Show Discussion: Face the Clock

By | January 7, 2013

Weekdays, 3:30pm,
Channel 4

Face_the_ClockWe don’t know an awful lot about this other than a) Rory Bremner’s hosting and b) It’s seems to be effectively Quiz Chicken. Contestants answer questions against the clock building up a bank and hoping not to be in control when it hits zero, but never knowing how much time is left.

Also apparently not that well thought through but we’ll try and be objective with the final result.

47 thoughts on “Show Discussion: Face the Clock

  1. Chris M. Dickson

    Thoughts at half time: it feels like The Weakest Link with a different elimination mechanic. Rory Bremner is good at handling the questions, unless there are countless retakes of which we were not aware, but not a natural with the contestants and the lack of atmosphere accentuates this. The rounds are very same-y so far; I’m not sure if there is the same gradual ramp up in difficulty that TWL had. Plus point: good speed; minus point: the same old difficulties as to determining whether or not contestants passed in time or not. There’s a part of me that wants there to be some sort of button system that would sort it all out.

    So far it’s all feeling a bit random, a bit repetitive and a bit 4/10.

  2. Chris M. Dickson

    Wonder if the background music is dubbed on or played live into the studio? If the latter, can the contestants get a clue about when the round is about to expire by the last few seconds of the music changing?

  3. Chris M. Dickson

    Oh it’s another chess clock final. Not unwelcome, and not unthematic, but it’s an amusing coincidence to get two new ones within 48 hours of each other.

  4. BigBen

    I really like this! And I was expecting not to based on everything we’ve heard previously. For a show without an audience, I think the atmosphere is OK and Rory’s banter is good enough – it’s closest to Sky’s ‘Dirty Money’ in its gameplay I think. It’s enjoyably tense – especially the end game and the questions are of a good difficulty and pace. I’ll give it 8.5/10

  5. Lewis

    I agree with Chris on Rory’s performance, and I hope over time he gets a bit better at the chitchat. That said, he is very good with the questions from what we see.

    It does suffer a little from being like Weakest Link in that the same round is played a few times, but the varying clock and the show only being half an hour stop this from getting boring. The chess clock semi-final is fine, and fits the theme well without being the same as the first four rounds, and the final is nice and tight. They could have had a long suspense moment at the end there but decided not to, which is a big plus.

    Not revolutionary, but far from a bad show.

  6. Chris M. Dickson

    Endgame has nothing wrong with it but is not very imaginative and not as interesting as that of, e.g., Don’t Blow The Inheritance, of which it feels like a variant. There’s scope to have done more interesting things, like inviting a contestant who has answered five correctly the chance to double their money by answering as many questions as it takes until they get another one right against an unknown clock, subject to the usual potential halving-or-even-zeroing penalties if time is not on their side.

    Far from offensive, and probably my pick of the current Channel 4 afternoon schedule, for now, but does feel like a 4/10 filler to me.

  7. Luke the lurker

    Neat little quizzer, that – fast-paced, steals all the right elements from all the right places, and makes most of the right production decisions.

    More detailed comments
    – Bremner is excellent on the questions, not great at the chat (as observed further up). Round of applause to Channel 4 for not attempting to make this another Weakest Link clone by picking someone sarcastic.
    – Round lengths are just a teeny bit too short – 30 seconds really isn’t enough. Since there were three choices left at the final pick, I don’t think it would be unreasonable to eliminate the 30 second choice and start at 45 or 60.
    – Graphics were excellent, apart from the ticks in the final round, which felt a bit tacked on.
    – For an endgame which requires 5 correct answers in 30 seconds to successfully win, the prize seemed stingily low. Could be fixed by doubling the cash values or simply spotting everyone £100 at the start. Not quite as interesting as Don’t Blow The Inheritance, but not bad.
    – Uncomfortable with “The Clock” being an entity. Reminds me of a bad supervillain, really: “It’s coming! The Clock is coming!” “What’s so scary about that?” “It keeps time! And it beeps every thirty seconds! RUN AWAY!”. Additionally, if you’re going to have a set shaped like a clock, you may as well have an occasional overhead shot to make it obvious…

    Not bad seems to be the best way of describing this – it doesn’t get much wrong, but it’s not going to get me to watch every day.

