit is anywhere in the code. If not, it eliminates that number and the game progresses to the next set of 3 answers. If it IS in the code, it makes the game slightly harder from that point on.

    3 more answers appear as normal, but you are only allowed to see the questions behind 2 of the answers. In order to see the remaining question, you must eliminate one of the wrong answers.

    I am presuming that if you get 2 digits of the code, you can only see one question and must decide whether it’s right or not.

    Overall, it’s not a bad little show although I felt that Lesley-Anne was a little unnecessary. What was to stop Matt from having a tablet or some other device to read off the information? The game is suitably challenging, though, and has a good playalong factor. I’ll keep watching this and see if anyone can win.

  2. David says:

    Good concept, but wrong timeslot- this seems to be made for primetime, not daytime..

    Basic rules:

    -The code is a 3 digit number, no repeats

    -the players are shown three answers. One of them is the correct answer to a question hidden behind it, the other two are wrong.

    -In the first phase, they can see all three questions and then decide which answer is right. If they pick a wrong answer, they’re out.

    -If it is, they get to pick a number. If it’s in the code, great, if it’s not, at least they eliminated it from the game.

    -Once they get one number right, it gets a little more difficult. They still see three answers, but can only see two of the questions at first. They then have to discard one of the answers as wrong. If it’s shown to be the right one, they’re out. If it is wrong, they get to see the third answer, and then have to pick the right answer from the two still available.

    -Now we didn’t get to see what happens when they get two numbers right, but I’m speculating that they pick one of the three answers, and after seeing the question then have to either discard it as wrong or commit to it being the correct one.

    The question level seems to be good, but there are some tricks (some questions for the wrong answers are worded in such a way that makes it seem to be correct at first glance)- and a team wants to get a lot of numbers eliminated before finding the first or second code number, to limit the number of times they have to make decisions on answers being wrong not knowing all the questions in the set..

    A solid B from me- I’d think another country could do very well with it as a big-money primetime quiz..

  3. Tom H says:

    Well on the plus side, I’ve always had a lot of time for Matt Allwright – slick without being nauseating, and here he shows the same skills he exhibited on The Exit List. It’s also nice to see, as Brig mentioned, this sort of prize money on offer in BBC daytime.

    But The Code is unfortunately pretty boring – a quick summary:

    Teams of varying numbers (max. three) get three words or phrases pegged to three questions; each of the questions is revealed one at a time, and the team has to work out if the answer next to it is correct. Only one of the three questions/answers fit together; if they get it wrong, they go home.

    If they get it right, they choose a number from a 10-digit keypad which may or may not form part of the three-digit code needed to win the jackpot. If it’s not in the code, they replay the round with a new set of three questions/answers for another crack at it.

    If their number *is* in there, the game progresses slightly (can we nominally call this round 2?) – as before, there are three answers and questions, but the team can only look at two of them before ‘discarding’ one of the pairs as wrong. If they discard a correct answer, they’re out; if they discard one that’s incorrect, they then see the third question/answer pairing and have to work out if that – or the remaining pair – is the correct one. Same rules as before – success means another crack at the code.

    It’s unclear what happens after you crack two digits in any code because no-one got that far on show 1.

    For most of the 45 minutes, one pair played ’round 2′ over and over, guessing at numbers in the code which weren’t there. That’s not particularly gripping viewing, I’m afraid – without any rule changes to keep you interested, you end up willing them to find that second number just so the game ends.

    Stylistically, it felt a bit 2002 – the set looked like a psychiatrist’s waiting room, in pale colours and wooden cladding, graphics which were a bit messy layout-wise and music cues which I’ve already forgotten. I’m also not sure what the producers want from having Lesley-Anne Brewis there: she is undoubtedly a respected figure in the quiz world, but she played it so seriously at several points she sounded like she was giving the contestants a lecture, which undermined Matt’s slightly more ‘matey’ approach.

    Will be interesting to see if they roll over contestants – the format lends itself to that – but I’m not sure I’d be a regular viewer.

  4. Karen says:

    I think just letting a group pick the correct answer as soon as they know it would help out a lot. The show suffers a lot when a team know an answer is correct immediately but have to go through the motions of revealing all the questions. It bogs down the game and just makes the supposed increase in difficulty as more numbers are found fairly trivial.

