Simple challenges, TV pressure and an awful lot of time to get to the next round.
Back in 2010 Nine screened a few episodes of UK game show The Cube on Saturday nights in summer.
Fast-forward several years and the Brits have rebooted the format into a shiny floor game with big cash prizes. 10 now unveils the first Australian version, hosted by Andy Lee.
The Cube is a large perspex box in which a series of increasingly-difficult challenges test contestants for a total prize of $250,000 -if they can make it to the end.
There are 7 games where teams of 2 compete. But one simple slip -which can result from something as meagre as dropping a ping pong ball- equates to one of ‘9 lives’ lost. In a laser-lit, imposing studio, a shadowy audience watches on…
Episode one features cousins Ali and David, both of whom lost jobs during the pandemic. Watching on, and frequently consulted, are three family members.
These parlour games are by definition relatively simple … but under the pressure of a TV studio and a ticking clock, nerves can catch out the best of skilled players.
There are also two lifelines: Simplify (which diminishes the degree of difficulty) and Swap (allowing single players to change places).
A female-voiced Cube (“I prefer Siri” says Andy Lee) announces the first game, Expulsion, in which Ali must empty a box of 1000 balls. On offer is $2000.
Perhaps drawing upon the Tardis, Ali tells us, “The inside of The Cube is different to the outside…” Wow.
Up the money ladder, Millionaire-style, it goes with varying amounts and the ability to take the money and run or risk it all for a bigger jackpot. How fast can you catch blocks, how well can you balance a ball, how fast can you count or swap a row of balls?
Some games are single players, while others require teamplay. There are helmeted, Stig-like Cube assistants, lights and sound FX to amplify the drama.
Relaxed host Andy Lee, a self-confessed fan of the format, is more friend than pressured game show host, cracking the odd gag here and there. He’s a good get for the show. Not unlike Seven’s 2010 game show Minute to Win It (hosted by Darren McMullen) the games are deceptively simple.
But when the games were not underway I felt the show dragged. There’s too much consulting of family members and strategy analysis as well as slow-mo and commercial breaks. Maybe that’s a hangover of the British format, always too chatty for this market. A tighter edit (or a shorter show) could readily pick up the pace.
Still compared to some recent 10 outings where the audience was sucking the red cordial (Looking at you Game of Games), The Cube is light fun.
The Cube airs 7:30pm Wednesdays on 10