    1. Andy "Kesh" Sullivan

      They did that with Millionaire’s Clock format as well, calling it ‘the big bad clock’ all the time. It’s a clock, what’s so big and bad about it?

  8. Andy "Kesh" Sullivan

    For a debut episode, it wasn’t a bad show at all. It’s something else to watch before Tipping Point starts. Nice mix of questions and the game clips along at a decent pace. Rory was an OK host, nothing exceptional.

    The game does feel like it’s borrowed a few elements from other shows, as others have said, it takes a pinch of Weakest Link and a smidgeon of Britain’s Brightest and Grand Slam with the chess-clock style semi-final and a bog-standard money chase at the end for the money.

    I can’t see this appearing on any Hall of Fame lists, but it’s something I can watch when I’m not at college. I’ll give it a 7/10

  9. Brig Bother Post author

    Oh I quite enjoyed that, it’s graspable and it’s got lots of questions in. I do wonder if there’s mileage in having the person in control when the clock runs out sudden death duel with the person or people with the least in their bank, to increase the strategy and encourage the push your luck quotient a little.

    The last two rounds are basically a rehash of The Fuse.

  10. Simon

    Watched this when I got home and quite enjoyed it. Not something I’d go out my way to Sky + or watch on 4OD but I’d watch it if I were in front of a TV at 3.30pm

  11. Steven

    I enjoyed it more than I thought I would – it was nice to see a new quiz show with so little froth and so many questions. Rory seems OK on first impressions too, and should only improve.

    More worthy than 1001 Things You Should Know, I think. I will catch it if I’m about.

  12. Kniwt

    A pleasant enough 22 minutes with a suitably high question count, but as others have mentioned, I’m not likely to go to the trouble of regularly getting a copy over here in the colonies.

    I see potential unpleasantness, however, over delivering a “killer pass” just as time expires. Does the name have to be fully uttered, partially, or just the “pass to xxx” phrase? It’s never made quite clear, except for the bit that you can’t pass to a nonexistent player. (And would passing to “Bill” instead of “William” be a nonexistent player?) I’m not sure how I’d fix it, since having a giant pushbutton could be just as problem-laden.

    And even by the standards of daytime, the potential prize pot does seem a wee bit weak.

  13. Gizensha

    This show might take the common criticism of modern game shows that they drag too much and might go a bit too far the other way in response. Practically every time Rory started up a section it was sudden and immediate, simply pausing for as long between words as in the “Every. Second. Counts” catchphrase before he started would have made it feel less rushed in that, but I did start to get used to it by the second half.

    Using lighting effects instead of stings to remove contestants is… Err… Interesting. Not bad, but… Erm… A bit accidental nightmare fuel, particularly when contestants start moving around podia. (I know it’s a brief recording break, but… The brain doesn’t always interprit things as you’d want it to.)

    Not sure if letting us at home know the time is the right presentation choice, but it’s certainly not actually bad.

    Grand Slam final round. Unlucky that it premiered just after Britain’s Brightest, really, considering. Still, if British game shows are going to have a run of all chess clock all the time, it’s a trend I can get behind… Until it starts to grow stale.

    Not sure why they chose this one for the first episode showed, since one of the best two contestants was eliminated in the first round from unlucky timing making the contest a bit of an anti-climax.

    5 in 30 to win the jackpot is… Not going to get won that often, and half every 10 seconds afterwards until 60 seconds run out is a neat twist, though nothing for losing in that situation looks arbitrary (Halving a final time would look more natural – Though would also lower tension. Which is likely a problem inherrent to this sort of cash clock).

    The winner getting to play for the entirity of what everyone built up makes the idea that the cash is relevent for anything other than who starts meaningless, which is a shame.

