Show Discussion: Prized Apart

By | June 12, 2015

PrizedApart3Saturdays, 7pm,

Well this has had a slightly more interesting development than most but this week the BBC’s big new shiny expensive new Saturday night hope finally gets off the ground.

On paper it sounds like Exactly The Sort Of Thing We Like – ten couples vie for a £100,000 prize, one half of each couple spends up to the next six weeks completing exciting adventure challenges in Morocco with Reggie Yates to stay in the game, the worst performing three fly back to Farnborough where their partners compete in a quiz with Emma Willis to avoid elimination, the winners head straight back to the adventure on a plane out back.

The competition’s been done in real time (so every Saturday evening), but it’s not live which strikes me as crazy and having seen an episode being recorded in the studio, largely suspect it worked better on paper than it does on screen. However they’ve had four months to edit it, and I do want to like it, so keep an open mind. I do like the logo.

51 thoughts on “Show Discussion: Prized Apart

  1. Jon

    4 months in the edit… That sounds a long time? Is this normal for a show like this?

      1. Wrong Guess!

        20 minutes in and part of me thinks it would have been better staying on the shelf.

        It’s so slow, with no jeopardy coming across on screen. Meanwhile the sound inside that aircraft hangar is really, really bad.

    1. David

      It’s not too out of the ordinary- here in the US Survivor tapes two seasons back-to-back now in the late spring/early summer, and the first season they taped this year won’t air until next spring (they’re taping the Second Chance season now, but that one will air first).

  2. Ben

    I was having a conversation with a few members of my family, who are casual game show viewers, earlier this week and between us we made a few points which people here might have better-informed opinions on. See what you think:

    We were talking about how much TV has changed in the last couple of decades, in particular viewing figures for shows and reflected that there aren’t any ‘cult’ shows out there like The Crystal Maze and BlockBusters (for example) were in their day – by which I mean shows that are hugely popular among a certain demographic (in this case students). The best I could suggest was Only Connect, probably the same people a decade or so further down the line. We were wondering whether this is to do with a greater number of different forms of media, in particular gaming, taking the student demographic away or whether there were other factors at play? Or could it even be that the popularity of these shows has been inflated as time has gone by and they were in reality no more popular than, say, Million Pound Drop or Tipping Point are today?

    We were also thinking about the sheer volume of game shows appearing on TV and saying two things – firstly that there haven’t been many big success stories from the half dozen-or-so revivals of the last few years (Catchphrase, Fifteen to One, Stars In Your Eyes, Krypton Factor… BlockBusters…) that have been made, despite them being very fondly remembered and much loved at the time, and secondly that we seem to be getting lots of new ideas that just haven’t been tested very thoroughly making it to air.

    Take Benchmark – simple enough idea but fundamentally broken as discussed in the show comments on Bothers Bar. You’re often better off (it seems) playing completely mechanically in the end game (50% each time) and the tension and jeopardy are lacking. Even the biggest successes of recent times have had to make changes in their formats to survive (Pointless refreshing its round structure; The Chase removing a step on the board; Tipping Point adding new ‘novelty’ counters; Box 23…). When you look at the enduring formats from the 80s and 90s, it seems that the key is simplicity. Family Fortunes, Blockbusters, The Crystal Maze, Catchphrase, The Weakest Link, WWTBAM for the first decade or so… all had a very simple premise and are very fondly remembered.

    My questions for you all are:

    1. Do you think it is true that the biggest key to a succesful format is simplicity? Does this explain the relative lack of success of 1000 Heartbeats and Five Minutes to a Fortune compared to the success of Pointless/Deal or No Deal?

    2. Is it likely that there will ever be a ‘must see’ gameshow (possibly excluding talent shows) with the television industry as it currently stands with so much competition from other channels and other media forms?

    3. Any thoughts on why the revivals of such fondly-remembered and popular shows have struggled so much?

    1. Ben

      4. Is it true that production teams are tending to ‘rush through’ lower quality game shows more than they used to, without properly testing them to destruction first, or are the examples of this from years ago just forgotten by history?

    2. RoarJustice

      If you think Deal Or No Deal is a simple gameshow format….its probably one of the most complex modern gameshow formats there is! I have met people who STILL don’t understand how it works.

      I think generally its hard to compare TV now with 20 years ago, its a totally different world, totally different expectations, totally different viewers, and people can ingest media in tonnes of different ways, rather than just two (TV and radio).

