Redbrick Gaming and TV’s Editors and Writers come together to talk about their favourite TV Gameshows
Taskmaster – Charley Gordon-Boyle
My favourite gameshow is Taskmaster. The concept is simple. Five contestants complete ridiculous ‘tasks’ to win points from the ‘Taskmaster’, comedian Greg Davies. Whoever amasses the most points at the end of the series wins a bust of Davies’ head.
I love Taskmaster because it revolutionised panel shows. For context, the panel show is a staple of British late night comedy. The format is simple, a group of four to six comedians sit around and fire jokes at each other. Often there is a quiz involved, but the competition itself is not important. It’s a chance for newer acts to show off their style, and for celebrities to demonstrate their wit. Notoriously, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson used his appearance on Have I Got News For You to make himself seem funny and thus a more attractive candidate to voters.
Older panel shows relied on an aggressive communication style. The rapid pace at which comedians delivered their one-liners gave little opportunity for relaxed conversation . Moreover, white, middle-class men dominated the line-ups.Thus, much of the humour derived from mocking more marginalised people, particularly women and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
Taskmaster was different. Although the first series’ panel contained household names Frank Skinner, its commitment to diversity stood out. Since the shows inception, every season has contained at least one person of colour and at least one woman. Series 16’s panel includes two LGBTQAI+ contestants, two women, and a person of colour. This representation is a far cry from the line-ups seen on series one of Mock the Week.
Therefore, the show has become a platform to introduce performers from various different backgrounds. Its success is resounding proof that including a diverse range of comedic voices makes panel shows more accessible and engaging programmes that can be enjoyed by anyone.
Jeopardy! – Kitty Grant
Perhaps some people like quiz shows to see people’s lives change after winning money for their amazing knowledge. Maybe some like quiz shows for the gamified elements, like Tipping Point’s penny falls machine, or The Wheel’s, well, wheel. But for me, the best quiz shows are essentially a TV adaptation of a quiz book. I just want to answer questions, and honestly, I want to feel smart. That’s why Jeopardy! is my favourite quiz show.
Jeopardy!, which for decades was hosted by TV legend Alex Trebek until his death in 2020, has never really taken off in the UK, but is one of America’s favourite game shows thanks to, in my opinion, its simple format and question-packed episodes. In each episode, three contestants face two walls with six different categories, which each have five progressively harder clues.
The confusing part of Jeopardy!, which can turn some first-time viewers off, is that the clues given on the wall are ‘answers’ and contestants have to give the ‘question’ that fits the answer. For example, if the wall said ‘Established in 1936, this is the University of Birmingham’s student newspaper’ you would have to answer ‘What is Redbrick?’, rather than just ‘Redbrick’. The ‘questions as answers’ element of Jeopardy! is admittedly not my favourite part of the show, but let me tell you a secret… you don’t have to do this when you’re playing at home, you can just say ‘Redbrick’.
Once you get used to answering in the form of a question (or not), Jeopardy! is a fun, challenging show with around 60 questions per 22 minute episode. That’s why I love Jeopardy!, since for those of us who watch quiz shows mostly for the quiz itself, it’s one of the densest shows out there. There are also lots of different versions, including Tournament of Champions and the Teachers’ Tournament, but my favourite is College Jeopardy, since these questions are, unsurprisingly, the most aligned with my personal knowledge base.
Earlier this year ITV announced they would be broadcasting a revival of the British version of Jeopardy! in the autumn hosted by Stephen Fry. We’re well in November now and we haven’t had any more news about the revival, but if it does come, trust that I’ll be watching (and complaining about any deviations from the iconic American format)!
The Chase – Louis Wright
Nothing screams ‘iconic game shows’ like The Chase. Simple in concept, ‘The Chaser’, one of a handpicked selection of the best quizzers in the country, has to catch a team of four contestants by answering questions. A caught contestant will be out of the game, where if they make it back safely they bank their cash to try and win in ‘The Final Chase’.
