Today, I watched Jem Stansfield’s latest escapade, Zero to Hero. It’s (yet) another Scrapheap-style ‘two teams build things’ show, this time with nutty punters strapping frighteningly explosive contraptions to themselves in the hopes of bending steel bars. All while dangling from a safety rope, but with nary a hint of eye protection.
Well, it’s quite good fun. It looks good, the setup is suitably barking, and the presentation competent. Certainly, it’s a damned sight better than Demolition Day, which for my money was one of the worst of these sorts of shows (so bad, in fact, it got pulled before completing its run, and there’s no longer any mention on Channel 4’s site).
So, anyway. Yeah, it’s fun, but… sorry, I doubt I’ll bother to watch any more. Lots of glossy production doesn’t hide the fact that the producers failed to work out how they were pitching the thing. So the on-screen presentation is fairly straight, but then the voice-over and graphics are campy as heck. Which is it, folks? Make your minds up. Oh no, too late – you made the show last year, didn’t you?
You’d think it’d be easy: just pick an idea and run with it. At heart, it is that easy, but it rarely seems it until you’re heavily into ‘in retrospect.’ As I sit in the office wrestling with the different directions my current project might go, I know this all too well. But what I find frustrating about Zero to Hero’s variation on the theme is that there’s a better idea in there somewhere, hidden just below the surface.
Helping the punters are not only Jem and another engineer (taking one team each), but a comic book artist and a seamstress. And those moments are hilarious and wonderful, but the dynamic is completely different to that between the punters and the engineers. Why? Any particular reason, or did nobody notice? Then there are the ‘helping friends’, who spend pretty much the entire show getting in the way of the close-ups… and not much else. And the basic problems of these shows aren’t addressed, either: nothing happens for the first half-hour or so, because (frankly), they’d all be better in a 45 or 50-minute slot than an hour. The challenge is so arbitrary, it has to be restated seven times through the show, and still there are random extra rules that surprise and irritate during the final scenes.
Blech. On my ToDo list following The Big Bang: write this screed up properly, and try to spot the ‘better idea.’ Though I suspect Scrappy Races was pretty much it.
Meanwhile: Jem: yes, you were pretty good, I thought. But would I have signed off on that risk assessment? Hell, no.