Show Discussion: Gordon Ramsay’s Bank Balance

By | February 24, 2021

Various weeknights over the next three weeks, 9pm,
BBC1

Extremely unusual scheduling for a shiny floor show on the BBC this which suggests either a) confidence and a willingness to ape Millionaire or b) desperation over a lack of shows in the bank. Gordon Ramsay’s Bank Balance sees contestants attempt to win up to £100,000 by answering questions and balancing gold bars atop an increasingly unstable table – wrong answers mean adding penalty bars, and if a stack falls down it’s game over.

Because of the way they’ve recorded audience reaction, we’ve already got some idea as to the quality of the largely edited shows. Clearly quite a lot of interest is going to lie in how well Gordon Ramsay fits in as host – it’s got a post-watershed slot so it will be interesting to see how his natural prickliness combines with the high tension the show wants to have. Not too dissimilar to Jeremy Clarkson on Millionaire, which has been a success by and large.

Does the end result work? Let us know what you think in the comments.

69 thoughts on “Show Discussion: Gordon Ramsay’s Bank Balance

  1. Thomas Sales

    At some point between 11:47 and 12:35 the description in today’s edition changed from “1/9” to “1/10”. (I use a web tracker on BBC schedules so that I can track when Pointless is moved/The Bidding Room gets pulled.) It was my understanding this was to air Wednesday to Friday for three weeks – has a Christmas special been shot?

    Reply
    1. John R

      There was an extra “last minute” virtual audience recording yesterday, although the BBC kindly rejected my requests for every recording I applied for!

      Reply
  2. Daniel Williams

    There’s a good show in here somewhere, I feel like this would be a decent 25 minute show but it is dragged out way too long, how exciting is watching people playing non copyright jenga for a hour? It kept my attention for about a quarter of a hour but the tension was quickly lost.
    They should make the balance board a little more intresing visually, now it sorta looks like a random prop lumped on a stage and that shouldn’t be the case when the prop in question is the main format point.
    Gordon as a host is surprisingly not as loud as you expect him to be, he has a couple of moments but he feels a bit pushed to the backside.
    A OK show with some potential but too slow

    Reply
    1. Brekkie

      A good show in there somewhere if only it was shorter/faster probably sums up most reviews of new gameshows of recent years.

      Agree though – and getting only one failed completed game in the episode felt very unrewarding. Ramsey did a good job though, but this should be Saturday nights.

      Reply
  3. Henry R

    Well at least I don’t have to worry about which show will be top of the Hall of Shame at the end of the year…

    Reply
  4. KP

    I left that episode genuinely thinking it was possible that there were no winners the entire run and the extra episode was a desperate attempt to rectify that.

    Even if there’s a couple of teams smart enough to go “oh there’s no chance of winning the whole thing let’s play for a safe £9k” that’s pretty terrible TV itself.

    Maybe these were just two bad teams to start. But then if so why the fuck would you make this episode 1 if you don’t absolutely have to? (Admittedly with straddling maybe you do.)

    I could imagine there’s one really good episode to come somewhere, but I’m not sitting through a season to find it. And I suspect nor will too many others.

    Reply
  5. Brig Bother Post author

    It’s weird, I’d play the hell out of a home version of this, and if it was on Schlag den Star as a ten minute event without the quiz element I think we’d all think it’s quite fun. But the main problem for TV at this pace is it’s not that compelling – it took about thirty-five/forty minutes before it felt like something interesting was happening, that the contestants were in a precarious situation.

    Despite this, the time limits felt awfully tight with all the question answering, running around the table AND the balancing to do in sixty seconds, getting the five stack on feels unfairly difficult even at the perfect point. Perhaps the time should scale with the size of the stacks. At the very least they should be able to start the stack and answer the question next to the place they need to put it on and seeing as the set is in the round don’t see any reason why you couldn’t. I get that you want it to be a bit more strategic than just wait for the Bank A Stack lifeline and automatically go for the £25k by hoping they go for something a bit more winnable (and lower), I fear for this first series that’s the strategy most are going to go with.