      Gameshows will always be capable of being event television, because they are the format that can put a person through the wringer and get a variety of emotions out of a person. If you are eliciting emotions from someone, you are going to get TV moments, and potentially event television. The wheel will turn again I’m sure.

      I don’t honestly feel any of the revivals have managed to get the right mix of old and new. The closest is probably Catchphrase, which is a watchable enough show, but it does lack heart and an exciting end-game.

    3. Jason

      Just catching up on the forum and I can’t really see why people are saying the endgame in benchmark is broken, surely the producers are constantly tweaking / choosing the questions daily so if someone did start using this 50% answer technique it would be very easy to spot then correct, they just ask questions with high low answers… And as no one (from what I’ve seen, read) hasn’t tried this technique then surely it ain’t broke?

      On the other point of simple formats working well, I actually thought 1000 HBs and 5 mins are simple… I think the key to success are a mix of good format (which virtually all shows have just to make it on telly) a good host (the biggest problem for broadcasters) and the right channel. I think the latter two are the keys to why some of the recent shows fail.

    4. Nico W.

      I’m not sure whether you know “Dalli Dalli” (on ZDF) but this was one of the biggest gameshows in the 70s in Germany. It consisted of quick-thinking games and some simple studio based games. They tried to make a modern day version about 4 years ago (I think) under the same name on NDR which prove to be such a big success, they are now showing it on ARD under the name “Das ist spitze!” (“That’s great!”, the most important catchphrase [the studio audience has always been able to press a buzzer whenever they liked how good someone had been, at which point sirens would be heard and the host would jump in the air, saying the catchphrase and the image was frozen mid-jump]).
      It tends to lose its audience but the modern day version is definitely the perfect mix of modern look and well-known games. They basically didn’t change the games, the studio looks a lot like the old one, just the host is really different. I love the show, maybe you can find it on youtube. This somehow is an example for cult shows being remade and successful. Though I think the audience back then weren’t so much students as families who took the chance of a big thursday night show to spend a night together. Maybe this different audience is the reason why that show still works and shows like Blockbusters don’t, I don’t know. Just wanted to add something to these really interesting thoughts.

    5. David B

      This is an astute and important post, and one that’s difficult to answer… but I’ll try.

      Let’s look at the big picture. Generally, TV viewing has shattered to hundreds of different channels, and there’s now competition from second screens. I believe something like 25% of TV’s old advertising budget has gone to online. So, while technology has improved, budgets in real terms are lower – in some slots, a lot lower. So in many ways TV is a dying medium, but equally it is still very powerful, relatively well-funded (compared to online funding) and still an excellent way for advertisers to reach consumers.

      I think people are a lot less forgiving of formats that don’t quite hit the mark, and channels are more willing to cancel or demote shows that don’t perform. In the old days, it was easier to get a captive audience of 8+ million on a SLOW night.

      The traditional supply of variety show comedians has dried up, and how everything is fronted by a professional ‘presenter’. They’re slicker, for sure. But not sure they’re necessarily more entertaining.

      You mention Only Connect. That show was almost deliberately devised to alienate people – especially the theme tune and the Greek Letters. Funny, then, that it’s become one of the hits of recent times. I wonder if there is a lesson in that – that people are a bit fed up of the bland, middle-of-the-road stuff that often TV churns out? I think a lot of old shows like Countdown and 15-to-1 generated a feeling of belonging to a club, and the various running jokes on OC have perhaps copied that kind of feeling…? It’s obviously worked well for the contestants on DoND, I certainly think it’s something that a lot of producers could try more on current formats.

      The sheer number of game shows launched these days (averaging one a week, rather than one a month as it was not so long ago) means that the pool of talent is somewhat diluted. I particularly think we’re lacking producers who really understand how game shows work. When WWTBAM and Weakest Link travelled the world, lots of companies opened their eyes to how formats could make millions. But just because you’ve worked on Big Brother or Ready Steady Cook doesn’t necessarily mean you can run a quiz successfully.

      Simplicity has its benefits, but generally the public are much more willing to cope with more complex formats (e.g. Goldenballs) than they have in the past.

      I think there will be more hit game shows to come, but they might only arrive once a decade. Everything has its phases. Personally, I think a properly interactive quiz – something of a holy grail that’s never been cracked – might be the next big thing…

      I think revivals are something of a dead end – mostly, you watch an episode or two and think “yeah, same as it ever was”. The revivals that seem to hold up best are those that have the most game content, where there’s less strain on the format to work.

      And yes, the formats market does move a lot quicker than it used to. Due to YouTube, your show can be available for the whole world to see after the first episode – whether you want it to be or not. And there are cases when formats are sold on paper to other countries before the first broadcast in the home country.

