Simply the Best
Commentator: Howard Hughes
Referee: Paul "Durks" Durkin
Carlton / Channel Television / Mistral Productions for ITV1, 17 July 2004 to 4 September 2004 (8 episodes in 1 series)
ITV1 try their hand at family entertainment with a show that can only be described as It's a Knockout... for the nineties! Interestingly when the idea was first being bandied about they were describing how it was going to be a bit like Gladiators, but it's licensed from the French Intervilles format.
Each week two teams do battle over up to two hours of silly games in an arena in Jersey, each episode ending in the arm-knackering Champions' Wall. Winning games earnt notches on said wall giving an advantage over the other team. The fastest two teams of the fourteen competing who got three people up the wall the fastest got to do battle in the grand final to win £50,000 for community projects for their city. Teams came from 14 of Britain's major cities and consisted of four men, two women and two celebrities (one of each gender, and value of celeb may vary).
Games were your typical It's a Knockout fare (and in fact anyone who watched the Channel Five version would have been familiar with many of the games seeing as they were the same). Actually, Simply the Best only got marginally more viewers than its Channel Five brethren, and the grand final went out during the mid-afternoon out of panic. This might have been galling for the top pop acts that had been booked to appear. Maybe if they kept the French idea of playing games with a live bull running round it might have attracted more? Not that we condone that sort of behaviour of course, and contrary to popular belief, the show wasn't that awful.
Gallacher and Tufnell were amiable enough hosts, Hughes was slightly dull as a commentator and Paul "Durks" Durkin was dressed up as some sort of panto nasty referee and booed by the crowd often, but being a Premiership referee in his spare time is probably used to it.
Games, Games, Games
Some of the more inventive games included:
Beat the Balloon: One celebrity represented each team. One is given a balloon which is inflating. Tufnell asks questions with numerical answers and gives "higher" and "lower" hints. When they hit the right answer, they pass the balloon to the opponent. Whoever is holding it when it bursts is the loser.
60-Second Screamer: Prior to filming, one celeb from each team took a trip up to Blackpool to ride The Big One (at one point the world's tallest rollercoaster) whilst answering simple general knowledge questions. Very Hold Tight!
Airkick: Players are thrown into the air thanks to a compressed air catapult. Whilst in mid air, they have to chuck balls at their teammates to catch in nets.
A team from Leeds.
"Don't fall in the water!"
"RULES ARE RULES."
Based on Intervilles, invented by Guy Lux and Pierre Brieve in 1962.
The failure of this show had further implications on Channel Television - a rare producer for the network. A planned drama series in the early stages of production was quickly scrapped.
For a history of the format, we highly recommend JSFnet.