#148 - Golden Balls
ITV1 (June 2007 - December 2009)
Because of all the success of Deal or No Deal, a lot of imitators have started to come up. I don't mean direct imitators, like how in the US with Millionaire and it's mega-success at the start led NBC, CBS and FOX to make either copycat shows or import other big hits with NBC reviving Twenty-One by using the Millionaire format of Multiple choice and lifeline, CBS importing Winning Lines and FOX being the biggest rip-off artists with Greed and the direct clone of Millionaire with It's Your Chance of a Lifetime. In the UK, Deal or No Deal's success on Channel 4 meant copycat shows were bound to show up. Oddly enough, one of the Deal or No Deal clones managed to not only clone Deal or No Deal in it's brainlessness, but also ripped off two other shows from the heyday of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? Yet, out of all the clones, this was the longest running for 6 series and nearly 300 episodes. It's time for some Golden Balls.
Jasper Carrot would helm the show, and to his credit, he does his job as host/interrogator/crap stirrer damned well. He doesn't come off as a fraud like a Robert Kilroy Silk on Shafted or as monotonous and robotic and unneeded as Andrew Castle was on Divided. He has a firm handle on the format and knows when to step in and make some drama out of nothing. For a show like this, it's really needed.
The gameplay though, is where the crap really hits the fan. The main quirk of the show are the golden balls. 200 of them are put into a big hopper with values ranging from 10 pounds to 75,000. 12 of them are pulled from the hopper and mixed up along with four Killer balls. Their importance is in the final round where they can alter the jackpot drastically. It then all becomes a game of chance now with which four balls you get and how they are placed. This is where the game falls apart if you're really unlucky. Depending on your ball placement and your luck in the size of your balls (wait. That didn't sound right. Oh well). If you are unlucky to have two killers and they both come up on front, that means you have a slim chance to advance in the game, even if you do have big money balls in the back. Same can be said if you have very little money up front. On the flip side if you have a huge money ball and a killer, you'll go one because the reward is amazing for the risk of bringing one killer ball into the next round. Once the front two spheres have been revealed, then the players peek at their back two.
And here's where we rip off Dirty Rotten Cheater...Or since it's UK Month, The Enemy Within. (Seriously, if you ever want to know how awesome that dynamic can get, find an episode of The Enemy Within. A vastly underrated series and was one of my favorites to watch when it was on BBC America, well the deception aspect and not the gameplay mechanic) The contestants can either tell the truth about their amounts, or if they had a killer in the back, or lie about their wares in order to sweet talk into the next round. Where some of the contestants lies are good and convincing, some will go insane and say they have the big amounts of either 50,000 or 75,000. Usually when they do that, it's either a bold face lie or they didn't do that well with the front two, so they have to lie in order to get through. They also use the elimination form of Dirty Rotten Cheater and The Weakest Link to get rid of the person who is either the worst liar or has the most killers, depending on your point of view. I have also seen people get eliminated for being a certain profession or from out of the country. It's this dynamic I truly hate because sometimes like I just stated, they'll be voted off for non-game reasons. I mean, play the game the way it's supposed to be played, not because you hate Tax Collectors.
And to continue the rip-off, they lift the "Walk of Shame" from The Weakest Link for an eliminated contestant. Instead, it's a camera trick where they turn into light and disappear, probably to get sucked into the 700 or so lightbulbs the set is comprised of. The set and Jasper Carrot are the two bright spots in this dim bulb of a show. The second part of the show basically copies the first part, just with three players, two more cash balls added and another killer being added to the mix, making the maximum of five. After some more drawn out reveals and lying and pointless voting, another contestant does the "Walk" and we get to the final round of Golden Balls....
A Deal or No Deal style game of "Bin and Win". The remaining 10 balls are placed randomly on a table, plus one more killer ball. The first ball one contestant picks is thrown out, hoping it's one of the remaining killer balls. I should note the maximum amount of Killers that can be on the table is six, so if all 5 in the game are brought over, they have to pick those out, otherwise no matter what, all monies will be slashed by 10. The second ball is what will be added to the bank. If it's the first draw and it's a killer, then it's just taking space and no money is lost. So, the first three picks for the game are basically used to get rid of any killers out there. As a part of an end game, it's miles better than the front game. The luck only part of it is nulled by that you make the choice and it's not what is randomly dealt out. You know what's in the balls and how many killers are out there, just don't step on any landmines. And of course we get to part two and what immediately puts this show on the site......
....The goddamned Prisoner's Dilemma style endgame. We watch game shows to see winners, but when we see this end game, more often than not, somebody's getting screwed out of something. Personally, I view game shows as an escape. When I see this end game, I immediately go into angry viewer mode at the fact that something bad is going to go down. Not only that, this mechanic is just too damned lazy and overplayed. Especially when it comes to the UK, when screwing either the contestants or having the contestants screw each other out of money was the big thing, especially in the 2000s with shows such as Divided and Shafted showed how low the conciousness of the Brits could go when big money is at stake. I absolutely hate the mechanic and it just killed a decent first half of an end game. A better end game would be like the one used in Take It Or Leave It from Challenge, except slightly modified, where there were 6 balls and the two contestants picked one. Either it would be the Golden Ball i.e. the entire jackpot built from part 1, a percentage of such, (75%, 50%, 25% or 10%) and a Killer ball where they end up with nothing. That would have been a much better ending and would have kept up the luck aspect of the show, while hollow, rather than the darker aspect of screwing someone out of money.
In the end and what I've learned of myself, I don't
like outright nasty and I don't like having 57 minutes of my time wasted
because two greedy bastards decided to Steal and both of them leaving
with nothing and the only thing we see that won is Jasper Carrot getting
a tan from all those lightbulbs reflecting off of his bald head ala
Clive Anderson. Jasper deserves to host another show, since he
alone made this show somewhat watchable, maybe hosting the 485th revival
of The Generation Game or something like that.