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The Big Call

Right, let's get this out of the way now, The Big Call is actually an OK format that's been rather let down by its own hype machine.

That exciting Pressure Point in full.The Big Call, apparently two years in development (although if anyone else can spot the subtleties and intricacies that two years work might suggest, please let us know), is a foray into the exciting world of big money celebrity quizzes. Once upon a time, having the word "celebrity" associated with a show could boost your audience by about 50%. These days it might just halve it. Nonetheless, apparently we love celebrities (i.e. Ant and Dec are quite good on I'm a Celebrity) so they're here and sitting on contestants row. There are six celebs featured in each episode, five on contestants row and a sixth mystery one.

Atop a giant inverted pyramid are six civilian contestants. They will each pair up with a celebrity to attempt to descend the pyramid (although it seems to flatten out quite early, perhaps they ran out of money or something) and get onto the pressure point, which we know is important because it flashes red and gets a 360 degree camera rotation. It is standing on that pressure point the winning contestant must make a decision: take the reasonable guaranteed cash sum, or take the rather larger amount of lottery tickets in the hope that one of them might make you a millionaire. If you forget those prizes, don't worry! They'll be pointlessly shoved down your throat at any given opportunity throughout the show. As will the premium rate competition telephone number because in a neat twist, the prize that the studio contestant doesn't pick is offered live to a caller at home.

To begin we must pick teams. Doctor "Doctor" Neil Fox (not a real fox) reveals a few facts about the line up, some useful (such as "one of our celebrities has interviewed Margret Thatcher" or "one of our celebrities has a first class degree") and some not so useful facts ("one of our celebrities has a cycling proficiency certificate"). A giveaway clue to the identity of the mystery celeb is also given. Questions are asked on the buzzer to the civilians. If they get it right, they get to choose a celebrity to pair up with, if they're wrong they're wallied and can't answer the next question.

That pyramid in full. The lights on the front of the desks keep score and act as buzzers.When everyone has paired up it's time for the first round proper. Here we see if our contestants have made a good decision regarding their choice of celeb, as it's up to them to get their contestant through to the next round. It's a general knowledge buzzer quiz, pure and simple. Two correct answers get your team through to the next round and descend to the next level of the pyramid, the team that doesn't make it are eliminated and have to walk off behind the pyramid. In round two, our civvies are back on the buzzers. Again, two correct answers to take a place on the next level, the least deserving gets turfed out. In round three it's our celebs back on the buzzers and this time they need three correct answers to progress. In round four, the three remaining civvies have to answer four questions correct, although for one reason or another these are no longer general knowledge and are loosely based on the six celebrities in the studio. Two teams to go through.

So far it's very uninterestingly straight as a format, but to its credit it does work reasonably well. We find it very difficult to believe anyone would get excited about the prospect of it though. The two final teams battle it out in - of course! - a best over five question penalty shoot out. For the first time, the teammates can confer before ofering an answer. This is drawn out and lasts far longer than ideally it should do. But again, there's nothing inherently wrong with it as a mechanic.

The biggest studio ever.The winning civilian then gets to stand on the pressure point (which flashes red, let's not forget) where they must make the big call. Normally, the choice is between a guaranteed £20,000 or 100,000 lottery tickets. This would give you a 1 in 140 chance of winning the jackpot, however you're also going to make plenty of smaller prizes. To help, Professor Geoffrey Grimmett, the Cambridge maths professor who chooses the numbers for the tickets, tells the contestant how the numbers were picked, be it low risk (wide spread of numbers, likely to average about £20,000 in prizes if none of the big prizes are hit), medium risk or high risk (where every combination of 23 numbers is used and a couple of random tickets thrown in for good measure. If over half the numbers drawn fall within those 23, you stand to win very big. But if not, you could win nothing). To help make the decision, the contestant is given ten seconds to think about it whereby they are made to look like a complete goon whilst a camera slowly zooms in on them.

Once they've made the decision, it's time to talk to the people at home to see if they'll win the other prize. A caller is picked at random. They get to pick a celebrity to help answer a question. If they're correct they win, if not then £5,000 is added to the guaranteed prize for next week and 20,000 lottery tickets. We have it on reasonable authority that they do actually go out and buy the tickets on a special purchase from Camelot.

The grand finale of the show is the cash in, where we see if our contestant made the right call. The computer tells us if any tickets have matched three balls and then how many, then four, five, five plus bonus and finally the big one - have any tickets hit the jackpot? Invariably not, but we are treated to the grand total of winning tickets so we can see how it compares to the grand prize.

The Big Call is unadventurous and a bit stodgy. It just about works as a programme (we can sit through it and be pleasantly entertained), but is let down by a distinct lack of inherent soul. Nice try, can't see it lasting.