There have been two main aims for any contestant willing to take part in a game show; the aim to acquire money, and the aim to prove something, such as physical prowess or depth of knowledge. However, more and more game shows are combining the two, as Total Wipeout does. Total Wipeout has 20 contestants who are put through a series of assault courses leading to the final course, where the winner (the contestant with the quickest time) receives a monetary prize. A similar programme that was broadcast in the 1990’s was Gladiators, where contestants again battled through a series of assault courses, this time with ‘gladiators’ who would try and stop them completing the challenges. There was no monetary prize on offer for the winner of Gladiators. Since the 1990’s there have been more people willing to put themselves through rigorous assault courses for money, and it has become not uncommon in Total Wipeout for the more unfit of the contestants to bow out of the competition, or for some people to throw themselves at the course too much, and have ended up with slight injuries, again meaning that they would back out of the show. To give you an idea of the levels of fitness represented on the show, here’s a short clip from the ‘awards’ episode; ‘Top 5 ‘close but no cigar’ moments’
Indeed, if we look at Japanese game shows such as Takeshi’s Castle, which was broadcast in the 1980’s, there is not a lot that people will do to get on television. The object of the game was to get through a series of physical challenges that led up to those left trying to take over Takeshi’s castle, and the one who did this would win the money prize.
All of the shows mentioned so far have had contestants taking physical risks for, mostly, money. The one exception seen so far is Gladiators, which offered no prize money. This meant that those who applied to be contestants were more likely to want to take part purely to test their levels of fitness against the ‘gladiators’, rather than taking part for money.
There are now many other shows which make contestants use both brain and brawn to win money, such as The Cube, on ITV. However, much more prevalent are the quiz shows, which as contestants to use their knowledge to, in most cases, earn money. This can be seen in shows such as Who Wants to be a Millionaire, The Chase and Pointless. Conversely, there are also quizzes which do not offer a monetary prize, yet are just as popular; such as Countdown, Mastermind, University Challenge. This shows that the quiz shows where the only risk you take is the risk of looking silly on television, are just as popular as the game shows where you risk your physical health, meaning that, just as there are some who will risk a lot for money, there are just as many who will not risk their physical health, and would rather just risk looking a bit odd on television. With our show, we knew from this research that there would always be someone who would be willing to take a risk, especially for television.