Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Switzerland Can,Should, Must and Will Blow Up The Universe (and "Human Tetris")

And so, while we're at home waiting for either our new mobile phone to be delivered or for the entire universe to be destroyed (we've got BBC News 24 on in the background, just in case that happens) what better time than to explore a few international versions of Brain Wall, the Japanese gameshow currently being adapted by the BBC (which isn't called, as everyone in the British media seems to insist, Hole In The Wall, or even worse, Human Tetris. The moving blocks don't disappear, and they move horizontally. It's more like Human Klax, if anything)? But first, a top tip: if you're planning on recreating the conditions a few moments after the Big Bang but don't want to spend five billion quid, simply travel to the grave of Lord Reith, and read out loud the following section of the Independent article we've just linked to:

The adapted show, Hole in the Wall (sic), involves two teams of celebrities in shiny, skintight catsuits attempting to contort their bodies through a moving hole in a wall. A BBC spokeswoman added that if they failed, "they will fall into water".

Hey presto - a corpse spinning with cataclysmic force. Ho.

Of course, as we may have said before now, there's nothing actually wrong with daft telly. If a UK version of Takeshi's Castle was ever produced, we'd be metaphorically bursting to take part. It just seems a bit of shame when it appears on BBC One, the channel that once broadcast Abigail's Party, The Singing Detective, Hancock's Half Hour, Threads, Steptoe and Son, Yes Minister and House of Cards. You might counter with "hey, It's A Knockout was a deservedly huge hit, sausage breath", but we could then counter-counter with "because there was a large amount of variation in the events, and coupled with Stuart Hall's breathlessly enthusiastic presentational style it made for an entertaining programme. Erm, biscuit face". If something like this was on five (or ITV1 if they promised not to balls it up like they usually do), it would be fine. On the nation's main broadcaster, maybe not. But we will see. It's not like we've never been mistaken before.

But tish and fipsy. On with the reason why we're here. A play-off between some international versions of Brain Wall. We'll look at several aspects of each, and award points accordingly. On the starter's grid:

From Japan: "Tonneruzu no Minasan no Okage Deshita", which can be literally translated as "Tunnels' 'Thanks to Everyone". That's worth a bonus right there. [+5 Points]

From the USA: "Hole In The Wall". The show will premiere on Fox (look BBC, there's a version of the show with the correct broadcaster) tomorrow, but as we're special we've got a pre-air copy. Oh alright, because we've got the internet, we've 'sourced' a pre-air copy. Maybe we'd better give them a bonus point in case News International have us all killed. [+1 Point]

From Spain: "El Muro Infernal". Which translates to "The Infernal Wall", which is also a much better title, if not quite as good as the Japanese one. [+2 Points]

From Russia: "Stenka na Stenku". Trans: "Wall Against Wall". Nonsensical, and if there's one nation that could be excused for using the 'Human Tetris' moniker, it would have been this one. [+1 Point]

From Mexico: "Aguas Con El Muro!" Trans: "Beware of the wall!" A pretty concise summary of the rulebook encapsulated within the title, there. [+2 Points]

From Italy: We don't know what it's called, but apparently the contestants are all hot bikini models. [+5 Points]

JAPAN, Tunnels' Thanks to Everyone

A kitsch CGI sequence explaining the rules. [+5 Points]

Huge shiny CGI captions seemingly ripped straight from a Neo Geo game circa 1996. [+2 Points]

Comical illustrations on the wall, adding a touch of levity to the proceedings. [+1 Point]

A title sequence including three identically dressed girls chanting the title of the programme as lyrca clad goons spell out the title of the show, or episode, or something else entirely. [+4 Points]

The wickedly retro studio set including the word "HYPER" in huge letters on a wall for no descernable reason. [+2 Points]


USA, Hole In The Wall

Hugely overblown pre-title sequence with booming voiceover, as if it's a sodding Michael Bay film about America needing to save the world again. [-3 Points]

A moodily-lit studio set dominated by black and red floors, and shiny chrome, which is all wrong for this kind of show. [-2 Points]

A lengthy montage of all the best bits FROM THE ENTIRE SERIES before the show even starts properly, effectively using a huge lump hammer to smash what the show is about into the casual viewer's brain so they won't switch over. Or, more likely, letting them see all the money shots in the first two minutes, so they can safely turn over and watch that re-run of The Colbert Report instead. [-6 Points]

