With our very own Tasha selflessly hurling herself into the soft play area that is Can’t Touch This, we’re more or less obliged to examine the traumatic game shows untroubled by Health & Safety regulations that inspired them.
One of the few positive things about having 700 odd channels to choose from is the fact that broadcasters have to fill them with something. On sensible telly, this is limited to reruns of Rising Damp and Top Gear but the moment some bright spark realised we’d sit and watch reruns of Family Fortunes into infinity as long as we could laugh at Les Dennis’s suits, we were condemned to the reality of Challenge TV and the prospect of wall to wall gameshows.
What have we done, people?
But with scientific research confirming there are only so many episode of Catchphrase the human mind can take before exploding, the trawl for content expanded worldwide.
At first, this resulted in overseas versions of the same shows, but then someone watched a rerun of Tarrant on TV and saw a clip of a bunch of Japanese people trying to commit suicide in a variety of innovative ways on an industrial estate, bought the rights to Takeshi’s Castle, and the meaning of ‘entertainment’ changed forever.
The number of hours I’ve lost watching hapless Japanese folk chucking themselves into filthy water for the chance to ride a plywood vehicle around a car park in front of the director of Battle Royale is incalculable.
Was it the cavalier approach to spinal injuries? The soothing rub of my shins that confirmed they were still intact, unlike the poor bloke on TV left picking bits of his own tibia out of the gravel? That rolling about in filth all day only to end up humiliated and covered in open sores served as some vague metaphor for life?
Maybe, but I’ve watched a lot of episodes of Dancing On Ice and enough episodes of The Jump to know that implied peril isn’t sufficient to keep my attention, even when Tucker from Grange Hill is involved.
There has to be something more to it than that.
In order to bring you the answer to this pressing question, I selflessly sat through every single episode of Ninja Warrior; the bastard offspring of Takeshi and The Krypton Factor’s Physical Ability Challenge. Like its father, Ninja Warrior corrals one hundred contestants into a pen, but instead of flinging open the doors and relying on gravity to take out the majority, Ninja allows one hapless individual at a time the opportunity to take on its rudimentary and quite frequently impossible obstacles.
In order to maximise the variation, they make the people who have no chance of completing Stage One go first, like the chap who insists on bringing his hang glider onto the rostrum with him EVERY TIME and Mr Octopus, a man famous for… well, being called Mr Octopus, I think.
Only when seventy-five people or more have been hooked out of the disease ridden swamp do they let the All-Stars have a crack.
Ninja Warrior All-Stars are an elite group of athletes who’ve managed to survive the course with their limbs and immune systems intact more than three times. These days they’re all knocking on a bit, but since these reruns seem to appear utterly randomly with no reference to time passing, you’re just as likely to catch the heroic Makoto Nagano in his insouciant youth as you are his sober, fish clutching dotage.
It doesn’t matter. The sad truth, for both the future of television and the BBC’s increasingly desperate attempts to be part of it, is as follows:
- Presenters should be seen and not heard, especially if they’re Zoe Ball, Ashley Banjo, Vernon Kaye, Philip Schofield et al;
- While safety is an important consideration, watching someone fall into water than may or may not have just emerged from a drain will always be funnier than a gentle dousing in the Evian they get on Can’t Touch This.
- Noel Edmonds is probably our only hope.
Ninja Warrior is on Sky 2. Pretty much all day long.