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Thread: The Krypton Factor

  1. #1
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    Default The Krypton Factor

    Monday evening - back home from the first day of school after the weekend. Indeed, Mondays were the opposite to the Friday feel of Play Your Cards Right and LWT being on in the London area. Children's ITV was Tickle on the Tum (Granada), He-Man, Dramarama (probably Granada but mostly to be TVS) at al, and then Blockbusters, News at 5.45, Central News (not Granada) etc. However, it did meant a Granada triple bill of Coronation Street, World in Action, and yes, The Krypton Factor.

    Cue silent blue Granada ident (minus "Colour Production" at the bottom from 1986 onwards), leading us (until 1985) to an animated eye, virtual assault course, and whatever resembles an Open University Physics programme. We then "meet" the contestants, courtesy of Granada announcer Charles Foster - three are men in their 20s or 30s, and one of them women (Marian Chanter was one of them) - so much for equality in those days. In 1986 The Art of Noise takes its place - cue someone's hands adjusting the logo to the official letter K position, thus making it light up.

    We then "meet" Gordon Burns himself who back then looked as if he could pass for Brian Capron's twin brother. Burns wishes contestants the best of luck in their rounds to come, while the contestants were sat in black or brown leatherette chairs next to a screen with the programme logo on them and their name underneath, waiting for what comes their way to tackle head-on. They also wear the same coloured shirt or sweaters as their contestant colours, almost making it look as if they have a "uniform" on, a bit like the coloured sweaters worn on Supermarket Sweep. Then it was round one - Mental Agility.

    Contestants try and put letters of a word into alphabetical order, or find out what day of the week it would be three months from now. Burns always said "WRONG" assertively and moves onto the next question until the time runs out. "No need to answer that", said Burns when the time ran out which meant one couldn't answer the question, Mastermind-style, if the buzzer went when it was asked. End of the round, and a camera shows the contestants' scores on a wall which became an on screen graphic in the latter part of the 1980s.

    Round two, and in later series we got to see the contestants hilariously trying to do a "driving test" via Concorde, three of them crashing the plane into the runway into the process. One wonders whether Mr Public would have been killed if they had actually been travelling with a pilot on that plane. The theme of travel in Granada game shows seem quite prominent and deliberate when you think of other shows from the same company such as Busman's
    Holiday and Runway. Earlier series dealt with the contestants in their assault course tracksuits using a exercise bike moving towards the other end, where they had to find out whether the square pegs really did fit in the round holes or not. "And our leader with the Krypton Factor of 20 is forensic scientist, John Smith".

    Continued in the next post.
    I am now in my 40s (just in case anyone asks).

  2. #2
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    Default Re: The Krypton Factor

    Continued from the previous post.

    Onto the third round and Observation - in earlier series, this was a two minute clip from a film such as Superman or Star Wars, and then the contestants had to identify the correct actor from identically dressed people in an identity parade. From 1986 onwards, they had to abandon this, (probably because of the cost and copyright of using film clips, but also for the benefit of the Challenge schedulers over 20 years later). The Krypton Factor helped Steve Coogan get one of his first gigs on TV when he was appeared in the 1989 series, pre-Partridge as various characters for the round. In later series, we had Tony Slattery in Dead Ringer, and even a series where Roy Barraclough took a sabbatical from Corrie in the mid 1990s to appear in.

    The fourth round - Physical Ability - Cue our four heroes waiting to entail two and a half minutes of hell on an assault course. The three men wearing red, blue and green, and look like Bullet Baxter from Grange Hill, and our female hero wore the yellow tracksuit, probably because it the most feminist of colours, and was the closest one gets to pink (a second female contestant would wear red). Cue some chap from the Territorial Army shouting "ON YOUR MARKS!", firing a pistol, and only allowing the woman to start first, thirty seconds before the men. The foursome get into adventures such as crawl through tunnels; climb the scramble net; crawling along like babies along the wires onto the next part and jumping onto a blue mat; climbing the triangle-shaped wall and landing in water twice. (Trainers are not wellies, and neither are wellies included).

    And then they are slide down the "washing line" pegs as if they were really hung out to dry. They are told to bend their knees before landing in a muddy puddle at the bottom - (in earlier series not so much water was there, but rumour had it that the someone added more water to it before the start of the race). Finally, they have to crawl under netting on the floor before running, wet and muddy to the end, breaking the ribbon and being declared the winner. This was where Marian Chanter twisted her ankle jumping off one of the apparatus, and was seen with her foot in plaster on the show itself - amazingly, she became the first female winner of the series in 1987.

    Round number five - Intelligence. Now, I have always compared this round to putting Ikea or Argos flatpack furniture together, or even trying to put the toy together inside a Kinder Surprise egg (children's version of course). Burns whispered the key to solving the 2D or 3D jigsaw model to the audience and the five million viewers watching, although the contestants have the most nightmares over solving it, and rumours were that some even took as long as two hours to complete it. Usually the fiendish puzzle was something with a mathematical pattern on it, so a degree in Mathematics or Design would help in solving it. One contestant (usually one of the men) solves it straight away, while the woman wonders what one should do with the base segment.

    The ITV regions one in 1989 was a classic with one contestant trying to slot in the Central region incorrectly. In about 1988 one of the puzzles were so easy to do that the designers invented a catch - to solve it by "feel only" with hilarious consequences, Cue the contestants looking as of they are both blind and wearing black gloves, trying to find their way around a glass box that we can see at home, but they cannot obvious see for obvious reasons - but I think that they even completed it like that as well!

