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The Colour of Money

Nicola Mostyn on a simply stressful game show

Published on March 24th 2009.

The Colour of Money

What do we need more of in our lives? Love? Nah. Security? Security’s for wimps. What we want is more stress. Bucket loads of it. Come on, hands up who wants to feel that chubby vein pulsing away in their forehead like a disgusting stress-worm?

You? Lovely. Then tune into The Colour of Money, Chris Tarrant’s new Saturday night game show – a game show so simple, it lacks an actual game and whose contestants require only two qualities: insatiable greed and extremely large kahones.

The Colour of Money is played like this: 20 cash machines contain amounts ranging from £1000 to £20,000. When a contestant begins they swipe a ‘cash card’ and find out how much money they need to bag. Then they select ten machines and watch the money tick up from 0, by £1000 increments, not knowing whether the machine contains £1000 or £20,000. The trick is to hold their nerve and wait until the last possible moment before they scream “STOP!” (roughly ten seconds before they have a stroke). If the machine doesn’t run out of cash before they shout, they get the money. But only if they win the exact amount needed from the ten cash machines do they take anything home.

It’s pretty damn tense and none of that tension has anything to do with Tarrant, who sadly doesn’t get much chance to flex those Millionaire pauses that stretched so far you could take a holiday in them. Also unlike Millionaire, this time Tarrant has a glamorous assistant in the form of Millie Clode, whose job is to look good in a tight black dress and give advice about how the contestants might want to play. So that’s either 'Shout stop now' or…erm, 'Shout stop later'. She doesn’t need to be Carol Vorderman.

First up is Alison Thompson from Birmingham who wants the money for her impending wedding to the man of her dreams. Ahh, bless. She swipes her card and finds that she could go home with £74,000. All she needs to do is get it from the cashpoints.

To add a bit of interest, the cashpoint colours all have pretty names like Fern and Champagne, which encourage the contestants to think up convoluted reasons for their choices: “Fuchsia is my mum’s favourite flower so I’ll go with that,” says Alison and, “My cousin’s favourite film is Wizard of Oz so I’ll go with emerald.” And, rather tenuously, “My mum’s got lovely blue eyes, it’s got to be a lucky omen.”

Actually, I was wrong about the contestants requiring only two qualities. They need a third: what I like to call the Noel Edmonds effect. That is, a slack jawed belief in a higher power that for some reason wants to help them become moderately wealthy.

So as she is watching the money tick up and praying not to break the bank, Alison starts chanting to herself madly. “Got to go big, got to go big. Giving out positive vibes…”

When she chooses the ‘Rose’ cash machine she chants, “The rose, the rose, the rose, the rose,” sounding like that woman with all the plastic bags who you avoid on the bus.

Bonkers, brave, or both, Alison starts off really well, taking big risks and holding on for the big money. But then it all goes wrong as she gets to the last two cashpoints. “I don’t want a low one, I don’t want a low one,” she chants manically. It stops at £2000. “I didn’t want a low one, Chris.”

Chris says he knows, she didn’t want a low one.

There isn’t enough left in the cashpoints. And she loses the money. This is all the more heartbreaking because you feel like you know Alison intimately by now, what with her nights out dressed in ‘khaki’ army outfits, her mum’s love of ‘olives’, her fiancés renditions of ‘Gold’ on the karaoke and how they wanted ‘platinum’ rings for the wedding. Now it’ll be ‘salmon’ paste baps down the ‘Red’ Lion and ‘silver’ plated rings from Elizabeth Duke. Pity she didn’t choose ‘purple’, which contained £19,000. If only she’d remembered her nan’s varicose veins.

So far, so stressful and a little bit depressing. But not to worry, here comes Welsh Phil.

He’s a no nonsense, Liverpool supporting Speedway driver. He’s got nerve and holds on longer than his sanity would like. Or his wife. “Stop soon,” she shrieks every time the money passes the £1000 mark. I wonder if there’s a colour called placenta?

Phil, despite being a regular bloke, is soon speaking like a new age lunatic. “Come on lemon, please, lemon, please,” says Phil and “I’m feeling tangerine,” revealing the sort of magical thinking we all indulge in, although usually in the privacy of our own heads. By now, he’s so tense, he can’t even look at the machine as it ticks. Actually, this is a good idea. Leave Chris there, cringing for you, and go off and have a sandwich. Far better for the blood pressure.

But he seems to be on a roll. “I enjoyed school life and our ties were maroon, so I’ll go for that.” Phil, if your luck of the cash machine is any way related to the strength of your anecdotes, you’re in trouble. But no! He wins the full amount! Fireworks go off. Music reaches a crescendo. Phil bursts into tears, his forehead vein bulges and a nation unclenches its buttocks.

The programme ends with footage of the contestants giving feedback, a la The Weakest Link. And yep, there’s Alison, still in tears. “I’m absolutely gutted,” she says. Green with envy, you might say. In a black mood. A suicide blonde.

The Colour of Money, ITV1, 6.45pm

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