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House of Games

Although if you called it "It's a Mop-out" you'd know where this is coming from straight away and I wouldn't have to spend forty-five minutes writing about what it's about for you: the reader.

Tum-te-tum tum.

Alright then. At the time of writing, the Athen's Olympic Games begins at the weekend and so Challenge TV have their own twist on the proceedings - sporting events based around things around the house. Don't go! It's actually rather better than it sounds. The show was originally titled Household Olympics.

The production company have mocked up a fairly spacious house and garden in a TV studio (a bit like Back to Reality but on a smaller scale). Two families of four (usually some sort of lighthearted axe to grind against each other) compete over four events with whoever doing the best having the advantage in the 'Rolling Pin Relay'. Winning an event earns three points for a family whilst one event, usually a race, has a second prize of one point (which could go to the same family if there are two from each team competing). What of the events? Well they are things like...

  • Dinnertable marathon - run around a standard sized dinner table 26 times whilst strategically taking breaks to drink the mandatory three bottles of water .
  • Curling with half full mop buckets, aiming to have the bucket which finishes closest to the plastic egg yolk . The kids in each team wipe the floor in front of the moving buckets using mops, obviously.
  • Four people trying to complete an eight lap backstroke race in a four by three metre swimming pool.
  • Vaccum fencing - using vaccum cleaners, try to hoover up the eight socks attached to your opponent's body.
  • Dressing Gown Judo - It's judo in a dressing gown.
  • Weightlifting with the weight being provided by putting saucers in buckets.

There are actually some rather clever ideas in there, the funniest being the most proposterous and anarchic (which usually involves many people racing in that tiny swimming pool). These are refereed by people who look as though they'd actually much rather be something a bit more hip, which is a shame, but fabulously commentary is provided by legendary Geordie darts commentator Sid Waddell who doesn't tone down his broad accent at all. We particularly like it when he puts shouting emphasis in the wrong places only to calm down the syllable after. Marvellous. And we like the fact he commentates from the shed. The show is hosted by Mike McClean, and whilst generally we find him a bit annoying he's amiable enough here and takes the mickey out of the contestants just enough.

For each point a team is in front they get a half a second headstart in the Rolling Pin Relay. One of the kids starts at the top of the stairs. They run down, through the front door and down the garden path, back in through the other front door to pass the rolling pin baton over to one of the parents. The parents have their feet in mop buckets and mops to use as ski-poles. They have to propel themselves through the sitting room avoiding the table, go once around the settee and then pass the baton to the other parent through the front window. That parent has to cycle three times round the velodrome (i.e.some pots laid out in an oval in the front garden), get off their bikes, strip down to the bare essentials and swim two laps of the pool. They can then pass the baton to the other child who runs twice around the velodrome and then through the front door and up the stairs (which is the finish line). The winner's total time goes on the leaderboard, the losers leave by the backdoor to a slight ripple of applause. The winners get to stand on podiums and recieve gold medals whilst some washing on a washing line is hoisted aloft. The two families with the fastest relay times get to come back for the grand final to play for a trip to Florida.

We think there is quite a lot to like about House of Games, and at the very least it's fun to watch. But for all their wacky ideas, there's no real meat to most of the events so the show ends up slightly on the wrong side of simple and lightweight. Happily, it's pitched as a half hour daily tea time show which lends itself better to this sort of thing and there's never a dull moment. We have to say that it's just about another emminently likable in-house winner for Challenge TV, and good on them.