“An Adult Playground”
The Crystal Maze: Season Seven
Channel 4 (UK)
23 June – 1 September 2017
The Crystal Maze is back, baby!
For those who have been severely deprived, The Crystal Maze was an absolute banger of a game show in the 90’s. Teams of adults are invited to an elaborate set of different worlds and rooms, in which a range of physical and mental challenges and puzzles lay between them and delicious cash money. Each team is lead around the maze by a host who knows all the ins and outs of the place and takes them to the appropriate challenge where one team member volunteers to take it on.
Each puzzle fits the theme of whichever “zone” the host guides the team to; perhaps the hot and dry Aztec Zone, or the haunted Medieval Zone, or even the extremely believably high-tech-and-not-at-all-just-LEDs-and-whirring-sound-effects Futuristic Zone. But be careful who you select to compete, because if they make too many mistakes or can’t complete the challenge in the time limit, they may be locked in and left behind!
Each room holds the opportunity to win a crystal, and each crystal buys contestants time in the final stage of the game, the Dome: a giant glass box filled with silver and gold papers. Here, the team must grab as many gold papers within their time limit, while avoiding the silvers, as the fans blow them around the dome. Each gold wins them money, the silvers are deducted and the team may then take home their winnings.
Of course, the money is never what it’s about: competing in The Crystal Maze is about visiting a magical and mysterious world, challenging yourself, and yelling at your stupid friends for not listening to your instructions and leaving them locked in a weird room as punishment.
In the 90’s The Crystal Maze was known for its wacky hosts, most famously Richard O’Brien (The Rocky Horror Picture Show), and over twenty years later, after a one-off special in 2016 hosted by Stephen Merchant (Extras), they’ve stuck to this same idea. Richard Ayoade, best known for his geeky character Moss on The IT Crowd and his awkward and dry persona on various UK panel shows and Gadget Man, adheres to the eccentric nature of The Crystal Maze‘s presenters.
How Channel 4 managed to squeeze in so much of my favourite television into one place is a mystery, but I’m not arguing. Richard Ayoade is as thoroughly witty, condescending and exasperated as is required to host this show, and he exceeded all expectations when it came to leading teams around what is essentially an adult playground. He brings familiar elements of his peculiar persona to the show, with a few extra touches such as a metal hand on a stick used to guide contestants round—so he never has to make physical contact with them, of course.
I’m so glad The Crystal Maze is back in our lives and that it’s been done justice. If you like fun, adventure, and a bit of 90’s nostalgia then check it out!