Series / Golden Balls

Early-evening ITV Game Show from the producers of Deal or No Deal, which bridged concepts from Deal with that of poker. To begin, 12 golden balls were drawn from a giant lotto machine-styled contraption known as the Golden Bank, which held 100 of them. These balls contained cash amounts that ranged from £10 to £75,000. The Lovely Assistant then mixed in four "Killer" balls, bringing the total to 16, and each of the four contestants received four balls at random.

Each player opened up two of their balls for everyone to see, while the other two remained visible to the player only. The goal of the game was to ultimately build as large a jackpot as possible by keeping high-value balls in play. After the distribution of the first set of balls, the contestants proceeded to debate over who they believed had the worst hand (low-valued and Killer balls were the main targets), often defending themselves by outright bluffing about the contents of their other two balls, before proceeding to vote out a contestant Weakest Link-style and throwing their balls in the trash. In case of a tie, the contestants not involved in it tried to reach a consensus as to whom they wanted to eliminate; if they could not do so, a random draw decided who went out. If every contestant received one vote, they all continued debating until three of them agreed to kick out the fourth.

After the first elimination, the remaining 12 balls (along with two more balls from the Golden Bank and one more Killer, making 15) were re-shuffled and distributed again to the remaining three contestants. Each placed two balls on the front row and three on the back, and the second round followed the same rules as the first. After this round, one more Killer was added to give a total of 11 balls and the contestants took turns picking two at a time, the first to "bin" (eliminate) and the second to "win" (place in the jackpot). Kept cash amounts were added to the jackpot, but each kept Killer divided the jackpot by 10. After five "win" balls had been chosen, the round ended and the final jackpot was set.

But how much of the pot would each contestant get? Well, it's time to use an old favorite, the Prisoner's Dilemma. You've watched enough Friend or Foe to know how this works: the two contestants discussed their situation and tried to psych each other out, and then secretly chose to "Split" or "Steal". If both contestants chose Split, they split the jackpot. If one player chose Steal, s/he got to take the whole lot. If they both chose Steal, nobody won.

Golden Balls aired from 2007-09. The show was a Sleeper Hit for ITV at first, but began to taper off later on, resulting in its demise.

Game Show Tropes in use:

  • All or Nothing: Happened whenever at least one player chose to Steal.
  • Golden Snitch: Any five-figure amounts showing on the front row in the first two rounds had an almost guaranteed chance of sending the player through to the next round, but the £75,000 ball especially, as it was pretty much guaranteed to let someone through even if the other ball on show was a Killer.
  • Home Game: There's board, mobile, and console versions.
  • Mystery Box: More like mystery spheres, but yes.
  • Personnel:

This series provides examples of:

  • Broken Aesop: Jasper frequently pointed out that if both finalists "are greedy" and choose to steal, neither wins anything. But... if only one person is greedy, they win twice as much as if they had split with the other person.
  • Cassandra Truth: When a player had two Killers on their front row, the obvious means by which to persuade the others to take them through anyway was to claim a ridiculously high amount. Naturally, the others would typically be wise to this and not fall for it, leading to this trope when - as was sometimes the case - the player with the Killers was actually telling the truth.
  • Doomed Protagonist: If an opponent chose Steal in the final round.
  • Downer Ending: Whenever the final two players went Steal-Steal.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Usually, if a player started with two Killers on the front row, they weren't going to get through, though exceptions are known.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: One middle-aged male contestant said his elderly female rival reminded him of his dead grandmother. This offended her and actually reduced the third contestant, a young woman, to tears. The vote went to a three-way tie break, and despite the man clearly having the most money, the women got rid of him on the basis of his attitude. Adding salt to the wound was that the man refused to even apologise for his comments, despite both ladies insisting he do so.
  • My Greatest Second Chance: One episode featured a group of returning contestants who got screwed over by the Steal ball. Ironically, the winner (a woman named Sarah) claimed £100,150 with a Steal, making her the show's biggest winner.
  • The Power of Trust: The Game. The final portion of the show has two contestants, face to face, deciding whether to steal or share the pot. If both Steal, they get nothing. If both Split, they split the pot. If one Splits and the other Steals, the Stealer gets everything and the Splitter gets nothing.
    • A British man who describes himself as a "professional game show contestant" studied the show and realized that the face-offs all followed the same formula: if one contestant was absolutely sincere in their desire to Split the money, they were Stealing. Every single time. So he devised a better solution: he went on the show, made it to the final round, and then immediately told his fellow finalist that he was going to pick the Steal ball (albeit with the caveat that he would split the money after the show). 100% certainty, absolutely no room for compromise. Most final rounds went on for five minutes; this one lasted 45 minutes, with the unfortunate second man trying everything to convince the professional to change his mind and Split, because that's what he wanted to do (see below). Eventually, the other guy agreed and picked Split, at which point the professional revealed that he had done the same.
      • The kicker? After the show, the other guy was interviewed and asked what he was planning to do before he was harangued; he was going to Steal.
  • Smug Snake: Some contestants assumed that money alone would get them through the show, when trust was just as important (since naturally, a player would want people who are likely to Split in the final)...though this could backfire horribly, as explained above under Laser-Guided Karma.
  • Unwinnable by Design: If in the final round one contestant chose Steal, the other player got nothing regardless of the option.