Thursday, January 5, 2012

Counting Down To A Countdown Special

"On January 2, 2012, Channel 4 will air a crossover special between Countdown and their comedy panel game show 8 Out Of 10 Cats. 8 Out Of 10 Cats host Jimmy Carr will host a game of Countdown between 8 Out Of 10 Cats team captains Sean Lock and Jon Richardson." - From my post on December 8, 2011.

I got more than I bargained for - the special turned out to be part of a much larger event called The Channel 4 Mashup, featuring crossovers between various Channel 4 shows. As I didn't know where in the Mashup the Countdown special would be, I went ahead and watched the whole thing.

The Channel 4 Mashup was hosted by Derren Brown and Mary Portas, who introduced "episodes" of five Channel 4 shows. I put episodes in quotes because several of them were split into multiple parts and spread throughout the event (which ran a total of three and a half hours). Two of these shows were not game shows of any kind, but I sat through them, so here we go in the order each show started:
  • The Million Pound Drop: Yeah, that's right - it's the British version of Million Dollar Money Drop. For the Mashup episode, normal host Davina McCall played the game alongside her father, while Phil Spencer guest hosted. This is probably not the best episode to judge the show by, but from what I could tell, The Million Pound Drop is ten times better than Million Dollar Money Drop despite having almost identical gameplay. It's still generic, but it's worth a look.
  • Come Dine With Me: A cooking competition show that I had vaguely heard of but never seen; the Mashup episode was a crossover with Made In Chelsea (a reality show). The premise: four contestants (in this case, four cast members from Made In Chelsea) each have a dinner party, with the other three attending. After each party, the three "guests" rate the "host" on a scale of one to ten, making the maximum possible score thirty points. After all four parties, the contestant with the most points wins 1,000 pounds. Narrator Dave Lamb provides a snarky voiceover throughout (it frankly gets pretty annoying by the end). Again, an episode featuring reality show cast members is probably not the best one to judge the show by (they all seem pretty obnoxious), but from what I could tell, this is pretty good if you like that sort of thing. Really, though, what's to stop contestants from giving each other low numbers just so they have a better chance of winning themselves?
  • Location Location Location: A show in which hosts Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Spencer help buyers find the perfect house. As Phil Spencer was hosting The Million Pound Drop, Channel 4 talk show host Alan Carr substituted for the Mashup. It all bored me pretty heavily, but I'm the wrong person to ask.
  • River Cottage: A reality show about a farm - only for the Mashup, the Channel 4 news anchors are stopping by! Yay! Yeah, it was as dumb as it sounds.
  • Countdown: At last, the part I had come for (well over two hours into the event). Jimmy Carr hosted Sean Lock and Jon Richardson playing Countdown. They only played seven rounds (Letters, Letters, Numbers, Letters, Letters, Numbers, Conundrum), but that's just as well given all the comedy they fit in. Suffice to say this was the filthiest episode of Countdown I've ever seen, and while I wouldn't want Jimmy as the regular host of Countdown, as a one-off event it was great. I should also note that the studio audience appeared to be double the size of the audience for any other episode of Countdown I've seen.
There you go - my review of three and a half hours of The Channel 4 Mashup. This whole thing is supposedly taking place as the start of Channel 4's thirtieth anniversary celebration (the channel began in 1982), and I certainly hope it's not the end. I know exactly what I want to see (aside from the obvious Countdown specials) - two of Channel 4's early hits are almost universally considered two of the best British game shows ever made. This really should come as no surprise if you know your British game shows:
  • Treasure Hunt - Ran from 1982 - 1989. An incredibly entertaining helicopter scavenger hunt show. For the record, it has nothing to do with the American game show of the same name.
  • The Crystal Maze - Stunt show that ran from 1990 - 1995. Officially a British version of Fort Boyard, it was conceived of because the Fort was booked up when Channel 4 was ready to film there. The resulting show puts every version of Fort Boyard I've seen to shame.
Wouldn't it be awesome if they brought these two shows back for one night? Wouldn't it? Yes, I know it's not going to happen.

I'll have more from Channel 4 next week - specifically, Countdown with new host Nick Hewer!


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