Relatively Speaking



Gordon Burns


Announcer: Wendy Leavesley


Kershaw Production Associates and Stag for BBC1, 3 April to 8 May 1996 (6 episodes in 1 series)


This was really a maintenance release of the previous Gordon Burns vehicle A Word in Your Ear (with perhaps a little of the style of Gordon's other show, The Krypton Factor). The show matches two teams of four family members spread over three generations in a series of verbal communication contests.

Game one is Where in the World? Each team has two-and-a-half minutes in which one team member looks at a location on a card (such as Ayers Rock, Australia, or Fifth Avenue) and a picture of the location, and has to describe it to the rest of the team without using any of the words on the card or any words that sound the same as them. e.g. "Country where they have kangaroos... big boulder". Oh, and the desk is funny and spins round. Only one slight criticism here: Burns tends to tell contestants that, if they give any invalid clues, he'll 'move them on with a sharp reprimand'. Let's face it, he's never really been the type to give people sharp reprimands - not on his quiz shows, anyway.

Game two is Shape Up, featuring two lightboxes and thirteen plastic shapes. Two members of the team see the shapes arranged to fill the lightbox, and must describe the position and orientation of the pieces to the other pair who must place the pieces correctly on their empty lightbox. With good play, this game is entertaining to watch; with poor play, frustrating. An almost identical version of this game was frequently played more recently in The Family Brain Games.

Game three is Double Take. This is almost a straight rip-off from AWIYE - two members of the team watch a specially-filmed short movie and provide a running commentary on it. Then a second film is shown to the other two members of the team who do the same thing, but there are eight differences between the two films. Hopefully, at the end the team will be able to spot the eight differences between the two films. After this round, the lowest-scoring team so far are ejected, winning a framed photo/certificate, which looks nice but not especially valuable.

However, the end-game has a proper prize at stake: a holiday for the whole family (not just the four players, up to TWELVE people!) to a holiday villa somewhere nice but not particularly far away (Scotland, France etc.) with its own housekeeper and full leisure and sporting facilities.

The end-game involves one member of the family (always the kid), wearing a "virtual reality" headset, being guided around a maze by the rest of the family (who have a map of the maze). When the player gets through the maze, they describe three symbols that only they can see - corresponding to symbols on buttons that the rest of the family must identify and press. If the correct buttons are pressed, the player can turn tail and work their way back through the maze, again guided by the rest of the family. If they can get through, sort the buttons out and get back all within two minutes, the family are off on holiday! If they don't, they get a consolation prize, which may be a weekend break, but we can't remember for sure. However, we certainly remember several families - probably at least half - winning the big prize, which was pleasing

This gimmick isn't bad - the VR is convincing as there's a more-than-acceptable frame rate (none of your Cyberzone 5 f.p.s. specials here, madam), although this is mainly due to fairly simple images to visualise and a lack of variety in the walls in the maze. There is a very nice bridge to be crossed at the end of the maze, with a vertigo-inducing drop at both sides, but at least the contestants always get a helping hand back to the studio floor from the gentlemanly Burns.

The action throughout the show is nice and fast, all the contestants are really working, and the games acceptably original to British screens. Gordon Burns hosts it well, with touches of good humour when they're appropriate.

Nothing wrong with this show (except the lack of a killer theme tune) but that said, nothing outrageously right either. Of course, we can't be sure, but the show probably wasn't helped by the fact that it was broadcast only about 6 months after Burns' final series of The Krypton Factor was screened. On seeing him move so quickly onto another show, viewers were quite possibly expecting another version of the latter show, or one of the same calibre, or more likely a bit of both. Although Relatively Speaking undoubtedly bore some similarities to The Krypton Factor, the latter was a very hard act to follow, even allowing for the fact that its final series had been the far less popular 'Krypton Mountain' version. This may well have been one of the reasons for Relatively Speaking's early demise, but it was still a shame that it wasn't even given a second series, it certainly seemed worthy of that, if nothing else.

Key moments

The impressive virtual reality, which very, very nearly worked.


Devised by Gordon Burns, who also produced the show. If you want a job doing properly...


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