Thursday, November 27, 2008

Why Jasper Carrot's ITV quiz show is based on *Game Theory* and quite probably the Cuban Missile crisis of 1962.

ITV quiz shows are where old comedians go to die. But don't get me wrong Jasper Carrot is still loveable & deserves all the money he's getting paid, but like everything else on this show, he's part of a copied formula. He's got the job of presenting Golden Balls, because Bob Monkhouse is busy presenting The Golden Shot in TV Heaven.

The ITV1 quiz Golden Balls is a fantastic dog's breakfast of a show. A Frankenstein's monster of cobbled together bits and bobs from other successful quiz shows. I'd never seen it before today, but I believe it is a popular show amongst the target audience (invalids, monged out students, tired schoolchildren, people sitting in Casualty at the hospital trying not to fall asleep or pass out with pain while they wait to be seen by the triage nurse).

The worst bit about the show is the inevitable Chris Tarrant style pauses when you're just about to find out the answer to something: "We'll know the answer to that, right after this break..." Annoying. All the more so when all the adverts are for The Furniture Warehouse, another shop called the Sofa Warehouse and another shop selling cheese. That may have been the Cheese Warehouse, but I wasn't concentrating. It's the sort of show that up until a few months ago was followed by adverts for MFI & Woolies. So I'm not entirely convinced that the viewers of these sort of show are interested in buying anything. I think it would be a decent bet to assume that, some time in January, the Sofa/Furniture & Cheese Warehouses will be going out of business.

[R.I.P. MFI, I never bought anything from you and was always bored by your adverts. But even more of an R.I.P. to Woolies - it was on sale for a few days for the stately sum of £1 - I was going to buy it, really I was, but I wouldn't know what to do with all that pick'n'mix. Ahhh, shame, but why would you go in there nowadays? is Woolworths without the sweets & the queuing.]

There are also a lot of adverts for ITV Bingo which may be more targeted for the audience.

"88! Two fat ladies!"

That's basically the demographic of the audience - and the contestants. People who eat cheese, play bingo and like to sit on comfy seats. People I could happily get along with, share an evening in the pub or down the Mecca Bingo/Social Club in Gorton. Easy going folk. Well, you'd think that to look at em, but you'd be oh so very very very wrong.

Cos these Golden Balls contestants are some mean assed, hardcore Darwinian dog-eat-dog peoples. They would sell their own grandma if it meant they could win the big prize. Sadly that isn't part of the show - that's *Sell Your Grannie For Money* on Channel 5.

But one of the best bits of watching the show (for the first and possibly only time) is seeing which bits they stole from where. It's like watching a 2nd rate rock band and thinking, yeh, the lead singer thinks he's Bono, the drummer is nodding his head like he's Keith Moon, but the guitarist seems to be influenced by the conservative economic theories of the 1950s. Which is a bit odd.

Golden Balls steals from:
  • The 'What's in the box?' thing from *Deal or No Deal*. Make money if you guess right, lose it all if you don't.
  • The vote off the most rubbishist contestant thing from *The Weakest Link*. As well as the the post-game interviews & penalty shootout round from The Weakest Link.
  • It's got ... oh, I'm getting tired listing all the bits. But lots.
  • Then it's got the clever Game Theory bit at the end - which I was going to blab on about but upon researching it 15 minutes ago I realised everyone else has noticed that as well. Well, when I say *everyone*, some other clevercloggy barstanders... Basically the theory is, if everyone is nice to each other everything will be fine; if you're nice & the other person is nasty - they will destroy you. But if you're both nasty, you both get destroyed. So therefore, states Game Theory, it's probably a good idea to be nasty. Just to be on the safe side. It's a complex, messy and thoroughly nasty theory that was a big influence on the superpowers' theories of Mutually Assured Destruction (M.A.D.) during the Cold War. But who cares about any of that? If you do, here be more links. And a diagram over there: prepare to get a sore head.
Game Theory

The Prisoner's Dilemma

Non-Zero Sum Games

Nash Equilibrium

The final bit televison magic that Golden Balls steals quite brilliantly is the loud Shouting-Outside-A-Pub-On-A-Friday-Night arguing bit that is the best/worst thing about *The Jeremy Kyle Show*. But Golden Balls is just about economics. So it's the potential prize money & the lies they're all telling (Poker-style bluffing) that they're arguing about.

It's not quite as interesting as whether a 52 year old woman is right to leave her husband for an 18 year old crackhead lesbian, but it's still a great TV formula. Just get a bunch of working class people with regional accents & make them angry enough to shout at each other. Fast-forward the YouTube vid to 2 minutes 30 seconds to get right into it... yeah, Mike, not only is she a liar but she's old looking isn't she. Make it personal... Darwin would be proud.


  1. this game actually angers me because I see no point to it. I don't understand what the people are expecting from it... they all lie and it makes me sad that not a one person has ever told the truth in all the 3 times I have seen the show...
    speaking of similarities to the box game. um.. deal or no deal, thats it!
    I really don't get that game. its mental.... what happened to wheel of fortune?? :(

  2. Well, you learn something every day. ITV still show quizzes. Whaddayaknow.

    Game theory one: always be nasty
    Game theory two: always switch

    I haven't seen this or indeed heard of it, but it sounds diabolical, the TV quiz equivalent of Heat magazine. Possibly not as pointless as deal or no deal which is about someone opening 22 boxes in some order, which is Not Exciting Ever.

    More importantly: has woolies actually died? Gone? Kaput?

  3. Yes.......... :(

  4. I think it's fascinating once. But it's hard to imagine ever *wanting* to see it. I don't understand the box game but then I've never watched a whole episode, it scares me and it would scare me that I was alive and watching it. And not outside jumping up and down in a pile of leaves.

    More importantly, Woolies is still looking for a new owner. You could ask, it can't help to enquire, but I think they've been massively in debt for the last 20 years. Where will I buy my... plimsolls from now? Ay?

  5. I watched this excuse for a game show today. I suppose it's a bit like poker but with words as opposed to actions.

    How low are you prepared to go to win a few bob? I could not imagine cheating some other trusting soul out of their share of the win. It would be like taking your granny's life savings.

    What a poor show, and I do not mean the programme.

  6. It's nasty all right. What message are we sending out to 'our' kids!!!? It's like the Apprentice for stupid people. Cheat & win. But I bet you'll never watch it again and you won't thank me for encouraging you to watch it in the first place. Evil I am, evil.

  7. And........... Jasper Carrot is completely bald now