Friday, 26 September 2008

It'll be Alright on the Night (on the right of the night on the left of the night opposite Mordred)

So The Krypton Factor is coming back, as plugged here - bizarrely with Gordon 'The Chain' Burns holding building blocks spelling 'Trumpton Wanker'. Well, it's an angle.

Nothing amazing about another old quiz being plundered by poor old strapped-for-brains ITV of course, but all the talk of the 'iconic' assault course and 'state-of-the-art technology' suggest that, once again, they're missing the point of the original before it's even begun.

Even at the time, The Krypton Factor was a very ordinary sort of programme. While quizzes in the 1980s gradually stared beefing themselves up, with blonde women in helicopters and Richard O'Brien playing an ocarina, The Kryp (as we all called it) remained sober and, that shouting sergeant major at the end aside, very, very quiet. Gordon Burns's supernormal powers of whispering were stretched to the limit as he conspiratorially confided with the viewing public the key to solving the three-dimensional jigsaw (always something about getting the base segement the right way round) while the camera focussed unforgivingly on Jim, a systems analyst from Redditch who 'doesn't appear to be making any progress at all'.

Since then, silence has become as much a crime on TV as it always was on radio. But radio had a reason for it, as pointed out by John Peel whenever he played a record on the BBC World Service which featured a whopping pause in the middle, half-fearing the momentary silence of the global broadcasting bastion might trigger World War Three.

Blame Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and its constant, pulsating, sub-Jean Michel Jarre backing track, complete with matching Destination Docklands-style sweeping lightshow. Someone decided the sound of a silent studio wasn't 'tense' enough. Either that, or they had a morbid fear of the janitor's broom falling over and destroying the carefully constructed edifice of intellectual suspense.

ITV might decide to help their product stand out from the menacingly thrumming crowd by going back to whispering basics. Who knows? Mastermind managed it after all, but the Beeb tend to have more confidence in their resurrected brands, and don't share ITV's boobish, eager-to-please compulsion to kit the old model out with the TV equivalent of flashy rear spoilers and those blue lights that go along the bottom of the door frames. (They certainly tried odd things towards the end of The Kryp's original run, as I recall.)

But it's an important fact that The Kryp was, even by the standards of the time, quiet, thoughtful, modest telly. No bells, no whistles, no throbbing Fairlights or billowing carpets of dry ice. Even the assault course looked like a badly-tended adventure playground at times. And if they get the mechanics of the quiz right, there's no reason why it can't be like that again. They could even save a few bob to plough back into blinging up that Series Champion perspex trophy.

Oh, and what are the odds they'll persuade Steve Coogan into a one-off return to those 'spot the difference' dramatic film clips he used to appear in?