Sunday, January 04, 2009

Total Wipeout

The BBC's latest attempt at a Saturday night gameshow is another imported format. This is the UK version of Wipeout, a series ostensibly created by Endemol USA and licensed to twenty different countries. (The UK version, like most of the overseas editions, is filmed in Argentina.)

I say "ostensibly" because, according to Wikipedia, there's an outstanding lawsuit about this. Japanese broadcaster TBS is apparently suing for copyright infringement, claiming that Wipeout is a blatant rip-off of formats such as Takeshi's Castle and Ninja Warrior. Which it is. It's an obvious clone show.

Except in Japan, these shows are based on people trying to beat the course, rather than competing against each other. And that means you can go a long time without a winner. So for western sensibilities, it's been turned into a series of courses with the slowest people being eliminated.

Fine... but the end result is a bit of a mess. The BBC bills the show as presented by Richard Hammond, whose actual contribution is to sit in a small studio in London and provide sardonic commentary (leading to awkward gear changes when he has to try and be sincere on occasion). In Argentina, there's Amanda Byram, interviewing the contestants and... doing commentary from the side of the course?

Byram seems wholly unaware that Richard Hammond is involved in the show, and her interviews with contestants appear to have been cut to ribbons. And she's doing duplicate commentary. This rings alarm bells. Total Wipeout looks suspiciously like a disastrous location shoot which they've tried to save in the edit by parachuting in Hammond. Not entirely successfully: without the contestant interviews, we're left with a succession of interchangeable mystery individuals. And the audience-free course has, shall we say, a certain lack of atmosphere.

If it's not a salvage job, then there are some very strange editing choices going on here. For British viewers, here's the iPlayer link if you want to see for yourself. It's a strange, wonky thing, a good idea on paper, rather misjudged on screen.