  3. Bilky Asko

    The set seems to have come straight from 1995. One of the ugliest I’ve seen for a while.

  4. Alex S

    Well, they picked the least interesting way to reveal which contestant bottled the rope swing.

  5. Simon F

    This seems like a good idea on paper but neither part of the show really works. Not that keen on adventure based stuff anyway and the quiz was too boring (and suffers from “multiple-choice question so contestants encouraged to think aloud” syndrome.

    It would probably be better being cut down to a 45 minute show because 65 minutes seems too long.

    1. David

      On a commercial network they could probably edit it better since they’d have to work around the breaks- even if it was a lottery show they could workaround the drawings to a point…

  6. David

    Slower than Netflix the day they released the new season of Orange Is The New Black (which was yesterday)…

  7. Brig Bother Post author

    Alright, just going to regurgitate a few things I said on Twitter.

    I get that adventure challenges are difficult to do, and especially difficult to do *originally*, but successful ones will fall into two categories: stuff that looks cool and you want to have a go at and stuff that looks horrific and you probably wouldn’t. Category three is where you don’t really care either way.

    We started with jumping 10ft from a helicopter into some water. The 10m board from Splash it ain’t. Normal people can do things that aren’t very superheroic as well – great.

    The bridge task didn’t seem too bad as an idea but I don’t understand why it was done in the most lo-octane way possible. This sort of thing is bread and butter on Survivor (for example) and you wouldn’t claim that was boring. And then we had building a raft, we’re firmly into category three here.

    The canyon swing actually goes in the right sort of direction but I was slightly baffled by the lack of urgency. This probably could have done with an on screen clock just to give the impression of the passage of time even if you had to obfuscate a bit for your losers reveal, otherwise we’re just seeing five people do the same thing without any sort of context to make it exciting.

    I suspect the Survival Challenges are going to work better than the Team ones throughout the run.

    The quiz is functional.

    There are times in the VTs where the beat demands a bit of action but we get more chatting instead. I know we’re meant to get to know these people but sometimes less is more, we can work things out by observing what people are like under pressure.

    Ultimately it’s basically a dull version of Ultra Quiz. Never mind, on to the next one.

  8. Jon

    What was the quiz bit like at the end, I just couldn’t watch any more…

  9. Weaver

    Brig’s right about the challenges in Morocco: a naff copy of Survivor. Most of them felt like “corporate” “away-day” “team-building”. The sort of thing that gets middle managers even more excited than a new button on the office coffee machine.

    Quiz is multiple-choice questions to score five points, then another question to get on Venga Airways and go back to Morocco. See Brig’s audience report.

    Reggie delivered his trademark pieces to camera, I like his style, lots of people don’t. Emma was as unflappable and unbending as normal.

    Pleased to see the Smokey Doors from Stars In Their Eyes have another gig. And so soon!

    Got annoyed by ropes hanging down from the ceiling and obscuring the video wall. But we got to see the back side of a video wall. It’s exactly what you might expect.

    They don’t even finish with a shot of the plane taking off.

  10. Steve Williams

    “Here at FARNBOROUGH AIRFIELD!” Did not ever expect a show to start like that, let alone get such a big reaction from it.

    Didn’t like it, I’m afraid, I found it very boring. I think it was a pretty awkward mish-mish and for all you mention it was filmed in real time the editing made it seem pretty pointless. It all seemed too distant, in terms of the way it was filmed and the glossiness, for viewers to care, and the audience laughter which presumably was supposed to counter that made it feel worse because it sounded massively unrealistic, gales of laughter at nothing very funny at all. I found it hard to buy into the studio-based contestants watching their loved ones becaue it felt like they’d done about a thousand takes and it was massively unspontaneous.

    I was wondering if any show set in an exotic location has ever worked on British TV. You could argue there was Total Wipeout but that was filmed in Argentina for logistical reasons and it may as well have been filmed in Farnborough (hooray!) for all you saw of the country. Other than that, what have you got? Survivor certainly didn’t work out in the UK, Drop Zone was burned off in the afternoon, Here Comes The Sun came and went on Saturday nights a decade ago and nobody noticed. The overseas Treasure Hunts were always the least interesting because for many viewers the excitement was seeing somewhere you knew. Even Ultra Quiz didn’t do brilliant business at a time when the test card would have got eight million viewers on Saturday night ITV. I don’t think the majority of viewers really care about exotic locatons – that’s the prize, not the format.

