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Didn't They Do Well!

To the untrained eye, it's a quiz show. To the trained eye, it's an excuse to show half an hour of clips of old quiz shows and save money writing questions. To the psychic third eye, they'll know it was just a format called Playback lying around waiting for someone to walk into it. And someone did walk into it. And that someone was Bruce Forsyth. And it was, y'know, alright.

It's 2004 so there's an obligatory futuristic hi-tech set (made up of three stages, a large video wall and to smaller video screens at the back of the set). It's 2004 so it will have technobleepy music - good. It's 2004 so it will have the all or nothing endgame. Check.

But it also has Brucie and blimey, doesn't it seem weird seeing him in this kind of enviromental adventure playground? Still, he's thrilled to be there and he's modified his catchphrases to fit. "What do points make? PROGRESSION!"

In round one our three couples see nine quizmasters on the screen. Each couple pick a quizmaster. Excellently, we're treated of a short burst of the title sequence as well as the quizmaster reading the questions. A correct answer earns one point. After everyone's had a question, they go again but this time because there is less choice the queston is worth two points. Hmm.

There's a really nice spread of shows on offer here spanning about forty years. And those with the knowledge can pick a show more tailored to their specialised subjects. Also they've gone to town with obscure stuff, I certainly had no idea Quiztime Gentleman Please existed. This is a good thing and kudos to the archiving department.

It's a shame the only ITV show on the menu is Bullseye, rather bafflingly.

Round Two is "naming things from clips". A team pick one of four categories, they're shown a montage of archive footage and have to name the five, say, prime ministers or weathermen featured. They get a maximum of five guesses, and a point for each they can correctly name. This is followed by the Brucie Bonus, "wherever I go my bonuses go with me!" a question pertaining to one of the five people in the montage for three points. At the end of this round the lowest scoring team are eliminated, "I know the show's called Didn't They Do Well but didn't you do badly!"

Round three is "guess who or what is being introduced by the host's introduction". There are six hosts on archive and they're about to introduce something (usually a person if the host is Michael Parkinson or Emma Freud, an animal if it's David Attenborough, a type of fish if it's Rick Stein etc.). The points start at 10 and drop as the clip progresses. A team can buzz in and guess, but if they're wrong they're frozen out until the other team have had a go (so there's some strategy that can come into play). At the end of the round the lowest scoring team go home.

This is actually really quite a clever reworking of a fairly typical "the more clues you need, the less points you get" quiz round. This sums up the show quite well I think - you've seen it all before but it's done in such a way so that it feels quite fresh and, if not exciting, engaging at least. Or perhaps we think this because it's been ages since we last had a decent new quiz.

The big final now awaits our plucky winning team. They have 90 seconds to answer questions asked by eight quizmasters from various shows. Irritatingly, rather than have the players start with £125 and double up to £32,000 with each correct answer, instead each host has a bounty on their head ranging from £500 (for the easiest and most quickfire questions) to £12,000 (for Jeremy Paxman asking a question from University Challenge or Magnus Magnusson asking a question from Mastermind). The contestants have to face them in order of cash value and they can stop at any time after they've got a question correct and go for the all important exciting Accumulator Question. If they run out of time because they keep getting questions wrong then they leave with nothing.

The Accumulator Question is a question from one of three categories which the contestants get to pick. They get to hear the question and they have any remaining time to give their one all-important answer. If they're right, they win the cash they accumulated and if they're wrong then, well, they go home with nothing. Even on a Brucie show.

The All or Nothing factor doesn't really bother me - it's a rather obvious tactic employed to heighten the tension and in shows that use it well it's great and in other shows it makes me go "pfff". This show is kind of inbetween. I don't think it needs to be there but it's 2004 so it was probably always going to be there anyway sort-of-thing. I shrug my shoulders and leave it at that.

A bit more annoying is that yes, whilst the end game is fairly good it's not necessarily goodly fair (thanks). When time's ticking, you clearly want questions that are of the quickfire variety so you can get through them a lot quicker if you go wrong. On occasion, they throw in questions from shows with high tension bits where the quizmaster draws it out to build up tension (like when questions from Dog Eat Dog get used). This is assuredly a quite clever producer tactic to eat up the clock but one that leaves a slightly bitter taste in my mouth. Still, the background beat is nicely kicking so, you know.

In summary then: a half-decent quiz in a half-rubbish half-hour time slot (against the mighty Emmerdale).