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Wheel of Fortune!

Yes, it’s a bit of a throwback for me, but then what isn’t at this point of dragging Jaywalks along? People who have been here for a while may recall an old wheel model being the star of more than one art series, most prominently so in Twenty-Six Spins, where it determined the prompts for each day. That was three and half years ago now. Let that sink in. Three and a half years. And still I haven’t got around to doing it again.

This project was nothing more than me taking the old girl for another spin and giving her a fresh coat of paint, in line with the first series of Wheel of Fortune on ITV, back in 1988. The decadence of the tubes surrounding the wheel, flashing in sync with each spin felt like a fun aesthetic to try and recreate. Felt like. Inspiration also came from YouTube recommending me videos of people showing off their home-made wheels – actual, physical wheels which are much more impressive than this. See here.

Incidentally, Wheel at the time offered some of the largest major prizes on television (£4,000 or a cool eighties car) and it would hold its own in that regard for ten years or so; only when Who Wants To Be A Millionaire came along did Wheel start to look somewhat naff and, sure enough, by 2000 it was hidden away in daytime. By 2002 it was all over, bar the odd filler repeat. Though not exactly a huge favourite of mine – I enjoyed playing the Nintendo game with my sister more than the actual show – I remain surprised that it hasn’t been brought back at some point in the last twenty years. What’s stopping them? Everything else has come back.

However, if we’re seriously talking American game shows that deserve another shot here… Jeopardy please please please, but do it properly for heaven’s sake.

If you were wondering what the answer is, here you go and you’re welcome.

A few weeks ago, I was approached on YouTube by Pacdude Games, who suggested collaborating to update his Countdown presentation package, for streams and such. This sounded exciting and I’ve always liked his work, so I said yes.

Thankfully, the majority of visual work had already been done, as I tackled the current Countdown set way back in January. This project was mostly tidying the set up, and placing cameras for rendering the clock sequence in a fashion that is somewhat faithful to the programme – making sure there is space in the lower third for the different puzzles which, helpfully, are not uniform. Also added was a retexturing for the crucial conundrum, which can now adopt mood lighting resembling that seen on the show.

This was good fun, and Cory’s coding has turned these elements into something I could only dream of creating. It’s always satisfying to see graphics actually being used.

Here’s the first Countdown Throwdown stream. It’s a good laugh! Hopefully there will be more. You can also find Pacdude Games here.

Who thinks academia is a blood condition?

If ignorance is bliss, who’s in heaven?

Who should blog off?

It’s time to vote off… the weakest link!

The Weakest Link. It’s that show from 2000, where the host was really mean to the contestants, and even encouraged them to be mean to their so-called teammates!

Well, apparently that wasn’t even meant to be the case; the original intention was for the host to play it straight. However, Anne Robinson found herself getting so frustrated with the players’ poor performance and questionable voting that she just started “telling it like it is”, and that became the format’s unique selling point, imitated by others all over the world.

The nostalgia for Weakest Link, actually, doesn’t really come from the programme, which I rarely saw as everybody else wanted to watch Neighbours instead. As it was, the most I normally saw of it was the last few minutes before The Simpsons. No, the memories here are in the merchandise; fond memories of dark Christmas afternoons with the board game, which was good enough to come not only with several cards full of those pre-voting barbs, but also an Anne Robinson mask for the host to wear. The PlayStation game was a good laugh too, offering a good representation of the game with the added bonus of voice actors, who really hammed up their portrayal of the show’s contestants.

Initial success petered out naturally over time, but the show trucked along on BBC Two for several years, with the odd celebrity special at the weekend on BBC One. Link would see a belated full-time promotion to One in 2008 after they lost Neighbours to Channel 5. It would remain there for a few years before returning to its original channel, making way for the burgeoning Pointless, which has held the slot seemingly ever since. It was around this time that Anne decided she’d had enough of insulting strangers, and the show met a fairly quiet end in April 2012.

