Magazine article The Spectator

Noel Appeal

Magazine article The Spectator

Noel Appeal

Article excerpt

Deal or No Deal (Channel 4, weekday afternoons and Saturday) is the quintessence of television, in that it is remarkably boring, mildly hypnotic, and stars Noel Edmonds, he of the neatly trimmed beard and the grin that manages to be simultaneously wolfish and ingratiating. Noel Edmonds! He seems like a figure from the mists of television history, like Muffin the Mule or Gilbert Harding. We thought he had vanished decades ago. Had he emigrated? Was he even still alive?

Not only is he still alive but he's back.

He wasn't gone all that long. It just seems that way. Noel's House Party died of terminal naffness, but just 17 years ago. Now he is the host of a daytime game show that has become so popular so fast that it has reached the Valhalla of the genre: an early evening slot on Saturdays as well.

The rules are breathtakingly tedious, so you might wish to skip this paragraph.

There are 22 players with 22 sealed and numbered boxes. Under each lid is written a sum of money, between 1p and £250,000.

One player is chosen as the day's contestant; he takes one box and puts it on a table. Then he calls out numbers. The appropriate boxes are opened; the sums are revealed and crossed off the board.

The player is trying to figure out the chances of a large sum being in their own box. Now and again a phone rings, and Edmonds appears to talk to an imaginary 'banker', who offers the player money in exchange for dropping out of the game.

This sum is based on the current, shifting odds. If the player accepts the deal, we learn whether he got more or less than was in his box. If he doesn't, and ploughs on to the end, the opposite applies. And that's it.

Welcome back to readers who missed the last paragraph. Had you read it, you would see that the whole game spends 45 minutes leading up to somebody feeling rather pleased, or else a little disappointed. In the one I watched, a mild, middleaged Irish bachelor accepted a deal of £36,000 but learnt that there was £100,000 in his box, which he would otherwise have won. He did not seem too distressed.

So the time has to be filled up, chiefly with banter from Noel. He pretends to have conversations with the 'banker'. He talks to the contestants, in a jocular yet patronising fashion. His jokes fall short of Wildean standards. The 22 participants return many times to the studio, and are encouraged to talk about the fun and jollity they have at their hotel in the evenings.

This provides an air of camaraderie. The players cheer each other on.

I have spent some time trying to work out the appeal of this dreary format, this sad reflection on the lives of the people who have 45 minutes a day to spend watching it. …

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