If there’s one programme that I didn’t think would return it’s Red or Black? the Simon Cowell produced vehicle which was supposed to be must-see TV when it debuted last year. Due to a critical bashing, an over-complicated formula and the first winner of a prize of a million pounds turned out to be a former convict. Personally I wasn’t a fan I thought it was overlong and took a lifetime to get to the only interesting part, the roulette-wheel based finale, so I was intrigued to know how this format could possibly tweaked to create a successful programme.
Firstly the prize money has been slashed meaning that only a half a million will be at stake if the contestants successfully select red or black throughout a series of games. Another big change is the number of contestants of which there were a great number in the first series but here we cut to the chase starting off with eight contestants who will be halved after three guesses of red or black. The first part of the game was divided into three different challenges in which a red and black option is available but the contestants were allowed to select red or black at any time the only catch being that only four could pick each colour. So for example in the first game where a former American Gladiator took on a professional wrestler from New Zealand, one dressed in red and the other in black, it took a while for the colour selections to be locked down as the group had to choose which one could smash through 11 panes of glass first. The second game, which was worth 2 points as opposed to one in the first round, saw two men throw playing cards at various objects in the most bizarre assault course this writer has ever scene. The final game, worth three points, incorporated a performance from Cover Drive who were accompanied by a series of explosions each set off by either a red or black trigger it was up to the contestants to figure out the sequence and select their colour the quickest.
With the three games finished the number of contestants were halved and into the second programme, airing after The X-Factor, we got some real Saturday night entertainment as Carol Vorderman and Jonathan Ross tried to spell some words. Thankfully the two celebs tried to make this spelling bee format as entertaining as possible with Ross cracking some jokes and Vorderman claiming her Countdown experience made her the firm favourite though she struggles with any words over nine letters long. Though a betting man would back Vorderman it was underdog Ross, representing black, who won Sophie and Jeanatte a place in the semi-final which turned out to be the pizza-slice game Duel which is the only element to return to Red or Black from last season. With Sophie winning a new obstacle stood in front of her in the vortex, which has replaced the mammoth roulette wheel, the aim of the game was for the travel agent to drop a ball into a large illuminated pit with a centre that was flashing between the two colours however she’d only win if the ball hit the bottom when her pick of red was showing. Thankfully the start of Red or Black was happy one as Sophie won the money and was surrounded by a jubilant family who were obviously already thinking about what they could get her to buy them now she had all this money.
I have to say that this series of Red or Black is a vast improvement on the first run which promised so much and delivered so little. The fact that we only have to focus on eight contestants is a big step in the right direction while the challenges on the whole were fairly entertaining and at some points engaging as I tried to spell along with Ross and ‘The Vord’ as well as try to figure out the sequence in the Cover Drive game. The excited crowd, the random challengers and the appearance of some cheerleaders gave me memories of Saturday night entertainment shows of my youth such as You Bet! And Gladiators as this was a combination of stupidity, celebrity and jeopardy. Ant and Dec were also reliable as ever as they’re consummate professionals in the world of live TV and I believe that Amanda Holden and Brian Dowling both need to take note of their easy style after disastrous performances on Superstar and Big Brother respectively.
Red or Black? still isn’t perfect as, even though it was split up into two 45 minutes segments, I feel it’s overlong plus I really didn’t feel I got to know the finalists or their motivation for wanting the money. There’s also the fact that my expectations were so low for this programme that anything would’ve been seen as an improvement so I think the quality will dip as we’ve got another six weeks to go of this show. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy myself though and that’s the sign of a good Saturday night show so let’s just hope that thorough background checks have been carried out on all of this year’s contestants as I’m sure Simon Cowell doesn’t want any more controversy surrounding his various projects.