There were rumours of a comeback in 2017, in a bid to bolster lacklustre Saturday night schedules on BBC One. Alas, besides a one-off for Children in Need that year, this did not come true; if it was on the table then evidently Robinson didn’t want to do it, which is fair enough. She’s taking the helm of Countdown shortly, a choice I absolutely was not expecting. I would say the chances of her returning to Link any time soon are slim, but that’s not to say it couldn’t return with a new host – it might even help break in the inevitable shift in tone (there were instances where Robinson got a bit full of herself and went way too far). Robert Rinder’s Weakest Link, anyone?

I thought this would be fun in a “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire set, play with lights” kind of way. It turned out that the animations and lighting sequences in this show are much more complex than just dropping them like Millionaire. I had some peculiar hiccups too, with cloned lights deciding to fade out by themselves, but I managed to work around that, sort of, by taking them out of the cloner and making them follow moving targets. As usual, I suspect there was a much easier solution staring me in the face. So, really it wasn’t a huge amount of fun, but it’s productivity in what has been a most unproductive year thus far, so you can’t vote me off for that.

BANK!” – five seconds out of time, as usual.

I think the weakest link for me is this block editor… ugh!

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Imagine Countdown still going in 2021.

Imagine me still posting about Countdown in 2021.

Well, indeed, a new year brings the same old shizzle. In more ways than one, this time around. I have little to say about this programme that hasn’t already been posted several times, so let’s just move on to the project. I had covered all studio sets for the show, bar the current one, introduced in 2017 for the show’s 77th series. So here we are, for the completionists out there. It was certainly evolution over revolution and in some ways a bit of a downgrade from the classy predecessor – the upper section looks a bit like someone left the scaffolding up – but I guess simplicity was the word in mind (yes, that’s ten letters). With nice lighting I suppose it looks decent enough, and the desk is rather swish.

I hadn’t really watched Countdown for a year or so when lockdown (the first one) struck, but rather got back into it as I found it snuck nicely into my schedule. I’m sure that was the case for some other people too, and with another one looming that process may repeat itself. It’s good to have an old classic on hand for some simple escapism, with some astonishment at just how bad at the game I have become. But I suppose that’s part of the fun. There’s also the prospect of a new presenter in its fortieth year, with Nick Hewer to step down in the summer; at first it was for a few weeks’ shielding, then he decided to jack it in altogether. I can’t say I’m too upset about that, though to have stuck at it for as long as he has is impressive. Hopefully they find a host who can wake the show (and Rachel) up a bit and restore some of the spark it used to have. Basically, what I’m saying is they should just give it to Colin Murray. It’s either he or Moira Stuart.

I feel the Bee Gees should take some of the credit for this, as they have bound into my life for some unknown reason and their bizarre groove was the backing track for this build. “TRAGEDY…” My neighbours must love me.

Happy New Year. The countdown to the end of lockdown is on.

pixelpractise-INTERCEPTOR-02As long-standing readers of this blog may know, I like Interceptor. In fact, I’ve come to think it’s one of the best game shows ever made; throwing a villain into the game show equivalent of orienteering was a stroke of genius, and Sean O’Kane made sure we would never forget such a character. He’s the uber-ham, and that means he’s brilliant. His performance actually makes it impossible to root for the contestants.

Of course, Interceptor‘s life was criminally short, with ITV ditching the programme after only eight episodes. It’s a decision that makes me a little mad, especially when one thinks of all the mileage left in the Interceptor running (or hovering) around being an arse, branding presenter Annabel Croft an ‘onionhead’ and scaring the life out of the jolly hockey sticks contestants. Those eagle screams are probably still echoing across the countryside.

Its premature termination also means we never got the slew of merchandise that accompanied popular game shows of the time. We never got the disappointing board game, we never got the disappointing zapper toy which did not work rather like a television remote controller, and, circling around to this post, we never got the disappointing computer game. That makes it a prime candidate for my loading screen treatment, so, here are my attempts at a loading screen for Interceptor on the Spectrum. It most likely would have been the best part of the experience. That being said, I would love to hear a Speccy or Commodore 64 rendition of the theme tune.