Having an indomitable force of British quizzing answer questions to creep ever closer to a band of four plucky contestants to stop them winning prize money, like a dragon lording over their mounds of gold, will never not be entertaining. It’s even better in the celebrity specials when The Chaser becomes an actual villain, fighting to keep the money out of the hands of a celebrity’s charity of choice.
This is why The Chase succeeds time and time again. Unlike many other game shows, where it is several individuals competing against each other or a nebulous higher power (usually the producer), The Chase has defined roles of good and evil. Like the great sport of wrestling, The Chaser plays the role of the heel; someone who is designed to be rooted against to help garner support for the contestants.
This is not to explain the sheer awesomeness of The Chase’s host Bradley Walsh. Behind the veneers and fake tan, Walsh is easily the most charismatic and entertaining game show host going. With his strange quips, inability to keep a straight face at some of the answers he has to read out, and his chemistry with contestants and Chasers alike; it is a fair assessment to say The Chase would not be what it is without its host eternal.
The Chase is a fantastic game show and for good reason. The uniqueness of its premise and presentation, and how well it is carried by its host come together to provide a perfect storm of early evening entertainment.
The Hit List – Hannah Gadd
BBC’s music quiz show The Hit List is the ultimate shout-at-your-TV game show. Hosted by Rochelle and Marvin Humes, the show tests contestants’ abilities to recall song and artist names as quickly as possible. The first round sees the teams battling in a decade-based quiz which guarantees to keep everyone watching engaged. The first two teams to win five points progress to round two where themed categories are presented to the contestants. This portion of the show promises to have the audience on the edge of their seats, with 45 seconds on both team’s clocks, they must work in pairs to identify the songs from their short snippets before the timer runs out.
The winning team moves on to the stressful but exhilarating ‘Final Chart Rundown’ where the team starts with £10,000 however the longer they take to name ten songs and their artists, the more money they will lose. The Hit List is so enjoyable because the audience can test their music memory alongside the contestants. Viewers will undoubtedly be yelling the answers at their screens, either that or frustratingly forgetting the names of the songs they used to listen to. The Hit List makes great Saturday night television, offering its audience a unique viewing experience and the chance to play along in a way which is different to other game shows.
Would I Lie To You? – Kylie Clarke
My favourite TV game show is one with a rather strange concept. It does not focus on people trying to win money, or prizes, or even prove their intelligence. No, my favourite TV game show is about a bunch of comedians trying to successfully lie to each other to earn meaningless points.
Would I Lie To You is my favourite TV game show by far because it mixes a unique and fresh format with a panel of incredible comedians. Nowhere else will you see Mark Corrigan (David Mitchell) in an explosive argument with Lee Mack, being mediated by Uncle Bryn (Rob Brydon). And the argument will usually be over something as ridiculous as whether Lee Mack wears pants with the days of the week on them (not a real example, but you get the gist).
For context, the aim of Would I Lie to You is that two panels of comedians or celebrities, with David Mitchell and Lee Mack as permanent team captains, take it in turns to tell the other panel a ridiculous anecdote from their life and convince them that it is the truth (even though sometimes it is not). It is pretty much a game based on ethical gaslighting. This often leads to crazily embellished and genuine laugh-out-loud stories, with frequent guest Bob Mortimer’s tales making him a fan favourite – the more insane his story sounds, the more likely it is to be true.
This game show will have you rewatching clips of it for hours on YouTube without getting bored. It is creative, original and has no real prizes, which allows the guests to have as much fun with it as possible. A joy to watch.
Running Man – Tatiana Bilwala
Running for 13 years, Running Man has solidified its status as South Korea’s longest-running game show. The programme features a cast of seven Korean celebrities, each hailing from across the entertainment industry, spanning the realms of comedy, acting and music. The magic of the show lies in how the dynamic cast use their authentic friendship to host a range of exhilarating games and quizzes, whether among themselves or alongside local and international celebrity guests, featuring stars such as Patrice Evra, Jackie Chan, Tom Cruise and BTS, emphasising the show’s fear-reaching appeal.
