Voiceover: Adam Buxton
Librarian: Lucy Davies
Roughcut TV for 5*, 12 July to 16 August 2011 (6 episodes in 1 series)
Based on a Japanese format, a team of six must endure various 'punishments', while keeping as quiet as possible in order to win up to £2,000. Filmed in an actual library, presumably as the entire budget of whatever was down the back of the 5* sofa was spent on the games, six young people each take a seat around a table, three on each side. At the far end of the table is a flip-down device, which when activated by one of the participants, reveals a sometimes cryptic, sometimes more thinly-veiled description of what the next game will entail. Once this is done, six cards are placed face-down on the table. Then, with all the maturity of a bunch of five-year olds, the sextet each grab a card. On the silent count of three, each participant turns their card over. In most instances, five of the cards will be green and say 'Safe', while the other card will be red with a Skull & Crossbones. Sometimes however, there will be more than one red card. Turning over a red card means that participant or those participants will be playing the next game.
The games themselves vary wildly, and although a few of the games are derivatives of each other, across the whole series no one game was repeated twice. Broadly speaking, the games are much as you would expect for such a 'dare' type programme, with games including eating something disgusting or having something administered that causes mild pain being common. During each game, the participant(s) must try to remain completely silent, as must their team mates, no matter how funny they find the proceedings. During the game an on-screen noise meter is shown, with it moving up and down from green through yellow to red, depending how much noise is being made. At the end of the game, the librarian, who has been observing, makes her decision on whether the team have passed that game, by means of stamping pass or fail onto a sheet of paper and then holding it up for the team to see. Money is won for each game successfully passed, with £100 per game on offer in the first half of each episode, and £200 per game on offer in the second.
At the end of the each episode, each participant is given a piece of card and a pen to write down who they think should play the final game. Strangely in the episodes we saw, there always seemed to be a unanimous or near unanimous vote. This may just have been random coincidence, but we wonder if there is a mechanism in place to deal with split votes. In any event, the participant who receives the most votes plays the final game, with £300 up for grabs. After this, the participants then all exit the library, taking with them their share of the prize pot from the librarian.
The programme does has a strange charm, in a guilty pleasure sort of way. You know it is utterly trashy, yet still you are compelled to watch. This is perhaps due to the fact that despite being able to write the basic premise of the programme on the back of a stamp, it has had some thought put into it. The games come quite thick and fast, with a dozen or more in one episode being common. However, as noted above, they are all varied, and as such, it helps maintain interest. The voiceover from Adam Buxton, which was absent during the games in the first episode, continued all the way through from the second episode, which was also an improvement. Finally, the programme also knows its boundaries, always remaining within the realms of simply 'unpleasant', and never going too far.
Clearly if you're looking for something with any degree of skill or mental dexterity, this isn't where you'll find it. However, if you just want to relax, switch your brain off for half-an-hour, and simply be entertained, Silent Library is a good way to do it.
A special edition of the programme, featuring former Big Brother housemates, Spencer Smith, Glyn Wise, Brian Belo, Marcus Akin, Sam Pepper, and Josie Gibson, was shown on 16 August 2011, in support of the reality format's revival on Channel 5 two days later.