The Krypton Factor had nothing to do with the Perodic Table or Superman. It was a fantastic gameshow that ran from 1977 to 1995 on primetime ITV.
Hosted by newsreader Gordon Burns, contestants competed in a series of rounds that tested their physical stamina and mental attributes. The whole thing was taken incredibly seriously – Gordon would constantly bang on with phrases like ‘Heat 2 in the Group B final’. Amazingly, the winner of the whole thing was crowned the ‘United Kingdom Super Person’ – as if by completing a challenge from each of these different disciplines would whittle down the UK’s population until we had found Britain’s most perfect specimen and they would then be given the job of Prime Minster. In reality, it was just a bunch of middle aged men and women messing about on Flight Simulators and doing Rubik’s Cube puzzles.
The show would begin with a montage of self conciously futurisic music and state of the art computer graphics before each contestant introduced him or herself. Then the games began!
The most famous rounds were:
Mental Agility- near on impossible sums were thrown at the contestants, and they had to do them in their head. For some reason they always had to wear headphones for this bit.
Observation – the contestants would watch a short film clip and then answer memory questions about it. These were specially filmed mini-episodes of comedy dramas. Sometimes someone like Tony Robinson, Caroline Quentin and even Steve Coogan – they should put all these together on a DVD.
Physical Ability – a break from the studio here, as pre-recorded footage showed all the contestants take part in a fairly lame assault course (dressed in fetching blue, yellow, red or blue tracksuits). Gordon gave a dry commentary as Gregg from Stevenage fell off the rope swing into a puddle.
(Amazingly, the contestants had FIVE WEEKS of training for this.)
The Flight Simulator – Contestants hopped in a real-life RAF flight simulator and attempted to land the plane. if this is what pilots were really using to train in 1989, I’m surprised anyone survived a long haul flight. The graphics are about on a level with Frogger. The contestants nearly always crashed, simulating the deaths of hundreds of people.
Intelligence – Here, the contestants would race to see who could solve a three-dimensional puzzle. Again, Gordon would provide blow-by-blow commentary on their progress. Scintillating television.
General Knowledge – Quick fire question round which dramatically back lit the contestants against a pitch black back drop. It didn’t make it any more exciting.
(Apparenaly, in the first series there was also a ‘Personality’ round, where the contrstants had to display their creativity by re-writing a nursery rhyme. A focus group would then vote on the best effort. I cannot figure out why this round was dropped.)
I always liked watching The Kyrpton Factor. It was unashamably old school, even in 1995 when it went off air, meanly it sadly missed the resurrgence in back-to-basics style gameshows like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and The Weakest Link. (A remake in 2009 hosted by Ben Shepherd failed to catch on).
By Luke Chilton