Show Discussion: The Million Pound Cube

By | October 16, 2020
We had to nick the logo from the mobile game, sorry.

Saturdays and Weekdays, 9pm,
ITV

It’s back, and now it’s Ben Shephard’s production company making it.

The biggest changes, other than being filmed without an audience, is that Philip Schofield now presides over teams of two, and that the top prize is now a million quid. It looks like the Swap now replaces the Trial Run, which I think means getting to swap the player rather than the game, but we’ll see. Not sure I love getting rid of the Trial Run, if only because if you’ve set a game up you might as well see it played.

Also intrigued to see what, if any, new visual effects they have after five years off-screen. The Cube was probably the most futuristic looking show since Roy Walker’s Catchphrase. It’s quite interesting that few other shows have borrowed the techniques since. Looks like we might have some new Foster/Bolam tracks of various intensities which were always one of the best things about the original show.

Two celebrity eps this and next Saturday and civilian eps stripped at 9pm this week. Not sure what numbers they’re hoping for and what would be seen as good, The Cube was never actually a massive rater (except for the one early series it was plonked before The X Factor where the stars aligned for it a bit), but it always did quite well in the hard-to-reach young male demographic.

Let us know what you think in the comments.

41 thoughts on “Show Discussion: The Million Pound Cube

  1. Alex S

    Speaking as someone who is a fan of The Cube already, stripping it so it’s on 5 times a week feels like too much, even for me

    Reply
    1. Brandon

      It doesn’t feel like it suits that as well as Millionaire for some reason, not sure why because it’s got the same advantages as Millionaire 5 times a week. Feels like more of a Saturday night thing, even though it was on Sundays sometimes before.

      Reply
  2. Greg

    Why is “the body” now a child? Are they saying this is so easy a child can do it? Or was Christine Lampard just not available?

    Reply
  3. Brig Bother Post author

    Alright, I’ve only watched the first part as I have to prep, so here are some very quick thoughts.

    * They’ve added particle effects, but seem to have lost time-slice. And the turntable bit. Still looks nice though. Edit: no I’m wrong about time-slice.

    * Swap is useless for two player games, surely.

    Edit: Should add that it was still compelling, had to drag myself away to prep for Game Night, will watch the rest tomorrow.

    Reply
  4. Brandon

    The new music is pretty good, at the same time different enough but still recogniseable as the same. I thought Synchronicity (good job spellcheck is a thing) would use up more lives, very impressed they got it. Wonder what the time limit is on that for a million?

    Reply
  5. Brekkie

    Was going to ask if this the first ITV studio show other than Millionaire to offer a £1m jackpot but then rememberedPokerface.

    Scrapping trial run surely means less chance of people playing for the big money. In the situation earlier with 2 lives left a successful trial run may have tempted them on.

    Reply
    1. Jonathan Wells

      Yes, Pokerface, The Vault (when it rolled over) and Red and Black.

      Reply
  6. Chris M. Dickson

    Less music than I remembered, and this might be the rare show where the bigger money actually does make for more interesting decisions. Different enough both visually and in gameplay terms to feel fresh. I miss the little clock-arm walkway which was always a cute touch, but – without being startlingly brilliant – definitely maintains the show’s considerable legacy.

    Reply
  7. Jason

    An interesting first episode…
    * Nice to see both Phillip Schofield and Colin McFarlane back in their respective roles.
    * Graphics looked pretty sharp although not entirely convinced on replacing green for gold in the (regular) game victories.
    * I’m really not sold on the mix of audio (some were directly from the original, some were brand new) – while the credits list only Nick Foster and Ken Bolam (from the original series), it felt a lot less coherent than the original series and sadly I wasn’t buying into the build-up at all.
    Aside: It also didn’t help that ITV themselves broke the audio during the final game of the night, which the continuity announcer apologised for afterwards, oops!
    * The two player games worked fairly well, will be interesting to see how that goes during the regular series.