    All in all, a very competently put together straight quiz with a slight smattering of strategy and some neat gimmicks to the gameplay. Eliminations can be overly harsh, however. On par with Britain’s Brightest – Good stuff, but not in love with it. With this one I’m not frustrated by not loving it, since it doesn’t do anything that makes me want to, however.

  14. Brig Bother Post author

    Apparently this didn’t do very well yesterday which is a shame, but I’m intrigued to see what direction it trends.

  15. Luke the lurker

    Further thoughts

    – Bremner’s improved already. Not sure if they’re showing them out of order.
    – Today’s prize was even stingier, and I suspect they’ve got both the money and the speed of the endgame wrong.
    – The questions seem wildly inconsistent in terms of difficulty, and for a game where rounds can last thirty seconds, they’re much, much too long. Questions in the first round seem about right, questions toward the end of the game seem to vary between about right and much too difficult – is the surname of the person who designed saucy seaside postcards or a figure skating champion from the 1970s in the standard quiz repertoire, or is it just my youth showing? There are occasions when it’s okay to be tough, but a game where rounds end in thirty seconds, questions are full, complex sentences and the final involves getting five in thirty seconds isn’t it.
    – If they wanted actual strategy in the game, it might be worth doing two things – firstly, cutting the two shortest times out the game so that there’s only two possibilities left in the final round, allowing people to budget a bit more. And secondly, picking contestants who realise that if you’ve just heard a beep, you’ve clearly got at least 15 seconds of play left and should take another question (the main reason for today’s pitifully low prize pot, other than two of the contestants having runs of several questions where they didn’t know any of the answers).

    1. Luke the lurker

      I should state that I think most of the problems with the show come from shoddy question writing in terms of length and inconsistency – I don’t think it’s malicious, but it’s unfair to the contestants and it’s leading to pitifully low prizes.

      (Also, the set’s tiny, the link Brig shared says it was filmed in a warehouse, and I can’t imagine Rory Bremner’s commanding a huge fee or even a Sandi Toksvig-level fee. What kind of shoestring is this being produced on?)

    2. Gizensha

      The £2750 yesterday is towards the upper end of the 1001 Things You Should Know prize budget (Up to £3003), the ~£1k today is about what Pointless adds to the jackpot daily – Though that sometimes adds an extra £250 here or there). I suspect £1500 is going to be the ‘standard’ amount given away on this show based on the first two episodes, but without more sample episodes it’s hard to tell for sure. This is about standard these days for daytime, the only shows that does significantly different is Deal or No Deal (~12k on average, iirc), and arguably The Chase (But that gives away about £10-15k every week or so, so actually gives… About £2-3k on average.)

      1. Daniel Peake

        Deal is a law unto itself in that regard, but it’s about the same money as Denominator will give away, I reckon. Seems to be becoming the norm.

        1. David Howell

          That’s the problem with Channel 4 adding a new teatime quiz to the lineup – anything they do is going to look really really cheap in comparison to the show that’s on next.

          Even when the 1001 Things jackpot hit five figures I couldn’t help but think “but if today’s DoND contestant gets a good opening round they’ll be offered more than that at 17-box and will still be encouraged to essentially ignore it”.

          Unless they’re actually wanting to emphasise that Deal is still big big money. Interesting how the big 5pm shows both give away large-ish prizes, but so infrequently that they can both go entire weeks without paying out a penny. Most of the post-DoND daytime shows have had either a rolling jackpot that allows for five-figure prizes to be touted on a pitiful budget (Pointless, 1001 Things) or throw around sporadic huge money that’s essentially never going to be won (The Chase, FTROYL, Golden Balls).

          It makes you wonder if Avanti could fit in the Tipping Point slot actually, as it obviously fits the latter brilliantly (21QW gets played for six figures every night, and is lost practically every night, with even the wins being in five figures rather than six).

