Friday, 22 June 2007

The One Where Underdog Gets Away

It's a very human thing to root for the underdog. That's why there are no films about a boxer who is expected to win, triumphing over no adversity, and coming out, as was presupposed, on top. I always wanted the kids on Knightmare to do well. Of course, they never did. They'd always get killed in a corridor of blades, or accidentally issue their interpid duneoneer clear and explicit instructions to walk off a nearby cliff. But the fact that almost nobody ever won that show (eight teams won it altogether) meant that every contestant was an underdog, and since (unlike, say, Fifteen To One, there was no requirement for any of the underdogs to win, it made you want them to do well. It made me want that, anyway. You may have just wanted it to go away. The same is true of the even more unwinnable Takeshi's Castle. You always want someone to win, but they never ever did. (I'm told exactly one person ever won Takeshi's Castle. I think they got a silver-plated chequebook and pen or something.)

So why can't I apply the same logic to The Crystal Maze? The contestants on that didn't win very often either, and there's no requirement there that anyone should, and yet invariably you sit there for an hour just hoping that they'll all get locked in before they reach the Dome and there'll be nobody there to gather tokens (and then in one case the screen would go black and it would tell you that the team captain had died since the show was filmed and you'd feel all guilty, unless like me you have no heart, in which case you might vaguely wonder if he died as a direct result of his apparent inability to complete simple tasks). My theory is that it is a survival mechanism.

The players on Takeshi's Castle and Knightmare didn't win much because those are genuinely difficult games. The contestants on The Crystal Maze didn't win much because they were a bunch of incompetent blundering buffoons. Yesterday I watched a woman with bad hair wire up a giant button to a giant battery and then stand around like a mute Dalek trying to work out what she had to do next, as if it was somehow not the most obvious thing in the world. I think that if you were rooting for them, you would get frustrated and tear out all your hair. Then you wouldn't get a date and wouldn't reproduce. This is an evolved survival mechanism.

If we wanted contestants on The Crystal Maze to win, we would die out. That is clearly scientific fact.

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