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Series / Red or Black?

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A short-lived ITV Game Show created by The X Factor creator and former American Idol judge Simon Cowell, wherein a group of 1,000 contestants were whittled down to one that could potentially win £1,000,000 by guessing whether a ball, launched into a giant roulette wheel, will land in a red space or a black space.

Each episode consisted of ten rounds, each featuring an event with red or black as its outcome (i.e. whether one of two celebrity guests corresponding to said colour will win a competition). If the contestant makes the correct choice (or has the correct choice thrusted upon them), they advance. If not, you're going home; it's called a Luck-Based Mission for a reason. The contestants are eventually whittled down to 8 for the live portion of the show later in the night. The final two then partake in a final "Duel" round which involved revealing pieces of an eight-segmented pie; whoever revealed their half of it first got to play the roulette game for the million.


The show was a ratings success for ITV (well, "success" being relative of course); during its original weeklong event, ITV managed to get a larger audience share than BBC One on five out of seven nights, topping out on its first live show with 6.93 million viewers, but progressively dropping throughout the week. It was somewhat better than how ITV was doing the week prior, though. Cowell thought it did well, reporting that had already gotten at least three offers from U.S. networks wanting to produce an American version. However, critics felt it shouldn't even be able to leave the country, considering the show to be "dull" and "a mess", and criticizing the fact that the game was way too dependent on luck.

As such, ITV's chief programmer Peter Fincham demanded a Retool for Series 2; it wasn't live anymore, the game only started with the eight studio contestants, and all luck-based elements were expunged. While maintaining the "red or black" theme, all of the challenges became prediction and observation challenges, and the musical acts were integrated into the challenges themselves. The first three challenges were worth 1, 2, and 3 points respectively, after which the bottom 4 players were eliminated. The final two played a modified version of the Duel round (expanded to 10 slices, and the players got to memorize the board because not a game of chance) to decide who played for the progressive jackpot in the new Vortex game.


The second series only managed to top out at 3.30 million viewers (prior to its premiere, a certain sporting event happening in London caused ITV to suffer its worst weekend of viewership ever). The second series did bring about at least one historic moment: Graham Fletcher became the biggest winner in the history of British game shows with his prize of £1,500,000. That's about it, however, since it was cancelled afterwards with little fanfare.


Game Show Tropes in use:

  • Golden Snitch: Averted with the 1-2-3 point format for the first half of the game on Series 2; it was possible to get tied at 3 by getting only the first two rounds right. Said contestants played a tiebreaker round involving stopping a bar going back and forth as high as they could.
  • Personnel:

This show provides examples of:

  • Artifact Title: The element that inspired the show's concept (the roulette wheel), and its name, was dropped in Series 2, although the games still involved making a choice between red or black.
  • Bonus Round: Series 1 had the roulette wheel
    • Series 2 had the Vortex, a giant bowl with a circular "end zone" at its base that blinked between red and black in a constant interval. The contestant had to choose a color, and then launch a ball into the bowl—timing it so that the end zone would be the chosen color (the hosts do mention the contestant getting a practice shot) when the ball lands into the hole at the bottom. Success awarded a progressive jackpot starting at £500,000, increasing by said amount each time it wasn't won.
  • Downer Ending: Whenever the million pounds was not won...which only happened three times.
  • Just in Time: One Vortex victory was so close that it was initially ruled a loss, with rollover onto the next episode. However, after production wrapped, they went back and checked the footage from a camera positioned right in front of the hole, which revealed that the ball landed in a black hole milliseconds before it cycled back to red.
  • Luck-Based Mission: Played straight by Series 1, subverted by 2 in that The Price Is Right-like "yes, you can beat it with skill because it's obviously a game of skill and knowledge, but you'll probably fall back on pure luck because you're unsure of yourself" manner.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Simon claimed that his inspiration for the series was Ashley Revell, a man who sold all of his possessions and wagered it on a roulette spin in Las Vegas (and won).
  • Required Spinoff Crossover: Most of the performers who appeared during the live portion of the show were ones discovered through Simon Cowell's other franchises; namely The X Factor, Britain's Got Talent, and America's Got Talent.
  • Two-Act Structure: The first series divided each episode into two halves: an hour-long show which detailed the elimination rounds, and then a half-hour live show later in the night with the final eliminations and the big spin (along with some performances to pad things out, too). On the premiere at least, The X Factor was sandwiched in between.


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