Deal or No Deal

Image:dealornodeal logo.jpg



Brian Conley (non-broadcast pilot)

Noel Edmonds


"The Banker, as Himself"

Alex Lovell (voiceover, uncredited)

Jon Culshaw as Noel Edmonds (1st Anniversary special)


Cheetah Television West (formerly Endemol West) for Channel 4, 31 October 2005 to present


"A quarter of a million pounds... 22 identical sealed boxes... and no questions. Except one: Deal or No Deal?'"

So goes the introductory spiel to this big money guessing game, of which international versions have already proven to be quite good fun. There are 22 numbered boxes, each one containing an unknown cash prize of between 1p and £250,000 and 22 contestants, who have drawn lots before the show to determine who gets each one. A 'randomly'-selected contestant is invited to sit in the hot seat and becomes the player for that show, bringing their box with them. The other boxes are then opened one by one, and an off-stage banker known as, er, "The Banker" offers the player money to buy back the box and leave the game, based on the values of the boxes left.

Image:dealornodeal player.jpg The amounts of money still up for grabs are shown on either side of the contestant.

There is an offer after the first five boxes are opened, and then after every third box until there are just two boxes left. In theory, these offers should come slightly below the arithmetic mean of the remaining boxes; in practice, the early offers are artificially low. As a result, the deal almost always occurs during the closing fifteen minutes, which serves to place a lot more emphasis on the journey than the outcome. The commercial breaks usually come just before the 8th and 14th boxes are opened, something which contestants have now started anticipating. It's surely only a matter of time before they start pre-empting Noel and announcing the breaks themselves (see below).

Image:dealornodeal 250k.jpg The Banker's offer plummets when the big boxes get opened.

It is, in essence, a game of pure chance - a lottery, or more precisely a series of lotteries, with the contestant merely choosing whether to reinvest their winnings in the next one or stick with what they've got. It's more watchable than that implies though, mainly because of the interaction between host and contestants. In a way, the game is only there to give the characters in the studio something to react to - almost the exact opposite of the maximum-gameplay, minimum-personality Fifteen-to-One, for which this show is Channel 4's first really convincing replacement. It is a show that could have been invented purely to showcase the skills of its host - chatting to Members Of The Public, talking on the phone, being generally affable, and having a beard that doesn't look quite deliberate, somehow.

Image:dealornodeal phone.jpg "I think it's one of these blasted call centres again."

Anyway, it's friendly enough, Noel makes us care about the contestants and it's nice to see likeable people walk away with a decent sum of money. It's perhaps not quite the great and mighty format that some folk have talked it up as (and it does seem to be one of those shows that either you "get" or you don't) but as daytime gameshows go, it's pretty good and a deserved hit.

A year and a bit later...

The above was written in the show's first couple of months on air, and since then, there have been some changes. Some for the better, some for the worse, and some we're really not sure about either way.

One thing that really needed to be sorted out was the show's music. Right from the start, the music cues were always pretty much the least appropriate and most intrusive of any game show, but if anything it's got worse since then, with overuse of the cliched heart sound effect not only being exceedingly irritating, but also betraying a lack of confidence in the game's ability to produce its own tension. And they're still using the same stupendously awful theme music. It sounds like a stopgap knocked off in a hurry, probably because it is, and if only they'd quietly ditched it after the first production run, it could have been a distant memory by now. But no such luck.

But however bad the soundtrack is, it's merely a cosmetic element. Far more important is the way the banker plays the game, and there's no getting away from the fact that this has changed quite a lot. Whether it's changed for the better or not is a moot point, and one that we've subjected to a good old mooting ourselves. Offers have tended to become more generous in the early stages (once upon a time, eight thousand as an opening offer would have been spectacular; now it's commonplace) and less generous in the later stages. There often does seem to be an element of pushing players to open their box by making unduly low offers, which is either (a) tension-building, exciting and a good thing, or (b) tension-sapping, aggravating and a bad thing.

The banker has also taken to offering swaps instead of money in the early stages, and although it's unlikely that a player would deal at the first or second offer, it can look rather "off" not to give them the opportunity. After all, most of what happens in the game is essentially random - the values are distributed randomly amongst the boxes, and the boxes randomly amongst the players, and while the selection of numbers may not be strictly random, the results (unless the player really is psychic!) are. The only thing that's stopping the game from being big-money Fluke is the player exercising their option to Deal or No Deal, and at best they only have six opportunities to do that during the game, which isn't many to start with. Offering a swap, or making a joke offer that's not even worth considering, deprives them of one of those opportunities and takes the game even further out of the player's hands. One player who had once made a throwaway comment that he would keep on playing as long as the top prize remained on the board, was offered a swap three times on the trot, which not only cut the gameplay in half, but also came across as incredibly petty (and besides, if you really wanted to test a player's resolve in that situation, the smart thing to do would be to make high offers and see if they took the bait). Supporters say this flexibility in the format is interesting and keeps it fresh; critics say it makes the makes the game so unfair and inconsistent that it becomes barely a game at all. Whether that matters is another question. Can a game show survive as all show and no game? We don't know. Though it's worth noting that since the three-swap game, there seems to have been a bit of a snap back to more reasonable gameplay from the banker, as if aware that he'd gone that bit too far. How long this will continue remains to be seen (best guess: not very long).

