“All a format really is, is an emotional journey. It has tears, it has laughter, it has everything, and a great resolution. That can be applied to a game show, a talent show, a drama.”
The Money Programme has been running a special series of programmes about the media, including this episode looking at the business of TV, something that the UK excels at. Specifically, we’re good at creating and selling formats – a complete programme recipe that can hopefully be translated to other countries. There’s a programme bible, which includes everything from specific editing, sound and lighting directions through to, tellingly, how to pick the “real people” to appear in the show. The Millionaire Bible includes that the top prize money must be ‘life changing’: a million pounds in the UK, but just 50,000€ in Kosovo and Albania – which still represents twenty times the average salary there.
My favourite interpretation of a format was Affari Tuoi, the Italian version of Deal or No Deal. The show seems to last for hours, there are gag prizes as well as money, but the presenter, Flavio Insinna (now replaced by Max Giusti) was genuinely charming, and everyone on the show seemed to be having a great time, compared to the tension-ratcheting we get in the UK, and the smarmy, slightly evil Noel Edmonds.
Meanwhile, ITV have trotted out its new Saturday night gameshow, The Colour of Money, all formatted up and ready to be sold, probably including the gurning Chris Tarrant. It’s the complete opposite of Millionaire – it’s a random game, but with personalities, a backstory (husband going in the army), rationalisations about colour decisions (the game revolves around 20 ‘cash machines’, each named after a colour), reaction interviews with seemingly everyone in the studio, heavily edited ad bumpers showing crying, fear etc. Blimey, there’s even fireworks if they hit their arbitrary money target, in this first case £64,000 – not completely life changing. It all feels a bit pointless, with contestants and their families wheeled on and off so quickly there’s no empathy, and therefore, no show.