It didn’t seem worthwhile giving this a separate discussion post given it’s a “one-off” and likely to be slightly different in nature to a run of Saturday night shows it hopes will happen, so here is the report from the recording bumped up for tonight’s show. If you have any questions, I will endeavour to answer them afterwards.
This review almost didn’t happen at all – the trains had all stopped after an “incident” at Ally Pally which would have taken hours to sort, but we were able to alight at New Barnet Station where – incredibly – there was a bus waiting outside that went straight to Borehamwood so I could avoid Kings Cross and St Pancras altogether. The circumstances were tragic but the opportunity was useful.
Anyway this is the “one-off” Children in Need revival of Weakest Link, I will presume you know what Weakest Link is and how it works – I really like Weakest Link as a concept, it’s fun to play and fun to watch. I will bump this thread up in time for Friday 17th 10pm where this will be going out on BBC2 as it’s probably not worthy of a full-on Show Discussion Post, but I will be able to add more gossipy stuff. This write-up will not spoil the outcome of the game but should give a taste of what to expect.
- Studio Manager pro-tip: Please don’t ask your audience to hand their coats in to the cloakroom then make them wait outside a studio in single degree temperatures for ten minutes. It has a habit of annoying them.
- Unfortunately the legendary Peter Simon, who used to warm up the show, isn’t doing it. Instead some guy who I will politely suggest reminds me of a workmate.
- It looks like the same set as before come out of storage after five years. HOWEVER, unusually for a celeb special, they aren’t using the telestrators, it’s back to the old wipe clean boards. Maybe they could have updated them to tablets, I don’t know.
- If you were hoping for a graphical refresh you are going to be disappointed.
- Seven celebs, the names are already out so I’ll list them here: Rylan, Chizzy off of Holby and Strictly, Kem off of Love Island, Giles Coren, cook Rosemary Schrager, Maya Jama from Cannonball, John Thomson from The Fast Show. They were all pretty good value. They took the game quite seriously, with a fair amount of mucking around during the downtime, as well as hardcore banking strategy chat. Surprisingly useless at the “pretend to write the name for thirty seconds or so so we can get the shots” bit.
- And then there’s Anne, who we shall get to in a minute.
- I absolutely hate the money chain. I hate the way it looks and I hate the way it plays. £20, 50, 100, 250, 500, 1500, 2500. This feels extremely cheap for a charity edition where most of the play is going to be in the lower levels. In every other version of the show, played by 7-9 players, at the very least the bottom rung is 1/50th of the top rung, and four rungs in, where most people would consider it worth banking, 1/5th. There is no way that £20 rung, at 1/125th of the top rung, should be there. It ought to be swapped for £750 or even £1,000. Weakest Link is about trying to square a circle of wanting to be efficient with balancing risk and reward, in this case it feels like you have to put in a lot more effort to get any sort of worthwhile money. The original show still managed to make £200 feel like a wodge of cash even when Deal or No Deal was in it’s stride – here not so much. When they were doing 7-player shows ten years ago it went £50, 100, 250, 500, 1000, 1750, 2500 which felt like decent progression. Why change it?
- Rounds start at 2:30 and reduce 10 seconds each round, the final round is 1:30. But in another “feels a bit cheap” thing, that final round is not doubled or trebled. So £15k max, with a special thing happening at the end you could probably predict.
- There’s a second issue and that is Anne Robinson isn’t as fast as she used to be and the questions seem longer. Now there are some mitigating circumstances, which I won’t spoil, but there were only 11 questions in the first round. Even with the dead wood removed, it was still taking 10+ seconds to resolve a question. This needs to be much faster.
- The barbs and quips were decent and got laughs (Giles and Rylan get ribbed for the failure of 500 Questions and Babushka, which made me laugh if nothing else), and doubtless this is what will sell the show more than the quiz I suspect. But these things are symbiotic and you need to get through the questions to give people the chance to give stupid answers to feed the barbs.
- The first two rounds, including some promo stuff, took the best part of 1h 40m to do. This is sloooow. Thankfully the last five rounds were all done within 90 minutes.
- I have been of the belief for about two years that if you want to reboot Weakest Link, you should get Robert Rinder to front it. Having watched it first hand with the original host I’m not sure my opinion’s changed that much to be honest.