    As mentioned, there didn’t even seem to be much point in them being in Farnborough (hooray!) if you didn’t see them arrive or leave. They may as well have done it in a normal studio, because the acoustics were horrible.

    The only good thing going for the rest of the series is that ITV seem to have given up on Saturdays for the summer, but even then we’ve got Wimbledon Saturday coming up in a few weeks which usually lays waste to the schedule.

    1. Steve Williams

      Saturday night wasn’t a complete write-off though because we did get a fantastic balls-up of an answer on Who Dares Wins, the contestants getting a bit too over-confident during a round on “Male chefs on the BBC food website”.

    2. Brig Bother Post author

      I was hoping they’d keep the occasional overhead WHOOOOSH! from the occasional plane taking off overhead but alas it wasn’t to be.

  11. Jon

    Can we just crown prized apart as the top of the hall of shame now and have done with it…

    1. Weaver

      No, I don’t think we can say Prized Apart is the worst show of the still-young year.

      Let me advance the case that Play to the Whistle is weaker. Shot direction was as bad, the regular cast as tiresome, the object of many games was lost, and the result left me cold.

      The key difference: Prized Apart is trying to do something different, it’s pushing the envelope. Play to the Whistle was derivative in the extreme. I regard tedious and derivative as a greater crime than a failed experiment.

      That’s my take. Other people’s opinions will vary.

      1. Brig Bother Post author

        I would largely agree (although would also suggest it’s not completely without merit) and also suggest that a year where Prized Apart is the worst show of the year is basically a pretty good year.

  12. Brig Bother Post author

    I actually didn’t mind it so much this week – the race through the dunes looked quite hard and there was an appreciable focus on the team dynamic a la 72 Hours.

    The Magic Carpet in a tightened up form would make a good Desert Forges/Amazing Race challenge.

    So credit where it’s due – I enjoyed it more than last week.

    Unfortunately the market task next week is dull as.

  13. Brig Bother Post author

    If there was a time limit for the marketplace task they didn’t mention it at the recording. It would certainly have made things a bit more interesting/tense if there were bonus oranges for getting to the finish first or penalties for getting there late.

    Despite everything I have stuck with this, I’m probably the only one.

  14. Brig Bother Post author

    Ratings down to 2.48m but share up to 17.6%, because that’s the crucial thing when you’ve made a big expensive show.


  15. Chris M. Dickson

    Those poor Prized Apart couples are being split away from each other for an extra week because the tennis is overrunning and has pushed the show back seven days. Oh man! How will they cope?


    1. Daniel Peake

      I mean, it’s baffling that they weren’t filming this live like Jet Set… but it turns out this extra week would have made things interesting!

  16. Chris M. Dickson

    (It isn’t trolling if everybody gets the joke, is it?)

    While I’m here, I do like the BBC 2 “Quizzy Mondays” UC/OC promo, but it’s both amusing and somewhere between cheeky and plagiaristic that it includes the very very ITV Family Fortunes eep-oorp as a sound effect.

  17. Brig Bother Post author

    Once again the ingredients of a decent idea but done in the most television unfriendly way possible. Team task woukd not have felt out of place on Survivor if they could only make it feel a bit more exciting – god knows why they split the event into two parts.

  18. Daniel Peake

    I’ve only just seen Prized Apart for the first time with this week’s episode (Episode 4).

    The set isn’t dark! Hooray! (I still don’t really like it though. Bah humbug). It’s also very echoey in the Farnborough studio.

    This is quintessentially British television. And I’m not meaning this in a hugely positive way. The tasks are potentially very adrenaline filled and hugely exciting, but we’ve taken the most low key way of showing them – I feel like the adventures should be having a cup of tea during the activity and keeping their heart rate below 70. “What ho, chaps. I say, this zip line is awfully fun, I nearly dropped my monacle in astonishment.”

    They’ve focussed on the emotion of the challenge too much rather than the challenge itself and shot themselves in the foot. Too many VTs, the music is too laid back and Reggie Yates (whilst very competent) doesn’t have enough energy for it.

    The quiz – nice moments with the “choose a topic for your partner” and a lovely sand blowing away graphic reveal. Would have liked on screen text for longer and a bit bigger. Like the music package and sound effects with it. Simple, I liked it. Good to have semi-referential Gate questions. It’s a retooled Chase, and a bit strung out, but it’s the better half of the show.

    Overall too long and they’ve manage to edit out all the excitement from it as efficiently as a mangle. But as others have commented, there are many worse shows out there.

