Quick Review of "Alphabetical"

Here’s how the game is played: four contestants (one returning champion and three challengers) play five rounds based on the letters of the alphabet and start the game with 100 seconds. In the first round, “First Letter”, each contestant is given a key letter, with each answer starting with that letter, and has 60 seconds to answer questions for one second per correct answer. The second round, “Last Letter”, is played the same except the contestants are given a different key letter and each answer ends with that letter. In round three, “Starting Letters”, contestants are given three clues to solve an answer shortened into an acronym. Solving it in one clue earns five seconds, two clues earn three seconds and three clues earn one second. Two categories are played and the challenger with the lowest score is eliminated. In the fourth round, “13 letters”, the remaining three contestants are given 13 randomly-selected letters and each answer starts with the key letters. Every question is a toss-up worth two seconds each, an incorrect answer locks the contestant out for a question and the lowest-scoring challenger is eliminated.

The final round sees the champion and remaining challenger use the time they have earned in the front game to answer 26 questions correctly with each answer starting with each letter of the alphabet (except the letter X; letter is somewhere within the answer). A contestant’s clock stops and play passes to their opponent if an incorrect answer is given or if a question is passed by saying “Alphabetical”. If a contestant answers any question incorrectly, they will not be able to win the jackpot. The first contestant to answer all 26 questions correctly wins the progressive jackpot, which starts at £5,000 and resets to that amount when won. If neither contestant completes the alphabet within their time limit, whoever answers the most questions correctly becomes champion, wins £250 and £100 is added to the progressive jackpot for each question the winner has answered correctly.

There are several incentives to watch Alphabetical and a few reasons as to why viewers may want to tune away from the program. Starting with the pros, Alphabetical is an ideal game show for hardcore trivia fans. Viewers are treated to play-along and answer at least 120 questions that are offered per hour-long show. Other advantageous elements include adding a rollover jackpot and defending champions. The latter, rarely seen on game shows today, is always nice to see to hold the viewer’s interest from show-to-show.  As host, Jeff Stelling carries the show well and does an excellent job bantering with the contestants. I had no worries about Stelling fronting the new show as he had previously proven to be great emcee when he hosted Countdown before Nick Hewer took the helm. My only criticism of Stelling is his casual approach to a format that calls for a host who can quickly rattle-off as many questions as possible considering a majority of the show is complied of quick-fire speed rounds and since the end game requires contestants to answer a staggering 26 questions correctly within a relatively short time of two minutes and some change.

Speaking of criticisms, let’s move on some of unappealing aspects to the Alphabetical. Even though most of the main game centers around speed rounds, the show itself is drags and seems a bit slow-paced. Even the end game can be tedious to watch if the players frequently pass. The end game could flow a lot faster if both contestants played their clocks individually rather than simultaneously to prevent all of the potential clock stoppages. With that being said, the two rounds that were the most captivating and makes for close and competitive contests were the “13 Letters” and “Beat The Alphabet” end game. Other minor issues include making the contestants waste time by saying “alphabetical” to pass a question rather than simply saying “pass” and each episode sounds like canned audience sound bites were edited into the show. In a couple of episodes, I had noticed a distinct “awww” sound effect during the end game that I’ve heard before from game show video games.

Overall, Alphabetical is a decent quiz show with a few glaring issues. Given that this is simply another one ITV’s summer fillers, I don’t anticipate Alphabetical surviving through the its second week.

Overall Rating: 7.1

UK viewers: Stay tuned for Alphabetical all next week at 5:00pm BST on ITV! For everyone else: Check out an episode of Alphabetical on Dailymotion.
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