At the start of this new quiz show that aired last Monday night on ITV1 at 9pm, host Giles Coren stated how the contestants had “no help, no hints, nowhere to hide”. This was an obvious dig at Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and an immediate attempt to tell us all how this following show was going to be different from it.
The problem with this statement though is that 500 Questions was like a million other quiz shows that we have already seen on the television before, including Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. It was like a poor man’s version of The Chase combined with poor man’s Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. It was not a disaster of a show but it needed to be more original in terms of it’s format, set design and music for it to be given a prime time slot in the schedules like it has. As the ending credits rolled I wrote one word down that best summed up how I felt about this show and that word was……”DULL”!
The format of this show was based around one golden rule, “do get get three questions wrong in a row”. Just in case we might forget this fact Giles Coren kept reminding the contestants this, again and again and AGAIN! If the contestants got three questions wrong in a row then they were then eliminated from the game and ‘the challenger’ took their place. The aim of the game was to be the person there in control of the game once all fifty questions had been asked. This person would be declared the winner and so duly win the cash prize that had been building up throughout the show via correct answers being given.
The questions were blocked into various categories and each had five questions to them, e.g Kings and Queens, Winter Sports, Poetry. The supposed drama in the format was meant to come from the so-called “traps”. These consisted of Battle Rounds, Lightning Rounds and Triple Threat Rounds. I guess they did help to break up the monotony of Coren asking the standard regular questions. My only issue was that it took me three quarters of the show before I fully understood what all these traps meant.
Talking of these traps I need to highlight at this point an absolutely ridiculous piece of dialogue that Coren said to contestant Mickie, an elderly woman who was in her seventies. Coren said to her, “step into BATTLE….be on your metal”. You would have thought with such words that he was preparing Mickie for a fight against Mike Tyson rather than her merely answering a few general knowledge questions. I realise the main purpose of such dramatic language was to try and ramp up the tension as much a possible but for me it over-the-top and corny!
With regards to the host Giles Coren, I am still puzzled as to why a reasonably famous restaurant critic such as him got given the gig of hosting this general knowledge quiz show on prime time telly? He was not terrible but he wasn’t that great either. In the first half he started to irritate me when he slightly mocked the contestants for saying silly things. I’m thinking here of when he pulled up Nu for mistakenly saying “Cutty SHARK” rather than Cutty Sark. It was harmless fun for Coren but it still grated on me nevertheless.
On the other hand and to be fair to Coren, he did say the odd witty remark and was very supportive towards Mickie at the end. I just think somebody who was more familiar at doing humour and who was also less posh would have been a better fit as host. Sounding as posh as Giles does, for me it made him come across a bit condescending at times as well as a bit like a school prefect. He is obviously a very clever bloke but he was about as dull as the overall show was!
The set and lighting were straight out of the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and The Chase manual, e.g screens everywhere as well as darkness contrasted with bright, light colourful lighting in order to try and make the show look as dramatic as possible. Both of these aspects were way over-the-top though. I can remember thinking whilst I watched, crikey there are more lights and colours on show here than you get on a trip to Blackpool Illuminations. It was all just a big too much, especially if you were watching this with a bad head.
Talking of the set and this is also a negative about the format too, I found it utterly bizarre how the contestants were introduced to us. As Coren introduced them three supposedly SPELLBINDING and IMPRESSIVE facts about them were flashed up on a screen(that was high up in the air). The problem with this though was that some of the facts about the contestants were not that impressive. Some of the things these people had done such as be a children’s author and win a positive role model award are very admirable so don’t misunderstand me here. However, how is saying somebody was born in Hong Kong or another having one A-level supposed to bowl me over in amazement??? Again, I just found this aspect of the show a bit silly.
Another moan about the format is that I did not understand why challenger Liam could not come back on the next episode to have his eventual go at trying to win the money(the new cash prize). At the end of this first show elderly lady Mickie won the money at the end and so was told by Coren how she would be returning the day after to continue playing the game. I got that but did not get why the challenger had to be changed, i.e seemed harsh on young Liam.
My final issue with this first episode of 500 Questions was that in light of the big sums of money that we have seen people win on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, twelve thousand pounds to the winner Mickie therefore did not seem enough. It did seem enough for me as a viewer after sticking with this show for an hour. It is good money but it’s not a life changing amount. It would have been a far more pulsating dramatic watch if the contestants had stood the chance to have won say at least fifty thousand pounds by the end.
Amidst all my moaning about this show I did find myself enjoying it somewhat towards the end. I found myself rooting for Mickie(who seemed a lovely sweet old lady) and wanted her to walk away with the cash prize. Her Lightening Round near the end was quite tension filled because she got so close to being eliminated from the game after appearing so close to winning it. When she was declared the winner of the game(with tears in her eyes) I sat there watching it smiling like a Cheshire cat. Therefore, this quiz show had finally drawn me in but it’s just a shame that it took so long to do this.
I did not dislike this show enough to hate it but at the same time I did not rate very highly either. It would have been far better being shown at 5pm rather than having a prime slot. You put a quiz show on a 9pm during the week and it has to be brilliant, which this British version of 500 Questions simply was not. It needed more tension, more originality and more intrigue…..rather than just it being RATHER BORING! 2/5.