Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Britain's Best Brain, Wednesday 8pm, Five

For viewers of a certain age, Britain's Best Brain will prove both exciting and depressing. Why? Because it reunites Zoë Ball and Jamie Theakston, the duo who presented Saturday morning children's show Live & Kicking in the '90s and, slightly less memorably, Channel 4's The Priory.

Zoë and Jamie were presumably paired up in the first place because next to either of them, anyone else would look like they were kneeling down, and it's comforting to see they're both still very tall. But, like the rest of us, they do look older. Sigh.

Anyway, the show. "This is not a quiz show," Theako tells us, proudly. It sort of is, really, but the challenges are all geared to test different parts of the brain – so it's not something you can revise for beforehand, unless you count gorging on fish and blueberries.

The studio audience greet the five contestants like they're heroes returning from war, despite the fact that, as in every show like this, they're just normal people with ages, jobs, and one anecdote each.

The first round has contestants trying to answer fairly simple maths questions while heavy metal plays in their ears and disembodied voices shout numbers at them, while staring at a screen of swirling integers. It's that sort of thing.

The parts you at home can take part in – the memory tests, say – are reasonably fun, but the ones you can't – like the one where you have to watch someone wrestling with an egg timer while they're whirled around in a giant gyroscope – aren't so much.

Meanwhile, BBB's slightly clinical approach – the challenges are "each scientifically designed to test a primary brain function", we're told – means it's quite hard to root for anyone; it seems to be reducing the idea of human endeavour to something more random. In summary, then: when's the Trev and Simon revival due?

by Will Parkhouse, Tuesday 27 October 200

Originally published on

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