    1. Daniel Peake

      I know some have criticised the show for constantly ferrying contestants between Morocco and the UK – “why don’t they just have a Skype link and bring back the evicted contestants?”.

      Well, I’m going to stand up for the show in this aspect, it’s nice having a little bit of interaction between the couples (which is needed really during the challenges, to be honest. I’m shifting my eyes towards teams of two in a certain race-around-the-world show here).

      Yes, it’s a bit impractical and certainly not a green show with all these flights, but overall in terms of cost it’s probably not actually that bad compared to the rest of the production, and I think it makes for a nice second half of the show.

  19. John R

    I like the ‘Du da du da da da du du da de da da’ sound effect but it does start to wear thin after playing it 100 times in around a 10 minute period.

    In an unrelated note, I didn’t quite realize how popular The National Lottery Who Dares Wins actually was! I noticed it seemed to be the only National Lottery gameshow on the ‘top watched shows of 2014’ list last night too!

  20. Brig Bother Post author

    There is so much wrong with this show. So much. I literally can’t conceive some of the tasking decisions (why didn’t the oranges mean anything in the blindfold rope bridge task, for example).

    But when it takes its inevitable place as worst show of the year in this year’s poll I’ll be quite sad, because despite literally everything I think the story it’s told throughout the series, if you stuck with it, has been quite compelling and privately I’m quite looking forward to the final.

    I wish it could have a second series to sort its (many) issues out, but I fear it’s damaged goods and nobody would watch it on name alone anyway.

    1. MarkP

      I’m just amazed someone made a show that makes Expedition Impossible look compelling.

      It’s a show that tries at being a quiz show, a game show and a reality show but it completely fails on every level with boring questions, badly edited tasks and absolutely no actual drama.

      1. Brig Bother Post author

        I would dispute there being no drama. I think the couples missing each other *has* become much more apparent with each passing episode, and it has justified bringing them back for the quiz – but if you were to only watch episodes in isolation then you wouldn’t get the same effect.

        I note the quiz has gone from stupidly easy to basically guesswork of late.

        1. MarkP

          I think they’ve got genuine emotion now (which is an improvement from the early episodes) but other than “feeling a bit sad”, the fact they’re missing their loved ones doesn’t actually add anything to the actual game. Compare that to the Amazing Race where the changing relationships impact team dynamics. With a less bland cast, it might work, but they’ve played it very safe.

      2. xr

        I agree on all the criticism of this show.

        However, I found Expedition Impossible riveting, to the extent that I recently re-watched it. The travel element was well served with shots variously gorgeous and intimate. The competition element came across very well; I could really feel the exhaustion, fear and strain, and the play-by-play narration went from passable to excellent as the numbers dwindled. Tasks felt integral to location and theming, and there were successful and tense formal innovations. And the show fulfilled the original gleaming promise of reality TV: It put regular/identifiable/non-ridiculous people in an unusual situation, we got to observe their various adaptations and changes in their state of mind, and drama sprung organically.

        I wish I could force (US) Amazing Race producers to watch it before inflicting on its viewers another season of Santa Monica Pier-frequenting Christian mactors having their taxicab dates rudely interrupted by balloon-shaving and blurry cuts.

        1. Brig Bother Post author

          I don’t think The Amazing Race has been any good since about TAR 6 (although I id really like the first two Australian ones), but evidently somebody’s watching it still.

  21. Brig Bother Post author

    I don’t get why there was a curve to the target. Not the first thing about this show I didn’t quite get. The race and the reveal at the airport was pretty bizarre.

    Pretty happy about the winners though.

    As a show it was full of really quite poor decisions, as a proof of concept I enjoyed it.

    1. Brig Bother Post author

      Also I’m not sure if I agree with somebody getting eliminated without their partner getting to save them, given that’s how the rest of the show worked.

    1. David

      There was a halfway decent show in the concept- but the execution was just horrible.

  22. Paul B

    Fun fact: the very original idea for this back when I was at the Beeb in 2011 was very different (I believe I was in the meeting where someone came up with the title, although I can’t remember who. Not me, anyway). It was essentially Cilla’s Moment of Truth but with two person challenges – couples were separated to train for a week with different experts (so a magician teaches Bloke to cut a woman in half, while a hundred miles away a magician’s assistant teaches a woman to be sawn in half successfully). They then we’re reunited live on Saturday night, and would immediately have to perform the challenge together for the first time in order to win.

    1. David

      So I guess in that case they’d win so long as they didn’t have to superglue the pieces together?


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