Tipping Point? Well short

ITV are trying out a new gameshow at 5pm, called Tipping Point.  Malcolm Gladwell’s book of the same name was about how a few people can create a big impact, if they are the right sort of people – well connected, knowledgable and motivated and charismatic, (or connectors, mavens and salesmen).  It’s fair to say that they won’t be watching this programme.

Ben Shepherd. The Host of Tipping Point

One of the most pleasurable games in an arcade is the two-penny cascade.  You can quickly lose a lot of money, but it’s lovely to see the coins falling your way.  In Tipping Point, contestants play on a large version, with more goes if they get questions right.

The programme has a number of problems.  It seems to lack a dramatic edge.  There used to be a rule about drama, that the best ones always included a love interest, an enemy and a confidant.  Deal or No Deal provides that in the form of the contestants’ friend, the banker and Noel (or the fellow contestants) respectively.   The Chase has a more classic format, with the fellow contestants, the Chaser and Bradley Walsh as the love interest, enemy and confidant.  The love interest in Pointless is provided by the relationship between the contestants, while the confidant is Alexander Armstrong.  The enemy is public opinion (up to a point), and the contestant’s fallible brain which conspires to prevent you remembering the answers.  Tipping Point seems to dispense with all of these elements.

The emotional component of quizzes where we meet the contestants’ families or friends has been lost.  At 5pm, when people at home are conscious of the end of daytime, and the traditional reintegration of their family, viewers are looking for an emotional hook.  And the questions are so middle-brow – too easy for proper quiz fans but a bit limited.  They’re rather dull facts you know or don’t and which don’t make you think. They’re probably pitched to be answered correctly half the time so are too easy to give the audience who know them a feeling of pride.

Here’s an example:  The finalists in the first episode were asked to name the King that Colin Firth played in The King’s Speech.  If you haven’t seen the film, fair enough (perhaps), but one contestant had no idea, and the other guessed George and when pressed to be more specific, suggested George 2nd.  It’s the Queen’s father, the last king the country had.  If you know the answer, it’s annoying to see the people who don’t know winning money.  And if you don’t know, you don’t think you’ve learned anything.  We’ve also had questions about frankfurters (which country are they from) about the Zodiac, and… Oh, I don’t know.

The contestants have been encouraged to banter with each other, so there’s a lack of competitive bite.  And it also doesn’t have the humour or unpredictability that you find in the quizzes mentioned above.

And given that it’s based on the arcade coin drop, we need to see and hear a whole pile of cash being pushed over with a satisfying crash.   Better a sudden avalanche of £2000, like The Golden Shot, than small bursts of lesser sums gently easing forward and flopping down, like beer-mats falling off a stool.  A Tipping Point, in reality, is a genuinely exciting thing – a pinnacle with dramatic potential, a bit like a critical mass.  These are the building blocks of evolution, of changes in weather, of dramatic phase transitions in which physical states change dramatically.

How exciting is that.  But then we have a daily quiz and this is the killer, where there’s almost nothing to say.  You couldn’t imagine ever watching it and wanting to recount something to a friend.  It just…. at 5pm, audiences have some specific needs: a lift, or some modest jeopardy, or something to talk about.  Which means that far from being a Tipping Point, the programme actually misses the point completely.

All this, and it is scheduled opposite the mighty Pointless.

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