Comment: Chasing down a winning formula

Author
Anna Murray - NZ Herald,
Section
Entertainment,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 14 November 2018, 3:45p.m.
Once you have an episode to get your head around the rules of the game, it's actually very easy to follow.
Once you have an episode to get your head around the rules of the game, it's actually very easy to follow.

COMMENT:

Before I discovered the very popular British series The Chase, it had been a long time since I'd actually sat down to watch a game show.

As a kid, I'd enjoyed classics like It's In The Bag and watching Steve Parr slide over to his podium on Sale Of The Century, but as soon as I got old enough to have control over my own TV remote, I bid game shows farewell. Because while there are a few good ones out there, most are an assault on the senses with their forced enthusiasm, stupid concepts and cheap-looking sets.

I initially lumped The Chase into that latter category when my parents forced me to watch it during one of their visits a few years ago.

Chasers Jenny 'The Vixen' Ryan, Mark 'The Beast' Labbett, host Bradley Walsh, Shaun 'The Bald Destroyer' Wallace, Anne 'The Governess' Hegerty and Paul 'The Sinnerman' Sinha. Photo / Supplied
Chasers Jenny 'The Vixen' Ryan, Mark 'The Beast' Labbett, host Bradley Walsh, Shaun 'The Bald Destroyer' Wallace, Anne 'The Governess' Hegerty and Paul 'The Sinnerman' Sinha. Photo / Supplied

As they explained the show's concept to me — four strangers working together through a series of individual rounds and a quick-fire final to outrun a quiz genius "Chaser" — I thought it sounded a convoluted mess.

And, honestly, it all looked a bit naff. It still does, what with that big, flashing letter 'C' the Chasers all walk through five times per episode with their accompanying dramatic music. Then there are those tacky outfits the Chasers are made to wear every episode, such as Jenny Ryan's purple leopard print, the white jacket Paul Sinha always sports, and the governess get-up reserved for Anne Hegerty.

I expected to hate the show. But, inexplicably, I loved it. And I'm not alone — New Zealanders adore The Chase, watching it in droves before dinner each night.

But why?

The French family test their smarts on an episode of The Family Chase. Photo / ITV/REX/Shutterstock
The French family test their smarts on an episode of The Family Chase. Photo / ITV/REX/Shutterstock

Part of the appeal is obviously the format. Once you have an episode to get your head around the rules of the game, it's actually very easy to follow, and becomes a classic good guys versus bad Chaser guys contest that builds to a frenetic final round.

Often, the teams are soundly beaten and sent home without a dime, but, crucially, there are enough very close contests — and big wins — to keep viewers interested.

The real key to the show's success though, is its personnel: namely host Bradley Walsh. Famous for getting the giggles whenever a quiz question throws up a double entendre, he manages to build a rapport with both the contestants he's just met, and the Chasers he's known for some time. Should Walsh ever decide to pack in those hosting duties, they may as well shut up the entire Chase shop.

The Chase and The Family Chase host Bradley Walsh. Photo / Supplied
The Chase and The Family Chase host Bradley Walsh. Photo / Supplied

But for the past 12 months, they've been doing quite the opposite, expanding the franchise with the production of a spinoff, The Family Chase, which has just started airing in New Zealand, too.

As the title suggests, the series follows the same format as the original, but sees four family members, as opposed to four strangers, taking on the Chaser.

It hasn't been as warmly received as the original Chase over in the UK, but I'm not sure why. I've actually been enjoying the little digs made between family members and seeing parents smiling through gritted teeth as their beloved children publicly demonstrate some extraordinary stupidity.

The Ghandi family with host Bradley Walsh (centre) on the set of The Family Chase. Photo / ITV/REX/Shutterstock
The Ghandi family with host Bradley Walsh (centre) on the set of The Family Chase. Photo / ITV/REX/Shutterstock

Family contestants can also say things to each other that they probably wouldn't say to strangers. The topic of whether or not to accept a Chaser's offer to lop a few thousand pounds off the prize total in exchange for jumping a step closer to home is particularly contentious.

Sure, some of the individual drama of the show is lessened in the family format, given we can assume all players in the team will get to share any winnings, regardless of whether or not they make it through to the final round.

But perhaps where they lose that drama, they can make up for it in future by throwing in a few family wildcards. Imagine having to put a team together that includes the perennially drunk uncle, or the bigoted grandmother, or the stepson who hates his new stepdad.

In any case, let's hope the show's producers and TVNZ's schedulers don't decide to shake things up too much further. Because in a world gone mad, it's reassuring to know Walsh and his panto-esque Chasers will be there with an hour of useless trivia and mindless entertainment to close the day out with.

 The Chase airs at 4.55pm weekdays on TVNZ 1. The Family Chase airs at 4.55pm Sundays.

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