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Well, here we are again! I am sensing polite smiles all around as we buckle up for yet another edition of Countdown. Honestly, the thinking behind this was similar to the previous pine cones. Not sure of the time I’d have, it was really just something I thought I could chip away at in short bursts without taxing my brain too much. It would just be a case of modifying my previous attempt, looking at the early nineties set.


This time, we’re in 1999, a happy time just before the millennium bug would come along and change life as we know it, blowing up all of our computers and pulling planes from the sky. Or, perhaps, not so much. Thankfully. I understand much was done behind the scenes to alleviate any potential issues, but, as a child at the time, all I remember is the media doing a good job of putting the fear of God into us. Some things don’t change, huh, or maybe it was a godsend that we all bought our Y2K-compliant watches, calculators and underwear. All this being said, I can’t have let it get to me that much, as my memories of that Christmas and New Year are entirely happy. I guess that’s how it should be when you’re seven.

Besides the obvious switch to indigo lighting, the main set really hasn’t changed much; some minor adjustments to the backdrop, and some new textures, but that’s about it. It was really a test to see how much I could do to clean up the clock’s ‘wings’ without having to redo them, because I remember they were quite the pain and I can barely even remember how I did it anyway.

cd1999-011aNew letters and numbers area! Clearly, they were going mad with the budget at this point – they might have even gone into triple figures throwing the lights in over here. The boards are the same as before, just modified, but the backdrop and numbers tray are completely new.

cd1999-010aIf you’re not a fan of the colour scheme – maybe you’d prefer it if it were blue daba dee daba die – here’s an attempt at recreating the credits, with the flashing lights and bright orange:

cd1999-lightsI feel like Countdown – with a warm presenter, at least – is a programme perfect for this time of year, whether you’re snowed in, dumfungled or just feeling lazy. Essentially a parlour game, friendly and unquestionably familiar, it seems to chime with much of the Christmas spirit of tradition. That would doubtless explains why, these days, the Christmas break is about the only time Channel 4 don’t show Countdown! It didn’t used to be this way, though; I remember when the grand final was screened on Christmas Day itself, indeed 1999 being one such year. I know it’s not as popular as it used to be, and Nick Hewer is so dour that he cannot be relied upon to big things up, but I do miss the finals actually having a sense of occasion. Ah well. I suppose hidden-away-at-two-o’clock Countdown is better than no Countdown at all.

Yes, it’s what you’ve long clamoured for – and that’s a nine-letter word.

A return visit to this Countdown malarkey (only eight, but a darn good word) is, admittedly, normally code for having a thirst to create but a total drought of practical (nine letters) ideas – it’s often the way, or vice versa. Had I the skills before, though, I probably would have gone straight to this one, rather than chip away at the very wooden predecessor. It was a bit of a nightmare with curve upon curve, and troublesome splines all over – a lot of the successes came from just winging it, but I guess that’s part of the fun. I’m pretty pleased with what I eventually coaxed out of the chaos, and I’d hope it’s all the better for the time that’s passed since my last go.

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A retro look for the early nineties, the show went truly overboard (nine!) with lights – hundreds of the things, in strands strung from the clock in chevron-esque ‘wings’, which I always presumed was a grandiose (again!) nod to producer Yorkshire TV’s logo-mark, but I could have overthought that. They would even blink when somebody scored the ultimate goal of a nine-letter word – a reward whose manner probably says all that need be said of Countdown.

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With all that flash and the show being at its peak during the nineties, it’s probably the definitive Countdown look for many; it’s certainly the one in which the warmest memories are wrapped up for me, spending half an hour each day in the company of avuncular pun-master and sartorial deckchair, Richard Whiteley and, in the perfect TV/dinner partnership, a bowl of Alphabetti spaghetti. (I think it’s this wistful nostalgia that tricked me into thinking that stuff tasted good!) I’m moved to think of my grandfather excitedly telling me that Countdown was about to start and sitting me on his knee, or asking if I managed to outdo the contestants last time. The answer was always no, but he knew that one day I would figure it out, and, sure enough, I did! Appropriately for a game dominated by a big clock, Countdown over its thirty-five years has forged an affinity with time like no other TV show I can think of – both my grandfather and Richard are now but memories, but they come to mind whenever the music hits. They were happy days.

