TV for an Anglophile – Game Show Edition

There’s a lot of great game shows out there.  Some designed to test your physical abilities, others to test your general knowledge or logic skills, and some even test your ability to spell.  But what if there was a game show that combined all of that?  What if there was a show that played to the strengths of all of your teammates?  Well, in the 90s, the English gave us just that!  It was wonderfully entertaining and it was called The Crystal Maze.

The game consisted of a team of six players (3 men, 3 women) who competed in a series of challenges in an elaborate maze set made up of four themed zones.  The zones were Aztec, Industrial (though, in later seasons, this was replaced by an Ocean zone), Medieval, and Futuristic.  Within each zone, the team picked 3 timed challenges to take part in from four categories: physical (speed and strength challenge), mental (usually involved math or word association), skill (dexterity and accuracy challenge), and mystery (logic tests).  The captain would pick a player to play the game while the others watched on and, usually, shouted helpful hints.  Once a challenge was completed, a crystal would be relieved that had to be retrieved.  If the player did not make it out of the challenge, completed or not, in the time allotted, they would be locked in for the remainder of the game or could be released at the cost of a crystal.

The crystals bought you time for the final round in the Crystal Dome.  The Crystal Dome was exactly what it sounds a like, a giant dome shaped like a crystal.  The players would enter into the Dome and fans would blow gold and silver tokens that had to be caught and collected in order to get the final prize.  The more crystals you won, the longer you got to spend in the dome.  (Admittedly, the last round was a letdown from the rest of the game since it amounted more to luck than skill.)

The challenges themselves were a lot of fun to watch.  Everything from walking on a tightrope, shooting arrows, solving a giant jigsaw puzzle, or even outsmarting a fortune teller, it was solid entertainment.  You found yourself yelling at the screen trying to help the players out or letting them know the time so they could get out before they were locked in.  And the fact you got to pick the most suitable player for the challenge made them even more exciting.  But even more entertaining was the host himself – Richard O’Brien.  (There was another host after him, but, frankly, not as good.)  O’Brien was this creepy skinny bald guy who dressed in elaborate costumes, played the harmonica, and often had weird interactions with his mother, or as he called her, “Mumsey” (who also was the aforementioned fortune teller).  He, on his own, was enough to make the show interesting, and then you throw in challenges?   Genius!

This, by far, is one of my favorite game shows.  If this show was still on, I would assemble a team and try to get on it.  The variety of the challenges, the teamwork, and even the overall look and feel of the set, it was a lot of fun.  And I wish there was still something like it on the air.  I guess, YouTube will have to suffice until they revive it.  (Though, I suppose I can always find solace in the revival of a family favorite, Blockbusters!)

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