All or Nothing



Jamie Rickers and Tara Maguire


CBBC, 4 January to 31 March 2003 (28 episodes)


Five pairs of children, gathered from around the country, given one of five colours. Two hyperactive hosts, who have clearly had far too much artificial colour in their fruit drinks and need to become as calm as the contestants.

Each child has a ball, and they drop it into The Pair Picker. This is a direct descendent of The Plinko Machine, only it uses soft rubber balls, and bounces them into columns at the bottom. Each slot has a colour, and the team with the most balls in their column will play the opening game. That team then drops one ball to pick their opponent.

The games themselves take between one and two minutes to play. Some of them are direct competition - build a cube using blocks, hit lit targets on a display. Others are timed events, one team performing and setting a target for the other. These mini games are by far the best part of the show, and are similar to the games of Friends Like These and Dog Eat Dog

The winning pair of each game stays on to play the next, and their opponents are chosen by everyone dropping balls into The Pair Picker. Repeat until we reach game five; everyone who hasn't won game five will go home with nothing. While it's useful to win game one, it's far more useful to win game four. And, yes, it's both possible and common for one pair to do nothing more on the show than drop their balls into The Pair Picker.

All of this messing about brings us to the endgame, and a decent enough prize - a mountain bike, or games console, that kind of thing. To win the prize, our one remaining team must crack a code consisting of the five colours used by the teams. They can do this by guesswork, but the hyperactive hosts are still suffering a sugar rush, and make them open little white boxes containing clues. One member puts in their hand and deciphers the clue, while the other types it in to a handily placed laptop. Correct answers reveal where each colour is in sequence, and cracking the code within the 150 second limit wins the big prize. Failure means this team also leaves with nothing.

Here lies the point where the show becomes Just Unfair. Laptop. Keyboard. Eleven year old children. The vast majority of contestants aren't familiar with the layout of a keyboard to begin with, and that's without the added pressure of the studio and the lure of a big prize. Furthermore, the clues aren't always clear - is the piece of headgear leading to "cap" or "hat"?

Those clues that aren't ambiguous are trivially easy, so the finale boils down to whether the players know their way round a keyboard or not. There's got to be a better way of doing this. Perhaps speak your answer in a speaking booth, reducing the endgame to a mad 60 second scramble.




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