Richard Madeley (non-broadcast pilot)

Robert Kilroy-Silk


Mitch Johnson (voiceover)


Initial for ITV, 5-26 November 2001 (4 episodes; up to 16 others unaired)


Dig that theme tune! Oh, it didn't appear to have one really. And look at that industrial metallic set, we hadn't seen that since ooh, The Weakest Link about three hours beforehand.

Hang on, let us use the Exclusive UKGSP Checklist of "Features of Shows That Try And Cash In More Original And Successful Shows But In Fact Annoy Us Whenever Another Show Uses Them Because We're A Bit Bored Now" shall we? Yes please sir!

The initial six players. The one that gave themselves the largest starting cash got booted out straight away.

Metallic set: CHECK. With two circular shapes and a long beam of light down the set, you can't help thinking that the vaguely phallic design was a visual pun. It had two large video screens down the end which was quite original. It was split into three stages, the far end where the six contestants started, a small walkway leading to the five podiums where the main game took place leading to the Head to Head podiums at the near end. The audience were stuck out in the middle of nowhere.

What is this representing? Answers on a postcard...

Industrial Mood Music: CHECK. Written by Paul Farrer who did an excellent job on The Weakest Link and Dog Eat Dog. Here it was barely memorable. How the mighty fall.

Futuristic Graphics and Displays: CHECK. Not even very good ones, other than the Terminator style title. They seemed very jerky to us.

The add-o-cash-o-meter

Questions: CHECK. Yep, we'll give it that one otherwise it would have been a rubbish quiz wouldn't it? To be fair it was quite clever, half the question was read out and the players had to bet money on how confident they were in where they think the question was going to go. Hilariously, most of these took obtuse twists so you'd have wanted to bet on how good your general knowledge was really.

The second half of the question reveals itself

Voting Out and Confrontation: CHECK... sort of. When the six started they gave themselves as much money as they want up to £25,000. The catch is that the greediest person was eliminated immediately. During the main game after a certain amount of questions (one per person playing) the person with the most money got to shaft someone else on the team out of the game. The first person chosen got the chance to plead their case, but after that the decision was final.

Whine, plead, whinge, simper...

Everybody started the next round with the amount of money the leader had from the round before. Unfair in the grand scheme of things but we guess it kept things close by giving everybody else an equal chance. This happened until there were two people left. Oh and after Round Two, each player was given the option to Shift the question to somebody else for the original player's stake. They could do this once during the game.

All's fair in love and war, but not Shafted

Insincere Host: CHECK. Ex-Labour MP, chat show host (at the time anyway) and pizzicato automaton Robert Kilroy-Silk. The subliminal thought processes that must have gone through the producer's mind must have been interesting. "Hmm, we've got this show called Shafted. Who can we get to host a show whose name means 'shagged'? I know, Robert Kilroy-Silk!"

Annoying Catchphrases: CHECK. "Make your bets!", "You're off the show!", and "To share, or to shaft?" (This one came with bonus hand signals)

Hot wrist action

Agonizing Moral Dilemma: CHECK. The Prisoner's Dilemma in this case. Can you say Trust Me? To be fair, this was played for a lot more money, we made the top prize a potential £102m if you doubled up all the time and got through with £25,000. In actual fact, the prize was capped at £2.5 million.

It did say "Extra large" on the photo enlargement order form

Any Sort of Compulsive Hook: "Ere Jim, did we bung any sort of compulsive hook in?" "Erm no. But if we're really lucky perhaps they won't notice." "Great!"

Innovation: Don't be stupid.

Ahhh... a happy ending.

Shafted: while it wasn't a bad show all said and done, it was a fairly obvious and cynical cash in on the The Weakest Link vibe. Opinion was split - some people really liked it, others hated it - but we were bored very quickly. And so were ITV1, evidently, as they canned it after only 4 episodes had been shown. Goodbye!

Would you like to be shafted? - the post mortem

Twenty-seven viewers complained to the regulators, saying that they were offended that the programme's title used an offensive sexual term. The ITC looked in a dictionary and found definitions including "to cheat somebody or to treat somebody unfairly".

The highest bid wins

Seven viewers complained that the format encouraged and rewarded immoral behaviour; again, the ITC determined that the format of the show would not cause widespread offence. The Salvation Army begged to differ, issuing a press release berating the programme for encouraging greed and back-stabbing.

Though not offended in the narrow definition of the regulators, the viewing public was offended by this show. It was cruelty for the sake of cruelty; contestants were dismissed with a curt "you're off the show" without even a chance to say goodbye before a blast of white light obliterated them into nothingness. The show felt as if it had been bolted together from elements of other quiz shows, even down to Paul Farrer's clunking mechanical music. And the format was complex, too complicated to understand on an initial viewing even when really concentrating. One newspaper critic wondered if the devisor later went on to dream up "How to Fill in Your VAT Return".

Pass the slick bag

Offence was also taken from the host. Robert Kilroy-Silk had long oozed a sincerity that felt fake, as though he were only talking to these people because it made him more popular. Indeed, he said in the programme's press release, "I did this because it is challenging, enjoyable and pays a lot of money." For Shafted, his appearance was polished - a neat haircut, a smart suit and tie, and less of the just-crawled-out-of-bed look that Kilroy displayed on his morning chat show.

But the leopard could not change his spots. His presentation was wooden - he didn't engage with the contestants, his usual touchy-feely style made impossible by having to stand behind a lectern. The host couldn't manage the deftness of touch that Chris Tarrant brought to Millionaire - the little comic asides, the pauses to tease, the sheer joie-de-vivre. When he rubbed his hands together, we expected sparks to fly, or them to catch on fire. Kilroy-Silk attempted gravitas, but fell headlong into bathos.

Robert tells us the score

What offended the channel bosses were the viewing figures. Initial reports said that "the programme is expected to have a short run", but no-one predicted just how short. 7 million people tuned in to the first episode, 6 million to the second, and Shafted fell out of the ITV top 30 by episode four - though Elaine Thorpe and Ralph Short could have won £217,000, they shafted each other out. The programme was beaten by BBC1's Judge John Deed, and wrecked the lead-in for Cold Feet. Already falling behind BBC1 for the first time ever, ITV ensured there was no episode five; an additional episode of Millionaire was parachuted into the slot, and delivered 8 million viewers.

The remaining episodes - at least eight, possibly as many as sixteen of them - were never aired, including one player bursting into tears after being shafted out of £120,000 by her opponent. The story of Shafted wasn't quite over - seven European countries made pilot versions, and Australia had a short series. By 2002, the show had fallen into history; by 2006, it had became a legend as a show that really didn't work.


"Let's play Shafted"

"You're only safe if you're in the lead"

"You're off the show"

"Share or shaft?"

"It's good to share, but sometimes it pays to shaft"

"What would you have done? Think about it."


Richard Madeley made an untransmitted pilot of Shafted, but was passed over for the host's role after taking his and Judy's chatshow to Channel 4.

Shafted was named among the 20 all-time worst television shows by The Penguin TV Companion in 2006, alongside 3-2-1, Celebrity Wrestling, Top of the World and sixteen others that weren't game shows.

Theme music

Paul Farrer

Web links

Andy Walmsley's set design pictures


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