OK, I’ve just got back from Wembley and a viewing of My Man Can, ITV1’s big Saturday night hope for next year beginning January.
We did a feature on the original German version earlier in the year. Does this do things very differently?
- The set is basically the same, although the chandelier has gone, and the poker table isn’t really a poker table any more, just a table that lights up. Whatsmore, there are no poker chips any more, instead each contestant gets a tray to keep “medallions” in.
- The music is, I think, the same as the German show – modern disco with a woman wailing “my man ca-an!” over it.
- Four couples, the same as the German show. Melanie Sykes does the girly chat and sorting out the game from the table, Mark Wright introduces and presents the games. Also, if my ears weren’t deceiving me, John Sachs is doing the voiceover – move over Edmonds on The Bodyguard, this is the Saturday night return we’ve clearly all been waiting for.
- OK the game. Six challenges, of which one couple get dropped after game four and another after game five. Each woman starts the game with ten medallions in front of them and in each game a winner will get to take 1-4 medallions (depending on round) from a player of their choice, whilst if you lose you have to give your medallions away. In a way it’s a simplified version of the poker chips used in the German version…
- … but it feels like they’ve complicated the bidding process, or at least they appear to have picked four women to make it look as complex as possible this evening.
- The end result is about the same, winning a game at any point will probably put you top of the tree.
- Each game is introduced by Wright in the “man lab” with a short comedy skit which were actually pretty good (he is joined by three male and one female nerd). Each game has a “benchmark” time – to be honest I didn’t like that, it wasn’t clear what it represented, it might have been more fun if they just got Wright to say “I’ve done it in X” (although Wright doesn’t obviously trial the challenges like the German host does). Most events are timed and the women get two goes to “bid” on a how long they think it would take their man to do something. The bidding normally started 15 seconds above the pointless and confusing benchmark which they like to keep mentioning. The ladies would name a time in turn, the second time round they could improve the time or drop out – the woman giving the lowest uncontested time will get to make their man do the challenge. Like the German show the men can hear and react but are powerless to intervene, but the effect is rather ruined by the audience who make it pretty clear by laughing quite hard when the man is signalling to drop out.
- There’s nothing inherently wrong with the bidding process, except the ladies got rather confused as to where the bidding stood at any point and this stalled the recording fairly often. It might be an idea to have a screen in the table to show what the current bid is. Like the German show, the honours rotate after each game.
- Also I’m unclear on how much the ladies know about each game before each game – Wright’s video is fairly broad and short on detail, people come on and brief the ladies to make sure they’re clear on the rules between games but we aren’t privy to that conversation.
- OK, the games this evening:
- Game One: Standing on a tower four metres tall, the man must use a wrecking ball to knock the tops of twelve other towers located around him in numerical sequence (although the towers weren’t located in numerical sequence, if you see what I mean). Knocking down the wrong number meant a ten second penalty, and if you knock yourself off (into a big pit of gym bricks) you can climb up and keep going. This was the big build of the night and took about an hour to clear. The ladies bid on how much time they thought it would take their man to do it.
- Game two was eating horrible things, delacacies from around the world. Fermented egg, pig penis, sheep eyeball, jellied eels, sheep brains and a snail. Can be tackled in any order, clock stops between dishes – has to eat a spoonful of each and it must be swallowed before can move on.
- Game three was football based – the aim was to kick footballs through hoop targets that were also on fire and would be extinguished when done by big fire extinguisher. Celebrity Independent Adjudicator to the Stars Olivia van der Werff had to stop this one when the ball went through a hoop but someone pressed the wrong button and set the wrong extinguisher off.
- Game four: the Dude Diploma (the show tends to overuse the word “dude” – “dudes get in your tubes!”) – a 20 question quiz over two minutes about Men’s Stuff (football, cars, that sort of thing). Ladies bid on how many questions they think their man would get right. This was visually quite interesting, most questions had a visual element and the way the answers would reveal, with a zoom usually, was quite neat. Unfortunately Wright’s not a natural questionmaster, he had to stop and restart three times here.
- The couple with the fewest medallions at this point has to leave the show, leaving the other three to play…
- Game five: the All-Play game, and this is where the show starts to diverge from the German original. All three men will play this game, tonight it’s “how long can you hang from a bar over a travellator, for whatever reason”. The first man to drop eliminates the couple but the other two should hang in there because the winner gets a big advantage in the £50,000 endgame. It is implied that having more medallions than your opponents going into the game gives you a time advantage.
- The grand final is “throwing balls from a distance of what looks like about 20ft through a target that gradually narrows”. Get 10 balls through the hole before it shuts and win £50k, don’t and your opponents win the money. Winning the previous game gives you the choice of playing or passing. The lights round the outside of the target *suggest* he has a minute to do this, although the speed of the target shutters *suggests* it’s rather less than that. It’s also suggested that the ladies knew this was going to be the end game and had been chatting about it with regards to playing or passing tactics throughout the day.
- And that’s that. It was very slow to get going – took about two hours to film the first two events, but we were done after four-and-a-bit. I estimate about 45-50% of the audience dropped out over the course of the evening, lots of empty seats by the end, but the staff treated the audience fairly. Ian Royce did the warm-up, and very good he was as well, although he really had to work to retain seats I reckon. It was a lengthy recording but I’ve been to worse.
- Melanie Sykes does the girlie chat quite well although didn’t help the bidding process by getting a bit flummoxed by the maths, Mark Wright surprisingly not as awful as you were expecting, actually appears to have picked up basic presenting skills pretty quickly but as suggested not a natural questionmaster. Can deliver a line fairly well.
- Given the large prizemoney it was all rather good natured, seemed to be a natural camaraderie between the boys and the girls even if they were against each other.
- Is it going to be a hit? I don’t know. The games got off to a slow start but were ultimately quite good folksy fun. Wright seemed very popular with the ladies in the audience and the whole thing is wrapped up in a slight aura of silliness and knowingness. But I think it’s lacking something I can’t put my finger on. The edit will be telling.