There are some things you expect to see on ITV4. Re-runs of Minder, Kojak and Quincy bookended by Cash Cowboys, Pawn Stars and endless programmes about superbikes.
But Hollywood actor Dolph Lundgren hosting a Crystal Maze-style gameshow that culminates in him shoving people out of a window? Not so much. And yet, lo, the TV gods have delivered us Take the Tower.
This new show sees teams taking on physical and mental games that lovingly
rip off pay homage to iconic scenes from action movies including Lethal Weapon 2, Die Hard and Mission Impossible. By winning games and answering film-based questions, contestants play for money and a trip to New York.
Take the Tower – ITV4
This essentially translates as watching people having to evade exploding toilets, crawling through air vents and being suspended, Tom Cruise-style, from the ceiling. And, as contestant Jake from Caerphilly gloriously demonstrates, while wielding a broom and being flung around in an ungainly fashion, barking at his teammates to “go up… up! No, UP!!”
Failing a mission results in one member of the crew being sent to the ‘Penthouse’ to meet their fate. And this is where Dolph comes in.
The iconic 60-year-old actor, for whom the whole show is built around, has the job of finishing off unlucky contestants, eliminating them from the show by delivering a line like “the higher you go, the harder you fall” and “wait until you meet the pavement” before shoving them out of the 53rd floor of the Penthouse.
Although health and safety and ITV4 budgets being what they are, this actually translates as the contestants being gently nudged onto a crash mat that’s probably located max. a foot below the ledge. Then, after filming their demise, lying on a sheet of green screen on the floor like an upturned turtle, shouting as their arms and legs flail in the air.
Reclining like a super-villain in a dimly-lit room, Dolph opens the show by staring straight down the barrel of the camera and saying “I’m Dolph Lundgren. You’re welcome” before spouting a trail of knowing lines and explaining that when the cameras stop rolling he doesn’t switch off or “make jam like Van Damme”.
“Instead, I invite ordinary people from Luton to my billion-dollar headquarters to lay their lives on the line in their very own action movie.”
Having Dolph clumsily navigate British witticisms (“Tw*t. Is that a Welsh word?”) and blindly reading from a script – despite no doubt having little idea where Luton is – is not unlike the experience of watching Kevin Bacon in his early EE advert days.
Kevin would wax lyrical on quintessentially British things like Jedward, Catchphrase and Ken Barlow drinking in the Rovers – clearly being fresh off the plane from LA.
And, much like Kevin flogging phones, it seems bizarre as to why The Expendables, Rocky IV and The Punisher star Dolph has signed up to this. Although admittedly, when you see he was in Sharknado 5: Global Swarming, suddenly pretending to push people out a window on a game show doesn’t look so bad!
Not that this is Dolph’s only job on the show. The producers definitely get their money’s worth with him for the final round as the show culminates in one of the contestants having to face Dolph in a head to head shootout called the “Penthouse Duel”. It’s basically a boardgame version of a Wild West quick draw.
With Dolph and one of the contestants facing off against one another, they must wait for a light to turn a certain colour. Then, they must both draw guns (gold, plastic) and shoot the corresponding coloured figure the fastest. Best of three wins.
Inexplicably, instead of wearing proper regulation safety goggles, they both don Eddie the Eagle-style 80s glasses (if this is a reference to one of Dolph’s characters, it was lost on us) as eye protection. “The hero versus the villain in a winner takes all shoot out,” purrs Dolph. “Whoever hits the target first wins. And one last thing. If you die, you die.”
The whole thing contains more ham than a Tesco deli counter. Take the Tower is not only brilliantly camp and naff but, a bit like a hero in an action movie, for a good hour hangs off the verge teetering precariously close to being rubbish before pulling it back and saving itself at the eleventh hour.
The main problem with Take the Tower is that it’s not got its own big screen blockbuster release.
Take the Tower begins Tuesday 25th September at 9pm on ITV4