Dominic Wood (1999-2000)
Chris Jarvis (2001-2)
Michael Underwood (2003-6)
Yorkshire Television for ITV, 10 September 1999 to 6 December 2000 (26 episodes in 2 series)
Granada Kids for ITV1, 22 October 2001 to 29 November 2006 (66 episodes in 6 series + 7 specials)
Say what you like about Jacques Antoine's biggest creation, but with Fort Boyard he didn't so much invent a show as invent a whole flipping genre and here's yet another tasks 'n' time limit challenge show, and this time it's set in a jungle. Now that IS a shock, isn't it?
Now for anyone who hasn't experienced a task 'n' time limit challenge show before, they're great - there's just too many of them nowadays especially from children's television but none of which are as good as the originals. They work like this: Members of team A attempt to get as many B which will help them (condition B) in the final game (C) by playing and winning various games (D-X) set with various time limits (Y and Z). Sometimes, if chosen member of team A is particularly inept they are punished by not being allowed to help in C but A can buy back said inept member by relinquishing some of B. If people do well in C, probably by collecting lots of B, then they'll win a big prize. Follow, class? Good. Here's an example and we'll be asking questions later:
The show had three hosts over its (jungle) run, and funnily enough, all of them present or used to present on CBBC. Anyway, latterly hosted by Michael Underwood, which is a bit like a jungle but not quite so exciting, four kids (Team A) attempt to earn themselves bananas (changed to monkey statues worth 10 seconds each later) (B). Each banana is worth five seconds in the... hang on, confused again, we aren't actually told how much each banana is worth but was something like fifteen seconds for every fifty bananas with a whole minute chucked in for free (condition B) in the Lost Temple at the end (C). In each round, there was a whopping 100 bananas up for grabs and somewhere along the route was an inflatable bonus worth up to £100. No, that's Supermarket Sweep, isn't it?
Somewhere along the route was (da-da-dah!) The Golden Banana (again changed to a ruby monkey later) worth a full 50 bananas and probably £5 if it was taken to The Antiques Roadshow. However, the teams didn't know when or where the Golden Banana was going to show up and sadly the whole cast and crew didn't shout out "GOLDEN BANANA!" in the Going Live/Live and Kicking phone-in computer game stylee. Oh well. We were treated with the information when it came up though because of the Golden Banana cam which very kindly pointed it out for us. Thanks very much.
So how do the team (A) win bananas (B)? Well they do that by playing challenges (D-X) in various bits of the jungle set (erm... Alpha - Delta... you get the metaphor by now) which included a waterfall, a camp, some caves, a pond aaaaand a chasm raviney thing! Sometimes these challenges involved working as a team to collect bananas, occasionally they'd be collecting bananas for the common good but were doing it simultaneously on their own.
There was a nice variety in the games, some of which are quite clever indeed - notably the Cave of Death (or something) where one player would try and collect bananas and get across the cave by having the rest of the team outside put objects through holes in the wall to help. What is more, if the player fell into any of the pits or they didn't get out before the Jungle timer ran out then for one reason or another they were trapped there and it would cost fifty whole bananas to be let out again.
Another one that stuck in the mind was a game set in The Lost Camp which for one reason or another had all the players captured and put into boxes. One of the team could let himself out quite easily but he'd have to help the others get out by finding the keys for them. If anybody was still in a cage when the time ran out then they were lost. But, if they spent all their time letting their friends out they couldn't grab any of the bananas lying around. It's a harsh, harsh life. Or is it a hard knock life? We guess we'll never know.
After visiting all the possible places once and probably getting wet in the process they travel to the Temple where inside, different colour monkey idols (and they got more impressive as time went on) were worth varying prizes with, surprisingly, the biggest prize going to the monkey in the furthest chamber. This was quite a cool game actually. The players had to solve picture and word puzzles by putting cubes in the wall so it makes the word/equation/picture correct. When that happened, the wall moved aside so they could get into the next chamber where another one awaited and so on and so forth until they solved all the puzzles or their time was running out because of the time ran out and they were still inside the tigers would eat them or something. Anyway, they'd lose the prize they had and it would all end in tears. Probably.
Although the format is (by the production team's own admission) a clone of The Crystal Maze, they took the unwise step of copying it just a bit too far because a major credibility hit is taken by the format in terms of "lock ins". If the kids are too slow on certain games, one of them gets locked in at that location. Err.... getting locked in an open jungle. Eh? And Dominic Wood's magic tricks, used as quick throwaway links between the games early on in the show's life, somewhat jarred in this setting too.
So, all in all not perfect but it did have good production values, especially given that it's a kids show. Sadly it's no longer with us (except in the form of endless digital repeats), a victim of ITV cuts which saw the annual CITV budget slashed to seventy-six pence and a bottle top. Which they promptly blew on Scratch 'n' Sniff's Den of Doom, forshame.
Concept by Lesley Oakden.
Perhaps surprisingly and perhaps not, Channel 5 commissioned an adult version of the show, Naked Jungle, for naturists with its infamous nude Keith Chegwin. There's something slightly disturbing about that, however it was this version which inspired the childrens show as the same set was used in the early series. This was then later recreated from scratch when the other presenters came along.
Special episodes were often made, including Olympians, young stars of Coronation Street, CITV presenters, and the cast of My Parents Are Aliens.
Unfortunately there are no plans to make any more series of Jungle Run, so it is not possible to apply to be on the show. Sorry!