What makes Running Man so unique, however, is its ingenious incorporation of real-life elements into its show. It seamlessly blends the excitement of on-screen competition with real-world exploration, taking the cast on adventures both within South Korea and abroad, to destinations such as Jeju Island, Australia and Thailand. Their travelling does not stop there, however, often delving into the heart of local communities, from small villages to university campuses, allowing viewers to experience the everyday lives of people. Whether young or old, the public become an integral part of the show, assisting with trivia questions, offering the use of their facilities, or simply cheering on the cast as they engage in high-stakes games, fostering a heartwarming sense of community palpable through a screen.
If there was ever a show that is versatile, it is this one, going from normality to the extreme as they take part in bungee jumping, camping, races across the country and elimination tag game which are always filled with hilarious suspense as cast members are pushed to their limits competing against each other. With over 600 episodes under its belt, Running Man has become more than just a TV show. It’s a journey that viewers embark upon with the cast, watching as these entertainers mature and their careers flourish outside the confines of the show. I think the most beautiful thing about Running Man is what it represents, it’s a show that transcends language barriers and cultural differences. In a world that often feels divided, Running Man serves as a reminder that laughter, friendship, and shared adventures are universal languages that can unite people from all walks of life.
Richard Osman’s House of Games – Rani Jadfa
Five days of quizzing. Four celebrities. One Richard Osman. What more could you want?
The aim of the game is pretty simple: get as many points as possible across all the rounds through the week. Each day there are different games, ranging from geography to charades to attempting to create a coherent string of emojis that display the plot of The Matrix. At the end of each day, there is a winner, who gets a wonderful Osman embellished product, and then the overall winner is announced on the Friday. It’s five days of non-stop fun – although I did recently discover that it’s all filmed on the same day and they just change their outfits, which sort of shatters the façade.
Nonetheless, it’s the only game show my family and I watch religiously. Obviously, we all have our Mastermind round: when I don’t know where Kazakhstan is my dad picks up the slack. If my sister forgets what year Selena Gomez’s first album came out my mum will swoop in with an answer out of nowhere. The Jadfa family have become a well-oiled machine with one function: WIN. THE. TROPHY.
Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely no way any one of us would win a single round if we were tossed into the studio (not that we would ever admit it) but as a team of four we believe we would win every single time (also unlikely to be true). It’s become a sport in our household and tensions run high as ever but I will admit, Osman’s quick wit, the brilliant question writers and the passionate celebrities always bring us together and put smiles on our faces. And I guess that’s what game shows are all about.
Only Connect – Jess Parker
Victoria Coren Mitchell’s aggressively basement-dwellery BBC 2 weeknight gameshow Only Connect pits two teams against each other as they battle it out through logical and lateral thinking tasks. The show is aware of the kinds of people that take part in and watch it– big big nerds. The show’s abstract brain-teasers cover a broad range of subjects, from pop culture knowledge to pattern recognition, requiring the best of the best to find the connections between the show’s seemingly unrelated clues and components.
Only Connect consists of four rounds: Connections, Sequences, the Connecting Wall, and Missing Vowels. These rounds are fairly self-explanatory, and the contestants often choose their group’s round by chance: via the show’s immensely pretentious yet self-aware Hieroglyphic system. In the show’s early seasons, contestants would choose their questions through a range of Greek letters. After a viewer complained that the system was far too pretentious, Coren Mitchell concluded that a FAR more suitable option would be a range of Egyptian Hieroglyphics, doubling down on the disgustingly geeky vibes of Only Connect.
Only Connect is truly a gem of British Monday night TV. The show most likely would not meet the same success in a different market – with the idea of a perhaps Jimmy Fallon-headed American remake being genuinely spine-chilling. Victoria Coren Mitchell’s quiz show brain-baby slots perfectly into the industry gap left in between Richard Osman’s House of Games and University Challenge, managing to seamlessly bridge the gap between the insufferably academic, and the ‘a bit silly’.
In For a Penny – Sophie Webb
In For A Penny on ITV originally came into existence as a segment on Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, before becoming its own separate show in 2019. While Ant and Dec continue to serve as “creative consultants”, the series very much belongs to its host, TV personality and former magician Stephen Mulhern.
