The Crystal Maze – On the Box

This is a full review of episode 1 of the new series of The Crystal Maze. If you don’t want to know who gets locked in and whether the whole team make it to the Dome, look away now! If not, then let’s start the fans please!

Now this is the reboot we’ve all been waiting for. It’s The Crystal Maze baby! The gameshow that everyone agreed needed a second chance. Off the success of last October’s Stand Up to Cancer special we have another set of celebrities to introduce the series proper (20 episodes in total with five sets of celebrities and 15 sets of normals) and the much-discussed new presenter Richard Ayoade. The team are familiar as presenters and reality-show fodder; Ore Oduba, Vicky Pattison, Alex Brooker, Lydia Bright and (sigh) Louie Spence. “Society accorded these people celebrity status” intones Richard with much mock seriousness.

Alex Brooker is team captain but easily the most useful team member is Vicky Pattinson Of course she’s got quite the pedigree when it comes to the oddest of odd gameshows, and proven herself to be clever and resourceful. Alex could have done with cloning Vicky.  Louie Spence is best enjoyed during his lock-in i.e. off screen and safely behind a locked door. No one seemed quite sure that they want to spend a hard-fought crystal getting him back. Vicky is bold and takes the initiative in the games and when advising the rest of the team. She has a calming presence and is a clear communicator despite Richard’s teasing about her Geordie accent. “Don’t panic flower” she tells everyone. When I get stressed out I need that on a loop.

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Dara O Briain’s Go 8 Bit – On the Box

Dara O Briain’s Go 8 Bit is a happy little comedy panel show/ game show hybrid which was originally created by comedians Steve McNeil and Sam Pamphilon during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2013, and then transferred to television on Dave at the end of last year. The genial and very recognisable Dara Ó Briain is in the host’s chair, with Steve as Sam acting as team captains, and video game journalist Ellie Gibson as the resident expert. The show invites celebs to join the teams each week to play a series of video games against each other. These days I think the kids just call them ‘games’.

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The presenters’ 8-bit characters

 

I warmed up to this little Bejeweled Blitz gem last year and was happy to see it’s been recommissioned for a second and third series. More proof that with the internet fuelling the mobile revolution and people in all age brackets spending more time in front of screens that gaming is no longer niche.  However Go 8 Bit knows its audience and is fondly retro and a warm nostalgic hug. The panelists are asked to come on and nominate their favourite games to play. They range from the ancient arcade classics to the modern commute time-killers, and from the massive studio franchise to the tiny indie developers. The games are adapted cleverly to make them tv friendly. Studio audience participation is encouraged where the audience bet on which team will win each game and that affects the overall points total.

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Z: The Beginning of Everything – On the Box

Another sumptuous drama here on a subscriber service. It’s almost like this is where the big bucks reside in these digital days. Z: The Beginning of Everything is the story of Zelda Fitzgerald, Mrs F Scott Fitzgerald to you dear. It’s based on Therese Anne Fowler’s book which Christina Ricci read and wanted to audition for. It turns out no one was making it, so she decided to do it herself. Ricci says that Zelda had suffered bad press over the years, with the focus firmly set on her genius husband. Ricci was sick of her being overlooked and sets out to flip that script.

Ricci with her soulful doe eyes and her fierce blonde bob is Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, a brilliant, beautiful and talented Southern belle, the original flapper and an icon of the Jazz Age in the flamboyant 1920s. Zelda is young and bored to death in her little quaint country town of Montgomery, Alabama. Having never been to the American south it looks lovely to me – all wide tree-lined avenues, sugary iced tea and cotillion balls at the country club.

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Harry Hill’s Alien Fun Capsule – On the Box

Harry Hill is back! And this time it’s worth watching.

The be-spectacled comedic ex-doctor has arrived just in time to save the human race from alien invasion! He’s showing our new alien overlords that we are useful to have around, if only to laugh at. I’m not even kidding. This is the basic premise for a strange and excitable comedy panel show, interweaved with funny clips of old tv shows, very much in the style of the awesome TV Burp, which, shockingly, finished five years ago.

Last year’s Harry Hill’s Tea Time on Sky 1 was way off point, managing to parcel up the Harry Hill brand without ever once stumbling towards what we enjoyed about him. All specs and grins and huge white collars and no fun. It was too gimmicky and far too dependent on one celebrity providing the fun and games in a very awkward, embarrassing situation. (If you want to see how that’s done with style and aplomb see BBC’s Murder in Successville.)

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The Great British Sell Off

Alarming news for the legions of Great British Bake Off fans as the BBC have lost the contract to broadcast the baking behemoth. The series now on tv will be the last to be broadcast on BBC1.

Channel 4 announced last night that it has signed a three-year deal with Love Productions. The first programme, a celebrity version for the charity Stand Up To Cancer, will come in 2017.

Love Productions said negotiations with the BBC had been prolonged to say the least – taking place for a year! When talks with the Beeb fell through they signed a deal with Channel 4 the same evening. They don’t hang about.

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Couch Potato Digest – Snoop Dogg, Olympic ‘Porn’ and summer shows to stream

Welcome to your weekly round-up of telly news. Due to an important occasion coming soon to this very blog (stay tuned blog fans!) I’ve decided that I need to help you, dear readers, be better informed about topics in telly, not just reviews but hot-off-the-press news to enrich your telly watching. The great, the grizzly and the down-right dodgy, for you to digest in your cosy couch cocoon.

This week – The Olympics, Snoop Dogg, and the Guardian’s pick of summer tv shows…

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‘Murder in Successville’ – On the Box

When in doubt have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand. This could get to be pretty silly but somehow it didn’t seem to matter.

– Raymond Chandler

Murder in Successville‘s detective is a perfect comedy parody of Raymond Chandler’s archetype hard-boiled gumshoe Philip Marlow. Only DI Sleet has no discernible skills apart from escalating a situation out of all control and leaving his sidekick to mop up the mess.

Sleet, played by Tom Davis is a big presence on-screen – I mean, really big. Like an amiable bear in a trench coat, snarling and snapping in his raspy voice, ground down by the celeb-on-celeb crime in Successville, lonely and hard-drinking. But it’s not all noir in this improv-comedy-parody-celebity-gameshow. Set him up with the right partner and he’s cheeky, witty and very fuckable if you like that sort of thing (I do).

As you can tell this is a show that defies convention. How it got commissioned I’ve no idea. But I’m very glad it did.

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