Whilst I am a self confessed trivia and quizzing nut, I rarely invest any time in television shows based around general knowledge as a successful formula is very difficult to hit and, more often than not, represents the hobby of quizzing as boring and tedious. For a quizzing show to work, it has to attract the casual viewer; those with a non specific interest in the idea of quizzing as there are simply insufficient quiz fanatics in the world to generate ratings which a mainstream television show requires in order to be fruitful. Finally, The Chase came along and delivered the ideal teatime quiz experience.
The premise of the show is refreshingly simple. A mix of four people from varying backgrounds and levels of quirkiness team up to attempt to overthrow a ruthless quiz and trivia expert. They answer questions on topics varying from the height of film stars, to the musings of philosophers and from little known facts about the greatest works of fiction to the achievements of skiers with unfortunate names.
Building up a cash prize based on the contestant’s levels of bravery and notions of good teamplay, those who survive the original battle with The Chaser, then combine their knowledge (or lack of) to try and outrun them once more and take the money home.
I have often heard a casual viewer who has seen the odd episode here and there bemoan the imbalance of knowledge when comparing the Chaser and the contestant, complaining that ‘nobody ever wins’
Those who invest the time in the show, however, will know that the beauty of the Chase is that absolutely anything can happen. With a contestant victory at least once in a week, some of the best teams are conquered by the Chaser whereas some of the underdogs you’d never imagine could beat the knowledge of a trivia genius leave the show a few thousand pounds richer.
What makes the show so unpredictable is that the contestants are not up against a formulaic system or a computer but their victory depends largely on the performance of a human being who, whilst having an impressive bank of knowledge, is as fallible as the rest of us and just as prone to slip ups, bad days and sheer bloopers. (Who can forget Paul Sinha, the registered GP, getting his bones mixed up resulting in a tidy tune of £100,000 being won on a celebrity edition of the show?)
Of course, the real charm of the The Chase, is the personalities involved. The show never takes itself too seriously and the four hyper intelligent adversaries, The Chasers, will act the pantomime villain at some stages and in the next moment be creased with laughter.
Holding the various aspects of the show together is presenter Bradley Walsh, whose clear enjoyment of the show is evident. Bradley is the glue of The Chase, his frivolous banter with contestants and Chasers alike moving the show into territory beyond a standard quiz show. There is no snootiness about the Chase; it is an entertainment platform predominantly, and I often get so caught up enjoying the banter that I miss the questions.
Part of the excitement is waiting to find out which Chaser the contestants will face, as each personality brings a different tone to each show.
The four Chasers are clearly passionate about trivia but all, without exception, bring a huge element of wit that other quiz shows lack. Gone is the unnecessary nastiness attempted by The Weakest Link’s Anne Robinson. The villainous personas are shamelessly tongue in cheek and the four performers are strikingly good sports, embracing their characters and happy to take relentless flack and take the sheer piss out of themselves for the humour of the show.
The most fearsome and consistent of performers, Anne Hegerty, the icicle knickered, strict dominatrix ‘Governess’ also brings the biggest helpings of entertainment with subtle cheekiness and barbed wit brought to proceedings, providing a faultless mix of a daunting opponent and a wicked comedienne.
Shaun Wallace, affectionately known as ‘The Dark Destroyer’ plays the personality of having no personality at all. Expressionless, humourless and deadpan, Shaun’s day at the office consists of dispatching contestants and deflecting Bradley’s jokes without cracking a smile. But it is obvious to all who watch the Chase faithfully that Shaun is a character indeed and his Bruce Forsyth impersonating, song singing, bottom shaking and cheerleading cracks in his façade are worth the wait.
Paul Sinha, whom I have been fortunate enough to see live in a comedy club, is intellectually hilarious and lightning fast in both his knowledge and his humour. He also brings a welcome element of grace to the show, taking time to compliment the efforts of his adversaries and analysing the game as he plays.
And finally, Mark Labbett plays up to the monstrous, bad tempered ‘Beast’ role with delicious panto brilliance, punching the desk in temper and ruthlessly taking down contestants in a literally intimidating fashion by leaning forward on his podium menacingly as the pressure increases.
The Chase has provided so many memorable moments and, despite being on up to six times in one week, it remains fresh as each episode is so dramatically different. And therein lies the success of the show. Where quiz shows invariably fail, is their repetitive natures and their predictability. Effortlessly, The Chase shakes up the quiz show formula and provides an hour of fun, excitement and education in equal measure each day.
So long live The Chase and it’s relentless moments of sheer laughter, white suits, angry Scottish contestants calling their teammates snakes in the grass, desk punching, Willi-Wakking, ‘educated’ guessing, camel toes, knicker frosting, chocolate salty balls, one question shootouts, great big sausages, twisted plums and biting minges.
The wonderful Anne Hegerty, aka The Governess, will be speaking to me in the near future and the fruits of our conversation will be exclusively on this blog as an interview so keep checking back for that.
What are your favourite moments of The Chase? Let me know in the comments box below…
Posted By Our Man In The North