Watching Telly: Password

By | June 24, 2023

Been a while since I’ve done this! But that’s the reality of everything getting shot in Salford, so when something new and London based turns up I’ll try and jump on it.

Password is a remake of an old US show that has been tried here several times 40-60 years ago and last year Jimmy Fallon bought it back for a full run after using it as a filler item in his late night show for a number of years.

We of course don’t really have that association, it will have to stand on its own two feet. I think it does a better job than I think the format would otherwise do being played more straight, there’s a game being played here, but the stakes are relatively small (the top prize is £10,000) and they’re playing up the comedy. The result is a fun show, but also a bit messy, a bit sloppy, and I’ve no idea how it will edit. The hints suggest it’s aiming for a weekend post-watershed slot, not dissimilar to the one The 1% Club holds, and it seems to be 45 minutes rather than an hour – two ad breaks.

  • My first thought is “goodness me, this is a large set for what is basically some fixed cameras pointing at a 10ft elongated table”. It feels larger than the one on Fallon’s show. The theme tune seems to be the same one as Fallon’s – hip-hop jazz trumpet.
  • Our host is Stephen Mangan, who plays the role pretty straight I thought (main job being to distribute the password packets – yes this bit hasn’t changed in 60 years), leaving the two regular team captains to do the heavy comic lifting – Alan Carr and Daisy May Cooper. Carr is good with his catty comments, and if like me you think explosive expressions of frustration is the highest form of comedy, and hiding under the table to puff on a vape between takes, Cooper’s got you covered. Cooper’s a bit of a loose cannon, good when its funny, but also on occasion undisciplined.
  • There are also two civilians who will pair up with our captains. It’s the captains who introduce them and do the interviewing.
  • Round one is regular Password. Players take it in turns to convey a word to their teammate using one word hints – 6 points on the first try, 5 on the second and so on. The first to 25 points wins the round. There are two lifelines that can be used – “swap” which changes the password and “boost” which is a bet that you can get them to solve with the first hint, the downside being that if you fail the opposing team also get to play the word for the full ten points.
  • How you say a word can be as much of a hint as which word you use, there are rules on “overacting”, the very first word had to be chucked out as both were a bit too full on, which wasn’t a good start. There were a few times where Cooper said a word and you couldn’t really make out what it was behind the vocalism, one of which cost their partner who realised what the Password was after the clue was said normally and thrown across. To be fair, both captains gave decent clues and made decent guesses throughout.
  • In the audience, we can see the Passwords on the screen, I’ve no idea if they’ll have a “the Password is…” on a voiceover. There’s a panel on the front of the desk you would assume will have a graphic inserted on.
  • The contestants swap partners, Round two is Super Password – once again you give and receive passwords but the passwords go up on a board and they have a link. You can win the round by correctly guessing the link, alternatively in a rule which feels unnecessary and also sounds like they were on the verge of dropping (and should have) you can win by getting the 25 points (despite saying it in the Autocue, Mangan said “oh I thought we were dropping this” during the round itself. But as the previous lifelines appear to have disappeared the only way to do this is to get all five words anyway so I’m not really sure what it adds other than the person behind getting to pass or play first, but that’s easily solved. The civilians can take one guess if their team correctly solves a Password. In one instance, Carr who has worked it out but can’t say anything backsolves an answer using the Super Password hints, which was smart.
  • If each contestant has won a round a tie break is played – essentially it’s a Super Password board on the buzzer – five clues are revealed, buzz in with the password and win, get it wrong and the opponent can see all five words and have a guess.
  • The winner goes through to Alphabetics which is so exciting they remove the desk and put in some podia. The winning player must convey ten words to the celebrities in 60 seconds – thirty for each – each word starting with 10 consecutive letters of the alphabet. When this originally was done in the US in the seventies it’s quick and tense, here it feels loose and a bit bloated – the segment took about twenty minutes to record – although we’ll see how it edits. The contestant earns £500 for each Password got, doubled to £10,000 if they get all ten.
  • However if they don’t get all ten they get a final chance to double their winnings risk free with The Last Word – one word, one clue, they then turn around whilst wearing headphones whilst Carr and Cooper discuss it for 30 seconds to come up with an answer. If it’s right then yay double money. I would presume given the £10,000 topline they’ve been going with throughout the show you don’t get to play if you win at Alphabetics.
  • They actually had to record this bit twice this afternoon as something happened I’ve never seen before (but probably happens a fair amount) the audience giving the answer away. Without revealing complete details in case they want to use the word again, I don’t think we were meant to see this final word on our screens, the contestant gives what I think we’d suggest is a not-premium clue, captains start discussing unofficially before the ‘proper’ thinking time starts and hit it and the audience gets very excited. They then have to discuss it for 30 seconds awkwardly pretending they don’t know what the answer is. The adjudicator adjudicates they have to do the whole thing again, only now it’s properly tense as the contestant already thought they won the money. Happily they understood the reasoning – that it has to be fair to past and future contestants, but the cheer when it goes right the second time was quite something. I don’t want to spoil outcomes, and I don’t think I’ve given many clues away as to which episode this might be, but I think in this case I do need to explain the story.
  • Ultimately it was quite a fun 2-and-a-bit hour recording. My fear is is that if you’re watching it at home you might suspect the funniest/rudest stuff will be left on the cutting room floor, and I suspect you’ll be correct to think that – the material wasn’t especially innuendo laden in the main, but there were plenty of “fuck’s sakes” flying about. It was a bit messy, which is fun as a live experience, but I can’t work out how it might feel in the edit. I’m certainly more confident it might pick up a following after watching it than I was before though, although I hope their expectations aren’t too high.

2 thoughts on “Watching Telly: Password

  1. Aaron

    Two notes (coming, to be clear, from an American who considers Password one of his favorite game shows):

    First, if that’s the theme tune, it’s a remake of the theme tune to the original 60s US version of Password.

    Second, while I can’t speak for the UK, multiple US versions of Password have dispensed with both the Password packets and the “The Password is…” voiceover.

    Great write-up, Brig. Didn’t you once say you no longer go to tapings as you’re becoming too recognizable?

    1. Brig Bother Post author

      Ah interesting, thanks for that. Password is a bit of a format blind spot for me, I’ve always felt it better played than watched, although I do have a soft spot for Convy Super Password they used to show over here on Sky, but mainly because I was young and the set felt impossibly space age.

      I think I was surprised to discover there were prod people who figured out who I was, and it’s true I prefer going to see stuff as a member of the audience would see it, but really it’s mainly a logistics thing – I can get to London and back in the same evening and it won’t cost an arm and a leg, Salford/Glasgow are far enough to require a hotel and a significant train fare, and most things are filmed there these days.


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