    As Alex S has already touched on, I can’t see it working as “event” television like early Millionaire did – but will see how the ratings hold up.

    Reply
  8. Brekkie

    Will be interesting to see how the 1/2 player game split pans out – whether it is seemingly random or if they do settle on a structure – and how it impacts the choice of the 7th game.

    It did feel like the show picked up from where it left off to be honest, though I agree with the opening comments I don’t think it is the sort of show that benefits from being stripped, especially if games are repeated. To be honest I was already struggling to keep interest by the end of the first episode.

    And losing Trial Run is a real mistake – means contestants aren’t tempted on and means we lose out on seeing a game attempted, even if not in live play. The swap could have been introduced with the simplify as a “Swap or Simplify” lifeline. I’d also have liked to have seen some sort of safety net mechanism introduced – perhaps if you complete a game without losing any lifes you can set that level as your safety net – but only once during the course of the game.

    Reply
  9. Alex McMillan

    Getting rid of the Trial Run feels like a big misstep, I can’t see anyone attempting a million pound game with no idea of how it plays.

    Reply
  10. Will Stephen

    Swap does feel more of a hinderance if a lifeline than anything else, with the dormant player not feeling the game before hand, we’ll see if it pays off for anyone though.

    Trial run disappearing is their stupidest thing they could’ve done for reasons mentioned already.

    On that first episode, the sound effects people got the timing on perimeter very wrong, I had to rewind several times to see if it was a game mistake or editing because it wasn’t clear.

    The thing with the cube for me is that it’s the perfect sky + game show. I can watch a whole episode in like ten minutes being able to fast forward to each attempt. 80 mins felt like dragging watching it live.

    Reply
  11. Brig Bother Post author

    I do *quite* like the new money ladder, they have at least recognised that it’s going to require massive jumps to get people to even think about risking everything, but it still feels like everybody is going to walk away in roughly the same place. But there’s quite a strange dichotomy at work here in that they’ve introduced this ladder, then done everything in their power to dissuade people from playing on – losing the trial run is a massive misstep I think (especially as the swap is only usable in half the games), and I’m slightly baffled as to why Phillip’s only allowed to release statistics after they’ve started playing the game when he used to be upfront about them.

    I do think the show has lost its sense of scale without its audience and it feels like a smaller studio – even if in reality it’s probably the same size really, and without the scale it plays down the epicness of the soundtrack.

    Despite everything I still think it’s one of the best produced shiny floor games on telly, but just as I couldn’t really be bothered to watch the original half the time despite this I fear the new one is going to have the same fate. I like lots of things about it, but not to the point of going out of my way to watch it.

    Reply
    1. Mart With An Y Not An I

      TV Studio measurement anorak on for a moment, if I may.
      Yes, the studio used for this series (TC1 at Television Centre) is smaller than the original studio (Studio A & B) at Fountain Television in Wembley by 2,000 sq feet.

      Although, with the lack of an audience, that also removes the eyes ‘reference points’ for distance, so it would seem smaller even if they recorded it in a studio that was larger than the original.

      Reply
  12. Whoknows

    Interesting going through the Wikipedia page. The ratings were never as good as I seem to remember them being. One decent series of 5 million viewers but generally it plodded along with fairly average figures. I also didn’t realise it was such a flop internationally, lasting only one series in most countries.

    Reply
  13. Score

    3.4m last night.

    Nothing special but I’d say a reasonable start given it overlapped with Strictly and the late slot. Had a slightly higher average than The Wall (3.3m) which got a Strictly lead-in.

    If it can hold around that across the week I’d expect it to return for more.

    Reply
  14. Alex S

    I wonder if they’d have been better off keeping the trial run and also letting you swap as often as you felt like. I don’t really see what advantage you gain from switching players as they’ve now got to re-learn the game from scratch considering how many of the games are muscle memory.

