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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.

With all the stuff I’ve done on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire previously, you’re probably not surprised in the least to see this, an attempt at modelling the revival set.

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Like most game shows these days, it’s predominantly spotlights and LED screens. The video floor replacing the old ‘bowl’ was something I was initially unsure of, but they proved me wrong – it’s used to great effect throughout the show.

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There might not be all the glass and shine of the predecessor, but there are those video panels. I’d done some basic video integration with my Million Pound Drop screens, but this required rather a lot more. The results are somewhat basic, mostly cobbled together from previous or abandoned projects; it’s not nearly so impressive as the real deal, but it’s nice to know it works.

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I’m pleasantly surprised to be enjoying the new Millionaire as much as I am. I thought it was finished a decade or so ago, so the fact that it feels even remotely special again is testament to not Jeremy Clarkson but the overall production. The show is back in March, I understand; let’s hope ITV keep it as an occasional event, stripped over a few days, and aren’t tempted to water it down (no celebrities!!) or overexpose it. As it is, it should be an attraction for some time.

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I may not have been posting much since completing the Twenty-Six Spins challenge – indeed, by that, I mean I haven’t posted at all. But I have been keeping busy, on a daily basis no less, with several pieces, and hopefully these will be ready to show soon. I’ve certainly felt more awake creatively since the challenge, such that this exercise was my idea of letting off some steam. Hopefully, it’ll last. I pushed it enough while it was running, but I’ll say one more time: do give it a whirl. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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You could say that the aforementioned series was a lifeline for me – see what I did there? I found myself playing with my Who Wants To Be A Millionaire model from earlier in the year, with a view to bringing its nineties complexion up to date – well, 2010 anyway. There wasn’t much to like about the series from that year, which introduced a ‘big bad clock’ for questions and essentially killed the show. They did, however, use more pink and purple around the set, and that’s never a bad thing. I’ve dialled that up here, and though I’ll probably always favour the original set, I’m enjoying the heightened neon-retro feel here.

The new curvy columns aren’t great, but will do and shouldn’t be hard to tweak. What does bother me somewhat is the bumpy decoration on the backing panels, not looking particularly accurate; wouldn’t you know it, a simple tweak made it vastly better – a shame this came after the eight-hour render session, huh. Still, as its essentially the same set as that of my first Millionaire attempt in 2016, it’s pleasing to see a much more accurate reconstruction overall.

It was great to see Who Wants To Be A Millionaire Win Enough for The Parking Meter While They’re In Here back last month with Jeremy Clarkson at the helm. Not being a massive fan, knowing his reputation and having never run into Top Gear, I wasn’t really sure what to expect of Jezza. As it happens, I was pleasantly surprised; he was very funny and, though he mocked, you could tell he really wanted the contestants to do well – even when it was clear they probably weren’t. His appointment gave Millionaire an air of unpredictability and intrigue that it probably hasn’t had since 2000. I gather it was a success, holding its audience across the series, so hopefully we’ll get another run soon, since that would mean all the more opportunity for stuff like this!

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With the announcement that Who Wants To Be A Millionaire is coming back for a week of twentieth anniversary specials, I was compelled to get in on this and throw a revival of my own. Almost two years ago now, I had a go at making a 3D model of the Millionaire set. I hoped I could do better this time!

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I’ve gone for a more 1998 look, or at least the early days in general. It’s always been a fairly intimate arena, but here we have a wider range of colours besides just blue, and with those wonderfully bulky screens and a big case of wonga making the centrepiece.

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The 2016 attempt now looks pretty terrible, so I’m guessing that’s a marked improvement! With what I’d like to think was a more informed approach, creating the model and animation was a much happier experience this time around. No friends needed to be phoned… though, I should give credit to my friend Christopher Jamin; shots of his own Millionaire models helped me no end with the make-up of more intricate elements.

I’m always curious with revivals; it seems there is a very fine line to tread when bringing back an established show. Some are spoilt with unnecessary ‘tweaks’ (Crystal Maze, Krypton Factor) while others just can’t seem to escape the shadow of previous presenters (Blockbusters, Robot Wars, Crystal Maze again). Indeed, it will be strange having Millionaire mark its twentieth anniversary without Chris Tarrant. Jeremy Clarkson probably wouldn’t have been my first choice to succeed him, but he will undoubtedly attract others, and there’s nothing to suggest he won’t do a decent job.

