Game Show Memories – Mental.

Mental (PlayUK, 2001)

I still think that UK Play (or PlayUK) was one of the best of the early digital channels. As well as music videos and comedy shows, there were also a few game shows tried in the schedule. I have already reviewed Pop Upstairs Downstairs, and now here’s another one, which I vaguely remember watching at the time. Mental was subtitled The Music Quiz for some reason, so there was definitely no doubt about what was on offer here.

The host was Iain Lee, who was best-known at the time as one of the hosts of Channel 4’s The 11 O’Clock Show… but he didn’t actually ask the questions! Six contestants took part, who wanted to show off their musical knowledge. There is a board with eight groups on it. The contestant then decides whether to ask a question about them, or be asked one, which would be things like “what was their first hit single?” or “what label are they on?”.

But how do we know that the information in the question and answer is correct? There were two adjudicators on standby who seemed to be in a rather small room with a large pile of reference books to verify everything (where is Wikipedia when you need it). There are ten points for a correct answer, but if they get it wrong, the asker gets ten points instead.

But if it turns out that the asker didn’t actually know the answer to the question that they asked themselves, it’s worth 15 points. At the end of this, the two lowest scorers are eliminated. The next round is similar, but now features various genres to choose from as well as groups. Again, the two lowest scorers leave, and the two remaining contestants go into the final.

In this, they are given the categories one-by-one, they are not given a choice this time, so they really do have to think quickly. And if they play their Brain Card and get it right, then, ooh crikey, it’s worth double points! The winning contestant went on to a Fifteen-To-One-style leaderboard, with the six highest-scoring contestants returning for the grand final, to play to be overall series champion, and win the star prize of a state-of-the-art stereo music thing.

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This means that Mental featured a lot of questions about half-forgotten groups, and well I thought that it was rather interesting. And this must also be one of the last game shows to use the old-school scoreboards. But Iain seemed to be mildly horrified by the whole thing, saying later that this was the low point of his career, but I don’t think that it was as bad as that really.