    Was Ramsay saying “fuck” the first time that’s been said on a shiny floor gameshow (we’ve often joked that post-watershed Tipping Point, with proper natural reactions, would be incredible)? Nonetheless it turns out the reality of Ramsay hosting this is not as interesting as the possibility might have suggested – he actually ran the game pretty well but lacks Clarkson’s penchant for a good quip. It’s nice he’s largely on side of the contestants but it’s not as compelling as you’d want.

    They should have gone with “Will they stack it, or will they stack it?” as a catchphrase.

    The audience noise was barely there, it really could have done with the “oooooOOOOOOHHHs” of a live audience, it’s a pity the remote audience didn’t do it – but why would you, you’d feel ridiculous.

    I think this might be start of a long three weeks. It has *something*, but whether it will get the chance to unlock its potential I suspect not.

    Reply
    1. Whoknows

      Pretty sure Million Pound Drop had a host of “fucks”, “shits” and “buggers”.

      It was telling that the contestants kept forgetting what they were supposed to do. A lot of rules, a lot of mindless chat, not a lot of game. And when you did see game it wasn’t very good.

      What *is* that set meant to be? I cannot figure out for the life of me what exactly inspired them to make it look like that.

      Lightning has a surprise challenger in the Hall of Shame.

      Reply
      1. Cliff

        The only bad thing about Lightning is how useless most of the contestants are. Some of them seem like they were literally dragged off the streets of Belfast without any test of their quizzing skills at all.

        Reply
  6. Cliff

    I really like it! It’s very exciting, although of course it could be a bit faster. That might come in later series, or hopefully later episodes this series as the rules don’t need to be explained so much.

    It’s going to make a great board game.

    Playalong rating is high. Even for the bits that don’t involve answering the questions, you can judge the contestants’ decisions regarding the bar choices and how they’re laying them. I was shouting at the screen just as much as I do at full-on quiz shows, and the game show part of it is more involving than watching the counters drop on Tipping Point.

    Plus, I’ve always thought game shows should have more exasperated swearing on them, so it delivers on that aspect too.

    Reply
  7. Jonathan

    Ooof.

    There’s an idea there, but that was a mess and I don’t think it’ll grow to something. I know it’s hard to fully judge the show divorced from particularly the first contestants, but this is going to be a long few weeks.

    The casting of the first contestants and the question writing expectations didn’t seem to add up to me. Not that it really matters because the questions are there for jeopardy of money you don’t think they’ll win, not entirely sure how the balance of the questions will go when you need five answers for some questions (and some only have 6 answers where others have 40, oh, you only got 4, too bad) and it’s such a faff with all the moving parts in the 60 seconds that you’re not playing along. Notable that the contestants kept forgetting the back and forth who-does-what-put-it-on-now-wait. There’s throwing people under pressure and there’s “was this not explained”.

    It dragged. The random nature of the selections means you’re fairly on knowing if there’s any shout for a contestants, and then waiting 40 minutes for people who aren’t coming across great to lose, meh. Sure, it makes the show look hard, which is great for the ‘oooh it’s a challenge’, but in this case it’s like, nothing to get excited over.

    There’s something in the balancing prop, Gordon wasn’t a mistake, I think I like the weird Tardis, but the show is… just there.

    Reply
    1. KP

      A horrible part of me wondered if the question writing/casting combination was “let’s play to the prejudices of the people we think will watch a Gordon Ramsey quiz show” – putting two young black Londoners on first and giving them questions on bingo and Fawlty Towers felt like the greatest visual illustration I’ve ever seen of the idea that British quiz shows are inherently conservative – but do they really want to sell a game show, even one sold on its mean host to the point of shoehorning his name in the title, on the idea we’ll be rooting for the contestants to lose? And then Gordon was nice to them anyway so surely that wasn’t the plan either.

      I’m just struggling to work out who they think will actually watch this and why, especially as they’re giving it scheduling that implies it’s a fairly big deal. There was one Tory with a Union Flag emoji in his user name whose “love the idea but fuck me I’m hoping these thick contestants lose” tweet got a ton of likes though so maybe they did hit on that whether they wanted to or not. But how sustainable is that as an audience basis?

      Reply
  8. Alex McMillan

    I’m sure it’s something most people have thought, but the slots played on being random does mean regardless of what the players do, sometimes they’ll just be irreversibly screwed. Maybe they should have a pick again by default, or the ability to straight up choose a slot themselves.