The £64,000 question will of course be whether viewers want Millionaire back just four years after it limped into retirement virtually unnoticed. Should things go down well, I’m sure we’ll be seeing more. If it’s used sparingly and goes back to the basics that made it gripping in the first place, I think Millionaire could well flourish again, twenty years later. We’ll have to ask the audience and see…

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Oh, and ITV: it’s the thirtieth anniversary of Interceptor next year. Celebratory revival please.

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?

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You got twenty-five more letters than you asked for!

I was a little bored, and, cool cat that I am, this invariably means I fall back on ropey old game shows. This time, it was the turn of Blockbusters, the student quiz hosted by the delightful Bob Holness and nobody else ever.

Away from its questions and incredible opening and theme tune, I had long been eyeing up the nice digital-style cut used for both the logo-type and letter slides of the game board. I’d never been able to locate the exact font itself, so I decided to take to Illustrator and have a go at making my own en hommage. The razor-sharp edges made it relatively painless to reach the level you see – essentially blocking (and busting!) squares and right-angle triangles together. Some letters look a little off – ‘S’ and ‘Y’ are troubling me the most – but it was a lot of fun.

I could spin the lettering out into various posters bearing witty slogans pertinent to the show, but why do that when you can sum the programme up as follows: goodness, weren’t those kids hilarious?

blockbusters-1-01I’d made a template of the game board long ago but with the wrong font, so fixing this was a must. Let’s play Blockbusters!

blockbusters-1-03As I imagine is the case with just about anybody who ever saw the programme, I now have an excessive lust for hexagons, the cheeky, geometric eye candy they so obviously are. There are just so many possibilities and interpretations, as Victor Vasarely celebrated to the point of tease. I wonder if he ever caught Blockbusters?

Rifling through, I found these relics from early last year, which, while apparently unfinished, show some fun being had with the shape’s versatility. What started out as simple pinwheels begin to masquerade as shapes of a different dimension.

What endless fun one can have with handsome hexagons. Thanks, Bob!

Having been in discussion with an old friend possibly even more enamoured with the game show than myself, I’d a feeling – as indeed I do on every conversation – that his unabashed delight in cheesy presenters, sparkly sets and strobe lights would rub off on me. And I was right. He’s a terrible influence.

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire launched on ITV in September 1998, coming after years of developing and tweaking the format of both the quiz and the show itself. Stripped in half-hour bursts across two weeks, the show was an instant success – in subsequent series, it would boast audiences of almost twenty million, even with the rapid increase of satellite alternatives, and soon it’d have travelled the world. The computer game was the best-selling of the year 2000. It left its rivals, offering cars and a couple of grand, in the dark. Millionaire was perhaps the last ‘event’ game show, and in its favour was its universal accessibility. People used to be talking about it in the playground at first school – we simply couldn’t fathom such monstrous sums of money. I expect we weren’t alone in that view.

It was the cleverness of its construction that allowed even we, aged only six and seven when it started, to engage in the programme. Pitching the questions as multiple-choice and presenting them for the duration not only cajoled bullish contenders into chancing their arm, but it also meant that everyone at home could have a go, with a decent chance of indeed being correct whether you had the foggiest idea what the question was asking or not. Instantly, there was a connection – you were active viewers, and your thought process informed the narrative between yourself and the contestant, which might have already been dictated by their outwardly laddish tendencies or crippling nerves. Superiority or regret was amply topped up. Only fuelling this – one way or another! – was the stewardship of Chris Tarrant; invariably incensing in his lengthy pauses and stalls, he was also very good at making you care about what was going on. You couldn’t imagine anyone else doing the job.

I was most powerfully fascinated, though, by the show’s set as a child (weird kid). Designed with the show’s capacity for theatre very much in mind, the round, stepped-up nature exacerbated the isolation aspect, while also offering potential to be unitive in atmosphere. True to the game show, it had its share of shine and strobe, but they were used in a very different way, again only adding to the tension of the thing. I was fascinated by the way the lights would go up and down, the house lights dropping darker the further the player ventured, until it was just them and Chris visible.

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire was not only a historic game show, but really is the reason for much of the television that has followed. The dark, spotlit sets. The dramatic music scores. The focus on emotion. Big viewing figures. Indeed, the bar was only going to go up (or down, depending on what you might think!) and it wasn’t long before Millionaire‘s playbook was stolen. Once the jackpot had been bagged, though, the moment had passed rather, and interest began to wane, big wins became less of a story, certainly compared to cheating ehe-NO!-m Majors trying to con their way to the cash.