  16. The Banker's Nephew

    Rewatching it, I’m not a fan of how you can be eliminated without a chance to answer a question and pass, like Hilary in the first round. I’d have done it so there was some sort of duel between the contestant the clock stopped on and the contestant with the lowest or second lowest amount of money, so that the money actually mattered. Although I suppose that would make the clock slightly less important…

    1. Luke the lurker

      I think a good solution would be to have the clock stop and then ask another question. Correct, they continue earning money and choose to play or pass. Incorrect, they’re out. First to get one wrong loses.
      (In terms of time, you’d probably need to cut a contestant to do this, but it might feel less unfair.)

  17. Brig Bother Post author

    Episode two rather more irritating, it’s not much fun watching people not really accumulate cash. I still quite like my duel idea. Bremner much looser though, although still not s natural.

  18. Daniel Peake

    I like the premise of the first half of the show, an unknown time at the end of which is a consequence. I think the second half, chess clocks and 5 in 30 seconds is a bit lazy. Why not have another hidden clock round when there’s two of them? I’m sure they tried it, but just wonder why they decided on the chess clocks.

    The set is very nice, but I very much don’t like the graphics. Why have little orange segments appearing all the time? I understand why (to mark every 15 seconds), but I reckon that the clock bits should be disappearing instead.

    Actually, this brings me to my last point – I don’t reckon the clock should be shown during the round. Once it’s picked, I reckon the viewers at home should be told (via a graphic) how long the round will be. There could be a “look away at home if you don’t want to know” moment. Then, play along with the contestants without the timer (or just in the last 15 seconds if need be). I found that, there was less tension when I knew how much time was left, I wanted the feeling that the clock could end at any moment.

    All these quibbles are relatively minor. The quiz itself is solid and once RB gets into the swing of things he’ll be fine.

    I’m getting the feeling (completely arbitrarily) of a Face The Clock vs Common Denominator comissioning strategy, similar to Fuse vs Chase in 2009, and boy did I call that one wrong! Having been recorded in an episode of The Common Denominator, I reckon that TCD has a slight edge, its concept is stronger although the host is slighly wobbly as RB is. They’ll give away similar amounts of money by the looks of it.

    What do others who have seen Denominator recorded think of that comparison?

    1. Daniel Peake

      And I even resorted to papering over the clock graphic on my monitor so that I could play along without knowing the time. I recommend giving it a go!

      In an unrelated note, does anyone know how to remove superglue from an LCD screen?

    2. Brig Bother Post author

      I’d suggest TCD has much cleverer (albeit quite a lot fewer) questions, but a less interesting basic format. And set.

      Today I found myself getting a bit bored with everyone basically passing after each question, which I suspect is entirely the correct strategy but not greatly interesting to watch – as I’ve said, if the show invites people to accumulate money, points, whatever, then does everything in its power to dissuade people accumulating then I think it has an issue.

      If I had a pound for everyone who went on a new show or a pilot and said “it’s a really great format!” when it’s no real great shakes I’d be able to retire by now.

      1. Lewis

        It’s funny that you called this “quiz chicken” while on the podcast I called it “quiz hot potato” – we’d like to see it your way, but we are seeing it mine.

      2. Gizensha

        Passing when coming up to a 15 second mark is good (there are a couple of 15 second times, but most are on 30s), passing after half of a 30 second goes is very good (all the thirty seconds in the 30 seconds to 2:30 are represented), just after a 30 second buzzer has gone, as happened a couple of times here, is… Questionable at best.

        Granted a couple of the contestants entered Pass Hell today, and pressure can make strategy fly out the window, which may have influenced the Nomination strategy being so much in play today.

        1. Gizensha

          Granted, as I said, it makes no difference if you get the money or the guy next to you gets the money as long as you get into the final…

      3. Daniel Peake

        A huge amount is dependent on the edit. As a contestant, the questions seemed to go along really quickly. But as a viewer, who knows.

    3. Delano

      I predict The Common Denominator will have a hard time for the first two weeks, for the safe and trusted Perfection has already beaten ‘Face the Clock’ hands down.