    Is it established that the blocks have to be stacked horizontally?

    Reply
  9. NotAJumbleOfNumbers

    They probably don’t have to – someone tilted a block in an attempt to keep it straight so this seems like it would be fine too – but I don’t think it would help

    Reply
    1. Brig Bother Post author

      This is a great question, I’ve asked someone who worked on it and they can stack however they like as long as they’re on top of each other.

      Reply
      1. Brig Bother Post author

        As to whether it would help, provided you don’t spin the table you’d assume the footprint would work better with the axes of tilting no?

        Actually probably not as it tilts in 3D space.

        Reply
  10. David

    I’d think it might be slightly fairer if instead of picking a individual slot at random to begin, they draw to see which of the arms they have to place the bars that round, and then decide which slot to play. That way they have a little more control (even though you could still be screwed by a bad draw)

    Reply
    1. Brig Bother Post author

      I think the strategy for that is always going to be ‘the toppermost one’. May be more interesting the other way round – let them decide the arm, slot picked randomly. But you’d always fill two arms before starting on the others, wouldn’t you.

      Reply
      1. David

        I was also thinking drawing perhaps by levels (top, middle, bottom)- or give them a free choice, but restrict the 4 top platforms to 3 bars or less (excluding penalty bars)

        Reply
  11. Anon

    Quite liked the main concept of it. Gordon was good fun. I pity the question writers who are going to run out of “Pointless series 1-3 questions” pretty quickly.

    But hate, hate, hate the set. Couldn’t see a lot of what was going on at key moments, like the selection of the sector number, the spread of the boxes they have… and the cameras had to go hunting for reaction shots between all the bloody pillars. And couldn’t they afford a longer pole to put the answering buzzer on…?

    I do wonder if it makes sense to sometimes take the penalty block deliberately, to help the balance (was there a rule about using too many penalties and you’re out?). The “get a bonus every 3 questions” thing was probably one too many rules by that point.

    Reply
  12. J

    If the contestants we’ve seen so far aren’t outliers then I can’t see anybody getting to the end and this removes a lot of the tension for me. Ramsey’s exasperation felt a little forced to play to his image, but I assume his hosting will get more fluid as time goes on.

    Agree with most of the comments so far, especially that there’s not enough time to put 5 bars down. It was frustrating that the most exciting part of the show was not picked up by the cameras all that well (I had to rewind several times because I couldn’t tell if the contestant had nudged the board.)

    Reply
  13. Brig Bother Post author

    2.7m last night for ep 1 (a million down on the slot avg, I understand), and I’m not sure I can see it growing.

    Reply
  14. Mart With An Y Not An I

    It was a frustrating watch, not only because all of the above, but because there is something decent trapped and trying to get out.

    So, the niggles then.
    Nearly every successful and watchable game and quiz show, whether you notice it or not, has a three act structure (start, build, win) this doesn’t. There is a three part element in it – but that’s hidden in the help ‘credits’ and only the really sucessful pairs will actually get to the third help credit, will the audience find out about it.

    As general gameplay goes, as we saw with the first couple, the round got beach? in deep tactical play far too soon for it’s own good and viewer enjoyement.

    The in show fonts are all over the place.

    The main stage area is a mess to look at. OK the table and the coloured bars look very nice, but those pillars – that look like they’ve been borrowed off the original WWTBAM set – and steel cages just aren’t nice to look at.

    Then, there’s the issue of all three people on the stage can be wandering around the time – which leads to another thought that just wouldn’t leave me head when watching. The table (or board) must be on some hydrolic gimble to counter any movements around the table with the table surround?

    Because if you have three people moving in close proximity, then another factor designed to stop contestants winning anything (as if the format isn’t enough) is movement, upsetting the physics of the blocks on the table.
    You don’t mind it in Tipping Point (credit watchers will note Steve Webster is behind both props) as falling counters add the contestants bank, but here, any additional movement will lead to the end of the game and players leaving with zilch. Very unfair.

    I also wonder how many ‘perfect solution’ combinations to place the gold blocks on the table, there must be to win the £100k? Can’t be them many at all. Another flaw in your enjoyment of the show.