In the subsequent years, the show slipped steadily into irrelevance – shifting from stripped five days a week to early Tuesday night, and subject to several last-ditch format reversions, none of which worked. Tarrant quit in 2013, with the final show going out quietly the next year. Something of a shame really, though I won’t pretend it shouldn’t have gone many years earlier. Much better off remembered as the unstoppable force it was in its pomp.

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But we don’t want to give you that! Into the next dimension – 27 June 2012

The Who Wants To Be A Millionaire set was, I believe, the very first thing I tried to build in 3D nearly half a decade ago now – mainly because I thought it looked simple. I soon realised it was far from such, but nevertheless, the way that shapes actually seemed to be, and the ease in which colours and textures were falling into the view-port, made me want to explore the subject in greater depth.

With my confidence increasing recently, and with this quizzy shot in the arm, I thought I’d give Millionaire another go, to see if I could master the whole lighting business, a practice in which I’m lagging slightly. The floor would also be a challenge.

millionaire03aThe build was refreshingly simple, if laborious at times. Lots and lots of radial cloning. As I thought, replicating the glass-and-dish construct of the floor was tough; all about achieving the right texture – namely, that crooked, shard motif. It didn’t turn out quite as I hoped, but I think it’s at least on the right lines.

millionaire01The lights were rather more difficult than expected. I did not know how to get the snazzy pattern to show on the floor, nor could I find anywhere that told me; this suggests that either I’m insane in wanting to do this, or it’s so blindingly simple that no advice is necessary. In the end, I put a disc with the pattern cut out of it, directly in front of the spotlight falloff, and grouped it. It worked a charm, and once I’d started setting them properly, the stage began to really look Millionaire-ish in appearance.

millionaire02aI even rendered a quick video of the lights going down – as mentioned earlier, one of the most vivid draws of the show for me when I was little. There’s something rather stilted about the animation compared to the routine on TV, and I’m not quite sure why that is, but it was nice to try and the descent into darkness is very satisfying. In that hobbled-together effort, I intertwined my 3D with some graphics I made back in 2012, which were created with a view to actually recording a couple of ‘academic’ Millionaire episodes for a sixth form. Purple was their colour, so purple was what they got! Sadly it never happened – perhaps they realised it was out of their budget? – but I still have the visuals, I suppose now merely fan art:

So that’s Millionaire. Given that I’ve only spent a couple of days on this, and it took me three years to complete the Countdown set, I think I fared rather well. I at least learnt a lot in setting up and animating spot lights. Now I just need to explore glassy stuff in more detail, and try and preferably come up with a solution that doesn’t take three-quarters of an hour to render one frame.

Constructing the set did give me greater appreciation for the efforts of the old games, which generally were well done, especially looking back after fifteen years. The PlayStation 2 version, which came complete with a CGI Chris Tarrant was, quite naturally, hilarious.

supersw-1We’re frantically picking up some items for tonight’s Doodlewash Dinner offering. But the big question lingers on our minds.

Can we find all the items on Dale’s Shopping List?

I’m sure anybody subjected to Supermarket Sweep with Dale Winton will still to this day have visions ingrained in the memory – visions of pastel sweaters, cheesy grins and curious inflatables. As you’d never have guessed, the format was poached from the US, and ran from 1993 to 2001 – who knew it lasted that long? – occupying a mid-morning slot on ITV. With the transmission as it was, my memories are sparse; I remember it solely as a ‘treat’ for being ill and out of school.

In the show, teams of two would tackle various puzzles – usually simple word games – in a bid to earn extra time and track down the items that Dale is looking for – the lazy sod can’t go find them himself.

That comprises round one; from round two, it’s unadulterated mayhem… by which I mean, even worse than your local supermarket on a weekend morning. The Big Sweep essentially sees the teams race off like lunatics, trying to fill their trolleys. A lot of things will get thrown around or broken in this round – tsk, such a waste. And how exciting it is to see expert shoppers filling their vehicle with turkeys – turkey-shaped emblems of greed. It’s here where the giant inflatables I’ve tried to recreate make an appearance, boasting cash prizes. The exciting bit is at the end of the round, where contestants peel off the ‘bonus’ tag and try to feign their joy at its underwhelming value. Was it really worth ramming that poor woman?

The team who have done the most expensive shop then progress to the denouement, the Super Sweep, which is rather like a miniature, sixty-second version of  Treasure Hunt; a trail of clue to clue, item to item, crash to crash. If they get to the last item they find the cash – a cool two grand. If they lose, they get to keep the cash won previously. And that’s basically it, excepting one or two corny catchphrases from our Dale in his farewell.

