As you know, I love my gameshows, so I often watch Challenge (channel 46 on Freeview) to see some of the classics repeated back-to-back all afternoon. It was during one of these Bruce’s Price Is Right marathons that I noticed an advert for a new gameshow called The Link. At first I was surprised, as I didn’t know Challenge did original programming, but I thought I’d check it out. I have since ‘checked it out’ and here is the Link Review.
So, let’s start off with the host, Mark Williams. Probably best known for playing Arthur Weasley in the Harry Potter film series (or in my house, for playing Brian Williams in Doctor Who). Mark is an odd choice for a host. He is primarily an actor – and a great one at that – and he never really feels like a proper presenter. With people like Bruce Forsyth or Roy Walker, there’s that natural rapport with the audience and the contestants, but Mark sadly never really has this. Also, he’s grown a moustache, which makes him look completely different. In fact, going back to the Doctor Who reference, he looks uncannily like Father Of Mine. Still, it’s great to see a Brummie on television again and he did have some great moments in the episode I watched, which I will come to later.
The theme of the show was that contestants had to find the links between several words – not unlike BBC 2’s Only Connect. There were three teams of two people, though there was never any substantial difference from it being teams of two. The contestants irritated me quite a bit, especially the two that won. They were trying to be funny, saying silly jokes and the woman calling the man “Chrissy boy”, but it was just annoying. I think even Mark got a bit fed up of them by the end.
In the first round, there was a board with five cash amounts on, each with lines on them. The contestants had to answer questions and depending on how many clues they got to the links, they would remove a certain amount of lines from the cash amounts until there were none left and they won that amount. So for example, if they solved the question with only two clues, they would get to take away 3 lines. For three clues it was two lines and for all the clues it was just one line. To give you an example, one question had the clues: Barney, Petra, Goldie and Bonnie. One pair correctly guessed, after three clues, that it was Blue Peter dogs. Other questions included:
- Fox, Doc, Time Machine, McFly (Back to the Future – which both the contestants and I guessed after 2)
- Suit, puzzle, business, nuts (Monkey – which I guessed after 3)
- House, banana, fishing, dragon (Boat – which my Mother guessed after 2)
- Abbey, Austria, Maria, Nun (Sound of Music – we both guessed after 2)
Two pairs went through to round 2, although I noticed the remaining duo had to stand in darkness at their podium for the remainder of the show, which I thought was a bit unfair. Round 2 was pretty similar, with both teams trying to get rid of a total of 6 lines to get the money they had accumulated so far. Again they could choose if they wanted to go for 1 – 4 lines. If the team whose turn it was got it wrong, the other team could ‘steal’ the question and get rid of one of their lines – a rule which was only introduced after the first team got their question wrong.
When it got to the final, Mark said “You’ve won £2,500, so we’re going to add £2,000 to that and your total is no £4,500.” which I thought was very generous of him. Imagine if they did that on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Well, you’ve won £16,000 so far, so I’m going to add £4,000 and say you’ve won £20,000. In the final round, the contestants took it in turns to guess the linking theme from a list of words that was gradually revealed to them, with 60 seconds to get as many links as they could. For each set they got right, they won a bit more money, with the jackpot being their total. Not sure how that would be calculated differently each week, but still. The first link just so happened to be Harry Potter, which Mark seemed quite pleased about as he did his Dobby impression – although I initially thought he was doing Yoda. They eventually got 3 right and won £750, a far cry from their previous earnings of £4,500.
The design of the show is pretty old school. It’s a dimly lit studio with a giant screen and some fancy graphics. For example, when the lines are broken and the money drops, there is an unnecessarily long animation of it falling from the big screen, through the screens on the floor and into the players’ podium.
So, back to the brilliant Mark Williams. Throughout the show, he never really created any excitement, it was quite a calm, casual affair. The way he said things also added to this unusual tone. When one team lost he just said “It was great to have you on the show, but now… bye.” At one point a contestant gave a wrong answer, but said “Well, it’s as good an answer as any.” to which the host replied “Yes, but it was a wrong guess.” as if the bloke had really annoyed him. During the final, he asked the team “Do you want to play another link or do you want to take the money and go?” which I found amusing for some reason, like he was wanting them to leave so the whole ordeal could be over.
However, the best moment – and what made the show for me – was when Mark was pushing a team for an answer and when they tried to give him their answer, he continued to shout warnings about running out of time at them.
“Got to hurry you.”
“We think, is it…”
“You’re running out of time!”
Just the way he ignored them and carried on shouting, like he was on autopilot.
Overall, the show’s theme wasn’t really original, because, as I mentioned earlier, it’s been done with Only Connect and the short-lived Channel 4 gameshow The Common Denominator. However, I think this show could be more successful than The Common Denominator as it has a better host and more of a classic gameshow feel to it. I hope Mark Williams develops and proves to be just as good a presenter as he is an actor. Although the show isn’t going to be an instant classic, it’s a decent gameshow and I will watch it again if I see it on.
Our rating: (3.5 / 5)