Monday, 5 October 2009
My television set hates me and I’m not surprised. It bears the brunt of my ranting. Mrs PM is thinking of calling in a therapist for it (and asking him for a straight-jacket for me).
Certain TV programmes ignite a spark within me, a spark that becomes a flame, then a blaze, then a nuclear explosion. My normal mild-mannered demeanour is cast aside as I mutate into a cross between My Hyde and the Incredible Hulk.
One such programme is “Deal or No Deal”.
If you’ve never seen it before then pay heed because it may have a similar effect on you. You may consider yourself to be like me, a pacifist who wouldn’t harm a fly. I reckon that by the time you have finished watching “Deal or No Deal” your TV will be cowering in the corner, crying for its mummy.
In Britain, the premise of the game is very simple; 21 contestants each have a sealed box containing a sticky label in the lid that depicts a sum of money, ranging from a penny to £250,000. One lucky contestant is selected and he then has to eliminate boxes guarded by the remaining contestants, pausing at various stages while “the banker” offers a sum of money based on the boxes left and values eliminated so far. The contestant can choose to accept the banker’s offer (“Deal”) or carry on (“No Deal”) potentially losing or gaining money as a result. If the contestant refuses the deals all the way through then effectively he gets what’s in his own box, which could be as much as £250,000 or as little as one penny.
Basically it is just a guessing game with a little bit of risk and a little bit of drama.
Incredibly this dreadful programme is shown in several countries. In Britain it is fronted by Noel Edmonds, who has somehow managed to resurrect his career because of it. From the very offset, Noel has somehow turned the show into an advert for the power of positive thinking. What is going on? This is the man who brought us Mr Blobby!!!
The chosen contestant appears with all sorts of lucky charms and, in some cases, sad tales that somehow wrench at the heart strings of those viewers susceptible to that kind of nonsense.
First and foremost, it is just a guessing game and, at best, a test of how brave or how risk averse the chosen contestant actually is.
Whenever the contestant picks a box, he is led to believe (by an unknown force) that he can somehow influence the contents of the box; if he is positive then the lower values will be eliminated. Of course, the values in the boxes are predetermined and he has no way of influencing the outcome of his selection at all. Sure he can have a “hunch” but that’s about the best he can hope for. If he is lucky then he will eliminate the low values. In reality, the odds are probably against him anyway.
However, what particularly irritates me is the “feel good” factor. The contestant convinces himself that a benign power is on his side; the remaining contestants with the boxes are also convinced that they too can help the chosen contestant achieve his goal of winning an incredible amount of money. All this is fuelled by Noel.
We hear things like:
CONTESTANT: I have a good feeling about box number 5; go on Ryan, open the box for me. 5 is my lucky number and I feel really sure it is a low number.
NOEL: I hope it is a low number. Positive thinking aids positivity. Ryan, can you open the box?
RYAN (Box Number 5): I’ll do my best.
What does Ryan mean: “I’ll do my best”? What the hell can he do? He can’t do anything but open the bloody box. Other things that Ryan might say are:
“I am WILLING this to be a low number for you mate.”
“This is a low number. I FEEL it in my water.”
Inevitably, when the box containing £250,000 is eliminated, Ryan will say something absurd like:
“I’m so sorry! I’ve let you down. How can you ever forgive me?”
The contestant will reply:
“It’s OK Ryan. I forgive you!”
AARRGGHHH!!! Am I the only person on the planet annoyed by this? Ryan couldn’t influence the contents of the box unless he was an alien with paranormal powers or just a bloody cheat! And if he WERE a cheat, if he had any sense he would wait until it was HIS turn to become the chosen contestant before putting his devious little plan into action.
Anyway, after eliminating a few boxes, the contestant then has to wait for the Banker to offer him a deal based on the remaining box values. The Banker is not seen and resides in an office off screen. We do not get to hear what he has to say because he calls Noel on the phone and speaks to him alone.
The Banker makes his offer based on a formula which is high enough to tempt the hapless contestant to accept the deal, but low enough to tempt the greedy bugger to continue in the hope that he completely blows it. To add to this, the Banker usually adds a couple of mild insults to relieve the tension (after all, we all like a bit of banter, don’t we?).
The Banker is the only sane person on the show, choosing to openly ridicule the contestant and shatter his greedy illusions. I’m sure he also gets to insult Noel Edmonds, which in my opinion would qualify it as a serious contender for the best job ever.
As you might have guessed I would LOVE to be the banker on the show.