A CGI explanatory sequence, albeit not quite as wonderfully cheesy as the Japanese version. [+2 Points]

A slightly deeper, yet well lit pool, allowing for some really good underwater shots of the unfortunate. [+3 Points]

The main host being on a balcony on the other side of the set, meaning a co-host has to do all the worthwhile 'shop floor' presenting work. It's not exactly a huge set, why can't he just walk around a bit? [-3 Points]

Silly title cards for contestants, displaying their nicknames, names, height, weight, and a little transmogrification sequence between their 'home' and 'wall evading' personas. [+3 Points]

Shapes that are clearly impossible for the contestant to get through - that's hardly sporting, is it? [-3 Points]

Another stupid montage of the best bits from the remainder of the series at the end. Ever heard of the showbiz maxim "always leave them wanting more"? [-6 Points]


SPAIN, El Muro Infernal

A lavishly bright set. That's more like it. [+3 Points]

A 'chica' in a bikini. Not sure why, as it's the family in lycra who are taking part, but hey, why not? nb. this statement is ethically okay, as there's also a bloke off camera in his pants and vest who doesn't seem to be doing anything. [+4 Points]

The word 'agua' bubbles up onto the screen when someone goes splash. Pointless and daft, but it works for us. [+2 Points]

A camp bit of nonsense where Bikini girl and Pants/Vest Bloke are chased around the pool by a tubby bloke in an unconvincing shark outfit. This is like The Fast Show's Canel 9. [+4 Points]

Here's Pants Bloke (sans vest) cheerily interacting with a Japanese family who are taking part in the... oh fucking hell. That isn't selective snapshotting on our part, either. He actually is doing what it looks like. [-50 Points]


RUSSIA, Stenka na Stenku

A colourful set and two hosts with names we could never pronounce - a good start. As long as they avoid storming into the Georgian version of the show in big tanks, they should at the very least find themselves above their American counterparts here. [+3 Points]

What seems to be little more than a mini Olympics opening ceremony with contestants being led out to booming music and the audience waving Russian flags. It's like the 1984 Friendship Games all over again. [+2 Points]

Really, quite hugely impossible shapes to fit through. We bet if Putin ever appeared in a special, say, murderous dictator edition of the show, they wouldn't be using shapes like this. Well, unless they really wanted to be 'accidentally' shot through the face in the back of a police car. [-2 Points]

A section called Ctehka ha Ctehky, the title card for which looks like a still frame from a depessing Eastern Bloc cartoon shown as part of Animation World on Channel Four in 1983. To be fair, the countless half-hours we'd spent watching that as a kid, forlornly hoping they'd show a Daffy Duck instead of Worker Versus Parasite is hardly the fault of Stenka na Stenku. [+1 Point]

Russia have just beaten Wales at football. [-2 Points]


MEXICO, Aguas Con El Muro!

The best host we've seen so far. Not just because she's an attractive woman, but because she seems to take the entire Stuart Hall "this is brilliant! Can you believe I get paid for having this much fun!" approach to her duties. Ace. [+4 Points]

A comedy sidekick. Think of Bumblebee Man from The Simpsons, clad in blue spandex. Sadly, he comes with a whole set of Hanna-Barbera issue 'wacky' sound effects. Even on foreign telly, 'wacky' sound effects are shit. And not just because it gives us Caught In The Act With Shane Ritchie flashbacks. [-3 Points]

A caption exclaiming "¡AUCH!" after the contestant falls in the pool. [+2 Points]

Allowing Blue Spandex Bumblebee Man to stand on the precipice of a decently-sized pool of water whilst holding a big microphone? Such a disregard for health and safety regulations is of course, a Good Thing. [+3 Points]

Especially painful introductions to the water see the dunkee's head overlaid with CGI tweeting birdies. Brilliant! [+3 Points]



Tsk. Them Italians, eh? [+5 Points]


Japan: 19 Points
Mexico: 11 Points
Italy: 10 Points
Russia: 3 Points
USA: -14 Points
Spain: -35 Points

A good effort from Mexico, but it's the experts in the field who take home the prize. Maybe Italy could have done more if Mediaset's lawsuit against YouTube hadn't restricted the total clippage of the Italian version to thirty seconds, but there you go. We've probably got a wholly representative half-minute of that entire series. It is Berlusconi's network, after all.