There's also been an increasing emphasis on gambling in the show, with both Noel and the banker clearly showing a preference for gamblers, and Noel constantly going on about "courage" (which in his book seems to mean ignoring the odds and pressing on to the end regardless). This probably does increase the show's appeal to, well, people whom gambling appeals to, but it might be questioned whether this kind of none-too-subtle endorsement is really suitable for 4.15pm, and indeed whether it really makes for a more exciting show anyway.

Actually, the winning of the jackpot points up a related flaw that's been inherent in the format since day one, which is that the top prize is more likely to be won by recklessness than good judgement. A person who judges the odds well is likely to deal earlier, especially given the volatility that having the £250,000 box in play brings to the game. Clearly, a 1-in-5 or even 1-in-2 chance of the jackpot is unlikely to be more attractive than a guaranteed payout to the sensible player, unless the guaranteed payout is so low as to be utterly stupid, but the odds are short enough that if enough reckless players appear on the show, sooner or later one will win the jackpot - and ultimately that's what happened. And even then, the Banker - no, let's be honest, the Producer - threw in a shamefully poor final offer to persuade the player to continue.

No wonder some people think the show is rigged. "Sequencegate" didn't help, even though all the evidence says it was a genuine mistake. Astute conspiracy theorists may note that Noel can still be telling the truth about nobody knowing where the money is at the start of the game provided the producers don't open the sealed list until play begins. Not that there's any evidence that they do - but with the loophole there and the way the banker-producer treats players, it doesn't feel like it would be out of character if he did.

It's all a great shame, especially as Noel (or The Comeback King, as all reports are now obliged to call him) does such a good job of extracting entertainment value from the players. But it's not just the novelty that's worn off the show, it's also the innocence. There is a danger that as Deal or No Deal develops, it will continue to descend, incrementally, the path already trodden by its stablemate Big Brother. BB was once a great little show about ordinary people playing a fair game with clear rules. But over time the producers, hiding behind a faceless character, sidelined the very things that made it so good, threw every gimmick they could think of into the mix, and even abandoned the pretence of a fair contest. But there's a twist. Even after all that, Big Brother is still as big a ratings draw as ever. And who's to say the same won't happen to Deal or No Deal?


It's produced by The Mole's Glenn Hugill.

We can't think of many shows that were on six days a week: I'm the Answer was one of them, as was Blockbusters back in the days when there were Champions series. Countdown also joined this exclusive club in January 2006, largely as a result of DoND's success. Stop press: Apparently Ask No Questions was also six days a week.

Discounting phone-ins, the show set a new daytime TV record in its third episode, when Anita Wallas took home £33,000. Prior to this, the record was £25,000 from the previous year's Beat the Nation, also an Endemol show. In the 11th episode the record went up to £35,000 when Maurice Cheshire took the chair. He dealt too early though, and could have taken over £100,000 had he played on.

In the 17th episode (18 November 2005), hot-seat contestant Jennifer Miller became the first person to win a six-figure prize on daytime TV when she dealt at £120,000. Jennifer was down to the final two boxes when she dealt. The £250,000 was in one of them and in the other was £750. She made the right call, as the £750 was in her box.

The 1p box was first won on 3 January 2006 by Nick Bain. He took out no fewer than EIGHT consecutive red numbers, until he was eventually left with 1p and £100. After turning down the banker's final offer of £30 (the highest was £9,000), he agreed to swap round the two remaining boxes - so that he ended up with the 1p box. On 1 March 2006 Trevor Bruce became the second member of "the 1p club" after turning down £9,900. Fadil Osman became the third member on 14 April. Dave Ellis the fourth on 25 April, then in an astonishing run of bad luck three more players joined the club in the space of eight shows - Sally Kettle on 14 July, Connell Gibson on 17 July, and Giorgio Felicini on 22 July. An eighth member, Sharron Coates, joined the club on 31 August.

The lowest opening offer by the Banker was £6 to John Burns on show 231. This was in reaction to a bad opening round, which transgressed into an even worse second round - so much so, his second offer was just £1!

