It’s not an unfair comment to say BBC1 has struggled to find hits within the ‘light entertainment’ department. Where Channel 4 have found great success with shows like Gogglebox, Gogglesprogs and The Secret Life of 4-Year-Olds, the BBC have lagged behind leaning too heavily on overused formats like singing and dance competitions in hopes of finding ‘the next big hit’. Their recent attempt at reviving The Generation Game was rightly met with a barrage of criticism and although their latest singing competition All Together Now will return next year, it hardly felt like anything new or exciting.
On Friday the BBC are taking a punt on a new gameshow format called ‘The Button’. The series borrows heavily from the aforementioned Gogglebox placing cameras in the homes of those playing the game. Not only do we see the families playing the game but, much like Gogglebox, we see exerts of their lives throughout the day as they wait for The Button to light up and indicate the next game is about to start. On paper, it’s an interesting concept but it’s in the execution that the show tends to fail.
If like me, you’re a fan of Gogglebox you’ll see this a cheap and somewhat lazy attempt by the BBC of using the format and working a game in. If you’ve somehow missed it then it might seem an interesting conceit but then the game show element of the series is a little lacklustre too.
The Button is a little light up box which sits in the living rooms of each of our families. It is voiced by an annoyingly smug Alex Horne of Taskmaster fame who not only alerts the families to their next challenge but also chats with them and occasionally flirts with them. It really is as bizarre as it sounds. The games themselves aren’t overly taxing: building a tower as tall as the tallest member of the household and reciting the alphabet backwards. Once the games are completed the families then watch and see how their competitors got on and Alex Horne (sorry, The Button) tells them and the audience at home who was victorious. There are elements of it that feel brand new and elements that feel laboured and lazy.
Gogglebox has been with us since 2013 and in that time it has seen its families come and go. The reason people come back to it is the fact they have built a relationship with people like Jenny and Lee and The Malones and want to know what they’ll say this week. The makers of Button realise this too with their families returning each week to compete for their chance to win big so there’s a chance, albeit a tiny one, that we’ll slowly gain a rapport with the button families too. The main problem is it all feels so cheap and haphazard. The games they play aren’t overly interesting and for a game show, the jeopardy is next to nothing.
There’s also the brave decision the BBC have taken to schedule this at 8.30pm on Fridays which oddly makes it a lead in to Gogglebox at 9pm the same night. It feels more designed for early evening Saturday where a family audience might happen upon it and get somewhat drawn in this Friday night slot seems a brave but ultimately risky decision.
If I was to be kind, which I suppose I should be The Button seems like it could find a young family audience with some wishing to emulate the games, but ultimately I think it’s another example of the BBC struggling to find something to really exchange a difficult demographic and hoping that the things they’ve ‘borrowed’ from better shows might work the same magic here. I’d rather just watch Gogglebox.
The Button starts Friday 20th April at 8.30pm on BBC One