Spend a significant amount of time in the United Kingdom and you will be challenged to eat three cream crackers in a minute. If you’re any kind of man, you’ll accept the challenge. Insolent challenger has simultaneously questioned your heart, resolve and gluttony – this will not stand. You lose, of course, choking on chunks of Jacobs drywall, mutilating your gullet in the process. You weren’t to know that the world record for eating three cream crackers is two minutes six seconds. It’s harder than it looks. Welcome to The Cube, ITV’s strange little primetime gameshow that says come and have a go if you think you’re dumb enough. It’s ITV on a Saturday night. Who isn’t dumb enough?
"The Cube FUCKS WITH YOUR HEAD. Schofield credits the cube with the same kind of insanity causing properties of a night in the Amityville Horror house or 60 seconds with Andy Parsons."
Of course, the games in The Cube aren’t impossible like the cracker challenge – just deceptively difficult. Operating on the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire rising prize-money scale, contestants start out with an easy task to win £1000 and get progressively tougher tests as the cash grows. Challenges take place inside the titular cube – it’s big, it’s Perspex and it FUCKS WITH YOUR HEAD, something host Philip Schofield is keen to point out at every turn. Schofield credits the cube with the same kind of insanity causing properties of a night in the Amityville Horror house or 60 seconds with Andy Parsons. He’s right, too.
"10 or 20 grand will make a real difference to the punters. It’s got that Bullseye appeal where one wayward dart could puncture someone’s dreams"
But what about the games? Simplicity itself. Gradient: drop a ball down a sloping tube and catch it before it hits the floor at the other end. Multi-sphere: pick up 25 balls in 15 seconds. Direction: walk in a straight-line blindfolded. Piece of piss, yes? Well, no. Wouldn’t be much of a show if it was.
And it’s surprisingly tense. As each of the nine lives the contestant begins with gets snuffed, the pressure rises. The punters are the kind of people for whom 10 or 20 grand will make a real difference. It’s got that Bullseye appeal where one wayward dart could puncture someone’s dreams. Here it could be a carelessly thrown ball, shaky hand, a last-minute stumble. You feel involved. You shouldn’t, but you do.
That sense of connection with the task and the contestant is priceless. It’s not about the money or the special effects it’s about empathy – the ability to feel as someone else does, see the world through their eyes, walk a mile in another man’s shoes (or at least at the opposite end of The Cube during Direction). You care what happens to them – giving a fuck when it ain’t your turn to give a fuck.
The best thing about it: The effortless sense of intimacy.
The worst thing about it: It can drag a little.
The verdict on The Cube: “Fuck you The Cube!" Haha! It’s the figure you love to hate.
Marks out of 10: 7.5
Imagined: Friday, October 2, 2009