TELEVISION / Holiday adventures with Gameshow Man

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
PART OF Channel 4's remit is to cater for the minority of viewers who appear to like irritating wordplay in programme titles. Hence Four-Play and Four-mations. One day, doubtless, they'll get round to doing a religious affairs programme called Fource for Good, or a foodies' programme called Knife and Fourk. Over at Fourtress - sorry, Fortress - Birt they have no such remit, and anyway, there aren't many puns to be had on the letters BBC. Hence the travel quiz on BBC 1 called The Travel Quiz.

Try as you might, you just can't argue with that title. It's so lapidary, so certain of itself. Like a programme about money called The Money Programme, or a show about clothes called The Clothes Show, you know where you are with a travel quiz called The Travel Quiz.

That's until you get to the set, which is one part bazaar, one part Roman villa and 98 parts colour-supplement conservatory. On comes the presenter, Andi Peters, who made his name on CBBC (which, come to think of it, is the BBC's lone effort at a pun on its name). You wouldn't worry if an ordinary Andrew called himself Andi, but when he's in showbiz you have to wonder: is this a shrewd ploy to distinguish himself from other high-profile Andies - the actress Andie MacDowell, the daytime TV king Andy Pandy, the Andes mountain range?

But we digress. Andi interrogated a couple of couples. This column does not support sexual discrimination, but it was the male guests who caught the eye. They were both perfect stereotypes from that section of the sex who appear on game shows: Game-show Man.

On one team we had Peter, a senior citizen dressed in a dark suit: he was that type of guest who's on your screen because he doesn't have anything better to do with his retirement. He knew all the answers, so it's fair to assume he was a Foreign Office plant.

Alan, with his rococo foliage, just looked like a plant. Game-show Man does not normally cleave so visibly to the gospel according to Jethro Tull, but in other respects Alan was the perfect specimen. Blokes of a certain age who appear on game shows always wear the same jacket, and it's lime green. Whether there's just one on the rack that gets handed down from quiz to quiz, or whether Game-show Man out shopping just always plumps for that unvarying hue is one of the eternal mysteries of light entertainment. One day we ought to be told.

This kind of show would be perfectly acceptable as radio, but television's duty to entertain the eyes as well as the ears seemed too much of a burden here. For some reason it's assumed that viewers have lower IQs than listeners, which leads to questions like: 'To travel from Sheffield to Rugby would you go north, south, east or west?' (That must have been one hell of a holiday).

The guests produced holiday snaps: Alison's was of her standing by a German car that had the legend 'Cafe Fahrt Wind' inscribed on the boot. Andi thought she could send it off to That's Life. Stuck in the ghetto before the six o'clock watershed, he obviously hadn't heard about Esther's execution. There was a suspiciously large number of questions about deserts. Was the person who set them trying to say something?

Dream Huts, a film for Short Stories (Channel 4), travelled to Southwold, where the great British beach hut is alive and well. For once this documentary strand, which sniffs for eccentricity in the most ordinary places, had gone one banality too far.

People who like the still life do not tend to have a story to tell, and unless it's by Ingmar Bergman, there is a limited number of times a film can pan across a wide, open sea view. 'It's got to be one of the biggest gambles in life, I think, to own one of these huts,' opined one gambler. In The Travel Quiz they could have set that as a question, and even Game-show Man might have come up with something more imaginative.