TV Club: Crystal Maze

This week we defy all logic in television space and time, and, based on Jef's recommendation, the TV Club watched the hit British game show The Crystal Maze.

Rather than suffer through with his comrades, Pete decided that he'd rather go on a soul-searching walkabout through the Mojave desert. Hopefully he makes it back alive. Luckily for us, John Seaborn Gray has heroically offered to step in and watch this craziness with us. Thanks JSG for being a good sport.

According to Wikipedia the master source of all sources:

The series is set in "The Crystal Maze", which features four different "zones" set in various periods of time and space. A team of four contestants take part in a series of challenges in order to win "time crystals". Each crystal gives the team five seconds of time inside "The Crystal Dome", the centerpiece of the maze where the contestants take part in their final challenge.

The crystals are gained by team members being placed into different rooms where they are given challenges of either "mental, physical, skill or mystery," which is an anything goes type. All contestants are given a certain amount of time to complete each challenge and if they don't rush out of the room before the time is completed, they get locked in. And then a lion eats them. No. I don't think that's really what happens.

And they are all British.

ABBY: This game show sort of reminded me of a cross between American Gladiators, Wipe Out, Survivor and that board game Trouble. What about you guys?

JEF: I was a huge fan of shows like Double Dare, Funhouse, and Legends of the Hidden Temple when I was a kid. I've been trying to get a look at Crystal maze for years and was stoked to see it on YouTube! I miss game shows something awful, and physical ones most of all.

JSG: Feels like Mario Party on quaaludes.

ABBY: This was one of the most popular game shows on during its time and it was voted the "greatest UK game show of all time," on UKGameshows.com - another reputable source. I have one question in regards to this potential fact - why?

JEF: Richard Motherfucking O'Brien! That's why. He is literally the coolest human in existence.

JSG: Are you sure it didn't win the award for Most English Pacing? Jesus Christ, this is the slowest-moving game show I've ever seen. I understand it's before editing was quite so frenetic and background music was ubiquitous, but I can't remember any other game shows from this period where the audio hiss was so noticeable. Then there's the fact that the cameraman follows the group for the entire leisurely stroll between obstacles. Tighten up the editing and you might have a mildly tense half hour here.

ABBY: This show is like a children's birthday party; it's filled with silly games that are not particularly fun but ensure that ample time is wasted. I am sure Jef loves this show, but John, help me out here, was this the dumbest game show you've ever watched or THE dumbest game show? I'd take some whammies over these crystals any day of the week.

JEF: Whammies! You know that whole Press Your Luck thing was totally possible to rig? It's true. Not this, though. This is a true test of skill, brains, and strength. It's like a more benevolent version of the Saw movies.

JSG: There just didn't seem to be any point. Who the fuck designs a game show where just one team competes? Double Dare might have just been kids jumping into various-sized vats of goop, but there were two teams of them, goddammit. I also found the bit at the end with the gold and silver foil to be hugely anti-climactic. They should have at least given the contestants pads and foam bats and made it legal to mug each other for their foil pieces.

ABBY: What do you think happens when you get locked in the room?

JEF: The same thing that happened when you were pulled through the wall on Remote Control.

JSG: Then you will stay there, possibly for centuries, and guard the crystal, challenging by combat those who dare seek it. The penitent man shall pass. ABBY: The different sections of the mazes are split into time periods, i.e. medieval, futuristic, Aztec and industrial. I was hoping for a Mesozoic period or maybe France circa the 1920s where Hemmingway comes out and boxes with you.

JEF: Later seasons have an Ocean zone, which was pretty cool.

JSG: A Great Depression zone. Broken gears, missing levers, and a cracked crystal, in a room choked with dust. No hope, no escape. O'Brien periodically honks some Woody Guthrie on his harmonica.

ABBY: I'm sure I would totally bomb all of the challenges in this game except the math one in which adding and subtracting was required - seemed pretty obvious to me. Which one did you guys think was the best/easiest/least absurd?

JEF: The one where they had to navigate the pool with the pillars. I would have rocked that to absolute dust. I'm always up for The Floor is Lava!

JSG: Maybe I'm being cocky, but I definitely felt like I could have pretty handily made a square out of that plus.

ABBY: Let's talk about the host and his red turtleneck and long cheetah print overcoat. You guys have that outfit?

JEF: Of course, and that's why mom likes me better than you.

JSG: No, but once upon a time I'm pretty sure I had Richard O'Brien's Dark City costume. Look, it was the late '90s, The X-Files and swing music were huge... a lot of us made some pretty unfortunate decisions, fashion-wise.

ABBY: Maybe I do have a problem with British media. I really hated this show. Is there something wrong with me?

JEF: I'm starting to think so. We've tried comedy, game shows, drama, and sci fi. I'm starting to think that you're secretly French or something.

JSG: I normally love British shows, but for this one I was bored out of my mind. It was like watching your weirdest uncle slowly lead a gaggle of Red Hat Society members on a scavenger hunt just after a big meal.

ABBY: And that's why I like when John fills in. Red Hat Society. Zing!

Next week we find out if Pete discovered his feminine side during his travels; hopefully, he'll pick a good old episode of Felicity or Gilmore girls for us to watch when he returns. Get ready to be surprised.

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