      C4 now needs to hope Beat The Pack will not be as engrossing as Perfection or TCD will also be a one-series wonder.

  19. David Bodycombe

    All I can say is that, neat set and lighting aside, this is really quite poorly thought through. There’s not nearly enough incentive for people to take questions, what with all the other contestants out to screw early leaders out of their money.

    The passing mechanic, basically the 15-to-1 thing, is really so very cheap. Why should you be knocked out of the competition just because someone happened to pass to you at the right time?

    It’s quite obvious that the Weakest Link-style system and the 30-second bells were put in to try to cover over some of the cracks in the rules, but they’re not enough to save it.

    1. Brig Bother Post author

      I’m intrigued now by what the rules were for that first episode that turned out to be so bad they had to have a crisis meeting.

      1. Tim

        I took part in the second episode to be filmed and we were told the rules had had a single word added. The amended rules were read to us while we were recorded listening, even though we’d already received them and signed to say that we’d read and understood. I got the feeling the ammended rule concerned the exact point at which play had been pased.

        I can only guess that at the first recording there had been some major argument about who was in play at a crucial moment.

  20. Mart with a Y not an I

    (The problem with coming on with your opinions of the show after Day 3..)

    I agree with all of the above.
    A couple more issues..

    Bremner’s shtick appears to be making puns based on the contestants line of employment – will wear very thin, very quickly.

    Have the rules been fully explained to the contestants beforehand? Shurly if you lead off, or have been passed a question and you hear the ’30 second buzz’ why then pass to another after answering just one question?

    But, good to see the chess clock used the correct way (not, as Britains Brightest do getting the players to stop the clock themeselves) and also, when Rory explains the rules to the head to head i’m sure in the background is the sound that Bullseye used when the boards were being spun around.

    Average (just) – 5/10

    1. Delano

      It seems Old Bremner is back (doing impressions during banters and questions), judging by the latter episodes.

  21. Mart with a Y not an I

    Oh yeah, and two more things based on Wednesdays show.

    Why congratuate a contestant for pressing a button and stopping a pre-set lighting sequence? Either “good” or “thanks” but not “well done”, Mr Bremner.

    And did anyone on the studio floor or the gallery, notice that a cursor arrow was clearly visable on the cash tally of one of the contestants podiums at any point during the recording?

  22. Amdania

    Having been a contestant. Not yet aired. I would say that Rory Bremner was lovely and made an effort to make us feel welcome. Rules were well explained to us. No music in the studio. As a viewer I find it builds tension nicely and I like that the clock shows throughout on my screen.

  23. David Bodycombe

    Got very angry with Wednesday’s episode, where the stupidity of the pass rule became very evident. And yet again, they underlined that there’s little to no benefit in taking questions. Getting the feeling that, rather than it being Quiz Chicken, it’s rather a turkey…

    It’s not anything like the way I thought this format was going to work, to wit: a buzzer quiz, the catch being that you had to quit the round (i.e. deactivate your buzzer) before the hidden clock ran out. You then had to hope that the remaining contestants didn’t have enough time left to beat your own score. The lowest scorer would be eliminated.

    1. David Bodycombe

      And another thing – what does this format do that Jet Set didn’t some seven years ago?

      1. David Howell

        Other than “be a ratings flop”? Not a great deal, now you say it.

          1. David Bodycombe

            Ever since Bremner stopped just doing impressions and tried to be a political commentator or presenter of sorts, I’ve always found him to be some immensely talented but one that finds his own material funnier than those around him. It’s not that the jokes aren’t good, it’s just that his delivery means that he doesn’t necessarily take the audience along with him.

  24. dave

    The way it should be done is…
    Increase the prize after every round (50-100-150 in round 1 100-200-300 in round 2)
    You just pass to your right
    Make it between 60-180 seconds in 15 sec multiples
    When you win the final round double your score don’t lump in in with your opponents
    Somehow tweak the bonus round so the prize fund goes up not down.


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