It's going to be like the American version, isn't it? We would seriously love the show to end up like the Danny Baker-fronted series of Pets Win Prizes, but the best we can probably hope for is the Dale Winton-fronted series of Pets Win Prizes. Largely because the UK version is being hosted by... Dale Winton. If it's any consolation, the UK version is likely to include less overt racism than the Spanish version.

But hey, at least the entire universe didn't implode while we were typing all this. Small mercies, eh?


10 .:

Brig Bother said...

EXCEPT! It's most likely to be a bit like the Australian version which we saw last night which is also celeb filled and therefore prone to not take itself too seriously, although it does have a rather unfunny commentary.

At the very least, the Aussie show is only 20 minutes long when you take out the adverts (same for the US preview edition in fact, although that's going to be an hour when it goes full time) and they've not stretched the concept to a full hour. But yeah, a bit surprised it's a BBC show.

If you want to see what else the BBC have in store, try and find an episode of Wipeout - it's much better:

Tom said...

Obligatory language note: "Ctehka ha Ctehky" is Stenka na Stenku in Cyrillic.

What I like about the buildup to the UK version of this is the switch-round in press coverage.
Before there were any real rumblings of the show touching down Blighty-side, the Japanese version was fodder for plenty of the standard "look at Japan! isn't it TOTALLY KER-AZY? Look at it!" stories.

Now, though, it's more "First affordable microwaves in the home, now this! Is there anything Japan can't do to benefit mankind? IS THERE?"

James said...

Ah, casual Spanish racism again. Does anyone know if that was filmed before or after the veritable storm of faeces that hit the Spanish basketball team after their 'good luck' photo was printed?

Also, am I the only one who thinks this whole concept would have worked much better as a contest feature on Noel's House Party or similar.

PS. I thought I might as well ditch the el condor stuff and actually use my Google ID.

Mark X said...

Cheers Brig. I was aware of John Anderson's Castle (as they should have called it), but wasn't aware the Beeb were having a go at that as well. We should all find out how Hole UK looks in a week, anyway. Hopefully, yes, it will be closer to the Australian version.

The Spanish HitW clip was almost definitely shown before the Olympic shitstorm, as it was uploaded in July - I'm not sure it would have made too much difference if it came after, though. The Spanish attitude to such things is pretty much the same as the British attitude in the 1970s and early 1980s. At least a couple of the earlier episodes of Only Fools And Horses see Del refer to 'Paki Shops', despite being broadcast at 8.30pm, and there wasn't any kind of furore at the time.

Maybe the way many of our own newspapers leap on stories like the Spanish basketball team's Eyegate, proclaiming them "utterly dreadful" whilst simultaneously splashing "Family Of Immigrant Crack Dealers Given Eighteen Bedroom Mansion By Council, And YOU'RE Paying For It. And They Don't Respect Our Customs. And They Eat Swans" stories everywhere else suggest we can't really get *too* pious about these things, but yeah. Not great, is it?

Brig Bother said...

Yep, they're filming Wipeout in Argentina. I hope it works out, because otherwise the wasting licence fee letters will be too much to bear.

Clip of UK Hole here:

The tension music is rather jolly.

Mark X said...

That clip doesn't look too bad, but I really, really can't see it remaining entertaining for more than a couple of episodes. Still, I suppose that's a couple more episodes than Celebrity Wrestling on ITV1.

Also: Argentina? What the ruddy hell? I can understand them not wanting to spend several weeks in a municipal park near Taunton whilst filming, but that does seem rather a long way to travel. If you're going to fly to another continent to film it, why not just borrow the USA set? Are the producers running a sweep on how many angry column inches they can get in the Daily Express or something?

Brig Bother said...

Mmm. Argentina is where Endemol's international Wipeout set is. They filmed the first US series at a big ranch in Texas, but evidently they decided it would be cheaper to do the whole thing in Argentina and everyone can come over there to film their versions. They did similar with international Fear Factor.

The biggest thing is who they're going to get to do the commentary. The US guys are brilliant, but I can't think who'd be able to match the tone in a UK equivilent. They'll probably do something completely different.

Brig Bother said...

Also, interesting-ish observation upon watching the clip, did you notice that the Italian version is part of their local version of Distraction?

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