In the Grid




Les Dennis


Initial West for Five, 30 October 2006 to 2 February 2007 (70 episodes in 1 series)


Les Dennis lets people get rich and do each other over by picking squares on a grid which may help or hinder them. It's Steal for 2006!

The two contestants stand facing a grid (in fact, The Grid) of sixteen squares. Both are given £1000 to start with. They then take it in turns to pick a square on The Grid – squares are referred to by coordinates (e.g. B3) rather than being simply numbered in a clever attempt to distance them from the boxes on Deal or No Deal – and reveal its contents. There are five types of square: gold squares that contain money which is added to the player's total, green squares boost their total by a particular percentage, red squares reduce their total similarly, purple squares excitingly allow the player to steal a percentage of their opponent's money (possibly up to 100%), while the single black square bankrupts the player. With the exception of the black square, the mix of colours changes from day to day.

Image:gridsetup.jpg Les introduces the players to today's Grid

To inject a modicum of strategy into proceedings, both players have two 'Reveals' which they can use at any time to find out what colour a square of their choosing is (though not its value).

The other player can try to read the face of the revealer while they are being shown the reveal on their private monitor, which adds a little bit of poker mentality to the whole thing. It's a shame this aspect wasn't developed any further. As it stands, this is the only tiny amount of inter-player action we get - otherwise, the game might as well be two people each picking 7 squares from 8 in separate studios then seeing who scores the most.

Image:gridreveal.jpg The game is turned on its head* by a reveal

One of the problems in this whole colour-coding device is that firstly it's not very easy for first-time viewers to pick up (you can imagine the nation's grannies asking "What does that purple one do again?") and besides, for colour-blind viewers the gold & green and red & black squares are too similar to tell apart. It would have been much preferable if all the squares were revealed with symbols as well (e.g. "£" on the gold squares).

Image:gridinplay.jpg A bonus square is revealed

Once fifteen of the sixteen squares have been played, the player with the most money wins and goes though to the exciting big-money end game...

Except it's not exciting. The moderately-large-money end game consists of a new grid of twenty-five squares (The MegaGrid or the UltraGrid or something), twenty of which are gold, and five of which are bankrupts. The winning contestant is told how much their prize money will rise to (following no given formula) if they correctly pick a gold square, then they decide whether they want to risk having a go. If they pick a bankrupt the game ends instantly and they win nothing. The audience are liable to shout "Gamble!" at this point; presumably just for something to do. This can be done a maximum of five times, though the first pick is obligatory, which rather pointlessly means the amount the player wins in the first round is the one amount they can't possibly leave with.

Image:gridmega.jpg The Supermegauberwackogrid in all its neon glory

Les Dennis is of course an entirely competent host, having spent years presenting one of the most popular game show formats ever. This show, it is safe to say, will not become one of the most popular game show formats ever. (Heck, even if it were good it wouldn't because it's on five so nobody would watch it even if it was terrific.) However, this game has quite a complicated number of of outcomes when it comes to the crunch, and Les is smart enough to realise this and make it easy to follow.

What's slightly frustrating about the whole venture is that, for a Channel 5 (oh, alright then, five) production, it's all been put together rather well. The innovative use of a cube rather than a flat screen for the game board works extremely well and, colour-balancing aside, looks marvellously sci-fi. There's an experienced host who doesn't grate, the audience is plentiful enough and well "donutted" around the studio, the typography and graphics are nicely consistent (although the on-screen scoreboard could do with some animation to demonstrate the contestants' money totals going up and down), there's even some computer-animated eye candy whenever the board revolves to its next position. Even the set looks about as nice as it could do on this kind of budget. Perhaps the level of prize money is a little disappointing, being at least half that of what Channel 4 are giving away.

The main game is alright and can almost reach 'exciting' if the outcome could tip based on the last couple of squares, and maybe each player knows what's in one of them, but it's highly dull to begin with, and suffers by comparison to Noel's offering earlier in the day, which is so good it inspired pedestrian attempts to cash in on its popularity like this one. The sheer banality of the final's mechanism - in reality, it's the Bong Game all over again - renders absent any tension induced by the high(ish) stakes. Also, for some reason the winner comes back the next day anyway so even if they lose the money they'll get to have another go.

Rather too many elements are wholesale stolen from Deal or No Deal (another Endemol show, note) to make it a good format in its own right: the pool of potential players (who here do absolutely nothing to aid the proceedings), the talk of "life-changing money", asking why a contestant is drawn to a particular square (eh?), the entirely luck-based nature of the mechanic, the offers to quit given by the Grid in the end game... As happened with Greed, five have a habit of coming far too late into the party to make any significant gain on the "me-too" trend and we fear this show will go the same way.

Now try to guess whether there's a premium rate phone-in competition attached to this show. And whether it's identical to Deal or No Deal's. And whether it has the same voiceover.

Theme music

Marc Sylvan


In later shows, the Megagrid was rebalanced so that it could have up to 23 golds (and therefore only 2 bankrupts), which seems a lot better. Also, the top prize possible is announced up front, to get an extra frisson of excitement out of the game.

Filmed at Endemol West Studios (right next door to Deal or No Deal), Paintworks, Bristol.

Web links

Wikipedia entry

See also

Weaver's Week review


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