As you all know, 2016 didn’t cover itself in glory when it came to the demise of great things; iconic figures from music, stage and screen, TV and radio; the incredible and divisive political shifts in Europe and America.
But something else happened in 2016 that, in my world overshadowed all of these events: the decision to axe Deal or No Deal from the TV schedule.
When I first heard the news I thought that it had to be scaremongering. The greatest TV show about opening boxes in nearly 50 years could surely never disappear from our screens. It had everything.
21 contestants, who appeared every day until they were called up for their special moment in the limelight, with an opportunity to win £250 000. With the introduction of the ‘Banker’s Button’ and box 23, a chance to win £500 000. All perfectly controlled by the master of the game show, Noel Edmonds. Noel had a witty quip for everybody, using that effusive charm honed as a DJ in the 1960s and 70s, something he’d never lost. Or changed. His beliefs and opinions may be a bit wacky, but then, most 70 year olds have a touch of that, and Noel’s misdemeanours were trivial compared to those of some of his 1970s Radio 1 DJ counterparts.
But it turned out the rumours were true. Deal or No Deal turned out its last few episodes before Christmas before disappearing without so much as a tearful farewell addition. If you go to the Channel 4 website now, all you can find is a few historic games. It’s like visiting your favourite shop after it’s closed down, leaving just a few items behind to remind you of its greatness.
Deal or No Deal was a soap opera. You got to know the characters. The weird ones, the annoying ones, those with a sad back story, the real entertainers, the cocky ones, the shy but brave ones. Their stories built up slowly, Noel engaging them in conversation and occasionally giving them nicknames. Of course, from time to time these nicknames could be politically incorrect, but Noel was allowed to carry on, the way you forgive an elderly relative for their casual racism.
Deal or No Deal was a metaphor for life. You existed to help the group, your chance would come and the decisions you made decided whether you were successful or not. Like life, sometimes things didn’t unfold (or in DOND’s case, open) as you would like and you had to make the best of things.
Deal or No Deal was a metaphor for religion. You did your best to help others until the glorious day when you made it to the front and claimed your reward, with a kindly and supportive god in the form of Noel; bearded, gentle, supporting but ultimately in control. Add in the unseen banker and the religious overtones continue.
By mid -January, I realised that Deal or No Deal was not returning. With a heavy heart, I wondered what could take its place. There was always Pointless, a very entertaining programme, but I felt like I was intruding on a couple of public schoolboys having a jolly jape. Unoffensive but somehow not satisfying my game show craving. For the opposite reasons, Tipping Point, a strange quiz game based around the penny falls machine found in an amusement arcade, seemed slightly low brow. Yes, a game of chance, but not on the high standards set by the sainted Noel.
Then I discovered The Chase, a quiz show presented by Bradley Walsh, the comic and actor. The Chase involves 4 people trying to ‘outrun’ a nominated quiz champion to get ‘home’ and help their team to win money. The contestants change every day, but there is a rotated team of ‘chasers’ who have their own characteristics.
After a few weeks, I found myself regularly watching it. It’s enjoyable and exciting, especially when the contestants have a chance of beating the chaser; infuriating when the contestants are particularly dumb and shout out loud annoying when a particularly useless one takes minus prize money with the intention of relying on somebody else to win some for them.
Occasionally, I pause and think wistfully about Deal or No Deal. It’s like losing the love of your life through no fault of your own and having to move on, finding happiness with somebody else. You can’t help but compare the two and feel slightly guilty for being happy with your new partner.
Bradley is engaging and amusing, younger than Noel; both have had chart success, Bradley with an album of easy listening songs, Noel with a pretend children’s character called Mr Blobby. Bradley likes music and football, Noel doesn’t.The Chase involves knowledge and skill, rather than dumb luck like Deal or No Deal.
My mum would have liked The Chase. She loved Deal or No Deal. We’d talk about it during our weekly phone calls and got to watch it together on several occasions. I suppose it was one of those things that was a happy memory of her. But as she used to say:
‘One door closes, another one opens.”
Which always made more sense than ‘Honky Donkey”…