Going for Gold, or Bronze?

Earlier this month, it was announced that the TV game show, Going for Gold, is to be brought back to TV screens by Channel Five. The first programme is tomorrow. Instead of Henry Kelly, it will be presented by another former Classic FM presenter, John Suchet. There will be some notable changes to the show, too. Going for Gold was most notable for having contestants from all over Europe, which made it stand out from other TV quizzes. However, the new series will no longer be an international competition.

Reports also say that contestants will compete daily for a cash prize, with the winner returning the following day to defend his or her title. Part of the genius of the original series was the way the contestants – even ones who didn’t win – returned in subsequent programmes to have several attempts at winning, which also meant that viewers got to know the contestants and could follow their favourites from day to day.

The format may have been tweaked from year to year, but it worked something like this. A series ran for 19 weeks. A week would start with seven new contestants, and there would be an initial qualifying round to choose four contestants to play in that day’s programme. The winner of the programme went through to a final on the Friday, while the losers reappeared the following day. On the Thursday, there would be four remaining contestants so they all had a chance to play without there being a qualifying round. On Friday, the four winners then competed against each other, and the winner went through to the semi-finals. The following week started again with seven new people. (I’m using the terms Monday to Friday quite loosely, as often the schedule slipped so it was not aligned with real weeks. Instead of saying “tomorrow” or “next week”, Henry Kelly always said, “When next we play Going for Gold” for just this reason.) After eight weeks, it was the first semi-final week. Starting with eight contestants, this had no weekly final, and was simply five standard programmes, with the winner of each going through to the finals, and the losers returning the following day, with five chances to go through in total. The following week, the entire process was repeated, taking another nine weeks. The finals week followed the format of a standard week, but starting with 10 contestants instead of the usual seven. The Friday was a grand final featuring the winners of the four programmes that week, with the overall winner taking the holiday prize.

The minimum number of programmes on which a particular contestant could appear was two (if they won the first programme of the week then lost the weekly final) and the theoretical maximum was 15 appearances (work that one out for yourselves!) It was a very clever format, because once viewers were familiar with the contestants, it increased the tension throughout the week as the viewers waited to see if or when the ones they were following would win.

While Channel Five deserve some credit for bringing back a decent quiz that has at least some intelligent content, it seems they have lost the two features that stood Going for Gold apart from other similar programmes. So I’m afraid that, instead of a gold, I can only award them a bronze.

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