The Krypton Factor was a long-running success for ITV. I was pleased when some editions from the first series in 1977 turned up online recently, making it possible to do a comparison piece. Now before you all start, I know that the final series of the original run wasn’t in 1993, but the 18th series in 1995 was hugely different to the more familiar format, and I’d rather forget it all happened really.
Scheduling. First series. Shown on Wednesdays at 7pm, and curiously, was just about the only primetime show on ITV that didn’t have an advert break. Final series. The show was now settled at Mondays at 7pm since 1980, and I’m fairly sure that the 17th series was the first to contain an advert break.
Opening sequence. First series. There wasn’t much of one really. Just the show’s title appearing on the screen, before the contestants were introduced with captions. The futuristic-sounding music (by 1977 standards) was by Mike Moran, and used until 1982. Final series. The familiar green and red “K” symbol wasn’t introduced until as late as the 10th series in 1986. The current opening was introduced in 1992, with the contestants now introduced by voiceover, and accompanied by a remix of the theme by The Art Of Noise also introduced in 1986.
Set design. First series. Rather plain and sparse. Not much beyond the contestants’ chairs, the monitors behind them, and the very much analogue scoreboard. There doesn’t seem to be much evidence of a present studio audience though. Final series. This was a show that always aimed to use the latest technology, and the studio was now very shiny and blue. It still featured the chairs and monitors.
Gordon Burns. First series. Gordon had hosted various news shows before this. They didn’t even give him a desk to sit at. Final series. Gordon hosted the first 18 series, and by this point he was even credited as being among the team who designed some of the puzzles. He went on to host further game shows including A Word In Your Ear and Relatively Speaking.
Contestants. First series. People aimed to be the United Kingdom Superperson. The champion’s trophy was an unusual metal sculpture that was able to detect pieces of kryptonite. It’s rather surprising how many computer programmers seemed to take part, even in those days. The scoring system was ten points for first place, six for second, four for third, and two for fourth. There were 11 editions with eight heats, the winners went into the two semi-finals, and the top two in those progressed to the final. Final series. They now played for a gold trophy in the shape of an athlete. The scoring system was the same, and now revealed on a computer-generated scoreboard. They also wore colour coordinated polo shirts. There were 13 editions with three groups with three heats. The heat winners and highest-scoring runner-up went into the group final, and the winners of the group finals and highest-scoring runner-up in those made the final.
Mental Agility. First series. This was occasionally played as the first of five rounds, alternating with Intelligence. Contestants put their headphones on to hear clues and had to make the right choices, or give answers in a knockout format. Final series. The first of six rounds, contestants stood on a spotlight and were asked testing questions for 40 seconds, their correct answers converted into points.
Physical Ability. First series. Round two. Contestants were given a handicap. There were various obstacles which took just over a minute to complete in sometimes rather tricky conditions. Gordon provided commentary. Final series. Round four. Again there were handicaps, and there were now 20 tough obstacles, including the famous water slide. Surprisingly, they still wore no protection like helmets.
Personality. First series. Round three. Contestants had to perform a script they had written on a subject given to them to camera for about 30 seconds in one take. An independent panel then voted for their favourite. Final series. This round probably not surprisingly was dropped after the first series.
Response. First series. The round didn’t feature at this stage, being introduced in 1986. Final series. Round two. The plane simulator had been used for a long time by this point, but that’s because it was determined to be the ultimate in hand/eye/foot co-ordination. Again, Gordon provided commentary. In the final, they had to land a real plane. Crikey.
Observation. First series. Round four. Contestants are shown about a minute’s worth of a film, and then they are asked three questions on what they saw and heard for two points. There was also an identity parade featuring nine people. Spot the one who was in the film for four points. Final series. Round three. They now watch a short sketch specially made for the show. There are then five questions with four options, they select their answer by pressing the button on their keypad as quick as they can. The identity parade had long gone.
Intelligence. First series. Played occasionally as round one. Contestants had to complete a logic puzzle with various shapes in about 2½ minutes before the buzzer, although this seems to be slightly deceptive, as the round was more likely edited down to 2½ minutes for TV. There was also some bleepy background music. Gordon provided commentary. Final series. Round five. The puzzle solving was the same, but there was now no time limit as such, or background music.
General Knowledge. First series. Fifth and final round. Questions on the buzzer. One point for a correct answer, one deducted for an incorrect one. There was no fixed time limit, but the round usually lasted three minutes. Every question had a link to the previous one. The camera awkwardly zoomed in as the contestant gave their answer. Final series. Sixth and final round. Still questions on the buzzer, but there was now a fixed time limit of 75 seconds, and it was two points for a correct answer, and two deducted for a wrong one. Everyone was now shown close-up too.