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Hole in the Wall versus Eggheads

Nicola Mostyn on two shows aiming to pit the wits or the bodies of contestants against very important challenges

Published on December 8th 2008.


Hole in the Wall versus Eggheads

Have you ever watched a quiz show in which the contestants seem to have a staggering breadth of knowledge and wondered: just how do they come up with the right answers?

If the answer is no, I wouldn’t recommend watching Eggheads. In fact, even if it’s a question that’s been keeping you awake at night, I still wouldn’t really recommend it.

Eggheads is hosted by newsreader Dermot Murnaghan (with Jeremy Vine filling in when Dermot can’t make it) and sees quiz teams pit their wits against a crack squad of super-clever types comprising a former Brain of Britain and Millionaire winner Judith Keppel. Last week it was the final, in which two plucky, brainy members of the public fought it out to join the prestigious Eggheads panel.

Now, I don’t wish to typecast extraordinarily clever people but the two finalists were a) bespectacled and b) spoke like they were wearing an extra pair of teeth. Also, firmly hammering a plank over the brainy=dorky pigeon hole, they were also c) astonishingly dull.

To be fair, c) wasn’t strictly their fault, since to give this general knowledge quiz an extra kick, the contestants have seemingly been asked to take the viewers through their thought processes as they worked out the answer.

The plus side to this is that the viewers learn some extra trivia. The minus side is you have to listen to the boffins imparting it. And they have a lot of trivia to impart. Asked which song, by the band Move, was the first to be played on Radio 1, Sean from Middlesex not only furnished us with the year, date and time it was played but also the DJ on duty at the time. If pressed, could probably have told us what colour of underpants Tony Blackburn was wearing whilst he played it. It was Flowers in the Rain by the way. Didn’t get it? Du-uuuh. Thickie.

Next it was the turn of Barry from Leeds to show us how much of a smart-arse he was: “How long is the Volga river?” Dermot asked. “The Volga River is the longest river in Europe…It ends up in the Caspian sea so it has to be fairly long, I’m just trying to work out where it flows from,” said Barry as the audience tried to work out whether it was too late to sneak out and watch Golden Balls being recorded instead. Minutes later, he was still going: “But 4,400 miles just seems a tad too long for it. There are an awful lot of rivers in Russia.” Arg! Stop! Egghead is like being stuck at a party, sans alcohol, next to a map enthusiast. It may be improved by a bottle of vodka. I’ll keep you posted.

Still on the BBC, Hole in the Wall is the opposite of Eggheads in that, if the celebrity contestants had half a brain, they wouldn’t be on it.

Hosted by Dale Winton, it seems to be aimed at those too mentally sluggish to concentrate on anything that isn’t shiny, silver, or shiny and silver. This includes the celebrity contestants who, captained by former cricketer Darren Gough and dancer Anton de Beke, are sporting simply ridiculous spray-tight silver jumpsuits and red helmets.

Now concentrate for the rules, because they’re pretty complicated: To win money for their charity of choice, the teams have to make shapes with their bodies and fit through a hole in a moving wall. If they don’t, they end up in a swimming pool. If you think it sounds silly, you really have to see it.

Nell McAndrew was up first and got a soaking after failing to master the “balanced buttocks with parallel pointing” position. Dale gave her some points anyway. Then it was Olympic Sprinter Iwan Thomas’ turn. He had to do a headstand. Failed again. But Dale gave him some points anyway.

Phil Tufnell then attempted to fit through a mousehole and got dragged into the water. Then Josie D’Arby failed to pass through the wall. By this time the show was half-over and I was sensing a trend. Does anyone actually make it through this wall? I'm not sure the silver suits are enough. Maybe if they make the wall stationary? And lubricate the contestants with chicken grease? And then take away the wall?

Josie, having been drenched, was disappointed not to get any marks. “Shall I tell you why I can’t give you any points for that?” asked their terracotta host. Please, Dale. Is it because your producers are in your earpiece saying this show is completely pointless?

Eventually, somebody actually succeeded in not getting knocked into the pool. Dale was perkiness personified. Only a man who hosted Supermarket Sweep could keep shouting “Bring on the Wall” with such vim; anyone saner would be trudging morosely to the water’s edge with weights sewn into their turn ups.

There is much to like about this slice of televisual insanity but the best bit about Hole in the Wall is the replay after every attempt, in case we failed to catch the complexity of what happened. Hang on…Phil Tufnell lay down in the wrong position whilst a foam wall ploughed him into a swimming pool. Yep…think I’ve got it.

I reckon the voiceover man once dreamed of commentating on Olympic gymnastics. What else could explain why these ridiculous holes have been given such stately names: “This is known as the Setting Sun,” says voiceover man about three semi circles careering towards Nell McAndrew, as though there is a long and respected history of people in unforgiving silver lycra trying to clamber through polystyrene edifices.

And, it’s true there is a sort of agile dignity to it all. Oh, okay, there really isn’t. But it beats listening to eggheads waffle on about tributaries. That much I do know.

Eggheads, BBC2, weeknights, 6pm.
Hole in the Wall, BBC1, Saturday, 5.40pm

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