Are you feeling lucky?
Well, Simon Cowell certainly seems to be. No longer satisfied with merely controlling the pop charts and your ITV talent show requirements, the media mogul is taking a punt on a high-concept, high-risk game show with millions of pounds at stake.
Enter Red or Black? on ITV1.
It’s a bit like You Bet meets Deal or No Deal with X Factor sensibilities. Indeed, such is the grand scale of this new “talentless” programme that in British terrestrial television terms, only ITV have deep enough pockets to patronise it. “They put their money where their mouth is,” explained Cowell to the assembled throng of eager hacks and hangers-on at yesterday’s press conference.
So what’s the big idea? Simple, really…
The great British public are invited to take part in a potentially life-changing gamble (“I mean game of chance,” Cowell corrects himself knowingly). It all begins with 7,000 contestants. En masse they will be presented with a number of spectacular two-way challenges, but only to watch. There is no skill involved, just one question: red or black?
Over the summer, guided by Mr Cowell’s favourite presenting duo Ant & Dec, the 7,000 will be whittled down through ten rounds as they take a 50/50 punt time and again. Those few left will compete over a week of live finals where each night one person will spin a giant roulette wheel, pick red or black, and go home with a million pounds…or nothing.
Cowell promises “event TV to remember” with “big celebrities involved”. A short sizzler trailer certainly makes the concept look and sound exciting as we see cars dropping from planes and stadiums full of people watching high-octane stunts leading up to the million-pound question.
I’m sure ITV and Syco execs will be on the edge of their seats every night just like the viewing public. After all, it’s not often that a production company finds out the budget of a programme to the nearest million pounds live, every night for a week. However, Cowell did confirm (“too bloody right”) that his production company would have suitable insurance to cover them against an odds-busting seven millionaires in a row.
“The scale, the ambition and the originality of this show is what attracted us,” says Declan Donnelly. And it’s hard to argue with his sentiments, as apparently the idea has taken the best part of a decade to come to fruition after Simon Cowell began working with James Grant Management.
Although none of Red or Black? has even been shot yet, just the teaser trailer conjures up the addictive signature Syco features, human interest stories and grand events that are sure to make this programme another “must-watch” in the reality calendar.
And Cowell seems fairly confident that Red or Black?, just like Britain's Got Talent and The X Factor, could become a new British export. “I hope if it succeeds it will travel,” explains the Syco boss. “I'd love to take it around the world. I have had interest from America already.”
However, Cowell scoffed at the idea that he might be ditching his trademark talent formats for a new direction as inevitably questions turned to his more established programmes.
Despite much interrogation he refused to be drawn on the much-debated X Factor UK and USA judging line-ups, although he did confirm that the US panel will be finalised by the end of this week.
Cowell also hinted that this year's UK X Factor could be on a grander scale: when asked if an arena final might be considered, he said, “I'm going to make an announcement very soon about the finals and semi-finals of X Factor that's very exciting.”
For now though it seems Red or Black? is SiCo's top priority because, as he confirmed, “We need at least 7,000 members of the public to help us.”
So, if you want the chance to win a million quid and meet Ant & Dec log onto the official website
and register before midday on Friday 13 May. It'll be all the fun of The X Factor, but with a better soundtrack, I promise...