It’s probably best left in those weird mornings where I was removed from routine and wondering what my friends were up to. However, the idea of a real-life sweep often strikes tempting… goodness, that’d be a birthday party and a half.  But not the show. I could never survive the sweaters, nor the smiling.

Next time you’re at the checkout and hear the beep, think of the fun you could be having thank God you’re not on Supermarket Sweep!

 

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“Can you see your key yet? It’s a little silver thing!”

Now that we’ve got The Crystal Maze – sort of – you think we can maybe now have the revival of Interceptor that we so desperately need? Thanks in advance.

I’ve spoken of the show before, and sketched the titular character. Here, we have the host, former tennis star Annabel Croft. Coming straight in from a series replacing Anneka Rice running around on Treasure Hunt, Croft’s job here was rather more sedentary; plonked in a random but most picturesque setting with a big map, she had to guide the contestants to their keys en route to their reunion and subsequent glory.

Indeed, some of the most amusing turns in the programme are when she appears to be getting really quite annoyed that the contestants haven’t spotted their key yet, or when they fear they’ve been zapped by the Interceptor. Basically she’s a bit of a rubbish host who screeches at the players and to us, but of course it wouldn’t be Interceptor were it any different, so there we are.

Here’s some Interceptor fun – poor Clive lets his guard down, and Annabel is less than pleased:

bob-1A birthday shout-out to the late Robert Wentworth John ‘Bob’ Holness, who would have been eighty-seven today.

I’ve recently found myself watching episodes of Blockbusters; leave it to he to make me chuckle, looking on fondly at his comedic faux-pas in the presence of cocky sixth-formers. And to be honest, the show is worth watching for the theme tune and title sequence alone:

It was much the same format as the American parent: contestants play on the hexagonal grid of letters, answering general knowledge questions whose answers begin with said letters, competing to string a line of hexagons from one side to the other. We did something a bit different with it, though – Blockbusters was (and to my knowledge still is) unique in that it was an intelligent (but never elitist) quiz show exclusively for sixteen to eighteen-year old geeks; its audience, though, given the teatime transmission and lack of an alternative, spanned from toddlers to pensioners. Bob presided over the proceedings with a mix of debonair and bumbling (he was James Bond, dontcha know); like a schoolmaster from a different era who had lost all control of his cohort of smart-arses. He epitomised the avuncular; whether you found his manner sweet or slightly embarrassing, you couldn’t not warm to him.

As well as a magnificently tacky Blockbusters sweatshirt, and leather-bound dictionary, the major prizes (Bob quite honestly says ‘major prize’ about fifty times per show, each as hyperbolic as the last) these kids win are pretty bloody awesome for 1983, too: trips to New York (by Concorde!) and Venice, twenty-five driving lessons, and ZX Spectrum computers. Just the other day, I saw a contestant blaze their Gold Run and bag a ‘compact portable stereo’ which appeared the size of a small car.

You can see the very first episode of Blockbusters here. And if you weren’t convinced that the show would evolve out of its infancy to become so adorably, awkwardly nerdy, well, look no further than here. The stellar theme tune is totally deserving of a dedicated dance number, but seeing them doing that makes even me cringe… you will certainly never see me executing the Blockbusters hand jive, unless it’s very late or I’m extortionately drunk – even then, it’d be a push. if you want to do the moves yourself (don’t pretend you’re not curious), I have included the routine below. You’d look so cool.

Knee-clap
Hand-clap
Hand-over-hand (x2)
Potato-hands (x2)
Elbow-point-twirl (x2)
(Repeat x3)

Knee-clap
Hand-clap
Clap in the air manically.

Well, there we are. What did I tell you…? Who needs pick-up lines when you have the Blockbusters hand jive?

The Holness era ended in 1994 after the show, seemingly fed up of being shunted around the ITV schedules to make way for Australian soaps, jumped ship to Sky One, who I can’t imagine enjoyed quite as large a reach back then. Indeed, it only ran for one series on Sky before being axed. Blockbusters has been revived so many times since, on so many channels, and, while there are things you can credit the new versions for, there’s one thing they’re all missing: there ain’t no Bob. Holness went on to present ITV’s ropey Raise the Roof – a game show in which the star prize was a house! – before settling into the BBC’s revival of panel game Call My Bluff, which he hosted for several years until persistent ill-health forced his retirement. His death in 2012 was a sad day for the industry, just as it was for the generations who grew up with him on screen.

Did you know that Bob played the saxophone on the Gerry Rafferty’s 1978 hit, Baker Street? This was printed somewhere in the 80s, and for many years was circulated as fact. What a shame it wasn’t true!