I'm the Answer
Endemol for ITV1, 5 - 31 October 2003 (24 episodes)
The format of the show is simple, almost to the point of being patronising. In the opening round, there are one hundred audience members. Each person has a card containing a reasonably well-known noun. Host Dale Winton (yes, this is what he's doing these days) reads out the first of three clues. All the members of the audience who think they might match that clue stand up, and shout "I'm the answer" in something approximating almost perfect unison.
Dale then takes a moment to examine these claims. If, for instance, the clue had been "colourful" then someone with a card reading "Rainbow" would be clearly correct. He might stop at someone holding up "Dalmatian," on the assumption that they're referring to the black and white spotted dog, but if the person holding the card can refer to coastal parts of Yugoslavia, not only will they impress Dale but they'll also be edited out of the show, as daytime ITV seems not to be a refuge for potential Mastermind contestants. There can be some convoluted excuses to join in the fray, and our host isn't afraid to suggest that some of the more tenuous links might not be successful.
After this banter, Dale gives a second clue, it could be verbal, aural, or a prop thrown on stage or dropped from the ceiling. This may be the first show since Crackerjack where contestants are routinely pelted with cabbages. After a third clue, Dale indicates if the answer to his question is still standing. He makes a point of saying that anyone who is standing here and isn't the answer is out of the game: this is perhaps a bit mean-spirited, and suggests that the prepared questions aren't sufficiently wide-ranging that their potential answers overlap.
Repeat this process four times, that's just when it stops being entertaining and starts to become a grind.
After the break, four remain to the second round. They're issued with headbands, a bit like those worn by operating surgeons. Unlike the good doctors, these outfits don't have a lamp on the forehead, but do have a small television screen. The producers flash an answer onto each head, and the contestants get to familiarise themselves with each other's answer. They don't see their own answer.
Dale then asks a question, with the correct answer being one of the four on someone's head. Almost invariably, someone (for the sake of argument, Dick) will buzz in to say "I'm not the answer, but Tom is." Dale then asks Tom what is the correct answer. If Tom can give the correct answer, he and Dick take one point each. If Tom can't give the correct answer, Dick takes two points. If Sally buzzes in and says the wrong person is the answer, she is frozen out of the rest of the question and cannot score even if she is the answer. First two to three points win: rather than straightforward points, the show uses a "path of light" to reach the host.
The head-to-head final involves Dale reading out a description of a person or place or thing, and being the first to identify it on the buzzer. Yep, it's the Going for Gold final round, only without that diminishing returns or the "play or pass" business. The final round is - apparently - timed for one minute, but there's no indication of time passing, not even in the background muzak.
Whoever gets the higher score goes on to play the cash round. Dale tells the player that they are, for instance, the movie "Gone With The Wind," or Brad Pitt, or something similar. He then reads out five facts about the subject, the player responds "I am [not] the answer" as appropriate. Should the player get 5/5 at this stage, they win £10,000, and it's game over. If they get one or more answers wrong, Dale tells how many errors they made, and gives them the chance to change one - and only one - response. Four right wins £5000, three two and one wins that many thousand pounds. The finalist is guaranteed £1000, and is probably best advised to change one answer even if they're unsure.
By definition, this show is arbitrary, almost everything hinges on the selection of seat at the beginning of the recording session. We don't see any shots of the audience in the second half of the show, merely hear some Canned Crowd, this surely has nothing to do with the way the second half is recorded on the day after the first.
It's not particularly challenging entertainment, and we weren't impressed that the website is only active during the broadcast, but it was good to see ITV trying a new format in the 5pm slot. The audience at home disagreed, and the show was pulled after just four weeks.
ITV were so confident of I'm the Answer's appeal, it was shown on weekdays and Sunday.
Contestant Shirley Bullock writes:
- This was great fun to do - although the 'screens on the head' were slightly uncomfortable but that round didn't take long to get through. Great audience participation show and fantastic if you had the winning 'noun' to go on as a contestant in the game.
And Rob Jones adds:
- I was also on this show, indeed the same one as Shirley. It was fun, but it may not have been totally arbitrary. Right at the start, you had to register your attendance and pick which number seat you wanted, from 1-100 (I went for my housenumber). Then, when you received your answer cards, it carried the number as well as your answer. The upshot being that the producers would know who had signed up to be in each seat and could, in theory, decide on the four they wanted from the audience ahead of time, and pick the questions accordingly. Not saying this was the case, of course, and I can't complain as I was one of the four that progressed. But still...
Indeed, we can't say it would be entirely surprising if it turned out the show was a little bit, er... "over-managed".