Don’t phone your mother at 5pm on a weekday. That’s a given among all my friends. If you do, you’re likely to be met with a cold, ‘But you know I’m watching The Chase’ – that’s assuming she can tear herself away from the TV to answer the phone in the first place.
The quiz show has been running since 2009 on ITV1 and is such a hit it’s just been made as a pilot for Fox TV in the US. Here, it regularly attracts audiences of over three million and has become the must-see show in ITV1’s daytime schedule, beating its rivals in the same slot.
It is totally addictive television, and so much more than your average quiz: it’s a nail-biting race against the clock, in which a contestant and a quiz expert, called The Chaser, go head-to-head answering general knowledge questions.
The contestant is given a head start and it’s The Chaser’s job to catch and eliminate them by answering more questions correctly while a scoreboard keeps track of their progress. Successful contestants bank money as they go along, but to keep it they must play ‘The Final Chase’, when the Chaser invariably annihilates them!
The show’s appeal is in no small part due to the brilliance of host Bradley Walsh. Quick-witted, kind and sardonic without being condescending, he is perfect in the role. How he manages to keep a straight face is a miracle in itself (although his occasional giggling fits only add to the fun).
Take this question. ‘What was the Christian name of the education pioneer Montessori?’ Primary school teacher contestant: ‘Kevin.’ Somehow, Walsh managed to hold it together.
Don’t ask me how.
Undoubtedly, much of the appeal lies in the personalities of the Chasers - four brainboxes who take turns on the show and whose nicknames lend them a sinister presence that is played upon throughout. Mastermind winner Shaun Wallace is The Barrister or The Dark Destroyer; Anne Hegarty, who holds the rank of Master in the UK quiz rankings, is The Governess; Paul Sinha, ranked 20th in the quiz rankings, goes by name of The Sinnerman or The Sinner Winner; and Mark Labbett, runner-up on Brain Of Britain, is The Beast or Beastie Boy.
Much of the excitement rests on the moment when Walsh announces ‘It’s time to bring on the Chaser’, and the identity of that episode’s expert is revealed. At 6ft 7in and built to scale, Labbett is easily the most terrifying and by far the toughest on contestants who do not match his breadth of knowledge.
Then there’s the suspense element, as contestants move up the illuminated board with each question they answer correctly, only to find the Chaser hot on their heels.
It’s unpredictable, fun, a brilliant format, and perfect TV that could easily play in a primetime slot (are you listening, ITV?).
Until it does, just don’t call me between 5 and 6pm, OK?