The premise of the show is bare-bones: the usual purpose-built live sets and studio audiences are absent here. The hyperactive presenter takes to the streets of towns and cities and pounces on unsuspecting members of the public, recruiting them to his challenges to win cash prizes. The challenges themselves are also wickedly simple, and could be compared to party games: in “Check It Out”, people must accurately estimate the price of their shopping as it goes through the till, while in “Weigh To Go”, holidaymakers must guess precisely how much their luggage weighs.
This sounds almost painfully low-rent, but what makes it essential Saturday night viewing is the way the show is presented and edited. Stephen Mulhern fearlessly teases his innocent recruits, and under an endless spray of cheeky asides and thinly-disguised insults, the players are hilariously earnest in their responses. The gameplay is heavily edited with comedic sound effects, with the chaotic end result never failing to send myself, my mum and my sister into fits of hideous screech-laughing.
Also fun is the inclusion of the places we know and love: such as Torquay, where I grew up, or Lincoln, where my sister goes to uni. Your hometown may have already been featured – and its residents traumatised.
Crystal Maze – Jennifer Lewis
A life-sized board game brought to us on our screens in the annals of vintage television game shows, one production stands out as a true paragon of entertainment- The Crystal Maze. This iconic British television program originally graced the airwaves in the early 1990s. An intricate labyrinth of challenges, skilfully designed to engage participants in a diverse array of mind-bending puzzles and physically demanding tasks, the game fosters an environment that demands both teamwork and individual problem-solving.
A master strategist and decision-maker of the show, the captain shoulders the responsibility of orchestrating their team’s journey through the maze. They strategically designate their team to face either physical, mental, skill-based or enigmatic challenges, with each challenge category emphasising agility, mental acuity, dexterity and a sense of mystery, all converging toward the common objective of acquiring a crystal per room.
Given varying difficulty levels and required skill sets for these challenges, the discerning selection of participants for each task becomes pivotal, aimed at optimising the team’s chances of obtaining the coveted crystal. It is worth noting that time is of the essence in each zone, underscoring the importance of expediently designating participants, allowing for the maximisation of available gaming opportunities. If participants fail their lock-in task, they must sacrifice a crystal to be bailed out. In this intricate labyrinth of mini-games, the captain is a navigator, steering the team towards the final round- the crystal dome. Each crystal they have collected adds to a time bank where the team must collect golden tokens whilst avoiding silver ones, blown around by floor fans: ‘will you start the fans please!’. The host at the end tallies their count and if they have 100 gold tokens or more after deducting silver ones, they win the grand prize.
The Crystal Maze remains etched in the memories of its viewers with a thrilling and memorable theme tune. Its unique blend of complex challenges and the enigmatic host, Richard O’Brien make it worth a watch. The element of time pressure in the show adds an extra layer of excitement. The touch of nostalgia makes The Crystal Maze my favourite game show. The game show has gained such popularity, it has evolved into a live experience, extending the game beyond the confines of television.
8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown – Ashleigh Sutton
8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown was one of those game shows that was always just on TV after my Dad and I turned off Netflix, and watching it before I went to bed became a nightly routine.
The game show, hosted by comedian Jimmy Carr and captained by Jon Richardson and the late Sean Lock, can only be described as a great attempt to make one of the most monotonous classic game shows funny. It takes the same format of classic Countdown where contestants race the clock to work out anagrams and confusing maths questions, in this case while nobody is taking it seriously at all.
8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown steals original ‘Dictionary Corner’ presenter Susie Dent and arithmetician Rachel Riley. However, this version is full of comedians, crude humour, distractions and out of pocket skits. While it has been one of few family favourites in our household, watching it nightly always gave the thrill of knowing the humour was much older than I was at the time, especially when it got to an ad break and the ‘Countdown Conundrum’ was an innuendo you had to pretend you didn’t get.
There is also an unexplainable pride when you yourself work out the answer, in my case the maths round more often than the anagrams, quicker than the contestants on screen. Besides, who doesn’t want to watch Jimmy Carr covered in kittens, Alex Horne with his Jazz band, or Brett Domino attempt to make an entire song from just three letter words?
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