    I really would have a credit/lifeline at the start of every game available. 1 free no question balancing block, to be used at anytime, anywhere to help weight one arm of the table. That would help.

    I agree running around and locking in the answers one by one, then placing a block on the table to just terrible piece of formatting.
    Chess clock would be the way to go – What’s wrong with giving contestants 5 minutes of total time, letting them give all the required answers to the question, then place the blocks on the table, then hit the button to stop the clock? Far more logical, and you still get towards the end, the time ticking away and shaky hands stacking the blocks tension.

    Gordon was a better host than I thought – although, I guess he needs to be as it’s his company making the show, and therefore, needs to show a softer side for the benifit of international format sales. Be interesting to see what would happen with a proper live audience (something that hopefully will happen if series 2 gets the nod) as I think the quips, and the gags would come better with a crowd to play up to.

    I knew there’d be flaws in the format and things that need fixing – just didn’t think there would be this many after just one watch – 6/10

    Reply
    1. Jonathan

      “Chess clock would be the way to go – What’s wrong with giving contestants 5 minutes of total time, letting them give all the required answers to the question, then place the blocks on the table, then hit the button to stop the clock? Far more logical, and you still get towards the end, the time ticking away and shaky hands stacking the blocks tension.”

      Actually that makes me think of something – if you’re placing a block on during the time, you have to rush it to fit in the 60 seconds.

      If you’re placing it because you go the question wrong, you have longer to do it, no time limit.

      Which strikes me as an odd point of – and forgive the pun – balance? Penalised for doing well?

      Reply
      1. Mart With An Y Not An I

        Thanks Johnathan. Something else that flashing across my mind watching, and thinking about tactical play last night.

        In some instance in gameplay, with the table unevenly stacked to one side, and say the largest number of gold blocks still to stack, but working out the weight v gravity equation conudrum of the table, that going for the higher stack would lead to a fatal game ending imbalance.

        So, if you picked the wrong numbered space (and with no swap option) it’s better to sacrifice some money, deliberatly throw a question to get a red and penalty blocks and rebalance the table that way.

        Which if I’ve read that correctly, is a really poor blindspot in the format.

        Reply
  15. Brig Bother Post author

    I think the other issue re: current time pressure is that it’s going to be such a let down when a team finally manages to balance the table and they end up going home with… £9,000.

    Reply
  16. Mark A

    Apparently, Gordons doing Star Guest Announcer duties on Saturday Night Takeaway this weekend. That’s gonna be awkward!

    Reply
  17. Joey Clarke

    The show is alright but it would fit with different alterations.
    1) One team per episode.
    2) The possibility of racking up more than £100,000
    3) If a stack falls down, you’re still in the game but you drop back down to Zero.
    4) The Bank lifeline comes in after you score a four stack.
    5) And the remove an answer lifeline after the halfway point.

    Reply
  18. Brekkie

    How far did the first couple get – took 45 minutes but not sure they got past the half way mark as I don’t recall the second “credit” being revealed? What are the three “credit lifelines” BTW?

    This feels like something which should be one round in a bigger show. Obviously having the likelihood of winning nothing is crucial in shows nowadays to offer bigger jackpots they don’t risk being won every episode, but can’t help but feel it would be better with two contestants or teams going head to head, first to tip the balance loses. Add a bit of strategy of the quantity being balanced or location being decided by the opposition who have to then balance, pun intended, building bigger money versus trying to knock their opponents out.

    Reply
    1. Cliff

      They did get as far as the second credit, which was being able to choose to bank the value of a subsequently-chosen stack, if that makes sense.

      Reply
  19. Brig Bother Post author

    First couple heroically got near the end and I felt… nothing.

    At least the third lifeline is 15 seconds extra time to make the five stack vaguely possible.

    Reply
    1. Anon

      It feels like either they should stack 3 sets of blocks at the start of the game without any questions, OR make the game stop at the 9th stack. Making them do all 12 stacks and all 12 questions feels too long, IMHO.

      Reply
    2. Mart With An Y Not An I

      But what if you’ve already put the 5 stack on the table? The third ‘credit’ is really tokenistic at best, and is no real help in most cases. Just gives the players upto 15 seconds more shakey hands time to unbalance the table and remove themselves from the game.
      A splitter would be more help.
      Remove 1, 2 or 3 already placed blocks and move them to an existing stack(s) to help the rebalancing. A much better piece of help, even if it would lead to more pace dragging in depth tactical talk from the contestants beforehand.

