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Wednesday 20th February 2013
We had friends round for dinner tonight and one of them brought the Catchphrase Interactive DVD along (only £26.99 from Play with FREE delivery). We were going to get a chance to play Catchphrase in the comfort of our own home and it would all be presented by Roy Walker himself (I may be wrong, but I think there's a chance he'd come to your house to play the game live for £25).
We were a bit drunk and it was an enjoyable diversion, but I am afraid to say that the translation of the game to DVD was rather lazy and half-arsed and I think I'd have been pretty annoyed if I'd paid that much for it. Each game only lasted about fifteen minutes and we played it three times and even with only about 12 catchphrases per game the challenges were starting to repeat. I hate to say it but I think the Catchphrase people were just cashing in on their enormous popularity. It was a novelty to play one game, exciting to have a rematch for a second, but by the third the thrill had gone. I doubt very much that there is a person in the world who has played this game four times. Prove me wrong, I dare you.
I think it's from 2007 and maybe Catchphrase technology has moved on, but it seemed a shame that they didn't even have the proper bonus round, where a piece of the catchphrase is revealed one square at a time. That should be easy enough to do, right? And given they have decades worth of catchphrases that they've used on TV, it's a shame they don't have enough on there to avoid immediate repeats. To be honest, even if Roy Walker's script had a bit more irony or humour to it (or the occasionally random variant) then it would be a bit better, but you get the sense that they made it up as they went along (even though two people are credited with the writing, including Dan Skinner - the same one who plays Angelos Epithemiou?). There is a taste of what could have been because the victorious team can "win" a virtual holiday. In the first game this prize was (spoiler alert) a trip to Mars, with Roy hilariously describing the atmospheric conditions of this freezing planet. But the prize in the second game was (spoiler alert) a holiday to Mars. Either we'd got unlucky with the random generator or (more likely) the people who had put it together had tired themselves out with their creativity and decided to take the rest of the day off. If you don't win the holiday you do get to watch the classic "snake charmer" blooper, which does bear another watch, but which you can see on Youtube for free.
Don't get me wrong. We had a fabulous 45 minutes with this game and maybe that's all you can hope for and I am mainly being facetious in my review of a six year old DVD version of a TV show that most viewers enjoy only in an ironic fashion. But it feels disappointing to be slightly short-changed even by something like this, when only a tiny bit more effort could have meant that the game got played five or six times before it got repetitive and thus only cost four pounds a go. You can see in Roy Walker's snake eyes that he's slightly embarrassed by what he's doing and that no one involved was really bothered in anything but getting finished and to the pub as quickly as possible. I imagine no one was getting paid very much, which makes the sell out nature of this item all the more tragic. It would he hard not to do all this with a heavy heart anyway and Roy Walker may have been in the midst of an existential crisis as he performed, wondering if this was all his life amounted to. Perhaps as he went through the motions of this game, without even the interaction of actual contestants, standing alone in a tiny studio in front of a green screen he came to realise that his whole life had been a meaningless sham. Roy Walker wouldn't be alone in that, it's true for us all, but for this moment of clarity to come now, during this low point, knowing that the only people who will witness this humiliation are those desperate and sad enough to shell out twenty-odd quid to play Catchphrase (especially awful if they are participating in one person mode) and that even those hopeful and guileless enough to take this punt would still be disappointed by what they were getting. Roy Walker knew he was letting down the people who needed and liked him the most and yet he couldn't escape now. He just pushed onwards, keeping his head down, trying to chuckle and put some life into the affair, but knowing there was no point.
My friend Christina thought that if the people behind it had really had a sense of the futility of what were participating in, when Roy ended the quiz by saying "He's waving" (referring to the cartoon Mr Chips by his side) it would have been apt if they hadn't bothered to add the animation. So it was like Roy was just imagining Mr Chips was standing beside him (which of course, he was) and letting people know what was going on inside his head. A wonderfully subversive version of this game would have Roy going through a mental breakdown as the rounds progressed, berating the unseen contestants, swearing, clutching his hand out at imaginary insects, killing and fucking Mr Chips. At least you'd feel there was some heart in it. At least you'd have got something for your money. Roy Walker and Dan Skinner wouldn't have to hold their heads in shame at the memory of what they'd done for so little financial reward and the lonely man playing the game on one player mode would not have to shoot himself in the head when he too realised what his life had become. The Catchphrase audience, most of whom surely enjoy it on a knowing ironic level would have loved the surprise and appreciated the effort and not felt like Roy Walker had slithered up to them, taken out their wallet and just stolen money from out of it in front of their face, whilst sadly parroting the phrase "Say what you see," with no enthusiasm, worrying that people might very well do just that.
Think what this could have been. The greatest artistic statement of all time, showing the frailty of humanity, the pointlessness of existence, the transience of fame and the compromises of old age. Instead we all end up feeling dirty. It's close, Roy, but it's not right.
Whatever, my team won 2-1 and we laughed til we cried at Mr Chips jauntily lifting his hat as he fucked a snake or wanked off his snake cock. It was the best 45 minutes of my year.
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