The YouTube Files – The Weakest Link USA.

The Weakest Link (NBC, 2001-2002)

When The Weakest Link launched in the UK in the summer of 2000, it very quickly became a success. Beginning rather quietly on BBC2, by the end of the year there were celebrity specials on BBC1. This was mostly down to the hosting of Anne Robinson, whose rather cold style surprised viewers, along with the gameplay element of openly declaring what contestant you didn’t think was doing well and deserved to be eliminated.

Less than a year after the launch, The Weakest Link came to America on NBC, and again Robinson would be the host, just what would viewers make of her style. The rules were just about the same, but eight contestants took part instead of nine, and $125,000 could be banked in every round (with the money doubled in the final round), meaning the top prize was a million dollars, much more than the £10,000 on offer in the British daytime version, but only if the team helped each other out. This was followed by the shoot-out at the end for all the money. vlcsnap-00002

The British contestants quietly dealt with Robinson’s comments most of the time, and after being told that they were the weakest, they often tried to take it on the chin. The average American was far less reserved about the situation though, definitely making their feelings known, and there was much more at stake, so they better make the right decision, and hope that their opponents will be taking the dreaded “walk of shame”. There were also celebrity specials, and they could definitely hold their own against anything that Robinson said. vlcsnap-00005

Just like in the UK, Robinson became a big hit for her rather uncompromising and emotionless style, and many people wondered if she was a robot whose batteries were on the blink. It was a big deal. And by now in the UK you could buy a tape featuring the best exits, or even play the game yourself at home on the PlayStation. But if fads come and go quickly in this country, then that counts for double in America, which is the toughest TV market in the world. vlcsnap-00004

Robinson’s run as host came to an end in 2002, the final editions were unaired by NBC, and around this time Family Guy even did a joke about Robinson’s famous catchphrases being rather dated cultural references. Despite this, there was also a syndicated version (not hosted by Robinson) that ran until 2003 but with less money on offer, although the British version continued for about another decade. vlcsnap-00006

The American version was also briefly shown in the UK in 2001 on BBC2, a rare occurrence of a non-British game show being shown in this country. There was also a documentary about Robinson’s experience hosting the new version. But very recently there was a revival of the show in America on NBC with a new host, meaning that someone must clearly think there’s still some potential in the format.

Game Show Memories – The Weakest Link.

The Weakest Link (BBC2/BBC1, 2000-2012)

I have already reviewed the computer game version of this show, now here’s my verdict on the TV version. When The Weakest Link began it could definitely be described as a general knowledge game show like you’ve never seen before. A team of nine contestants who don’t know one another beforehand have to work together to get the answers right against the clock and bank as much money as they can. But there was more to it than that. vlcsnap-01429

One of the things that made the show stand out when it launched was the hosting style of Anne Robinson. It could be fair to say that Anne didn’t really hide her feelings of how the contestants performed. At the end of every round, the contestants have to vote for who they thought was the weakest link in the round. Who will hold their nerve and what will their strategy be? Would they pick the person who really was getting the questions wrong and costing the team money, or did they just want to stab someone in the back? I always liked the description for the show on the EPG that seemed to insist that contestants had to do well because “round by round the dunce is dumped”. Once a contestant is eliminated, they give some post-match analysis, usually going on about how bitter they are to be knocked out, even if they were indeed useless. vlcsnap-01430

At the start of the next round with one contestant gone and ten seconds fewer on the clock, the process begins again. When there are two contestants remaining, the money on offer is doubled, and then they go into the final, which is played in the style of a football penalty shoot-out. The winner and overall strongest link on the show wins all the money that was banked over the rounds. In the daytime version the maximum that could be won was £10,000, but on average it was more likely to be about £2,500. The runner-up, like the rest of the contestants on the show, left with nothing. vlcsnap-01433

The Weakest Link made the biggest impression in UK game shows since the launch of ITV’s Who Wants To Be A Millionaire a couple of years earlier, which was all the more impressive as this was originally a daytime afternoon show in a rather low-profile timeslot compared to Chris Tarrant’s classic. The catchphrases on the show became popular very quickly, such as defeated contestants having to take “the walk of shame” and the show was pioneering in many ways, such as offering no consolation prizes for losers and happily informing them that they were losers too. vlcsnap-01432

The show took off so quickly that primetime celebrity editions launched on BBC1 very soon after The Weakest Link began. These were very popular because apparently viewers like seeing vaguely famous people being humiliated. The format soon sold around the world, with Anne Robinson even briefly hosting the American version, and no-one could really believe her presenting style, with critics describing her as “the queen of mean”, although in the much more intense American TV business it only ran for about a year. It did get an amusing reference in an episode of Family Guy though. vlcsnap-01431

In the UK The Weakest Link ran for about 12 years until Anne decided to finally hang up her cloak. Unfortunately it had stopped being the talk of viewers by this time and ended rather quietly back in its original BBC2 daytime slot. It is one of the few British game shows of which over 1,000 editions have been made though and the BBC were very pleased overall with its success.

Gaming Memories – The Weakest Link.

The Weakest Link (PlayStation 1, 2001)

I haven’t actually got around to reviewing the original TV version of this game show yet but I wanted to review the computer game version. Like Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, when BBC game show The Weakest Link was at the peak of its popularity a computer game version was released because everybody at the time fancied a go at playing this game, and my review is based on the PlayStation 1 version which I have.

The Weakest Link is of course the general knowledge challenge where you have to work as a team and get the answers correct because round by round the dunce is dumped. The computer game was rather faithful to the TV version. One change is that only seven contestants take part instead of nine. vlcsnap-01371

Also you can’t enter your own name or a picture of yourself, you have to assume the persona of one of the 24 different playable characters and then choose your opponents who you think you can beat. There are a few game modes such as when you are given the question, you can have four options which you can see in full, or if you want to challenge yourself only the first letter. vlcsnap-01368

One thing that is similar to the TV version is the host Anne Robinson asking the questions, but because there are so many and to save time, usually only something like “in sport, what is the correct answer?” is said. Your contestant ponders this for a while. They do all supposedly have different personalities, I remember reading in one review something of a strategy as to whether you should play as Eddie the trucker: “this porker was no use at all, avoid him!”. Also, just about all the male contestants are voiced by voice actor extraordinaire Enn Reitel who did the voiceover on every other advert in the 1980s and 1990s, and listening to him put on a wide range of silly accents is rather amusing. vlcsnap-01369

You’ve got to remember to bank regularly too to have a chance at progressing and taking the money. Although the game promised “bigger prize banks” than on the TV you don’t really play for anything. At the end of the round regardless of your score you have to of course vote off who you thought performed worst in the round. Again Anne doesn’t hold back in telling the contestants how they did and this causes all kinds of amusing bickering, and leaving one contestant with their head in their hands as they have to take the walk of shame. vlcsnap-01373

Then of course the weakest link is voted off, leaving them to have a post-match rant about how badly they were treated. Poor old Eddie! Once the final comes (if you get that far) you face your opponent in a penalty shoot-out style game to win and have the honour of knowing that you were the best of the lot that day. vlcsnap-01372

I did enjoy playing The Weakest Link because I do like to test my general knowledge and all the correct sound effects and comments by Anne were present. It is a surprise to think that this show is no longer going based on how many people watched it but every fad does pass. There was also a version released for the PlayStation 2 which was a big success.