      Reply
    1. Thomas Sales

      Don’t think so, I can think of Small Fortune, which put a celebrity episode out as episode three, and the Fifteen to One revival, which led with a celebrity edition.

      Reply
      1. Mart With An Y Not An I

        Didn’t ‘Five Minutes to a Fortune’ start it’s run with a celebrity edition, aired right after that years Grand National coverage?

        Reply
  20. Brig Bother Post author

    Down to 1.77m for episode 2 apparently. Ouch. Won its slot though apparently, which I guess is like winning a round of Top Trumps with something like a 2.

    Reply
    1. Score

      That’s terrible.

      Does look like it won the slot, but this series of Life Stories has been doing horribly and Trisha Goddard was hardly an A list booking for them. So if Bank Balance can’t even break 2m against *that*…

      Reply
      1. Chris B

        Ouch probably it’s biggest test tonight slot wise – up against the new series of Gogglebox.

        Reply
    2. KP

      Bloody hell. That’s sub-High Stakes territory! Winning the slot! During lockdown!!

      Over/under 6.5 episodes airing as scheduled?

      Reply
  21. James

    I’m not sure where to post this, but I thought it would be of interest. The €1,294,000 jackpot on Pasapalabra was almost won last night as contestant Pablo came within one letter of winning ‘El Bote’.

    It reached an all time high averaging 4.844m (31.8%). The final, El Rosco, scored 6.196m (37.3%) and reached a peak of 7.114m (40.9%). Since the start of the year it’s been doing really well, averaging more than 3m and peaking at over 5m each day. All the more impressive considering it’s approaching its 21st anniversary in July. It does help of course that yesterday’s final has been teased for the last week. The previous record was set back in January 2019 (4.028m / 26.2%)

    As for Bank Balance, it’s a unfair to call it “quiz-buckaroo” but unfortunately that’s what it reminds me of. I agree with Brig that as a board game or as a game in a larger show it would be brilliant.

    There’s too much going on though – from the format to the numbers and even the studio design – which if you’re dipping in and out can make it hard to keep up wth. I find the busyness slightly ironic as it feels like there’s very little going on. The build is too slow and doesn’t feel worth it for sticking with a couple for around 45 minutes. And the ‘Bank a Stack’ wins of £9k so far feel quite inconsequential even though that’s a decent amount of money. Gordon is actually a lot tamer than I thought he’d be but enjoyable nonetheless.

    Reply
    1. KP

      I think this is actually a great place to put a comment about a Nintendo Hard show!v

      Reply
  22. John R

    Double trouble for me tonight as I’ve managed to finally get a virtual audience ticket for a recording this evening!

    Reply
  23. James Turner

    I’m not sure if that was stunningly good or stunningly awful. Two brothers that seemed to know nothing, yet were within a couple of stacks of completing the board. They also seemed to spend forever debating the answers before starting to actually respond.
    If the idea is you should be shouting at the telly, it’s working…

    Reply
    1. Alex McMillan

      I thought some of the Qs were really nasty tonight. I think naming four members of mostly any band is a struggle, outside of the obvious.

      Reply
    1. Score

      Thanks. It just gets worse. Yes it faced Gogglebox but it also got a better lead-in and IIRC The Cube went *up* against Gogglebox last Autumn so I’m not sure it was ever going to take a huge dent.

      Just grim. It’s a bad show, is it really this bad? Seems a fair chance it goes below 1.5m which is extraordinary really.

      Reply
  24. Gyroscopes

    The main problem for me with this is that, the exciting ‘hook’ of the show is the balance falling over. This makes you actively hope the people lose, so the thing you want to see happens.

    In other shows with big set pieces, Tipping Point for example, when the big showy thing happens (star falling over the edge) it’s good news for the contestants too. With bank balance, if somebody makes it to the end, there’s no pay off for the viewer.

    On The Price is Right, the only game I ever hoped the contestant would lose was ‘Cliffhanger’ because as a viewer, I was more excited to see the man go over the edge than see somebody win something. It’s the same on Bank Balance, you spend the whole show hoping that it topples.

