Saturday, 3 January 2009

If It Ain't Broke, Update It: The Secret Twin Motto Of Microsoft and ITV

In retrospect it was inevitable after the success of Doctor Who that ITV would realise the potential of ressurecting popular shows that were axed long ago. And so, The Krypton Factor is back. I notice disapprovingly that the show has been entirely ITVed.

It's not all bad by any means. They've kept the green K that morphs into symbols for the rounds, albeit in a more modern incarnation. (The change is probably for the best given that today's new generation of nerds would look at the old logo and say, 'I never knew they made a game show out of Slashdot.') The new set is very impressive, too, if about four sizes too large. They've even kept a couple of smaller touches from the old series, such as the links between questions in the general knowledge round.

They've changed the scoring system slightly. In the old days they'd generally tiebreak the rounds based on some secondary factor, usually time, and give out 10, 6, 4 and 2 points come hell or high water. That wasn't ideal, since a photo-finish could result in an 8-point gap, so the new series doesn't do that, and (learning nothing from Strictlygate II) allocates 10, 6, 4 and 4 in the event of a tie for third place. Potentially, this means you could lose an extra 10 points on the other players just because they happen to tie. I think you'd then have legitimate grounds to feel hard done by. What would be wrong with splitting the total points (i.e., 10, 6, 3, 3 in a tie for third) I don't know. More generally, why TV producers are so repeatedly incapable of inventing scoring systems that work is something of a mystery.

Other changes are more unambiguously bad. The show is now hosted by Ben Shephard, a basically okay but woefully generic presenter who ITV and the BBC seem to drag out whenever a show is so unremarkable that Nick Knowles refuses to do it (this despite Gordon Burns working within walking distance of the studios). The Mental Agility round now takes place in something called The Cube, an idea presumably taken from Families At War. This is a flimsy plastic hut in which questions are delivered by a mechanical female voice, but not until Shephard has "Activated" the Cube. There is also a heart-rate monitor in there for no adequately explored reason. As is TV practice, the heart-rate monitor's output is shown as an graphic designed to look like an ECG trace by someone who clearly knows less about ECG traces than can be easily derived from watching Casualty. The Observation round in the first new episode featured a clip from Emmerdale. The theme music has been replaced with that tune that ITV always use for theme music on game shows. The series winner will be the "Champion" and not the "Superperson". The assault course seems to be much longer and has been totally redesigned in such a way that only two contestants can run it at once and it's in a forest so you can rarely see them both at the same time. The second race is shown interspersed with the first, but delayed, so you're left with utterly no idea what the hell is going on until the times are shown at the end. The order the players are shown crossing the line is certainly not a clue. All it needs now is a phone-in competition.

I also noticed that the show didn't have any flight simulators in it. The Response round had been totally removed. You can't do that! That's like an episode of Jonathan Creek without a mystery: you might watch the show and enjoy it if you didn't know anything was missing, but when you know what is supposed to be there it feels like you're being short-changed. Especially since one would hope that flight simulators would, by now, be better and cheaper to use. Possibly there were fears of terrorists appearing on the show to get practice at flying planes into buildings.

It's as though ITV actively want to make shit television. They've bought a successful show with a sizable following and set about systematically changing things that didn't need changing. I'd chalk it up to plain old incompetence -- after all, few shows from a decade and a half ago could be shown now without seeming preposterously dated -- but let's not forget they did the same thing to Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? after no break at all. Hell, it was probably ITV's meddling that killed The Krypton Factor in the first place.

Seriously, ITV, why must you always break everything?

1 comment:

AndrewJD said...

It's posts like these that remind me why I absolutely love this blog. Hilarious and absolutely spot on.