“ Genre: Game Show / Broadcaster: Channel 4 „
There are two types of TV game shows. One where the contestants need hard cash to pay off the mortgage or credit cards and the other where the contestants just want to get on telly, many of the people from the later group getting on multiple quiz shows through joining talent agencies who feed these shows raw meat. You either really want to be on quiz shows or you don't. I don't.
The unrivalled 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire', of which the Chanel Four show is trying to compete with, was different from the rest because it made no excuses that the people on the show were very normal, you and me, democratically picked and there just for the cash, often desperate to pay down that debt and maybe keep their marriages together because of, high tension stuff, its appeal. The shows producers operated a phone application system where the only way to filter out the ogres and idiots that make bad telly was by voice tone and articulation and so it had to be about the drama and not the aesthetic, as many of these quiz shows tend to be. The Million Pound Drop falls firmly in the later category, the contestants very much the young, stupid and attractive variety but the twist being the show goes out live to magnify that fact. The first series was like watching the audition for Big Brother. In fact there were rumours the inaugural show was a publicity stunt for BB and the contestants would be in the house, which proved to be nonsense although at the time it was hard to disagree, looking at the line up.
Davina McCall hosts, of course. Now that Channel Four have fly-tipped BB onto Channel 5 she needs to work and is perfectly fine in the role, easy money and the ideal 'youth' presenter for the show. As I said the contestants are nearly always young, attractive, vivacious and thin and as bright and academic as a January evening in Glasgow. It's normally couples or brother and sister to create more drama up there as the female teds to dump all the responsibility on the male of the pair to get the question right. Like on Millionaire, the producers can always drop a tough question into the mix if they want dump dull or irritating contestants.
The game itself is simple but fun and the size of the cash on offer makes it a worthwhile watch and produces solid tension. The contestant (s) starts with one million pounds in £50 pound note cash bundles of 25 grand (presumably its Dragons Den fake stuff for the actual recording) on the desk in front of them as they have to negotiate their way through eight questions asked by Davina, getting to keep whatever money they have left, if they survive all those questions. They have one minute to spread the money over the trap doors that offer four different answers to each question, but they must always leave one door free of cash. The idea is that if you are really sure of the answer you put most, if not all of your money, on that trap door as the other doors will open and the money will be gone if you don't. If your not sure but have an inkling you spread your money more over the three boxes and hedge your bets that way. As long as you have at least one bundle left you go on to the next question. After question three the player (s) see the boxes reduced to three and you must again keep one box lid empty, making it harder or easier, which ever way you look at it.
So far the highest win has been by Jack and Michael Whitehill in series five who won a cool £300,000 and the average payout has jumped around each series but getting higher as they chase viewers and so advertising as we hit series six. Three idiots have lost the full one million on one drop and one couple on the first drop question. Most money taken to the final round was £525,000.
There was controversy when the shows producers gave the wrong answer to a question and so opened the door and the couple lost all of their money from the split. It would have gone unnoticed but for the fact it was a Dr Who question, the 'Whovians' emailing in droves to point out the err, the contestants allowed back on to continue where they left off before the question with the same money as a compromise.
The show has held up with around two million viewers most nights on C4 and regularly in their top ten shows of the week and now being syndicated around the world, Albania offering 10,000,000 Lek! It's fair to say it's a decent hit, avoiding the obvious headlines of 'The Million Pound Flop'. In fact it won the BAFTA for best interactive show last year although going up against that ridiculous Ant & Dec show. With various celebrity editions going out for charity it's clear C4 are confident in it, going up against Channel Five's disastrous Big Brother numbers, somewhat ironic.
For a Christmas treat Davina and her dad Henry had a crack this week on Channel Fours mash up night where C4 presenters swapped roles, the bald chap from the property show doing Davina's quizmaster duties this time. They didn't win a great deal as the questions seemed to be aimed at Davina in the fear that clever dad would trouser the full million and she seemed to fall for it but it was sweet how close they seemed.