    I’d put it in the same bucket as Breakaway, there’s a solid format in here. Just needs a few small tweaks.

  5. J says:

    The Code passed the time for me, but I found the pace a little too slow for my liking – the repetitive nature of the format can get a bit tedious at times. However, the questions were very well-written and I enjoy Matt Allwright’s likeable hosting manner. Like others, I wasn’t completely convinced by Lesley-Anne Brewis’ purpose yet, though I’m sure she will get more comfortable in the role as the series goes on. (Particularly annoying was her habit of repeating exactly what the contestants just said, as if it was new information – for example, the Moussaka ingredients. Possibly an editing fail?)

    Overall, a promising start but with room for improvement. I will continue to tune in.

  6. Brig Bother says:

    I quite enjoyed that, a decent quizzy quiz that you can win at even if you don’t know the right answer as long as you know something else is definitely wrong – certainly a more entertaining quiz for me than Decimate in the slot, but not so compelling I’ll be going out of my way to watch it. I do think I need to see it again when a team gets to Level 3 to see if it actually gets tense or not.

    It’s basically Knightmare in the form of a quiz.

  7. Brig Bother says:

    The big question now is: what’s happening with Perfection?

    • Thomas Sales says:

      I think it’s been quietly axed. I can think of game shows that’ve been shunted back an hour and recommissioned, but none that’ve been banished to a death slot and recommissioned.

  8. Oliver says:

    A very solid, if low-key, quiz format. I enjoyed it and can see myself watching it again, especially since it’s the sort of show you can put in the background or dip into half-way through. I actually liked Brewis providing background information, which is a good way of filling time and makes the show feel a little less shallow than it otherwise would be. It generally doesn’t feel like the sort of thing that airs at 2:15pm – in a good way for me, not sure about the general audience.

    Part of me wonders if a few presentational and production tweaks could make it more compelling, as it does feel a bit too staid and dated.

    The obvious show comparison is Perfection, another BBC afternoon true/false quiz, which is a show I never especially liked despite often finding it compelling. The Code is along similar lines while removing a lot of the issues I had with Perfection, such as the tacked on player competition aspect, the relatively marginal advantage of choosing the categories making most of the show redundant, and the amount of luck it felt like you needed to win (perhaps ironically, given that this show has more outright luck-based mechanics). This show doesn’t have anything as outright compelling as Perfection’s reveals, though.

  9. MrCT2U says:

    Middle of last year, I did the run through for this which was a lot of fun to do and am glad to see the show has got commissioned.

    I loved the core element of the game that one wrong answer = Instant dismissal from the game which with that combination I hope produces some good quizzing.

    Also the “conveyor belt” of contestants is also nice to see and last seen on the Daytime Version of the People Versus I believe.

  10. Simon says:

    It’s the kind of show you might want to watch on catchup to skim through all the boring bits.

  11. Clive of Legend says:

    I haven’t enjoyed the music on an ITV game show at all this last year, so it’s good to see the BBC still sorta understands the importance of a decent soundtrack to the atmosphere.

    It was an enjoyable enough show, but could probably have gone a little bit quicker at times. The question style was pretty clever, I thought, as I quite like any show that rewards being able to eliminate wrong answers as much as find right ones. Better than Think Tank, if only by virtue of being a little less derivative.

  12. Brig Bother says:

    I thought both teams played quite well today which is irritating when they lose because it means another twenty minutes before it gets particularly tense.

    I think I’m broadly in line with concensus, I think it’s a good game but as a show I think it needs a bit more oomph. I’d be happy if it got a second go, we’ll see.

    • Mat steiner says:

      Re the twenty minutes / every contestant/team
      Is potentially three questions away from opening the safe!

    • Ronald says:

      I think the show needs a faster pace in the first round.

      The contestant selection has been good and I’d have more personal chat rather than ‘are you suuuuuure?’ slowing things down when the team has already expressed sureness several times over.

      I agree that the lack of a shortcut is giving the show unnecessarily boring – allowing contestants to choose to short circuit the procedure when they want to, and then maybe get it wrong, is more fun.

      A few teams confused the show with Perfection – it’s different (and I think more interesting) in that the question statements are always internally consistent, since they must have a correct answer.

