The Moment of Truth
Voiceover: Howard Hughes (2001)
LWT for ITV, 5 September 1998 to 29 September 2001 (36 episodes in 4 series + 1 special, 2000-1 as Cilla's Moment of Truth)
You have a choice: win fabulous prizes or be resented by your whole family. Yes, that's the Moment of Truth!
Each week, three families would get a chance to win fabulous prizes from Cilla's "Dream Directory". These would typically be cars, holidays, televisions etc. and each member of the family would pick a prize that they wanted. However, to earn the prize, one member of the family, usually Mum or Dad but occasionally an older child, has to perform a very tricky task. They are given seven days to practice it, but when they arrive at the studio the next week they have one chance (and one chance only) to get it "right on the night". If they do, they win big time. If they don't, well, you can guess the rest...
Sadly, one of the main problems of the programme is in the tasks themselves. Tiddlywinks against the clock, anybody? Building a not-particularly-big house of cards? The only ones that people can say were truly impressive were the memory ones. Memorising Pi to 100 decimal places? Ouch, not easy, and many failed with these.
We are treated to a video diary of the week to see how they were getting on, usually providing some "ahh, look at the sweet little children" moments. The show manages to build up tension and emotion quite considerably, mainly by going over the prizes at least three times (this was toned down in later programmes). And, there's more - it's got a revolving sofa! (You can never have too many revolving sofas in our view.)
Series 2 introduced an instant task element where members of the audience could have one go at a simple skill task (hitting a skittle over with a ball) for the chance to win £1,000.
Sadly, the challenges lacking impact spoils an otherwise perfect format. Yes, you were happy when they won. And yes, you were quite upset when they lost. But, given the choice between this and You Bet!, YB! would win every time by virtue of having challenges that are actually worth watching.
That said, it's nice to see LWT back making hit shows after the hiccup over Ice Warriors.
But then came the 2000 series...
Sometimes updating things for 2000 has worked out well - have a look at Catchphrase for instance. But has updating this worked for 2000? Cilla, this is quite literally your Moment of Truth.
So what's new then? The show has had an almost complete overhaul. Brand new set which is very pink, a new sofa and a video wall and a new format. Cilla also offers 'bigger and better prizes!' New elements are:
Instant Challenge - Now it's out on the streets in a different location each week. A bit like The National Lottery On the Spot but with our Cilla as opposed to Des O'Connor. More cash to give away too as if anyone completes these small tasks they win an instant grand.
Family Challenge - Two families battle it out over the same challenge. Like the original series, both families have one person put forward to do the task and like the original series we also get to see the video diary of the preceding week. Families get their seven days back in the end (a la Hotel Getaway) with a European holiday for the losers and a more exciting holiday for the winners. The winners also get a crack at the Champion's Challenge.
Group Challenge - A task for a couple of people to win something for their immediate community/workplace whatever. Only real difference between this and a normal challenge is that several people do it at once as a team.
Champion's Challenge - For the winning family of last week's family challenge one person is given another seven days to learn and memorise lots of things for recall the next episode for a big prize package - just like the original version of the show.
So what do we like about the new format then? Well, the idea of continuity between programmes is a nice one. They've kept all the kick-ass music too.
What don't we like about the new format? Well let's start at the very beginning (a very good place to start, as it happens). We don't like the new titles. We're not overly fond of the new set (we were distraught enough at losing the revolving sofa but there appear to be no moving parts of any kind now). Lack of 'proper' ongoing visual clock aid during challenges that are longer than thirty seconds (subjective perhaps but it doesn't seem the 'done' thing) and an increasing feeling of inanity.
Oh, and a complete lack of any tension.
And that's what's going to suffocate the show we think. Say what you like about the original format which although wasn't perfect was at least very watchable but what it managed to do was dig out tension in spades. It had a veritable tension radar system to find the very best tension and induce it upon its audience.
However, fact that everybody seems to get good prizes anyway takes away a large point. Lost the family challenge? Have a nice week somewhere anyway. For the Champion's Challenge, they appear to have taken away Cilla's Dream Directory and they play for fantastic prizes X, Y and Z as of right. Whilst it is perhaps true that most families picked the same prizes collectively anyway, a lot of the human element is lost without the fact that, for example, "Jamie wants a television for his room, so this 34 inch widescreen plasma television could be just the thing he needs!" or "Suzanne has never been abroad before so this all expenses holiday for all the family to go to Australia will be an entirely new experience for her!" It was a subtle thing but it's been lost and surprise surprise, it's nowhere near as good.
...but in 2001
Thankfully, they've changed it back to how they used to do it rather than the watered down rubbish they had last year. Nice new graphics as well. And there's a frission of cruelty in that they'll get everybody in the group to practice the task but only one of them actually having to do it on the night. How we laugh!
Another good element is that the challenges have developed over the years into slightly more interesting, unusual or visually entertaining tasks - sometimes with a little hook or twist in them - rather than the "hit the golf ball into the hole five times" style that they employed in the first series.
Could do without the behind-the-scenes post-game analysis though. And drop the voiceover guy, he seems totally out of place. Still, at least the format's back on track.
Where every child says "Even if you don't do it, I'll still think you're the best Mummy in the world..." until she fails and the cameras stop rolling.
When the families lose, the parents get nothing but can our warm-hearted Cilla bear to see the kiddies going home empty-handed? Hell no! They get small but thoughtfully chosen consolation prizes. This was Cilla's influence on the show - she insisted that the format be changed so that losing families received these, for in the tape of the original Japanese show (see below) that Cilla saw, she was upset by "kiddies crying because the bikes they thought they'd won were being taken away".
"That was last week but now they're right here."
"Ladies and Gentlemen, please wish them all the very best of luck because this is the [whoever] family's moment of truth!"
Based on the bizarrely-named Japanese show Happy Family Plan, which won a Golden Rose of Montreux award.
Floppy-haired but loveable chess grandmaster Daniel King devised and demonstrated games for the show in 1999 and 2001. Yet another reason why the 2000 series was so lacking in comparison to those that bookended it, perhaps.
One task from the 1999 series was to complete 'A Knight's Tour' of a Chess Board within 3 minutes without visiting the same square twice.
An instant Moment of Truth task from the shopping stalls.