As everyone will tell you, BBC1's new Saturday night celebrity gameshow The Guess List is a blatant rip-off of Blankety Blank. It resembles that long-running show so much that I'm surprised they didn't just revive Blankety Blank once again, with a few tweaks to suit host Rob Brydon. Instead, they've gone with an inferior format that recycles the core Blankety Blank set-up (two contestants helped along by two tiers of seated celebrities). The result is, you guessed it, very underwhelming.
The major problem with The Guess List is that the show has such little time for the actual contestants, despite they fact they're the ones playing the game. It's true that you rarely gave a toss about the two contestants on Blankety Blank either, but at least the game was more focused on their involvement. The Guess List spends a disproportionate amount of time chewing the fat with six celebrities, and occasionally you forget there's even a quiz being played or that a bespoke prize is up for grabs. It all gets lost in the never-ending badinage between Brydon and his showbiz pals.
To his credit, Brydon's actually very good as a light entertainment emcee. He's adept at making small talk and impromptu jokes, but it's a pity he doesn't seem interested in the two people playing the game. Or, more accurately, that the format just doesn't give him enough time with them.
Unfortunately, no matter how entertaining some of Brydon's chit-chat can be with the famous guests, The Guess List falls apart because it's not a particularly fun game and the time drags. The contestants are asked questions from a survey (shades of 8 Out of 10 Cats) and must choose an answer using the guesses the celebrities make... or, well, just ignore them and have a guess of their own! Unless there's a question that's a real struggle to answer (doubtful), what the celebs say is of little help. Chances are they're thinking the same things as you, or you're going to be more confident in your own answer than anything they come up with.
Even stranger, the final round is a complete waste of time and contains zero excitement. Yet another question is posed, only this time with a numerical answer, and the celebs once again make guesses. However, this time the remaining contestant has a clear choice of two answers (the correct one, and a wrong one) after their guesses have been revealed. So what's the point of the celebrities exactly? What possible help are random guesses, when you are immediately given a 50/50 choice?
In the first episode of The Guess List, a Brummie woman called Shirley was ribbed when she couldn't quite understand this round, and I found myself sympathising with her. It's not that she didn't understand one answer's right, the other wrong, it's that the celebrities making guesses was entirely pointless and clouded the issue.
The Guess List has a bad format, that's all you can say. It's a shame, because Rob Brydon's a fun host and some of his banter with the celebrities could be very entertaining. Trouble is, this backchat equalled about 85% of the show's runtime and got quite tiresome, while the contestants were almost forgotten about and the actual game felt unnecessary. At times it was like a Rob Brydon chat show with multiple celebs, not a game show any sane person could get invested in.