The Cube

I feel sorry for television. As we rely more and more on the internet to deliver our media, our attention spans flop and our thirst for newness intensifies. The internet offers ‘bit links’ to click, YouTube videos to scan and statuses to update, all at the click of a button. All television networks can do in response is lower standards and broadcast shows with themes that appeal solely to our ‘id’ I.E. food, fights and f**king.

So, like a middle-aged man at a Student Union bar sporting a ponytail and grinding to Ne-Yo, it loses any semblance of dignity and self-respect.

Networks now rely chiefly on voyeuristic documentaries, bloated cookery shows and dumbed-down-to-the-point-of-lobotomy quiz shows to pull in the numbers. Unfortunately for them, the battle against Spotify, Youtube, file-sharing and iPlayer is unlikely to be won.

In the meantime therefore, all we can do is sit back and watch the networks make fools of themselves, as they attempt to ‘break barriers’ and spin massively over-the-top emotional motifs into programmes. The latest, and in my opinion, greatest example of this, is ITV’s new primetime Saturday game show, The Cube.

Presented by Phillip ‘silver fox’ Schofield, The Cube’s premise is simple. Contestants fulfil a seemingly easy task inside a transparent ‘Cube’ for cash. If contestants complete the task, they have the option to progress for more money, or quit and keep what they have got. However, if they choose to take on a task, they have to complete it before their lives run out. If they don’t, they lose everything. Tasks range from throwing boxes into square hoops, to catching air-powered pin-pong balls. Hardly rocket science, but “nothing is as easy as it looks…when you’re in…The Cube” (apparently!)

From the description alone, anyone could see that the show is perfect Saturday night viewing. Scheduled right after X Factor, Schofield’s easy charm and the casual nature of the tasks are an uplifting shot of serotonin to the endorphin-depleting X-Factor. Its flash graphics combined with slick ‘matrix-style’ camera work and ominous voiceovers imbibe a futuristic, almost apocalyptic twist on the game show that is a refreshing departure from the dull fluff-fests of yore.

Secondary to this, ITV’s recent decline has been an unwelcome one, and at times, as sad as watching a boxer trying to fight his way out of retirement. So, it’s nice to see ITV battle for that ratings belt once again with a clear, clean crowd-pleaser.

Yet, despite this, I cannot bring myself to endorse it. Call me cynical but everything about The Cube is exaggerated to the point of parody. The hockey mask-wearing assistant, the massive computer rendered text, the constant cuts to slow-motion…It all ends up looking a bit like an extended Sky HD advert.

The contestants are annoying too. Summoned by the Grey One from the audience, they come down the stairs, shaking their shoulders loose like footballers about to run onto the pitch. The women tend to be fairly normal but the men, nine times out of ten, are swaggering ‘Joe Swash’ blokey types who cannot stand still for all the ‘cor blimey’ shuffling, and on completion of a task are so pleased with themselves that they may as well give themselves a bit of ‘self-love’ right there on the set.

Even Schofield is in on it, and, as sad as I am to say it (the guy practically raised me, having presented in CBBC’s broom cupboard throughout my childhood) acts like a bit of a pillock. His whole schtick is to weave great tapestries of doubt and highlight the emotional consequences for contestants, should they win or fail their task: “How would you feel should you fail? What will your kids say?”

Arguably, presenters have been doing this since year dot. However, this role demands a quiet veneer of natural cynicism from the presenter. Richard O Brian had it, so does Chris Tarrant. Schofield, being the very embodiment of Mr Nice Guy and obviously trying a little too hard to please the producers, comes across like a Chris Morris archetype.

I can almost imagine him saying “Will this lead to psychosexual problems in later life?”

In all, The Cube is game show that needs to be seen to be believed. Whilst the show is perfect ‘switch off’ viewing, and undoubtedly family-friendly, its simplicity, and barely masked contempt for contestants, says much about television’s bitter attitude towards the public. Whilst willing and enthusiastic, the contestants are ostensibly the shows guinea pigs, fumbling through silly tasks for cash. Which makes you wonder – why do people queue for miles to audition for this stuff?

Watch The Cube on ITV, Saturday 8.15pm



One Response to “The Cube”

  1. Martin Says:

    I can honestly say, without a shadow of any doubt in my mind, that I’d rather watch The Cube for the rest of my life. I’d even have a special screen burned on the inside of my eyelids so I wouldnt miss a moment of it even to blink IF it would mean that I’d never have to watch another second of X-Factor of BGT or any of that garbage again.

    Either that or I’d be very happy to watch ITV just bugger off and stop harrassing me with crapola.


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