Picture the scene:
NOEL: You still have a few boxes left, including the £250,000 and the penny. How do you feel?
CONTESTANT: I feel brilliant. I feel POSITIVE!! I really feel that I can do well. I FEEL it in my water.
TELEPHONE: RING RING
NOEL (feigning surprise): Guess what? It’s the Banker.
THE BANKER (aka The Plastic Mancunian): OK you bearded buffoon. Tell that pillock that this is just a stupid guessing game and that he stands no bloody chance of getting his greedy mitts on the £250,000. Tell him he is almost as ugly as you are and that positive thinking is a way of life that helps people to make the best of what remains of their existence. It is not some stupid made up thing that somehow influences the contents of those bloody boxes. I’ll offer the idiot £5000 and tell him he can be thankful for that. By the way, Noel, did I tell you that you are a bearded buffoon?
NOEL: HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! He’s such a mischievous imp. He says he wants to see you go home and that your luck has run out.
THE BANKER (aka The Plastic Mancunian): No I didn’t you weird beard. Tell the man the truth you and stop trying to raise his hopes. It’s a bloody guessing game. Tell him to take the five grand and be thankful. By the way, did I tell you that you are a bearded buffoon?
CONTESTANT: HA HA HA. My luck hasn’t run out. I feel positive. This whole place is filling me with a positive sense of certainty. I WILL win that £250,000. You can tell the Banker ... NO DEAL!!!
NOEL: Well done. He won’t be happy with that!
THE BANKER (aka The Plastic Mancunian): STREWTH! Never mind, weird beard. At least it pays my wages – oh and you exorbitant fee too. By the way, did I tell you that you are a bearded buffoon?
Noel has in fact leapt onto the positivity in the show and actually written a book called “Positively Happy: Cosmic Ways To Change Your Life”. Clearly something has worked for him.
In America, the show is very similar to the show in Britain but the contestants are absolutely bonkers. Gone is the positivity; it has been replaced by the razzamatazz that exists in American TV shows. If you were to take your average British contestant and pop him with so many happy pills that he rattled when he walked, you would have the contestant that I saw on the show during my recent visit to Boston. This was TV that was so incredible that I simply couldn’t take my eyes off it.
The contestant was dressed in an orange shirt that was so bright, I had to wear a pair of sunglasses to shield my eyes from the glare. His confidence was surpassed only by his arrogance; this man was the best of the best of the best of the best (in his world only of course). His hairstyle was incredible, a mullet that had been permed somehow. I like mullets but that hairstyle would have sent me to the hairdressers screaming “Cut it off! CUT IT OFF!!!!”
And, guess what? The guy was a HAIRDRESSER!!!!
The boxes in the British version were replaced by suitcases but the game was almost identical. There were one or two differences though.
First, there were two glamorous assistants who had two purposes, as far as I could see:
to take the suitcases off the remaining contestants when they had revealed their contents and also to let us all know, out there in TV land, how we should feel. Whenever a suitcase revealed a low value, the assistants would laugh and jump up and down clapping their hands. When it was a high value, they would look sad and pout mournfully. Whenever the orange contestant cracked a wild and unfunny joke they would laugh and whoop as if they had just heard the funniest joke in the history of mankind.
In addition to the empathic assistants, we had an audience that had been overdosed with Red Bull and Coca Cola; they were whooping, clapping and screaming continually, so much so that I could barely hear the presenter when he tried to speak. They were in a state of constant frenzy, which fuelled the orange contestant even more.
I was expecting the TV to explode.
In a similar way to the British contestants, the guardians of the suitcases were saying things like:
“I will MAKE SURE that this is a LOW value!”
One guy said:
“If this is a low number I want a FREE HAIRCUT!”
The orange contestant shouted:
“WHOO!!!! You got it, man!”
The guy must have known it had a high number otherwise he would never have taken a chance with his hair.
We actually saw the Banker in silhouette in the American version and he managed to ridicule the orange contestant. He must have read my mind because he remarked on the guy’s haircut being dreadful despite the fact he was a hairdresser.
Now, you may think that I consider the American version to be worse, but to be honest, it has one thing that makes it slightly better than the British version – the host is NOT Noel Edmonds. In the show I saw, he remained calm and tried his best to contain the arrogant craziness of the orange contestant, carefully explaining to him that he had to think about what he was doing rather than riding on a wave of frenzied enthusiasm.
I liked him.
In fact, I was thinking of applying for the position of Banker on the US show; my only problem is that people may guess who I am from my silhouette:
Do you think I should apply?