Thursday, July 15, 2010

World's Wackiest Game Shows: Alas, ISIHAC Isn't One Of Them

Here is my recap of the ISIHAC episode broadcast July 12:

Opening: “We present I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, the antidote to panel games. At the piano is Colin Sell, and your chairman is Jack Dee.”

Recorded at: Sands Center, Carlisle

Panelists: On Jack’s left, Barry Cryer and Graeme Garden. On Jack’s right, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Sandi Toksvig.

Scorer: “And always ready for a quick score, please welcome the delightful Samantha.”

Game One: Uxbridge English Dictionary
We get the classic lengthy explanation.

Game Two: Pick Up Song
Jack: “You should sing along teams, and continue when Samantha turns the volume down. If, when the music returns, you’re within a midge’s minim of the original, I’ll be awarding points, and points mean what they drink in Somerset. What do points mean?”
Audience: “PRIZES!”

Game Three: One pair of panelists has cooked an elaborate multi-course meal at their house, and the other pair must criticize it as much as possible. That’s what Jack explains, anyway – it quickly turns into all four panelists trying to create the worst dinner party possible. Jack claims the whole thing is a tribute to a TV cooking competition. The round ends with a gong.

Game Four: Jack gives lyrics from love songs for the panelists to “complete”.

Game Five: Swanee Kazoo
Jack: “Listeners will be fascinated to hear that Colin has been in the studio dubbing Elton John. Obviously he had to practice on an old leather football first.”

Game Six: Farmer’s Film Club
Including, of course, Bring Me The Herd Of Alfredo Garcia.

Closing: “Barry Cryer, Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Sandi Toksvig were being given silly things to do by Jack Dee, with Colin Sell setting some of them to music. The program consultant was Iain Pattinson, and the producer was Jon Naismith.”

Now, moving from ISIHAC to another type of incomprehensible game show, World's Wackiest Game Shows premiered Tuesday...and what had apparently been conceived of as a show where Todd Newton would appear as a contestant on a game show in a different country in each episode somehow ended up being reduced to Todd standing in front of a superimposed background, showing clips of weird game shows from around the world. I had only heard of a few of them, but still, I got the idea pretty quickly - lots of bizarre stunt shows.

It was actually a lot better than that makes it sound. Todd's commentary was well put together and funny (at many points he was saying exactly what I was thinking), many of the clips were subtitled in English (an absolutely simple yet brilliant move), and yes, there were a few shows mixed in that didn't consist of contestants eating ants. The one that jumps out at me: a Brazilian game show in which ten models bang their fists on a table, and a contestant must figure out which of the twenty hands is holding a coin. That's it. This is apparently an internationally exported format - and Todd was as bewildered as I was.

In all honesty, the only real complaint I have is that the show is just that - a bunch of clips of unusual game shows. I think there should be some other element added here. Even if we ignore the aforementioned original concept, I know how to use Final Cut Pro - if you had given me all those clips and enough time, I could have put together more or less the same show. Still, Todd could host just about anything, it's clear that the producers genuinely like game shows, and the show was funny, which is more than I can say about something like Late Night Liars.

For the record, I seriously doubt that most foreign television is actually like this. In fact, I distinctly remember being in Japan and seeing something like "World's Weirdest Television" in the English-language TV listings, being broadcast that night on a station in Tokyo. That's right - the Japanese think our television is weird.

Speaking of Todd Newton: it was recently announced that he will be hosting Family Game Night on The Hub. That still sounds like a bad idea for a game show to me, but like I said, Todd can host just about anything.


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