Russian Roulette



Rhona Cameron


Granada/Sony for ITV1, 31 October 2002 to 22 April 2003 (pilot + 3 episodes in 1 series)


Unfortunate version of a worldwide hit. Rhona Cameron holds the Gun of Gameshow to her head and hopes not to destroy her career.

In each episode twelve celebrities compete. These are split into two groups of six (male/female, Emmerdale/Coronation Street etc).

Each group of six plays against each other. They each stand on top of one of six trapdoors, situated on a stage so that it resembles the barrel of a revolver. In each round questions are asked in a quickfire style. Contestants buzz in. If they're right then money goes into the pot £50 for round one, increasing by £50 each round) and they claim immunity from the drop. However, the next person to get a question right grabs immunity from them and so on and so forth until the time runs out (two minutes in round one, decreasing by ten seconds each round thereafter à la The Weakest Link).

Whoever has immunity when the time runs out gets the exciting job of pulling the big lever and sending one of the other contestants to their doom (i.e. a four foot drop onto a crash mat). When the lever is pulled a red light travels round each of the trapdoors to the sound of a gun barrel being spun very slowly. Eventually it will slow down and stop, but not before inevitably it looks like it's slowing down and then speeds up again. This bit takes far too long, frankly. Anyway, eventually it will stop on a trapdoor and then, hilarity fans, the trapdoor will open dumping the celeb out of the game. Except for those hilarious moments when it stops on an empty trapdoor, supposedly heightening tension but in fact making the whole process come across as even more tedious. All that does is put off the inevitable though as the lever is immediately pulled again.

When there are just two people left we change to the exciting sudden death end game. This had two formats:

The pilot: In the pilot, questions were fired alternately to contestants until one got one wrong. When that happened, the other person got to pull the lever. If they fall then their opponent wins. If they survive then the questioning continues but one extra trapdoor would open the next time someone had to play Russian Roulette.

The mini-series: Each player answered the same fifty-fifty question by writing their answer down on cards. A correct answer meant you were safe. A wrong answer meant you had to play Russian Roulette with three dropzones active. Because of the way the players were situated on opposite ends of the circle, if both got the question wrong then one unlucky player would be dumped for certain.

The last player standing won whatever was in the pot for their charity. But hold! There's even more fun to come.

Play the same game again with the other group. Then pit the two winners against each other to find an ultimate winner. They'd get to play a final round for a £10,000 bonus.

In the final round, our winner would have to answer six questions in sixty seconds. Each correct answer was worth £1,000, the sixth would augment the bonus to £10,000. To represent the time, the player would be standing on the sixth dropzone. Every ten seconds, a dropzone would open (starting at the first one and working its way round), until the final dropzone supporting our player opened dumping them into the abyss.

The reason this show was disappointing to us was because we had seen the US version made for the US cable channel Game Show Network and it's a really ace mixture of tough questions, strategy, a really exciting final round (featuring the big building block of all great shows, that of risk versus reward) and big dumb luck which is as it should be. The Brit version went for the inclusive approach hoping that the allure of watching celebrities fall into holes would be enough to keep people watching. Sadly after the comparative success of the pilot the mini-series bombed in the ratings, proof if proof were needed that a gimmick might pull an audience but it needs something stronger to hold one.


Based on an idea by Gunnar Wetterberg.

Web links

Wikipedia entry


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