There are probably several nine-letter words in there.

cd94F2All this being said, it figures that it jarred somewhat when the show was given a makeover, but the flowing locks live on as that thing of unmatched beauty, the victor’s teapot, which takes its form even today.


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I should put this in the Timepiece series – yes, the one I started in September and haven’t added to since; a much-needed kick up the arse for it, let’s hope it works! And it’s not like it’s unjust. The nation can continue without Big Ben, but I wouldn’t fancy our chances if the Countdown clock were silenced, would you!? Long may the clock tick.

interceptor-3BWell, that’s not to get your hopes up – Interceptor isn’t returning. But I’ve been indulging in the show again lately, so the titular villain is back after a double appearance way back in this blog’s early days. I can assure you, he’s still going to track you down by helicopter, he remains very mean and nasty, and his infrared projector continues to work rather like a television remote controller.

I tried to fill this with eighties airbrush zing, opting for standard Photoshop soft brushes, radiance, and a heap of saturation. I actually veered toward this midway through Kate Bush, and since sought out a tutorial on the subject. It’s still not quite there, though; certainly it would have benefited from a stronger sketch (and cut), but I appreciate that it at least looks a little different. Different is good, and it was fun, so it seems worth another bash at a later date. Perhaps the same can be said for Interceptor one day, TV people?

crystalmoss-00How thrilled I was to hear that Richard Ayoade has landed the Crystal Maze gig, with a new series coming later this year. There are many qualities of Richard that I think give him great potential as Mazemaster – a fresh one, too, and not a pale imitation of Richard I (O’Brien). They’ve also recruited James Dillon, designer of the original Maze, to work his magic once more, which is equally exciting. My hopes are high!

futuristic01I don’t normally post works in progress, but this is rather a large work, and so the progression might warrant a change to the usual. After much needless hesitation, I have finally set about recreating the glorious Futuristic Zone of The Crystal Maze in 3D… the proper, cranky Futuristic of the nineties, that is, not the boring white void that is the new Experience’s blueprint. Behold, for what we are looking at is an abandoned space station of the 23rd century…

It made sense to start at the space station’s ‘entrance’ and work from there. You see, it wasn’t just a case of picking where to start and mopping up crystals from there – the teams first had to enter the Maze by passing an obstacle outside their first zone. With Aztec sending people overboard boats, and Medieval putting them gingerly over a rickety portcullis, Futuristic’s ‘answer a Key Stage 2 Science question to unlock the door’ always felt a bit underwhelming, but it did at least allow for a bit of throwaway banter between the host and star of the Futuristic zone, the keeper of knowledge and guard of gateways, The Computer.

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Progress.

An intriguing but outrageous mish-mash of goodness knows how many appliances and cables all welded together, this omniscient contraption certainly was the most time-consuming part of this exercise. I completely under-estimated just how long it would take! It started to deviate from the real deal a little toward the end, but I don’t think that’s too bad a crime  – its essence is there. It was freeing to just throw pieces together, it prevented the process from ever becoming a frustration. It was very therapeutic, actually. There’s more to come of this ilk throughout the zone, so I look forward to doing it again!

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Hmm…!

I’m already spotting important little bits I’ve missed, so there are a few things that need doing before I can move into the zone itself. Three days in, though, this has been a hoot so far – I only hope my own computer, not nearly so powerful as Futuristic’s behemoth, will play ball with enough generosity for me to complete the zone!

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I’m almost finished, look!

More to come in the future, hopefully! This looks to have all the makings of a nice long-term project; I shan’t bore you with minutiae, but will endeavour to log major developments here. For those deprived souls who know not of the Futuristic Zone or even The Crystal Maze altogether, the clip below should give you an idea of what the heck I’ve just been waffling about, and a look into some wonderful set design.

Keep on rockin’!