Thursday, November 29, 2012

No News Review!

As there's absolutely no news, I thought I'd take a look at a random show that jumped out at me. It's a 1990s kids game show from Australia, and let me tell you, it's Amazing.

No seriously, that's the name of the show. 

I quote TV Tropes: "Amazing was easily the most popular Australian children's show of the 1990s, and holds a similar cultural significance in that country as Legends Of The Hidden Temple and Nickelodeon GUTS do in America." 

First reaction: This might the the only time anyone will ever describe Legends Of The Hidden Temple or GUTS as having any kind of "cultural significance." Second reaction: Amazing doesn't quite live up to that.

The format: it's a five-day-a-week show, and two Australian schools compete against each other for the whole week, with two new kids representing their school in each half-hour episode. The first two rounds are played in two parts. In the first part of the round, host James Sherry gives each team in turn the number of letters in the answer to a person, place, or thing they will have to identify in ninety seconds (think "It's a place, six letters..."). The clock starts, and James begins reading out clues. Once the team has gotten the answer right, they run over to a giant floor-sized keyboard (which appears to just barely work) and stomp on the letters that spell said answer. Once the correct answer has been typed, the team scores a point for every second left on the clock. The second part of the round then features one member of each team, who is given the time leftover from the first part of the round to run through this giant, obstacle-filled maze and grab plastic letters. After time runs out, each letter grabbed that was in the answer the team spelled out is worth ten points. The second round is the same, only the other member of each team runs the maze. 

The third round is the Computer Challenge, in which one member of each team plays a Super Nintendo game against each other; the team that collects the most bananas in Donkey Kong or wins the Mario Kart race or whatever scores fifty points, and the losing team scores twenty-five points. The team with the most points is then given another two minutes (one minute for each player) in the maze grabbing keys; each key is worth one hundred points, and one key is the Bonus Key which, if found, wins each team member a Game Boy. At the end of the week, the school that scored the most points over the five shows wins some computers and educational software.

If ever there was a show that could not exist outside the 90s, this is it. That's not knocking the 90s - I was a kid in the 90s, and would have adored this at the time. Watching it now, well, let's start with the good:

  • The maze itself. It's cool to the point that, like the Fun House or the house from Finders Keepers, I'm twenty-three years old, I didn't watch the show as a kid, and I so want to run through the damn thing. 
  • The rest of the set, which is quite large and impressive. 
  • James Sherry. Granted, he's not spectacular, but he manages for the most part to avoid the kids game show host stereotype. Going back to kids game shows I did grow up watching, he's far from Marc Summers or Mike O'Malley, but he certainly beats Kirk Fogg or Phil Moore. 
Now the bad:
  • The Computer Challenge. All of it. It has nothing to do with the rest of the show, it's always Nintendo and never any other system, its scoring is lopsided (why not just award twenty-five points to the winning team?)...
  • The music, in which the word "AMAZING!" is repeated a lot. 
  • The prize setup. Despite what a lot of kids shows seem to think, a computer is not a good grand prize - certainly not a computer for your school.
All in all, I like it. It doesn't live up to its title, but it's a lot of fun and I would have adored it as a kid. As I say every time I review a kids game show, I frequently have to remind myself that that's who kids TV is meant for.

I really hope there's some news next week.


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