      Matt and Lesley interact well with each other and the contestants and are both able to respond meaningfully to the discussion, and I can see that becoming a strength of the show.

  13. Wrong Guess! says:

    It would help the format a lot if contestants were able to lock in their answer if they knew the first question they picked was the right one.

    I think it also shows the usual problems with a rolling format in that you never get a proper conclusion in the game or in an episode.

    • Brig Bother says:

      I always thought it was a deliberate ploy to get you tune in next time, I prefer that to knowing a result by looking at the clock.

      • Wrong Guess! says:

        True, but I find I get bored if it’s just the same round over and over – especially, like you say, when you see a team get so far into the game and then get eliminated and have to watch a new team from the beginning again.

        Maybe you could have the middle ground of having an actual end game rather than just solving the code after the maximum 10 correct rounds?

        • Brig Bother says:

          Here’s what I had in my head after the first episode although I don’t know if it’s any good or not:

          * Each digit from 0-9 has a question behind it, the three digits in the Code have correct answers, the seven wrong ones incorrect. Pick a number, see a question, decide there and then whether to keep or reject, elimination on a wrong choice.

          * The three digits found now they need to find the order. There are six different combinations and they must answer a question to try one of them, but as the amount of untried combinations goes down, the amount of possible answer choices to a question goes up. One wrong answer ends it.

          That would probably be a bit too quick to be honest.

          • David says:

            Maybe something like this?

            -every time you get a set correct you get to pick three digits; the computer tells you how many digits are in the code. If the number is zero, all three numbers are eliminated from play.

            -If you get one or two right, you can decide to either play the next set like normal (knowing some numbers are correct but not which ones) or take a risk to get an actual number (you see only two questions for the first number, and only one for the 2nd and 3rd- and you only get one correct number each time, even if you scored two)

            If you score three right you have to get the order correct- then something like you suggested might work (say two answers the first try, three the 2nd, etc- and they have to make a decision after each question is revealed)

            The strategy would be is if you score a one or a two, do you take a chance to try and get a correct number, or take the easier road and try and figure out the numbers that way?

            • David B says:

              Actually, some kind of Mastermind Board Game Lite could work, though it would take it into a very different place from the current quiz.

        • Tom F says:

          My suggestion would be to have 3 guesses at the first unsolved digit for each set won. Then you still have games last between 3 and 9 rounds, but never more than 3 sets on the same level. (Ruling that after 9 guesses you get the digit for free since you know what it is – not sure that’s in the actual show)

          • David says:

            It was said in the first show that 10 correct is a automatic win, so it looks like you have to get the last set right even though you would know the number.

  14. Mart With A Y Not An I says:

    The only change I would make, other than showing us if the door on the side of the set actually opens… that if a team when picking the first question of the three, knows it’s the correct answer question, and it is, they can discard the other two and pick 2 numbers for the code combination.

    May help speed the game play up a little every now and then.

    • RoarJustice says:

      ….and blow the budget of the show.

      • Mart With A Y Not An I says:

        Doubtful. So far from what I can recall, we’ve had 1 correct answer from the open choice of three.

        So, my ‘tweak’ if chosen on the first couple of questions wouldn’t hurt the budget too much, as there would still be the rest of the round for things to slowly unravel.

  15. jon says:

    how’s it rating?

  16. Danny Kerner says:

    We finally finding out how level 3 on the code is being operated. As a previous commentor mentioned yes its one question at a time before a commitment must be made.

  17. Gordon Donaldson says:

    If the Beeb ever did a reboot of Box Clever their first ever daytime quiz in 86 Lesley Brewis would be the PERFECT co host not sure who could fill the Emlyn Huges hosting role though

    • Brig Bother says:

      I can’t imagine it would require two hosts these days to be honest. It didn’t really require two then either, but evidently they were desperate to get Emelyn involved.

      • RoarJustice says:

        Why are people so obsessed with Box Clever? It seems like an awful, awful show!

        • Brig Bother says:

          Because it’s quite a fun quiz that does some mildly clever things whilst being a bit too complicated for its own good. Also it featured exciting computer graphics from our childhoods.

  18. Brig Bother says:

    Oh I quite like the safe opening bit.

  19. Matt Clemson says:

    One thing has been nagging me about the basic structure of The Code – that is, the actual bits related to the theme of trying to crack the code – is that it was familiar, but I couldn’t quite place where from.

