I have fond memories of The Krypton Factor, a show so beloved that, when faced with a tricky task, viewers of a certain generation will still say: “It’s like the Krypton Factor!” and expect to be instantly understood. So imagine my delight when I realised it was coming back. Unfortunately, good old Gordon Burns is no longer at the helm. Instead the programme is hosted by handsome, inoffensive Ben Shepherd, the go-to guy for wholesome, slightly bland programming.
That’s not the only change. The opening credits are a smorgasbord of snazzy technology, all Matrix-esque data streams and amorphous human forms. I’m can’t recall what the old credits were like but I’m pretty sure they probably involved a digital watch and a headband.
But no matter. This is “the return of Britain’s toughest quiz” and I’m excited. And at least the contestants are still playing “in” red, blue, green or yellow, which essentially means they’re backlit by a corresponding light and, when it comes to the physical task, they have to wear daft coloured helmets like giant M&Ms.
More of which later; for now it’s the Mental Agility test and Simon from Sheffield is first. He has to add up a series of four numbers falling into a hole. (The numbers, not Simon. Though that is an idea). Then more numbers fall and the contestants have to add them to the last total. I could hardly retain what the four numbers were before they dropped away, let alone add them up, let alone tot them up and add them to the running total. I like to think this was because of the alarming crunching noise that was played before the numbers dropped. It certainly seemed to put Simon off who got the first lot wrong and then started to panic. We know this because the new Krypton Factor features an onscreen heart rate monitor. Nice.
Next was John who, having bragged, “I’ve definitely got what it takes to be number one,” messed up royally. The only female contestant, Josie, was far more humble, took it slow and steady and scored well.
And lastly, Andy; a Krypton Factor contestant from the first time around. He reckons he’ll do better this time, he says. He doesn’t. He’s crap. Ben then shows some archive footage of his previous Krypton Factor performance: “The bad news is you did worse in Mental Agility this time. The good news is, your hair is much better.” Andy, the really bad news is, he’s lying: your hair is exactly the same.
As if bringing back The Krypton Factor isn’t retro enough, the Observation Round features footage of The Darling Buds of May followed by such questions as, “what is the second child behind Pop wearing around her neck?” and “how many balls did they bring to the beach?” Josie triumphs in the tie-breaker: “what colour swim suits is Mariette, played by Catherine Zeta Jones, wearing?” Red, she responds confidently. Unfair, really; I’m not sure the men were looking at the bikini.
Part two and it’s the intelligence round. This would have been the one where the contestant grapple with several crazily-shaped blocks whilst attempting to fit them into a huge Perspex box, except that now it’s done on a snazzy computer screen. A picture of moving traffic has been divided into squares and jumbled up. All they need to do is move the squares around to get them in the right place. This is impossible.
There are bits of bus moving everywhere and all the buildings look the same. “The logical thing to do here would be to turn all the squares the right way up,” says Ben. The logical thing to do would be to go and have a double whiskey. But they manage it. Some of them, anyway. John, Krypton Factor alumni, triumphs. Josie does OK. “Andy has gone the other way,” says Ben. “He seems to be drifting from the solution.” I like to think that Andy was discarding the original blueprint and rearranging the squares into a symbolic representation of his mid life crisis.
“A nine foot sheer wall,” says Ben. “Ice cold water. Thirteen challenging obstacles. Energy-draining mud”. I think this last one is a metaphor. Unless that’s what the Krypton Factor team have been working on these last fifteen years, in which case someone should probably inform the military.
Sadly, the physical challenge was slightly underwhelming too, shot in a way which lacked the grunt and grimness of its predecessor. The ridiculous M&M helmets helped entertain me a bit, but not much.
Josie won overall, by the way. I can’t say I cared much by this point. My heart rate, if anyone had bothered to measure it, was unruffled. Now when people say “It’s like the Krypton Factor!” it won’t be clear whether they mean “tricky to work out,” or “dull as fuck and vaguely disappointing.” Sigh. Another childhood memory tarnished. I can only pray that nobody brings back 3,2,1.
The Krypton Factor, ITV, Thursdays, 7.30pm