The first seven letters of "Noel Edmonds" anagram into "Endemol", the production company's name. The first six letters anagram to "NO DEEL". Edmonds' name contains the letters DOND (Deal Or No Deal) in order.

The T-shirts worn by the studio staff have the slogan "What's in your box?".

Other hosts who were in the frame before Noel said he'd do it include Les Dennis and Brian Conley, apparently. Conley told the Manchester Evening News that he missed out because Channel 4 and Endemol disagreed on the direction the show should take, saying that "Endemol wanted it to be like the French version, which was a lot more fun and light-hearted and not quite as serious as it has become."

Dubbed Sequencegate by fans, an observant reader at the Bother's Bar fan site noted that most games from early 2006 followed a small number of predicatable sequences. In fact, some of the shows had identical boxes. It was caused by a change in procedures by the show's adjudicators, using a pseudo-random Excel. They now use a manual 'picking balls out of the bag' method.

On the episode on April 29 2006, during Massimo's game, one of the remaining boxes was knocked on the floor. The box subsequently opened. All the boxes were re-shuffled with the remaining amounts. Curiously, this entire process - with the floor assistants coming on to bring the boxes on and off the set, and Noel reassuring Massimo throughout - was included in the programme's final edit.

Boxgate in Massimo's game

During the end of the first season, Noel began to have special symbols written on his hand. In September 2006, the mystery was revealed. Far from being an object lesson in Noel's own psychology of cosmic ordering, as many had thought, in fact the final messages spelt out "www", "red", "box" and "club" pointing to this website. This contained all the symbols in sequence which, when solved, won a lucky person a VIP trip to the DoND studios including a chance to meet Noel and be one of the blue box openers. Unfortunately for would-be cryptanalysts, it would appear the entire thing may have been a hoax. Asked about the symbols, Noel told the Daily Record, "The symbols were a joke. It was a Dan Brown moment. I'd read The Da Vinci Code and thought why don't I put some signs on my hands to see if people notice."


The £250,000 top prize was first won on 7 January 2007 by Laura Pearce, a civilian police worker from Hemel Hempstead. Inevitably, the result was leaked in the press weeks beforehand.

Laura Pearce wins the jackpot


"Deal or no deal?"

At the start of play: "Channel 4 is all yours" or "It's your show"

"You're obsessed with the reds" when a contestant keeps on taking out red numbers

"You dealt at the right time... for Bob"

"Make it blue"

"Keep it low"

"I think you'll be there"

"We do not want to see the quarter of a million"

Key moments

In one game, the final box was shown to be empty. The £1 label had fallen off. (That's Poundstretcher for you.)

Chalk another one up for Denis Norden, there.

Mr. Edmonds' increasingly predictable commercial links:

Noel: "Whatever you do... don't open a low box... whatever you do... don't open it until after the break!"

Noel: "Can you pick the box up for me, please? Can you guess the weight?"
Box-opener: "About half a pound."

Noel: "No, the weight is... about three minutes while we go to a break."

Noel: "Do not break her heart... did I say break?"

Box-opener: "I want this to be low", spurning Noel into placing the box on the floor so it can't be opened. Isaac Newton would have been proud!

Image:dealornodeal weight.jpg "What the hell's he doing?" "I think he's trying to tell us it's time for an ad break"

Theme music

Augustin Bousfield, apparently, although you'd be hard-pressed to tell it was the same person throughout due to the bizarre clash of upbeat jazz theme tune and thin, ambient tension music. (It has been speculated more than once that this is the result of a sudden, last-minute U-turn decision by the producers to 'darken up' the show, as opposed to playing it purely for comedy value (the European versions of the format tend to swing towards the latter)).

Although seeing as the theme sounds almost exactly like the theme from Cash Cab, it might just have been Endemol getting some work done "on the cheap".


Richard De Rijk


Q. How do I become a contestant on Deal or No Deal?

A. For a limited time only, call the contestant hotline on 09013 263 244 (calls cost 75p from a standard landline).


The game book

The board game

The tabletop electronic game

The handheld game

The interactive DVD game

Web links

Official website

Channel 4 page

Wikipedia entry

Bother's Bar review

Bother's Bar Megastats Central - list of previous show results

Fan page

Off The Telly review #1

Off The Telly review #2

See also

Weaver's Week review


Donna from 12th December 2006
Original trailer for Deal or No Deal

Other videos:


Image:dealornodeal random.jpg Picture 1: One lucky player is selected.
Image:dealornodeal set.jpg Picture 2: The wooden underground club-style set.
Image:dealornodeal newboxes.jpg Picture 3: As of episode 101, the boxes contain appropriately-coloured stickers.
Image:dealornodeal 3deffect.jpg Picture 4: As of episode 205, the stickers are raised, giving the boxes a stylish drop-shadow effect.


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