    Now, though, I think I might have it: isn’t it functionally identical to the endgame of Eye Spy, with rather less gunge? Trying to remember exactly how the ‘booths’ worked.

    • Brig Bother says:

      Mmm, Eye Spy was answer question, pick a booth at random and if you stayed dry do challenge to earn number for the safe, but there wasn’t much cracking IIRC.

  20. Brig Bother says:

    I enjoyed Neil and David’s win today, some proper tightrope style tension.

  21. Steve says:

    Tedious show from start to finish. It can take half an hour to get somewhere near cracking the code, then one wrong answer and that’s it the whole boring process starts again. There should at least be a cash out or consolation prize.
    At the end of the show Matt thanks Lesley-Anne for her expert knowledge. She’s got a laptop in front of her for Gods sake! I could do that job.
    Wer’re supposed to believe the code digits are randomly selected. What a con. They can fix it however they want.
    I’ve noticed lately to make it slightly more exciting the producers are giving the first two code digits early on, only to leave the last digit till much later if we haven’t nodded off by then!
    Another tedious tight-fisted show from the con that is BBC

    • Des Elmes says:

      Go back to reading the Daily Mail.

      • Steve says:

        I hate the BBC and its forced subscription AND the Daily Mail. The only thing the BBC’s good for is Line of Duty, and yes I’d gladly pay a couple of quid per episode if the BBC were pay-per-view..

    • David B says:

      I do wish that the envelope was front of stage, say on Lesley’s desk, so that they could do the prove-out for non-winning teams as well as the winners.

      The show is made by an independent production company, not the BBC. The production company doesn’t care how many winners there are as it’s not their money and usually every team is budgeted to be a winner.

      • David M says:

        I suppose there’s only so much, within a space of time, when keeping tempo going is vital, you can labour the point “Really, this isn’t fixed” when there will always be people thinking everything is fixed … “I bet they swapped the envelopes” etc …

      • Callum J says:

        I don’t see why they would fix it. They don’t get anything out of it, except a lawsuit and being in big trouble if it was discovered.

        Not many people win, because you’re unlikely to get all three codes quickly, so there are more questions that you could get incorrect.

      • Little Timmy says:

        David, is this true?

        I had always imagined the production company (or at least a contracted auditor) would be required to provide a worked estimate of expected win average as part of their pitch.

        A bespoke insurance policy could then be taken out to cover the production for too much winning.

        • David B says:

          Hmm, but there’s a limit to which insurance policies are worthwhile. They’re usually only considered for very big-money shows where there’s a small chance of a multi-million payout risk that you want to offset. It might be worthwhile spending £50-100,000 to insure against the risk of two or three million-pound winners in a series.

          But for low-level prizes, there isn’t a lot of point doing it. You might as well “self-insure”. Basically, an insurer would charge, say, around 120% of the likely average payout over the long term (possibly more, if the variance of the payouts was larger). Using an insurer would therefore increase your costs by 20% and yet the cost of having a run of winners would be remarkably small (though non-zero). For an organisation the size of the BBC that has billions of pounds available, they would still have the ability to bail out the production should it go very wrong but given the choice, they’d rather the per-episode cost was kept as low as possible and that means cutting insurers out of any profit margin.

          Yes, the BBC wouldn’t be terribly happy if every team was a winner because that would imply either fraud or terrible question judgement, but the money has to be available in the highly unlikely case it does happen.

          • Little Timmy says:

            I suppose it isn’t all that remarkable that such a specifically-tailored insurance policy would cost as much as that.

            You iron out the risk with enough episodes, anyway. And even if you do wind up badly calibrating the first series, you can just do what The Cube did to balance out the numbers and just quadruple the difficulty! (Yes, I know that was dwindling ad revenues. Still.)

    • Tom F says:

      **Considers the Hypothesis test one could do to show that the guess pattern outcomes on the show are statistically unremarkable and so unlikely to be meddled with**


    • Brig Bother says:

      This element of the thread has become very tedious, so I am ending it.

      The Digital Spy forums can be found here:

  22. Paul says:

    It’s a common mistake to think/say a show is produced by a production company. The Code is produced by Adam Wood, one of the most respected and reliable guys in the world of television.

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