ITV often have the same, misguided idea for new programming: copy something that’s been a success on the BBC and then pay a huge sum for the presenting talent to defect in the hope that the solid viewing figures can be seamlessly transplanted to their network. In practice, it rarely works: the show itself often looks like the thin facsimile it is, while the newly-acquired presenter shifts uncomfortably under the glare of a new environment and the weight of increased public expectation.
(Around 15 years ago they secured the rights to the Premiership highlights and the services of former Match of the Day presenter Des Lynam: a sure thing, you would think, but somehow they conspired to mess it up with some terrible decisions, including Andy Townsend and his infamous tactics truck. Even now, whenever England’s tournament matches are shown on both channels, and despite the obvious shortcomings of the BBC pundits, no-one watches them on ITV, whose live football coverage is fronted by Adrian Chiles, a man they thrust into the spotlight of matchday primetime on the basis of his likeable low-key appearances on the BBC’s Sunday highlights programme Match of the Day 2.)
Anyway, I never saw Sporting Triangles when it was on TV, but it was basically ITV’s version of A Question of Sport, and true to form, at one point former QoS captain Emlyn Hughes was persuaded onto the show. As far as I can tell, it was ultimately cancelled with no great fanfare. Sadly, no footage exists that I can find, save for a brief clip of the opening credits. But it was obviously popular enough to warrant the release of home computer version, which we can look at now! [Oh dear God not again – a reader]
After the title screen and (authentically reproduced) accompanying music, you select the number of human players, the level of difficulty, and enter your own name and area of sporting expertise. Although the TV show had celebrity captains, they’re not featured here, and it’s just you against the computer (or friends, if you have any, and they have similar niche interests). Comically, your on screen representation has turned up to the studio kitted out as if ready to play actual sport – there’s obviously been a misunderstanding involving your agent and the producers, or you’re just choosing to take things really seriously. Fortunately, the other players have done the same thing:
Well, having not seen the show, I can’t really comment on whether the format has been accurately replicated, or indeed what it was in the first place – Sporting Triangles is a pretty weird name after all, and I’m not sure to what, other than there being three players, and a playing board in the shape of a big triangle, it referred. The main difference between this and the QoS game is that the multiple-choice answer format is eschewed in favour of an honesty-based ‘here’s the answer, did you get it right’ system, which probably works best if you play with the family, as intended, instead of sitting alone wondering whether you were nearly right and deserve a bonus point because you’re getting thrashed by the computer players.
There is a little variety among the individual rounds: ‘Hit for Six’ asks you to guess an answer from a list while providing increasingly less vague clues as the number of points on offer diminishes, while ‘Jigsaw’ does something similar, but with the addition of a picture that gradually becomes more complete. Add in the obligatory ‘quick fire’ round at the end, and you’re done.
Without the aid of multiple-choice guessing, I got soundly beaten by two computer players of ‘average’ (ie the lowest) ability. During ‘Hit for Six’, one of these players responded to the clue ‘America got their hands on it in 1979′ with the answer ‘Billie Jean King’, which further compounded the insult (the answer we were looking for was, incidentally, ‘The Ryder Cup’). Some snooker dick called Chris won in the end.
It looks awful, it lacks star quality, and it’s a paper-thin concept to start with. Just as it was in 80s TV land, Sporting Triangles is a bit like A Question of Sport, but not as good (and they’re both rubbish really).
And for some further reading about 80s British sport on TV, featuring a (dis)honourable mention for Sporting Triangles, take a look here.
Next time: Ken Bruce’s PopMaster: The Game