Right I’ve just got back from watching Reflex filming at The Fountain at Wembley. It’s changed rather from the pilot (which Martyn wrote up here a while ago).
For pragmatic reason of keeping the 5 Minutes to a Fortune show discussion post more visible, I’m going to hide my thoughts under a cut.
OK, we were in at six and out at about half nine which was what we were told to expect so well done Objective for keeping to time. However, the trade off is that two games were done before the audience got there and played out on screens so we knew what happened. And that’s fine!
- Audience sit on both sides of the studio facing the middle (is there a term for this type of arrangement? A galley set, if you will). Far end (from left to where I was sitting) are the letters of the word “reflex” (it’s all lower case lettering, very clean and modern looking, circular curves) carved out of large blocks to make a wall, but one where the letters can move about so they can bring the games in waiting on castors or whatever behind. Lots of lights. Middle of the studio is a large sort-of-diamond shaped raised stage – A big chunk of this can be removed from the middle for the games to slot into, which is quite clever. Stage right as I saw it is a higher raised stage where you’ll find the two families and Shane Ritchie. Quite nice looking set, futuristic looking rather than overtly dark.
- The game is played by two families who will battle it out over five rounds. The winning team will get to play Moneyball at the end for a possible £20k.
- The show is hosted by Shane The Legend Ritchie and actually I liked him. Admittedly I also quite liked him on Run the Risk and Win Lose or Draw in the 90s, these days he carries a certain avuncularness to add to the silliness, which suits him. Speaking of which, he also wears a grey suit in the Philip Schofield mold which felt a bit odd.
- Each of the first three rounds were individual rounds with each player playing once and earning one point for a win. The fourth round is a game played with a partner worth two points, the third round is a quiz played by all family members racing to ten points total. Each round is described by a female voiceover who I think is the same one you get describing the games if you go and watch The Cube live.
- The point of Reflex, if you hadn’t worked it out, is that it tests reaction and reflexes and films it all in super slo-mo cameras to make games that take a few seconds look a bit more interesting.
- The first two games were filmed before we got there. The first one involved falling through paper onto a mat, finding a ball on the mat and placing it on a stand as a race.
- The second game was throw-a-can-of-paint-at-a-clear-wall-when-you-hear-the-shotgun-as-fast-as-you-can. This was our first chance to listen to a tune that it was suggested was called “The Gunslinger” which plays before all the games. It’s a neat tune, 30-40 seconds long, in the style of a music box with strings that fade in then fade out, the music box slowing down and then a few seconds later a shotgun firing. It’s a really good tension building piece, but the fact that it lasts 3-8 times longer than the actual games is something that might bite it on the backside later (see later).
- Game three – five items in a sort of plastic shed. Contestants stand facing it with a set of five buttons behind them. After The Gunslinger, instead of a shotgun three of the five items in the shed will explode in a sequence. Contestants must spin round and hit the correct buttons in the corresponding order.
- Game four is played as a pair and is worth TWO points, for some reason Ritchie makes a thing about “one member being left out”. This episode it’s Avalanche – 5,000 ping pong balls will come down a slope at each of the teams. They must catch the balls of their team colour (they can’t pick them up off the floor) and place them in a rack – five each. Suspect this will look brilliant slowed down, like that Sony Bravia advert, but again the game lasts about 15 seconds. Also, I can’t help but think that the orange team trying to pick out orange balls amongst green get a slightly easier time than the purple team trying to pick out purple balls amongst deep pink.
- The elimination game is I think the best one of the lot. It’s a Jack Attack style-quiz, albeit with very easy questions. All team members play – each person has their hand on a silver hemisphere. My understanding: to buzz in they take their hand off and slap a button in front of that, however the sensor will know if they’ve taken their hand off, so if someone flinches and go for the button on a wrong answer the first person to lift their hand is penalised and the other team will get a point. The questions appear on screens in front of each family, as mental tests they are not hard, they’re games of anticipation. For example, you will see a sequence of numbers flash up on the screen, you buzz in when one comes up that’s out of order (for example: 13, 14, fifteen, sixteen, 17, nineteen). Or you buzz in when the sum shown is correct (“4-2=3”, “2×4=9”, “18-9=9”). A correct buzz scores a point. If someone makes a mistake the opponents get a point but the question continues until the correct answer is buzzed.
- The first team to get to 10 points win, the losers leave with nothing but applause.
- The final game is Moneyball. The family choose a contestant to stand on a platform about two ft diameter. It’s about five foot high, but actually only about two ft above the crashmats that have been placed around it. Facing the contestant – one dead on, one either side about 45 degrees are three ball cannons. These are apparently automatic and have been calibrated to fire balls out at different times and aimed at slightly different heights and widths places. The point is, all the fired calls would be hittable when standing on the platform, but they certainly won’t all be dead centre. The contestant won’t know when or where each ball will come from.
- Phase one of the game involves fifteen green balls. The contestant must try and contact as many of them as possible. If he falls off the platform, he loses a point. Phase two involves 15 red balls – these he must try to AVOID as they take one point off his score (similarly falling off). If by the end of phase two he has one or more points, the family win £10k. If not they leave with nothing. It looks like the red balls follow a similar sequence to the green balls, so all the ones that were easy to hit earlier are now hard to avoid, and vice versa.
- If they win the £10k, they have the chance to go double or nothing. If they want they can take one final golden ball – contact it and leave with £20k. Fail and leave with nothing. Sampling (of one contestant) would suggest the chances on winning this based on the previous go are about 50-60%, as such it’s a fair gamble but I can well see lots of people walking away.
- The music is largely very good – I believe it’s a Nick Foster production.
- Visuals. Like with the The Cube watching it live is only half the story, they make a big thing of the slo-mo stuff. Gut feeling would suggest this is likely to be more visually appealing than The Cube’s use of precisely two colours and geometric shapes. The problem is the games are much more sleight than The Cube. The show’s a bit of a one trick pony really – like I said, the games take seconds to play. More seconds when slowed down, but the fact is there’s not all that much content here – it looks great first time but there’s no real ingeniousness or complexity to the games (although the visual tricks they employ in the quiz bit is quite interesting).
- As such I think it would do OK in a half an hour slot, but if they intend to push it more than that I wouldn’t be betting on a second series – ironically it would just seem too slow. Incidentally, it sounds like it’ll be going out in the Doctor Who pre-Voice slot when Doc Who finishes.
Any questions feel free to ask.