The Six Visceral Reactions

By | August 11, 2017

I was having a mildly entertaining conversation on Twitter last night regarding gameshow criticism and how often people are quite often initially wrong, started off with a link to the DS Forum re: the first series of The Chase.

It is often important to keep in mind the self-selecting nature of DS and Twitter, and what comes up represents the opinions of about five people total. The only real way to gauge what people think is with BARB. The truth will out eventually.

Naturally I’m just as guilty, although if I wasn’t right so often you’d have stopped reading by now, ahem. I work 8:45-7pm most days and between that and life events I have just as little time to watch things as everybody else, so really something has to be pretty good to warrant subsequent viewings. I’ve always tried to be constructive but it certainly doesn’t surprise me if the average viewer basically thinks “this is pretty good” or “this is rubbish, I’ll watch something else” and just gets on with their life. For me though I have, I think, one of six broad visceral reactions to any new show:

  • This is really very good. Something that grabs immediately, I can’t see the joins but I can see the logical reasons they’ve done what they’ve done. Examples: Millionaire, Weakest Link, Deal or No Deal, The Genius.
  • There’s something here but it’s not quite there yet. These are the most interesting shows because clearly there’s something worthwhile in the concept but you can easily think of ways the show could be better. I think most discussion-worthy shows fall into this category and examples would be most shows ITV have put out between 3pm and 6pm over the last ten years. Shows in this category are likely to be watched more than once even if I don’t go out of my way to do so.
  • It is perfectly competent and in being competent it is dull. Most BBC1 2:15pm quizzes of the last ten years. Shows in this category I’m happy to leave to the whims of BARB and commissioners.
  • This really ought to be better. It’s dull or someone’s clearly overlooked something which seems quite obvious or both. Alphabetical.
  • It was worth a try, but it doesn’t work. I think it’s worth celebrating innovation even if clearly it doesn’t really work on screen which is why when things like Sell or Swap happen, which ended up being really very poor television, you can at least understand why it was worth a try.
  • I don’t understand why it was commissioned. Examples: Letterbox, Babushka.

I have never worked in television, I have a proper job, and I’ve never been especially creative. I would be rubbish at having to devise something. But I do quite enjoy looking at something and toying with it which is one of the tenets of Bother’s Bar really.

13 thoughts on “The Six Visceral Reactions

  1. Deo

    + Looks at the DS forum.

    + Saying that The Fuse is better than The Chase


  2. Chris M. Dickson

    I do like the truism of certain show characteristics tending towards certain slots.

    One interesting one has been BBC 1 Saturday early evening, pre-prime time, where they almost seem to target the “It was worth a try, but it doesn’t work.” segment. I’m thinking of Reflex, Don’t Scare The Hare, Can’t Touch This and That Puppet Game Show here, with the standout hit in (somewhat) recent memory being Hole In The Wall – and while that had a two-season cameo, I get the impression that that will go down as a fondly-remembered perfectly-formed two-hit wonder that didn’t outstay its welcome, rather than a flop.

    There’s a degree of cherry-picking here, of course, and my memory of precise BBC 1 schedules may well be incorrect. Total Wipeout did the business, but it was prime time, wasn’t it?

    1. Brig Bother Post author

      Don’t Scare the Hare is category six, but that’s cheating because if I hadn’t spent six hours in the audience for the pilot, which they’re STILL filming, it’d be a category five.

  3. Mart With A Y Not An I

    I thought Total Wipeout started just out of prime time (5.45pm-ish) and then was slowly promoted to the edge of primetime as it went on and the BBC saw the figures coming back from BARB and realised it was a sleeper?

    There’s also something in the back of my mind, that the Wipeout slot was originally going to house the full series reboot of Shane Richie’ll Fix It. But, even before Sir James’s history caught up with him, the full series was decommissioned, because the pilot viewing figures bombed, even though it was given an early evening slot on Boxing Day.

  4. John R

    These categories also work quite well for the various National Lottery shows…

    Though I’m struggling with the exact category I would pick for The National Lottery Until They Got Bored Of It And Axed Their Sponsorship Mid Series People’s Quiz 2007 – Don’t know if I would place that one in There’s something here but it’s not quite there yet, This really ought to be better or It was worth a try, but it doesn’t work!

    10 years ago already, wow I’ve wasted my life…

    1. Weaver

      People’s Quiz, I’d put more in “ought to be better” than “valiant try”. You have 24 great quizzers, and choose the weekly winner through an endgame that feels like it could be rigged? You do this at the height of 0898-gate? Are you nuts?!

      On the other hand, and to return to Nick’s original point, I can see how this show might have helped bring Mark Labbett to The Chase. The opening episodes of People’s Quiz had the vibe of a level playing field, that anyone can take on the greatest brains, and perhaps beat them.

      Later, in the studio sessions, Mark gave tremendous value on the Winners’ Bench. His throwaway remark gave the programme a narrative, it gave Kate Garraway something to chew on for weeks, and showed he has indomitable self-confidence.

      Mark Labbett proved he can do the entertainment and he can do the quiz. Two years later, he got a chance to demonstrate these skills on ITV, and the rest is history.

  5. Des Elmes

    Countdown and the original Fifteen-to-One would, I presume, go in the “not quite there yet” category.

    Based on those clips from the 1978 series, the Krypton Factor would probably go in this category too.

    And based on this clip from the third-ever episode, so would University Challenge:

    1. Chris M. Dickson

      Most of those go in category three for me, though they are the preferable end of the category. Feel free to conclude that that says far more about me than it says about the shows…

      1. Brig Bother Post author

        Krypton Factor Cat 2, others Cat 3. Although I think it’s interesting that I think Countdown and 15-1 would have great difficulty in getting commissioned today if they were new things. 15-1 gets around 300k, so it’s close to having all of its viewers being contestants at some point.

  6. Des Elmes

    Two more shows for the “really ought to be better” category: The Vault and Grand Slam.

    Only the producers of GS know why they had the clocks calibrated in hundredths of a second, and why they allowed switched questions to be switched straight back. As for The Vault, was there ever an episode without dead air?

  7. Little Timmy

    I posit almost every concept can be tailored to at least a Category 2 with enough work. Even High Stakes with Jeremy Kyle.

    1. Brig Bother Post author

      I think that’s probably the case, but unless you’re a Cat 2 from the start it’s an increasingly steep uphill struggle.


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