Come and Have a Go If You Think You're Smart Enough
Nicky Campbell (2004)
Julian Clary (2005)
Quiz mistress: Emily Maitlis (2005)
Alan Dedicoat (voiceover: 2005)
Tailor Made Films for BBC One, 3 April 2004 to 25 June 2005 (16 episodes in 2 series)
Aired in spring 2004, this is the BBC's first attempt at a fully-interactive game show, only seven and a half years after C4's seminal Wanted. Viewers enter the show from home; they first call a premium-rate number (and donate 15p to the prize fund) then play by one of the following hi-tech methods:
- By interactive television. This only works for viewers on digital satellite, or for viewers who use the BBC co-owned digital terrestrial television service. Those who watch their television via digital cable have no entry via this route, because the BBC has still not enabled the cable return path.
- By internet, for browsers with a working Flash plugin.
- By mobile phone, for modern handsets that support Java.
Those viewers who are still on analogue television, don't have an internet connection and don't have a whiz-bang modern mobile phone, or who don't know how to work the technology they do have, are immediately disenfranchised from the quiz. The BBC prefers not to address the question of whether society has advanced to a stage where one of these devices is a social norm; at the time the first series aired, there must have been something like a third of the country who did not have the technology to play, and maybe two-thirds didn't have the know-how to use their devices.
In the studio are four teams of four are in the studio, introduced with some of the most dizzyating spinning camera work ever seen on British television. Host Nicky Campbell briefly chats to the studio players, and says how much money is in the pot. The studio audience played along on their buzzers "for fun," and Nicky occasionally tells us how the best person in the audience was faring against the teams.
For each question, there are four possible answers, and players in the studio and at home answer by pressing the appropriate button on their mobile or television remote, or on their computer screen. The first round consists of ten questions. They're billed as "general knowledge," but skewed heavily towards entertainment on the opening edition. The studio team with the fewest correct answers leaves the show at this point. A tie-break may be required, usually a scrambled face to decode. The losing team are briefly shown in silhouette, then fade to black, then reappear walking off the set as the set lights return.
Round two consists of three categories, each of five questions. The first week's set: TV Detectives, Posh and Becks (footballer David Beckham and his wife Victoria Posh-Spice-Beckham-Aadams), and Musicals. Again, the team with the lowest score at the end of this round leaves.
Round three follows with two more categories of five questions such as World Leaders and Toys and Games. Once more, the lower scoring team leaves, leaving one team left.
In the first part of the show, there are 35 substantive questions, and 50 minutes in which to ask them. Even with ten seconds to answer, that leaves a little too much time for Nicky to bore us, with his catchphrase "the smart answer is ..." We've never held a poll to find the most annoying game show catchphrase ever, but this one annoyed the heck out of us the first time we heard it.
Interspersed through the game are chats with a couple of home players, who are linked to the studio by video phones. The conversation tends to the anodyne, but this does demonstrate that the BBC deems the picture from a video phone to be of broadcast quality, and that will surely have implications for other game shows over the coming years.
At the end of part 1, Nicky gave out the qualifying score: for all weeks, 26/35. There's a code and a phone number to call. An automated system then calls back, and poses five questions, each with a ten second limit. The player with the most correct answers in the shortest time to the first four questions becomes this week's home winner; question 5 becomes a tie-break. A runner-up becomes the standby player, just in case.
Then a motorbike and video phone go to the winner's house, and broadcasts live to the nation from someone's front room. Should the video equipment not reach the house in time, then the show proceeds in sound only. For all its high-tech trappings, the team has to physically be in the same room to play. Teams cannot play online, communicating by streaming video and IRC or other instant messenger.
The final is eight multiple choice questions each: a correct answer is worth one point, an incorrect answer resets the score to 0. Yep, it's the Revised Wipeout Scoring System, in which the first few questions are almost pointless, and only the run of general knowledge questions at the end counts for anything. Each team can pass one question to the other side, so some element of tactics is involved - more on the tactics in a moment. In the event of a tie, the side that scored more in the main game sees four answers but no question. They can elect to see the question and answer, or pass to the opposition. A correct answer wins, an incorrect answer loses.
The final round is wide open for game theory. The team playing second will face the last question, and must keep its pass for that. If they're trailing, a successful pass will give a win, or at least force a no-score draw; a one-point lead could guarantee a tie-break if the team's not confident, and a two-point lead cannot be overtaken on one question. The only scenario that would make it worthwhile playing is a one point deficit on a question the team reckons it knows.
The strategy for the team playing first is a little less obvious. They need to keep their pass for as long as possible, and assume only the passed question will provide an error. They'd want to use it when they would have a win from the other side's error, and a tie if the other side gets the question right.
The concept - people at home against people in the studio - is very good. The implementation is less promising, with all sorts of minor rules and regulations in place to make heavy work of what would seem to be an easy show. The first part would strongly benefit from losing five minutes and the forced catchphrases, and we can certainly lose the dizzy camera work. The gimmick of having a camera in someone's living room is done well, and might well be the most influential concept to come from the game.
The second series introduced some major changes. There were two new hosts - Julian Clary, perhaps best known for an unfortunate incident on live television, and Emily Maitlis, a calm and sensible newsreader.
Pre-registering for the game became history, teams of four slimmed down to pairs, there's no live outside broadcast, and the entire show is done to promote the Lottery.
After eight questions, ten pairs became four pairs; after a further eight, they were slimmed down to two pairs, who then answered four questions each using the Revised Wipeout Scoring System. The end-game featured £500 for taking part, and eight questions to a £50,000 jackpot, with the intermediate points dictated by the numbers drawn in a lottery game. Failure to answer eight in a row meant the couple would leave with the amount appropriate to their last correct answer.
"And the smart answer is..."
Tailor Made Films and Chatterbox Partnership
The show was originally announced under its working title Don't Get Mad, Get Even.
The show was renamed The National Lottery: Come and Have a Go If You Think You're Smart Enough for series 2.
In 2010, the format was the subject of a legal claim by a man who claimed the BBC had ripped off his idea for a show - provisionally titled Cash Call Challenge... Live! - in which viewers at home could phone in to challenge a team in the studio. The high court judge at the preliminary hearing dismissed the claim as "a series of conspiracy theories", noting that "it is very difficult to see that there is much similarity here at all even if one reads into the description of Come and Have a Go as being implicit reference to use of a telephone. To the extent that they exist, the similarities are extremely general, and in my view they do not give rise to any inference of copying."