Bank Balance

Bank Balance



Gordon Ramsay


Studio Ramsay for BBC One, 24 February to 13 March 2021 (9 episodes in 1 series + 1 special)


Television's lairiest chef hangs up his apron and takes on a primetime big money show.

The press release described the game:

Devised by Gordon Ramsay's production company, Bank Balance sees contestants trying to stack gold bars on different zones of a pivoting, pyramid-shaped structure in a quest to win up to £100,000.

Stack your bars here.

The zones are selected at random and players will need luck, poise and precision to 'balance' the bank – too much weight on one side could see the fortune they’ve built come crashing down!

Oh no not again.

Played by pairs of contestants, the aim is to stack the "gold bars" on a four-way balance thing, with various zones on each arm. If it tips too far in any direction, the blocks fall and the team have lost the game. Should our team place their blocks without any falling off, they win a cash prize of up to £100,000.

The players draw one of the zones at random, and then choose from 12 categories. They also choose how many answers they want to give - three 3-bar pyramids are worth £9000, three 4-bar stacks for £16,000, and the only 5-bar pyramid is £25,000. There's no value in the two one-bar "stacks", or the three two-bar piles; these can serve to balance the board a little.

A stack of three bars, potentially worth £9000.

Our team get a list question and a minute. Each correct answer allows them to place a bar on the zone of the balance thing. If they give all the answers and stack all the bars in time, they keep the money. Give a wrong answer or run out of time, the whole stack becomes worthless and they have to place an additional penalty block on top.

Topping off a penalty stack.

"Credits" (lifelines) are available later in the game - "pick again" to draw a different zone, "bank a stack" to be assured of the value of the next stack you play for, and extra time to give an additional 30 seconds on a question.

Bank Balance came across as more complex than it needed to be. Some listings magazines intimated it was too complex for mainstream television, but then the same mags give Only Connect a sympathetic write-up every week.

Over the tipping point

Viewer reaction was almost unanimous: some people were inquisitive to watch the first episode, decided not to watch the rest of the series, and that was that. Overnight ratings cratered - by the final week, just 1.2 million were tuning in, well below the slot average of around 3.5 million.

What went wrong? Many things. Gordon Ramsay wasn't the host we expected - neither as brusque or as foul-mouthed as on Hell's Kitchen, nor as soft and cuddly as Michael McIntyre on The Wheel. The syndicated press blurb for Bank Balance concentrated on Gordon Ramsay's pottymouth; the pre-title spoiler package included a bleeped scatalogical expletive, which wasn't representative of the series.

The series started with contestants who many viewers found unsympathetic, and we got the impression that the host wasn't heavily on their side. The moment of their loss was only captured on the edge of a camera frame. Throughout the series, contestants ignored basic physics: the heaviest stacks need to go in the middle, the smallest stacks on the edges.

Bank Balance Stack 'em up!

Bank Balance required us to want nothing to happen. It's the exact opposite of every other physical game show: we want people on Total Wipeout to fall in the water, we expect Don't Scare the Hare to have a scared hare. On Bank Balance, the players win if nothing happens. It's very difficult to make a non-event into compelling television.

Other production decisions worked against Bank Balance. They could have given the "credit" lifelines at the start of the show, but didn't. They could have given partial credit for bars stacked successfully before a wrong answer or time expiring, but didn't. They could have allowed people to walk away for a fraction of the prize on the board, but didn't. It's an all-or-nothing show, about 15 years behind the fashion.

Key moments

Ooh, a bit wobbly.

The 'ooh's and 'aah's when it looks like the board was about to tip over. Or, more accurately, the lack of 'ooh's and 'aah's when it looks like the board was about to tip over, because the show used a virtual audience, and without being in a room full of people leaning forward in anticipation, people were less inclined to make noise.


None. Across ten episodes, all fourteen teams failed to stack all the piles to win their big prize. A few of the teams took some money from the "Bank a stack" lifeline.


Fernando De Jesus, Tom Day, Sam Smaïl, and Bronson Payne.


The ten episodes were filmed without an audience in late 2020 and early 2021, with finished episodes shown to an online audience and their reactions annotating the mix. Some episodes were shown this way with weeks to spare. Episodes were also an hour long, except for the Red Nose Day edition, which was 45 minutes long.

Bank Balance was aired three times a week, episodes went out at 9pm on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights. Several cooking shows have gone out in that slot - Masterchef airs three series a year three days a week, while Great British Menu aired its 2019 and 2020 series with eight of its nine weeks spread across three days - while BBC Scotland put Wonderball out at 7pm stripped across the week, but we cannot recall BBC1 stripping A Proper Quiz Show in this manner before.

The aforementioned bleeped scatological expletive had to be bleeped in the pre-title spoiler package but not when the moment aired in its source episode due to a bizarre section of the OFCOM broadcasting code (1.6) which demanded that the "transition to more adult material must not be unduly abrupt at the watershed".

The first episode's first explanation of how the board works was sampled for a 17 July 2021 broadcast of It's Clarkson on TV.

Voted the Worst New Show in this site's Poll of 2021

Web links

BBC programme page

Wikipedia entry

See also

Weaver's Week review


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