    Reply
  15. David B

    I liked this more than most people seemed to. Games were good and atmosphere was decent considering the circumstances.
    My only wish is that it was 15% faster, so that it ran more to US pace than UK pace. It’s almost too slick.
    They haven’t really addressed the real elephant in the room (or hippo in the corridor…), which is that once you get to 2 lives you’re out of there. But I’m not sure how I’d fix it.
    Re: the comment above about “it never rated all that high”, one commissioner described it to me as being a bit of a “blokey” show, in that it’s an Atari-inspired wet dream, and I do see that.

    Reply
    1. Brig Bother Post author

      Being a bit blokey is its advantage though tbh, it’s one of the few shows that can consistently bring in the demo.

      Like I say, The Cube is a weird show – everything about it is appealing. But despite this, it’s just never quite been a must-watch. Somehow the total is less than the sum of its parts.

      The one thing I was considering for the two life situation is that they could ‘surrender’ – take the money, but then play the game for an additional 10% for every life left over after. But this a) feels like something an American might come up with and b) dilutes the finality tension.

      Reply
      1. David B

        ITV’s audience profile is always to get the widest possible viewership across all demos.

        Reply
    2. Brig Bother Post author

      It has occurred to me that the difference between The Cube and Millionaire is that lifelines not withstanding, Millionaire is effectively fifteen discrete events and The Cube isn’t. Maybe they should drop the nine lives thing and give them X amount of chances at every game?

      Reply
  16. Tom F

    I always thought a good addition would be if the player could have some sort of advantage – maybe +1 or 2 lives, or a 2nd simplify – if they gave up their right to see any more games after the current one. That would let some % of games end on a definitive victory, rather than the rather damp squib of a game being shown and declined.

    Swap is absolute trash, I predict it going unused by >75% of pairs. My suggestion to make it a litttle bit sweeter, and a fair bit more interesting, would be that it refunds the lives the first player has lost on the game.

    That said, while they’ve not done a great job on the format changes, I thought the aesthetics and new games were really nice.

    Reply
  17. David

    You see, I was thinking instead of 9 lives, make it more of a video game motif and give them 13 “credits” which they can use in a variety of ways-

    -first attempt at any game is free, each additional attempt is 1 credit- game is over if you don’t have a credit to spend.
    -Simplify can be used more than once (but only once at each level) at an increasing cost- 1 credit the first time, 2 the 2nd, etc.
    -They can add some other things like:
    -Trash- 2 credits can trash a game and put in a new one (but only once per level- and you have to use it before you go in, you can’t play and then trash it)
    -Save point- after levels 1-5, they can lock in the money- but only once, and for increasing cost (free after level 1, 1 credit after level 2, up to 4 credits for level 5)

    Something like this would give some interesting dilemmas- when do you make your Save point? (Since if you go too long you may not have enough credits to make one). Do you Simplify a 2nd or even 3rd time, losing the extra chances the credits would give you? If you see a game you think will be bad for you, do you spend the credits to Trash it, or risk losing more credits playing it out?

    Reply
  18. Brekkie

    Wouldn’t change the life situation at all- it is the one thing that makes decisions at each stage more interesting.

    Tonight’s second game though highlights the issue with showing episodes across the week – so far all their games were ones we saw on Saturday, though with slightly different parameters.

    Reply
  19. Brig Bother Post author

    2.7m (15%) last night. Second to Who Do You Think You Are.

    For reference, that would put it just inside the ITV Top 30 from the last set of numbers I’ve seen.

    However in terms of ITV at 9pm Live and VOSDAL, that’s pretty good in recent terms. So fine, I guess?

    Reply
    1. Score

      Given the promotion I expect they’d have wanted over 3 million, so this seems a bit disappointing ahead of a Bake Off clash tonight. If it stays at 2.7m I’d say it’s 50-50 as to whether it returns.

      On the bright side, I hear the demos were quite good.

      Reply
        1. Score

          Yeah, it’s had 2.7m on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, with a very minor dip to 2.6m on Tuesday with the Bake Off overlap. Not terrible, not great either. Still think a return is somewhat borderline but I’d probably now guess that it’s 60/40 in favour of a return, perhaps back to a weekly run.

