Divide the joy you'd have watching The Chase by 10,000 and you'll get the enjoyment factor of this show.
ITV: (May 2009 - May 2010)
If there's one thing that I absolutely despise in game shows is that a show makes contestants unleash their most despicable sides and turn them into greedy monsters that would make Gollum look like a patron saint of charity. Shows like Golden Balls and Take It All have used this way of thinking to come up with formats to diminishing returns and just made viewers cringe, especially when their end game turns good-hearted people into examples of the worst forms of humanity. What also hurts is that producers use this as a crutch to make a game longer and to draw out drama at the end as to who ends up with what. The worst example out of all of this is shown in ITV's Divided. Personally, if I did the show one year earlier in 2008, this would have been my personal choice as the runaway winner of the Patrick Wayne Award. Let's see how bad this show is then.
We start off with our host in Andrew Castle. He is better known as the former British #1 in the late 80s before turning commentator and host of Perseverance. While he was pretty good on Perseverance, he just felt like a major non-factor on Divided. He was there to stir the pot and prolong the agony of the correct answers being revealed. Unlike other stirrers such as Howie Mandel and Jasper Carrot, he didn't have the comedic timing or charisma to balance it all out. It also felt like he was put in there to read the auto-cue and act as a guide to the inner recesses of the contestants mind when it comes to greed and trying to fight that for the betterment of everyone. Sadly for everyone involved, Andrew couldn't get compassionate about that stigma either.
Why did I call Andrew a major non-factor? Well it's because the bulk of his job was done by an off-screen question reader in Charlotte Hudson in the first season and Rachel Perlman in the second season. They are also made to be very robotic in the terms of presentation and execution. I would rather the job of question reading go to the host in Andrew, but it is yet another example of subtraction by addition. You subtract the effectiveness of the host by adding other people who do what the host is supposed to do. It bugs me to no end when this is implemented.
The gameplay is simple and vicious enough. Three contestants compete in a game of unity in order to win money. In each round, the contestants are shown a question with three choices and must answer the question unanimously in order to lock in an answer to see if a question is right or wrong. The rounds have a set amount of questions worth a set value to them. The first round has 5 questions at 3,000 quid each go. The second round has 4 questions at 7,500 each, third round has 3 questions at 15,000 each, round 4 has 2 questions at 30,000 pounds each and the last round has only one question worth 75,000 pounds. To add to the pressure, the value of the question ticks down by 1% for each second they take to answer. If the clock counts down to zero, then the question is worth nothing and is counted as an incorrect answer. Once the contestants lock in an answer, the reveal happens. If it's a correct answer, then the leftover value of the question is added to the pot. If it's wrong, then the pot is halved and a mistake is earned. Three mistakes means the entire team leaves with nothing.
I'm not kidding, that's what they call it. I guess strikes, lives, or simply calling it an incorrect answer was too antiquated and not hardcore enough for this type of show. My only complaint about this is the use of the word mistake. It doesn't instill fear in a team whatsoever. Strikes do, lives do, mistakes don't.
And to be frank, this is actually a good idea for a quiz. I like the idea of three strangers working together for a common cause for big money. Friend or Foe did the same thing, but I like this take on it better. The unanimous aspect of everything does help the mantra that Andrew auto-cue reads that the best way to win is "to be a team united and not divided".
After each round, the team must decide if they want to stop or play on. So, they get 15 seconds to make that decision and lock it in. If they don't make a decision, they automatically move on to the next round. This is an interesting mechanic and I'm ok with it. I can live without a time limit and the length of time to be edited for TV. But so far, the show isn't that bad. So why does it belong in this hallowed hall? Well, I'll give you a minor gripe and then get to my major bone of contention.
The minor gripe of mine is the set and the entire presentation of it all. It is minimalist, which is fine and fits the atmosphere the show wants to convey, but also tries to pull off the same generic background set scheme that we've seen in lots of shows around this time to make it seem high tech, when it doesn't need to be. If you want to go that route, it could just be a black background and the podium that the contestants use to lock in the decision and see the questions. The above-head monitors are fine too.
Now here is the main reason why we have this show featured in this hall. Because all of the good that the quiz part of the show gets thrown out here when we have our favorite end game mechanic: The Prisoner's Dilemma. However here, it is much much worse.
The end game has the pot divided up three ways in differing percentages, with the 3rd one always worth 10%, the second amount being between 20-40% and the big one between 50-70%. Each member of the team has 15 seconds to state their case as to why they should get the amount of money they should get, with the usual argument being they would want the top amount. After each of them state their case, they select which one they want. If they all select a different amount, then the game ends and everyone goes home happy.
But usually, they don't all agree and they all want that ring that is the big share of the money. So, we get what Buzzerblog's Alex Davis called "The Most Uncomfortable 100 Seconds In Game Show History". The clock is set to 100 seconds and the money dwindles down by 1% each second the team doesn't agree on a dividing of the money. On a good amount of occasions, one member of the team would agree to take the lowest amount and after a couple seconds of haggling, the team agrees on a division of the money and goes home with something, and other times they let the money go to zero. Most of the time, those are the moments that do happen.
But then we see the times that bring out the worst in people. Episode 1 of Series 1 showed viewers one of the worst examples of it when the contestants couldn't agree and drove one contestant to tears, even when she would agree to take the lowest share. It showed how big of a jerkass the two other contestants are because one fat broad didn't care about it and the other brodouche hummed the Countdown Clock theme and quipped, "Whoops wrong show". Also, wrong channel too, dumbass.
But the worst moment is from Series 2 when the show unexpectedly got renewed, mainly because ITV needed something to put on when The Chase was on break. The team decided to stop after round 3 with about 33,000 pounds in the team pot. I'll let the video speak for itself.
That made me yearn for a back to back edition of Golden Balls and Take It All. At least we didn't have to hear the two players argue about whether they're going to be dicks and not budge from A and basically tell the teammates that they are wastes of molecular tissue while acting like king or queen of the douchebags. I need to take a shower after watching that.
*takes shower, gets back to the computer*
Ok, I'm back. Now to wrap this up.
What could have been an interesting show gets marred by the ugliness that was permeating the daytime landscape of British game shows and became the worst example of it all. Andrew Castle felt robotic and detached to the show, basically only there because nobody else wanted to do the job. The set was very minimalist and generic for the time, and the ugliest incarnation of the Prisoner's Dilemma mechanic ruined a really good quiz element. I'm just thankful that this is the last time this was used and hopefully will never be used again.
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