    Or maybe, I’m just odd :p

    Reply
  25. Cliff

    Having really enjoyed the first three games, I was less engaged with the fourth, but I’m not sure if that’s because I didn’t like the contestants or because I’m getting bored of the format that does seem like a lot of work just for guaranteed £9k wins.

    However, “Go home, get your mum and fuck off to Family Fortunes” is the sort of hosting I’d like to see more of on quiz shows. It would’ve been even better if the host’s advice was binding.

    Reply
    1. Brig Bother Post author

      Funnily enough the fourth game was the one that entertained me the most, they were useless in quite a fun way rather than in a quite boring way which I think also bought some of the best out of Ramsay – agreed “Fuck off to Family Fortunes” made me laugh, I think he seemed to quite like them.

      If they *had* ended up winning, they’d have won so little it would hardly have been worth it, which I suggested *might* be something that happens up a few posts.

      Reply
  26. Mark A

    Not sure if this really counts as a “game show”, but I have found something rather interesting – an episode of an obscure late nineties CBBC show called “Telequest”.

    Reply
  27. JackWilfred

    I had come in having dismissed it and expecting to hate it. It’s actually… not bad.

    The gameplay is pretty challenging, I like the mini list format of the questions, and I’m pleasantly surprised with Gordon Ramsay’s performance as a host.

    However, it’s 40 minutes of gameplay with 20 minutes of often filler between often-bickering, fairly bad contestants. I also hated the constant swap between which contestant was answering and which was stacking. This is actually a pretty challenging format, and if there were contestants with some actual co-ordination, knowledge and skill it would make for enjoyable watching.

    I personally didn’t get the charge that it was overly complicated, although it did have unnecessary complications in wording, like Gordon’s “each bar is £3/4/5,000” when the stacks are all-or-nothing, and the lifelines which are a bit pointless and the show could do without. I’d allow players to pick another number at any time, on the stipulation that they had to play the second one, and do without the others.

    Reply
  28. Crimsonshade

    BBC bosses said to be uncertain f they want to commit to a second series of Bank Balance and “its future is hanging in the balance” after it reportedly lost over 1m viewers across the first two days of its run. Social Media criticism is not helping, with many people calling the rules confusing, the set cheap, and the contestants irritating; and there was apparently much frustration over yesterday’s episode where (SPOILER ALERT) the couple came within a few bars of winning the game, but ended up crashing out with just $16k (END SPOILER), leaving people wondering if the show is even winnable.

    Daily Mail has covered the news; and while I usually would give that paper short shrift due to its often hyperbolic or just plain incorrect reporting, this time it seems to sum up the situation pretty accurately: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-9333661/Gordon-Ramsays-Bank-Balance-faces-chop-just-TWO-WEEKS-air-amid-poor-ratings.html

    Reply
    1. Brig Bother Post author

      I’m not sure what there is to gain in a second series at this point, everyone’s deserted it, they could make brilliant changes to it but it doesn’t matter, the audience are actively avoiding it now and they aren’t coming back.

      Reply
  29. KP

    Hilariously, the celebrity episode had the best gameplay of the series. To the point that my cynical comment in a Discord chat watchalong was that those “extra recordings” we heard about were actually do-overs of this one so the celebrities won something.

    If this doesn’t win the Hall of Shame vote then it’s because 2021 has produced a crop of bad shows to rival the Don’t Scare The Hare/High Stakes/Red or Black triumverate of 2011.

    Reply
    1. Henry R

      I mean we’ve had Lightning and Bank Balance so far. Not a great start to the year.

      Reply
  30. Brig Bother Post author

    The Gino d’Acampo ep was genuinely funny and I did a little cheer when he said “no we’ve got to put the four there, where else are we going to put it?” like someone who understands basic physics so it’s a pity the damage had been done a bit earlier really.

    Reply
    1. KP

      This may have been the first show ever where “bung the celebrity episode on first” would actually have been the right decision!

      Reply
    2. Brandon

      Someone on The Bash Discord has made a version of the show that simulates the physics of the show using approximate measurements so it’s not perfect, but it could have been used to plan the perfect balance for series 2 had that actually happened.

      Reply

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