Back to the Bar


"My wife's gone to see a stand up comedian."
"Jimmy Carr?"
"No, she went on her own accord."

An old joke bought bang up to date there which, rather excellently, serves as a neat allegory of the life of Distraction. Distraction began life being piloted by the BBC. Originally going to be a family orientated show hosted by Patrick Kielty, it was eventually deemed too boring to be worth bothering with. But then Channel 4 come along and decide that if they bring the idea bang up to date, it's the ideal show to broadcast to people who have just come home from the pub (early, given that it starts at 10:30, but anyway).

I've always quite liked the idea of a show that challenged people to do two things at once. To answer questions and solve puzzles whilst performing a physical or skill based task, with one directly affecting the other.

What we have here, however, isn't quite that. It's people answering questions whilst being electrocuted. It's people answering questions whilst leapfrogging nude old people. It's people answering questions whilst being crapped on by pigeons. It's people buzzing in to answer questions by urinating.

The game follows an elimination format, beginning with four people and losing a player each round until we're down to one winner. In each round very simple questions are asked - the catch being that whilst they're being asked the contestants have to suffer some mild discomfort, whether that be having the buzzer give an electric shock when you buzz in, having the buzzer being the first person to smash a sugar-glass bottle over someone's head, answering questions whilst being thrown about by professional wrestlers - that sort of thing. The person who answers the least questions right at the end o each round is eliminated.

For the final, the last player standing wins either a brand new car or £5,000. The catch is that they have five more multiple choice questions to answer, and for each one they get wrong they've got to burn a wad of cash or some oiks destroy a bit of a car. This bit's a little bit like the end bit of Mike Smith's and Julian Clary show Trick or Treat really.

Whilst having contestants endure mild physical or mental discomfort had been a legitimate game hook for a while on the continent (and rather more famously, in Japan), the UK's first real taste of it was on Challenge TV's Endurance UK. Hosted by Paul Ross (and his "Japanese" chums Hoki and Koki, which we largely suspect aren't their real names. And we know they're not really Japanese, but still) people would be put through their paces to see who had the greatest willpower and who had the most iron stomach. The tasks were nasty (although hardly brutal) and the jokes were incredibly laddish and childish but through it all, there seemed to be quite an exciting innocence about it. Everybody seemed to have a good time (many of the contestants came back for a second go in the next series) and the winner could claim to be a fairly hard bloke. At heart it was actually quite a positive show in the style of a negative one.

Distraction, on the other hand, comes across as rather more calculated (to be "cool" and "hip") and people-hating. The game is entirely negative and the emphasis is firmly taken away from the contestants.

This would be a valid, however, and the show would be saved IF, and only if it turns out to be funny. It isn't really. And Jimmy Carr's annoying.

In summary then: bleugh.