Rick Adams (1996)
Jez Edwards (1997-8)
Vera the Cuckoo (Steve Nallon)
Action Time and Carlton for ITV, 4 April 1996 to 29 May 1998 (33 episodes in 3 series)
Sdrawkcab gnihtyreve od ot dah uoy erehw wohsemag eht.
Do you see?
Except it wasn't quite as simple as that because in fact you had to do most things forward but in a backwards manner. Not so much sdrawkcab gnihtyreve od ot dah uoy erehw wohsemag eht and more eht wohsemag erehw uoy dah ot od gnihtyreve sdrawkcab then.
The host guided two teams through the Crazy Cottage, starting the programme with a cheery "Goodbye, hope you enjoyed the show!". The five games in the 25-minute show were played in nominally reverse order, beginning with Round Five and ending at Round One, though a winner was declared at the end of the show, conventionally enough. Now and again references were made to going down and up stairs when going up and down, respectively. A supporting character was Vera, a glove puppet cuckoo, who couldn't get the hang of this going-backwards gimmick. Through the windows of the house you could tell the designers of the show were obviously taking illegal substances as gaudy coloured skies and giant child audience members could be seen. Hang on, now that's where the inspiration for Teletubbies came from.
Rounds included riding the bike where the handlebars steered the wrong way, performing a sequence but in a certain order so when the film was played backwards it matched what was on the card, making a pizza in a slopey kitchen, working out backward tunes - stuff like that.
The first game - er, fifth and final game - is a race to put clothes drying on a washing line away before the sun comes out to dry them (do you see?) The teams race one at a time in relay fashion on large tricycles, BUT, the handlebars are rigged so that steering the bike left turns the wheels to the right, and so on. All three team members get a go at steering the trike around a winding course, getting an item of clothing off a line, and riding back. The set is colourful to the point of being garish, and the background music is jangly and artificial. Really, no expense is spared to create craziness, wackiness, and doing things the unconventional way just for the sake of it (including a long, claymation-type opening sequence) and it starts to grate quickly. The faster team of the two (who take part at once) wins 10 points, but these are bounced to the opponents as the team with the lower score at the end wins. How crazy!. The game varied per episode but followed the same crazy format (Such as undelivering newspapers into mail boxes, etc etc)
The second game is quite clever and takes place inside the cottage as such (which is even more colourful than outside). The robot who keeps score, Mr. Cyril, gives a list of three instructions to each team... the team have to do them so that when they are viewed backwards, they're right. For instance: do a backward roll, catch three balls with a tennis racket and roll a football up the stairs is done by rolling the football down the stairs, hitting three tennis balls away with a tennis racket and doing a forward roll... in that order. Vera then awards 40 marks to each team (presumably 10 for each action and 10 for the right order). Rick commentates on the teams' actions, both forwards and backwards... but he's not like he was in Reactive when he had a full desk to play with, chairs and no restrictions on gags. Still quite funny, though.
The third game - introduced as the third game - takes place in a sloping room (maybe 20 degrees or so) with the camera also at this angle, so that everyone looks to be at an angle when standing normally! It's a game straight out of Double Dare/Funhouse but a bit less messy. The teams have to raid the cottage's kitchen and make the highest pizza they can alternating pizza bases (?) and toppings. They have to place the pizzas on top of a table which is also at the slanting angle (the table looks OK on camera, but the pizzas appear to be slanting). Highest pizza in a minute or two wins ten points (for the other team). Because everything being at an angle, food would often fly out of cupboards, Rick would usually slip over at some point and the contestants found it very hard to keep their pizzas together, the higher they got.
The fourth game takes place outside and on normally-oriented ground. There are loads of items inside the shed. Rick describes an item that he requires which does not posess a certain three properties (it is not made of wood, it does not have strings, you can not play a tune with it). The teams race to send a member into the shed and find an object which does fulfil the three properties (like a guitar... but there's only one. If the other team gets it, you can't wrestle it off them, alas, you have to get something else, like a loudspeaker in a wooden cabinet). 10 points are awarded for each property fulfilled, so typically this round ends up 30-20. Boring!
The fifth game is a quickfire round inside the cottage with the two teams each using a communal buzzer shaped like a trifle (they get to "push their puds". Oo-er!) and consists of 18 or 19 questions, all buzz-in, worth 10 points apiece. Yep, it's last-round-blows-all-the-others-out-of- the-water-points-wise syndrome, and don't you just love it. The first two questions are, sat upside-down on the sofa, identify pictures of landmarks; the next three are identify celebrities from pictures (with fake beards, hair etc. added) and the next three are identify theme songs and tunes mangled up. The last bit is that a picture is shown with about 10 weird things in it (a picture of a row of houses with a bookcase on top of a house, a shoe on top of a hedge, potatoes instead of windows, knights in shining armour and so on). Buzz madly in and name them for 10 points apiece. Game-imbalancing!
The losing team (with more points, because their opponents have earned more points...) each win left-handed biscuits and backwards clocks, the winning team win goody-bags and days snorkelling with a giant cauliflower. Look, I'm not making this up, worse luck. Rick wishes us "Hello" and the show ends.
The Action Time logo that comes up at the end is a surprise, though. It's very different from most Action Time shows in that it has lots of original ideas and goes at a quick pace (and Stephen Leahy does not get a credit anywhere), all of which is very commendable. However it does suffer from Action Time's trademark last-round-is-the-only-important-one fault.
Lots of original ideas, and Rick hosted it well (he wasn't nearly as funny as he was in Reactive, though). The backwards gimmick throughout the show worked quite well if you concentrated hard enough. We're not sure if kids would be able to follow it properly, but then again their brains may be able to cope with it better than ours. And we don't half feel old saying that.
Some of the hosts' presentation was very much sdrawkcab. They signed-off at the start of the show and welcomed us at the end.