“I love The Crystal Maze!” said Joey Essex, once he’d worked out what one was and that he was in it. “Haven’t we revitalised the format?!” agreed Richard Ayoade enthusiastically, sadly putting Joey right back in the lap of confusion.
Ayoade and Essex, two very different kinds of men. Watching them try to converse can’t be unlike watching an owl try to mate with a suitcase. Having seen it now though, I just want more. Quick, someone commission a show in which the pair of them team up to fight crime or catch cowboy roofers or conduct a public vote for the nation’s best Center Parcs. Whatever it is, I know I wouldn’t be able to look away.
And Ayoade is right, they have revitalised the format, chiefly by booking him for this gig. He’s the perfect presenter, or to use the preferred term, Maze Master. He masters that maze using a combination of flamboyant corduroy, sardonic asides and acute awareness of this endeavour’s extreme silliness. Hiring him was a triumph.
The second celebrity Stand Up To Cancer team to take on the maze were also pretty triumphant. Like the last lot, they had an early lock-in and lost a lot of games, but crucially, took the additional precaution of remembering to also win some. That earned them ample time in the new-look Crystal Dome to snatch twenty grand out of the air for cancer research. Heroic.
To his absolute credit, Joey Essex won both of his games, despite seeming to have only the gentlest grasp on what was happening at any given point. As the owner of a successful media career that’s surely earned him a few bob, I can only think Joey’s used to achieving things from within a bubble of ambient confusion. Perhaps dragging a crystal around a set of pipes within an allocated time limit made as much sense to him as anything does – paying his road tax online say, or doing a Heat Magazine photo shoot. Whatever he thought was happening, the boy did good (even if he did keep looking straight to camera to fluff his hair like a budgie distracted by a mirror).
Being born in 1990, the year the original series launched, it’s no wonder that Essex lacked familiarity with the ins and outs of the show. That said, he’s the same age as his teammate Scarlett Moffatt, and she was vibrating with excitement about every fibreglass prop and bag of sand. A former Goggleboxer who made her name by being effortlessly wittier and more entertaining than any of the shows her family was tasked with watching, TV is sort of Scarlett’s religion though. Her not having seen The Crystal Maze repeats on Challenge would be like a priest not having read Genesis.
The ages of team captain Jodie Kidd (Amazonian) and vice team captain Steve Jones (Welsh) placed them bang in the middle of The Crystal Maze nostalgia generation. As Ayoade traded introductory insults with the group, those two grinned like pilled-up Cheshire cats.
Jones ensured the team’s entry into the Futuristic Zone by correctly answering the computer’s riddle: “I am a projectile and a leaf. What am I?” Rocket was the right answer, but Joey’s attempt—frog—frankly didn’t deserve the derision it received. The Hylomantis Lemur frog, commonly known as the Leaf Frog, is traditionally used as a catapult shell during the hunting rituals of the indigenous peoples of Colombia. Joey was clearly apprised of these facts, and frankly, the rest of them should feel ashamed of their ignorance.
The remaining team-mate David Coulthard (your da) displayed an aggressive approach to both his first game—the lights-off-reset challenge that bested Alex Brooker last week—and his advice to teammates. “Smash the glass!” Coulthard shouted at Steve Jones, when doing so would clearly have been in breach of protocol. “Kick him in the crystal balls!” he said of the scroll-master prison guard in the riddle game. Jones, of course, did neither and successfully retrieved both crystals.
Elsewhere, Moffatt’s bum cut short a fun-looking laser game by causing an ALIS, Kidd did that boring one with the apples, and Coulthard showed up last week’s team member Louie Spence for the attention-seeking self-saboteur he clearly is by completing the raft/scales challenge with a full minute to spare. In so doing, Coulthard proved himself, just like this revival, a winner.
Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode here.