          If it does over 3m on Saturday again it could be something for the Saturday post-9pm slot that ITV have found quite hard to fill.

          Reply
  20. Andy

    I’m not sure I love the 2 player thing. It feels a bit less like an epic challenge, one person against the Cube.

    Reply
    1. Brig Bother Post author

      This surprised me a bit because when I saw it being recorded the floor manager was calling her Charlotte. BUT, I suppose the person doing all the gym stuff in the VTs and the person standing in The Cube for the live outro shot in front of the contestant don’t have to be the same person.

      Reply
      1. John R

        They must have axed that in later series and left it to the editing suite, as when I was there (around Series 8?) there was no’body’ present in the studio, Phil and the contestant just stared into space and the games in the studio were introduced pre recorded by a rather jolly sounding female voice!

        Anyway, looks like a single team job tomorrow so either a lot of waffle or they might just break the £100k barrier!

        Reply
    2. Joseph

      One of the most nagging mysteries of the 2010s has finally been solved.
      I’m hanging up my police hat.
      (Hangs up hat.)
      CASE SOLVED!
      (L.A noire case closed music plays.)

      Reply
  21. Little Timmy

    Post-series:

    The difficulty picked up exactly where it left off: miserably impossible from the get-go. If the host is lamenting how little money the couple has won after a gruelling half-hour feat of endurance, alarm bells should be ringing. Go back and watch the early shows: there were typically two freebies before they started eating into their 9 lives. The elevator pitch was always “simple tasks under high pressure”; instead, these were all fussily precise tasks with hopelessly unrealistic parameters and no room for manouvre. We would simply not have found ourselves sitting around on Twitter dreaming up new format points to regift lives if they could have found it within themselves to just not play another f***ing game of Perimeter (a.k.a. roll a six to win).

    They foolishly pitched the big gamble at the £25K-£100K mark whereas in practise most couples were completely burnt out and too demoralised to continue past £10K. (Couldn’t help but chuckle at Schofe repeatedly dropping his classic “Now the money ramps up suddenly!” line in at £5K, literally the smallest multiple jump of the ladder.)

    There were enough different games in the first 9 series to provide a unique game for the whole week of shows. Instead, we had a frankly inexcusable three or four repeat games every night. This said, the 2P variants of older games were a neat touch. There’s so many inventive ways you could 2P the old 1P games, it was tantalising to see as few of them as we did.

    Nothing is gained from losing Trial Run. Swap is generally too risky to use on the 50% of tasks on which it can actually be used, so it might as well have just accompanied the original two lifelines and wrapped up as a generous extra.

    Finally, contestant selection. Competitive Dad and the final celeb episode were sensational. I can’t remember anything about the rest of them: either for the most part unskilled or picked purely for backstory. If they wanted to explore the upper limits of the new format, they should have been casting far more meritocratically.

    For all its unforced errors, should it come back? Yes, the production values are still enchanting and a decade on there’s still nothing else like it on TV. But it isn’t over the top to suggest it was a labour of love trying to keep up with it by the end.

    Reply
  22. Brig Bother Post author

    Looking at some figures, the first episode did very well with the 16-34s – 648k, twice as many men as women, 8th for the week in the demo.

    Reply
    1. Score

      Interestingly after dipping a bit during the week, the overnight was back up to 3.3m on Saturday, pretty much back to where it was for the first episode. Perhaps suggests a weekly series on Saturdays at around 9pm could be worth a go.

      Or just suggests that it got a boost for the celebrity specials but I don’t think The Cube ever got a celeb boost in the original run so I’m inclined to think it’s the slot.

      Reply
  23. Brig Bother Post author

    You might well be wondering “how did this do, after all that?”

    And the answer is: pretty well, 3.1-3.3m across the week, 3.8m on Saturday. Around 30th for the ITV with civilian episodes. However in A16-34 it did great guns, 600-800k each night, filling up half the commercial top ten.

    Reply

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