Number One



Krishnan Guru-Murthy


Initial for Channel 4, 28 May to September 2001


The charts these days, eh? Aren't they boring? Whenever something new is released, it always seems to go straight in at number one without much work. Hands up who remembers those halcyon days where bands had to fight their way to the top (hint: that would be any time before the 1990s)? Well, why not relive those fab days in quiz format because this, quite literally pop-pickers, is Number One!

Ten people battle it out in a game of knowledge and speed in order to be Number One and have a chance of winning £2500 and the privilege of coming back on the next show to defend their champion's title.

Quick note on the set: modern but a bit bland. That just about sums it up. On the left is host Krishnan's desk (looking a bit like the pod from The People Versus but without the cool moving parts). On the right are the ten podiums (podia?) numbered one to ten from left to right. Behind these podia (podiums?) are some partitions which can change colour. Behind and above all of this is a gantry in the theatrical gods where the ten contestants begin their battle.

The ten qualifiers ready their buzzer fingers

The first round is the qualifying round. The contestants on the gantry have a buzzer each and are asked general knowledge questions. The first person to buzz gets to answer. Getting the first question correct puts you straight in at Number One which makes the game a lot easier for them as you will see. The next question is for podium two, three, four and so on. Getting a question wrong means you fill in from number 10 upwards, risking immediate elimination in the first round.

As a way to kick things off it's fine, but we're slightly unnerved about the format of introducing the contestants. The question is given, the contestant buzzes in and answers and then we get "Joe Bloggs, a retired lab technician from Scunthorpe, that is the correct answer and you qualify at number two". It jars a little bit for some reason.

The next round reduces the 10 people to 5 and this is arguably the most fun bit of the show. The contestants go to their podiums (because of the angle of the camera the contestants are hidden by the partitions until they walk out to the podiums) and more rapid fire questions are asked. Every time you get one right you move up the podiums, pushing everyone you displace down. If you get a question wrong you move down the podiums, moving everyone else displaced up.

The set of Number One

Most questions involve just one move, but to spice things up some questions are worth two or three podiums. Opinion at UKGS Towers is deeply divided as to whether they're unfair or whether they make it more fun and interesting, particularly as there seems to be no correlation between difficulty of question and potential reward. This problem is further accentuated by the arrival of ultra-rare Number One questions which, if answered correctly, move that player straight to Number One. If the person at Number One continues getting questions right, they can send their biggest rival right down to the bottom podium. Unfair perhaps, although it does make a bizarre sort of sense that in a show called Number One someone who dominates the game gets demi-god like powers.

The object is to stay away from the bottom two podiums, the elimination zone, because every minute a rather pathetic futuristic sound effect will go off meaning that someone's got to go. The bottom two placed contestants have a one question duel with the loser moving down to the bottom (if they aren't there already) and being eliminated. Continue until five people remain.

Krish begins the first of the knockout playoffs between the people in the last two positions

This bit is actually rather good fun, although the biggest problem we have with it is that although it purports to be rapid fire, Our Krish tends to over enthuse the virtues of getting a question correct, especially when it's "time for an ultra-rare Number One question, if you get this right you can go straight to the Number One spot so it's very important." That's fine and lovely, but we're fairly sure the people who don't get it correct would rather get on with it and snuck another question in.

Time running out is represented by ten multicoloured squares falling off the screen (design © Princess Productions) when there are ten seconds left, accompanied by a rather low droning sound. (A full minute countdown or Countdown-style music please, not some rubbish amalgamation of the two.) Because the show wants to 'be' The Weakest Link just a teensy bit, a question that hasn't been finished won't get finished. This seems a bit unfair given that a round is only sixty seconds and it's not very fast pace. If Krishnan didn't get quite so excited about big questions we could forgive it. As it is...

OK, so we're nit picking. It's better to watch than it is to point out its problems. As it is, it's got reasonable game mechanics and it's how Channel 5's rubbish Move on Up should have worked.

