Ah phew that was close, nearly got locked in… yes that’s right I suffer from that strange affliction that hits one in eight twenty-seven to thirty-seven year olds, Crystaline Mazititus. This is a psychological condition in which you imagine every task you take on has been placed on your shoulders in order to win cheap plastic spheres in the game show “The Crystal Maze”. Forgive me, ‘adventure game show’.
Chris and I have just, in the very nick of time, finished a second draft of a feature script we are working on, prosaically entitled “I’m Going To Kill You”. It needed to be done in time for Sunday and other events meant that last night was the last night we could spend working on it. We’ve turned this draft around in six days which is pretty good going, not least because of our insistence on retyping our drafts from scratch rather than cutting and pasting any material from the old versions.
What’s slightly more annoying is that, though it only took us six days, these six days have been pushed back and postponed for about six weeks. Yesterday’s deadline should never have been a deadline at all and to see it come grinding over the hill with a sickening and awful sense of the familiar and the inevitable was to feel like we’d run into a simple mental challenge only to miss an obvious part of the quiz. In my head I could see the crystal and I could hear the idiots who are the team mates of my subconscious shouting useless advice “Get the Crystal!” “No no just come out!” “Quick you’re running out of time just – I don’t know – you’ve just got to get the Crystal!!”
As Chris hit send on the email I was very tempted to punch the air and hiss “Yes” like an even limper Tim Henman. But I didn’t. Or at least not in reality. Obviously in my head I was high fiving with the shell-suit clad idiots from the IT department where we met.
Oh the Crystal Maze. One of those perfect British TV programmes that managed to make a positive out of its very hopeless rubbishness. Often TV is cruelly devised to mock its participants. I am ashamed of my wicked enjoyment of the unannounced final challenge in “Robot Wars” in which the prepubescent geeks who had just proven themselves victorious in the construction of gladiatorial robot shoeboxes were then interviewed by Phillipa Forrester. Moments earlier Dave had been a merciless God of the machines of war but now, in the very teeth of his victory, he has to talk on camera to an actual lady who is a girl with breasts and everything and in one awful stroke he is reminded of exactly where he lies in the eyes of normal society. But nothing has been quite so perfectly created to show up its contestants as the desperate lost souls that they are as “The Crystal Maze”.
Purists will insist that after Richard O’Brien left it went down hill but that is to somehow imply it was ever up a hill in the first place. This was a show where the top prize was a weekend activity break. A top prize that was almost never won. This was a show in which a comically perfect group of over eager socially maladroit under achievers were put through a series of fantasy based challenges by a bored actor who’s only fleeting pleasure came from rolling his eyes at the camera in a desperate bid to let the audience know that he was not to blame. With every new scenario their excitement rose as did the host’s embarrassment on their behalf. Looking back you wonder if it was a game show at all and not just a frightening glimpse into a special circle of hell which is reserved entirely for actors.
However I think it sticks with me because the grand finale of the show, in which the contestants were locked in a large plastic ball and forced to snatch desperately at fluttering slips of gold and silver paper, was the first awful glimpse of how I’d spend the rest of my life. As a visual metaphor for pulling together the budget for a film nothing is quite so achingly poignant as the site of a badly co-ordinated accounts administrator flapping desperately at paper blown into his face by a large fan. His is a pointless task with a pointless goal, his failure will be public, his success entirely inconsequential to the course of human history.
We’ve finished a script. We’ve got a crystal. Now all we can do is clutch hopelessly at the paper fluttering in the air whilst we wait for Richard O’Brien to blow his whistle…
(oddly most of the Crystal Maze clips on youtube are unembeddable but these are worth a click…)