    It was around 1988 when ITV was experimenting with various programmes in the mid-mornings before This Morning came along that repeats of the finals of previous series was shown at midday - I know that the finals from both 1982 and 1984 were shown - great to watch to see how things had changed over the past few years.

    Then it was the final round - General Knowledge. The lights are dimmed and the contestants look a lot closer together than they really are. The sub-Mastermind feel commences (without any "I've started, so I'll finish" of course), and Burns reads questions that are unrelated to each other, apart from the fact that a word or sounding syllable in the next question would most likely to feature in the answer of the previous question, making unofficial links there. The round can last anything from one minute to a minute and a half to two minutes. One thing about the 1980s series was no ad break (unless you watched the Challenge repeat 20 years later), and that meant a lot more time putting various rounds in. The buzzer goes and it's the end of the game - the person with the highest Krypton Factor goes into the next heat or final or whatever. End of show - Burns says "Goodnight", the credits come up and the Granada logo (the same as the opening one up until 1987) pops up, and then Coronation Street will be on after the break.

    Does anyone remember Young Krypton which was hosted by daytime TV stalwart Ross King? It was in the same studio as the adult version but hosted by King and had similar rounds with teenaged contestants, and I think that the assault course (I am surprised that they didn't change the name of that for the benefit of that) was at the now-defunct American Adventure Theme Park, in order to give it a more kid-friendly atmosphere. I think it lasted for two series until 1989, I can't be too certain. Also, I am certain that the older contestants (as in the Burns version) got a sports bag, trainers, quiz book and so on with the then Krypton logo on - as I read on the UK Game Shows Page some time ago.

    I have to say that as a child growing up in the 1980s, I had always associated the word "Krypton" with The Krypton Factor itself rather the planet that Superman came from. Also, it was nice to see the 2009-2010 revival of the show presented by Ben Shepherd, although it wasn't a patch on Gordon Burns' version, even though: A) The coloured studio graphics looked great on screen (even if they had to use recent clips of Coronation Street or other Granada series in the Observation round); and: B) It put a spring of life in that Thursday evening slot opposite EastEnders after nearly 20 years of regional programmes on there, thank goodness.

    Saying that, however, I didn't like the 1995 version with Penny Smith as co-presenter, where it tried to merge itself with Gladiators and the Crystal Maze - the wrong thing to do. Mind you, it seemed that Bruce's Price is Right and the Emmerdale-ism would take over Monday nights before very long anyway. The sub-Andy Warhol-alike animation in the Observation round would be more than enough to put me off watching - as sometimes they did look as if I was seeing an LSD flashback before my very eyes. I had a look at earlier series in made 1977 and 1978 on YouTube of course, and I felt that it needed improvement as well - for example, the assault course in 1977 looked more like a circular athletics track where one wouldn't have known where it would have began or finished, while the useless "white on white" graphics and "Space 1999" font that they used to use back then didn't look too good either.

    I wrote to Gordon Burns in 1998 when he presented North West Tonight, (I saw his name listed on BBC 1 in a North West region Radio Times that I got from a WHSmith in Manchester, and I thought I would write to him care of BBC Manchester on Oxford Road). I told him how much I enjoyed The Krypton Factor (for which he had always been strongly been associated with) when it was on, and he sent me an autographed picture. He seems to be such a genuine person and is so sincere just as we have seen him on TV.

    Were you intellectual enough (remember, we are talking about a Granada game show here - Guardian readers, anyone?) to have watched The Krypton Factor when Gordon Burns hosted it, or were you glued to whatever guest Wogan had on the other side? Or did you avoid ITV on Mondays at 7.30 pm until the end of the year when Judith Chalmers came on with Wish You Were Here...? - and a suntan from Tenerife? It was a great game show, wasn't it? Very intelligent indeed.
    I am now in my 40s (just in case anyone asks).

  3. #3
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    Default Re: The Krypton Factor

    I remember a lot of the intelligence puzzles used pentominos. Supposedly these took hours to solve & were cut down to 5 minutes, like the assault course.

    One aspect I liked was how the K turned into a logo for each round, with a different jingle based on the Art On Noise's main theme.

    Later on an ad break was squeezed in, with some time being chopped out elsewhere, probably from the General Knowledge round.

    Tony Robinson was in one of the Observation Round shorts Where Is Don Day?
    The Trickster On The Roof

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    Default Re: The Krypton Factor

    George, you have surpassed yourself with that mammoth post....70 lines no less!
    can't say i cared for the krypton factor much, it made my brain hurt. Always felt The cube a show presented by Philip schofield borrowed heavily from this show and maybe even the crystal maze to a certain degree. There was another lesser known show of this ilk which was presented by Leslie grantham and Mellisa messenger, it was called Fort boyard.
    ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN IN THE NEXT HALF HOUR.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: The Krypton Factor

    Do you know what? - I have succeeded the DYR record on this forum by using the most words to start a thread with. So much so, that I didn't know there was a 10,000 character limit myself until I wrote this which had over 11,000 characters on it! I started a (shorter, thankfully) thread in Suggestions about it where Heather responded and even she didn't know about it herself! Ironic that I found this out on a thread created about a show with a lot of intellectual people on it!

    But yes, I suppose that a lot of intellectual puzzles and challenges first thing on a Monday evening may not be to a lot of viewers' tastes, but don't forget that this was on ITV back in the day when it wasn't full of Reality TV and wall to wall Emmerdale at 7.00 pm, and one could find something that wasn't quite Open University material, but not a comedy show at that time. I wish it was still like that now to be honest.
    I am now in my 40s (just in case anyone asks).

  6. #6
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    Default Re: The Krypton Factor

    Loved the Krypton Factor, that was an awesome description of the show and took me right back!

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