After the break and now the five must become one. Quick re-introductions for each player as well as slightly pointless statisticy bits which only seem to highlight unfairness in the format ("You're at number 4 but you haven't answered any questions so far...") proving once again it wants to "be" Weakest Link.

Again, this round has a fine idea behind it. The people in the bottom two positions duel off against each other with the first to three points winning, and losers dropping out. Incorrect answers give your opponent the point. Standard quiz stuff, although cleverly the person in fifth place would have to duel and win against the person in fourth, third, second and first if they want to win the show whereas the person in the Number One will only have to battle the person in second place to win outright. So the further down the board they are at the end of round one, the more work they have to do in order to win.

Rather lamely, the points are represented on the podium screen as blocks next to the podium number. For some reason there also seems to be three lightbulbs on the podiums that don't get a look in when they probably should have been used for this. Pointless!

Whoever is in the Number One position at the end of the round is the champion, gets to defend his title on the next show and gets the chance to win £2500 (which, would you believe, is about the average they give away on Weakest Link every afternoon. Hmm...)

Again, the idea behind the round is sound in theory but not so good in practice, but at least it isn't a bog standard "10 questions in one minute money chase" so we'll give it some credit.

Each of the losers comes back on stage and stands at the podium they dropped out from. Each podium is worth a sum of money, £50 for podium 10, then £50, £100, £100, £200, £200, £300, £500 and finally £1000 for podium 2.

One nice aspect of the end game is that the runner-up can still win £1000

Starting at podium 10, the loser gets to pick one of nine quite varied categories (better then the usual "history" and "geography" fare). The winner has one of two options. They can "play" or question, or they can "pass".

If they pass, the loser gets no money but the money gets bumped up to the next question, so if he decides to bump the first two questions, question three would be worth £50 + £50 + £100, that's £200 accountancy fans! Potentially by bumping everything up there could be £2500 riding on the last question (but bear in mind this is played against the second-best contestant, so it's probably not a good tactic). The losers must pick carefully, because if the champion passes then the loser gets no chance to win a little bonus cash so in some ways it's better to pick a category that will suit Number One so that they'll play the question.

Number One (on the left) takes on one of the previously knocked out contestants for £300 worth of question.

If Number One does choose to play, a one question showdown takes place between Number One and the loser that picked that category. If Number One wins, then that's more money for the bank and it's safe. If that's the loser, then they win the money riding on the question instead.

So it's a nice show then, but not without its flaws. To be fair, Krishnan Guru-Murthy isn't too bad a presenter, although he definitely needs to cut the waffle and speed it up during the timed bits. We've noticed occasional unnecessary criticisms of the players too. When will producers realise that when Anne Robinson does it it's to comically exploit weakness within the team? When newsreaders try and act hard, such as "Well, you've earned £400 but you've hardly done anything to deserve it" it just seems a little silly. Besides, Guru-Murthy isn't renowned for being a tough interviewer, with a past CV of presenting Newsround and reading the Channel 4 news. All told though, he's not bad.

It's an alright show then, but it's not the next Weakest Link, it's not even the next Fifteen-to-One but it's better than other shows Channel 4 have put in this afternoon slot before.

The last-ever edition of the show was a 'Champion of Champions' match, with the ten top-scoring contestants of the series coming back to face each other with the chance of winning a more major cash prize. These included the Mastermind champion-turned-Egghead, Christopher Hughes, the future (2006) Mastermind champion, Geoff Thomas (who finished second overall) and the eventual winner was the future (2007/8) Mastermind finallist, Derek Moody. All of which proved that it was certainly the creme de la creme of British quizzes who made it to the final on Number One.


"...So, contestants, go to your podiums!"

"A Number One question, now!" or, "A two-place question, now!"

"...So that means (whoever), I'm afraid you're out!"

"...But we're going to give the nine losing contestants the chance for a bit of revenge!"

Theme music

Augustin Bousfield


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