The Krypton Factor ran from 1977 to 1995 and was a great example of a TV game show that actually made the contestants work for their prize. I guess it was ITV’s answer to the BBC’s ever popular Mastermind show, but it took things a little further as it didn’t just test the intellect of the contestants but their physical abilities too. The show was hosted by Gordon Burns, and presumably took its name from Superman’s home planet, given that the title awarded to the eventual winner was Superperson of the Year.
A series normally consisted of a number of groups of contestants. Each week four contestants from the current group would compete against each other, with the winners going on to a group final. The winners of the group finals then went on to the grand final. Normally the highest scoring runner up from each group also got a place in the group final, and the final member of the grand final line up was the highest scoring runner up from the group finals.
Each programme was split into a number of different rounds entitled Mental Agility, Observation, Physical Ability, Intelligence, General Knowledge and Response. In each round (except General Knowledge) the winner was awarded 10 points, then 6, 4 and 2 points after that, to be added to their “Krypton Factor”, or score to you and me.
Of all the rounds the Physical Ability round is probably the best remembered. It was a pre-recorded segment of the contestants taking on an army assault course, where they had to crawl up cargo nets, swing on ropes, cross balance beams and concluded with a trip down a zip line, usually into a big muddy puddle at the bottom.
The Mental Agility round normally asked contestants to do things like add up lists of numbers in their heads or to memorise a sequence of objects and answer questions on it. Observation involved watching a short video clip and then answering questions about it such as “What colour was the mans hat?”. It usually also involved an identity parade where the contestants had to identify one of the actors from the clip.
Intelligence involved the assembly of a puzzle of some kind. My favourites were when they had to build the three dimensional objects that had been cut up into strange looking shapes. General Knowledge was pretty much what you might expect, a series of questions about random topics, with contestants buzzing in and scoring points for each correct answer, but losing points for a wrong answer.
The Response round was only added in 1986, and was initially a mini assault course in the studio involving some strange looking bicycles, walking across balance beams, and slotting blocks into holes. From 1988 this round became another pre-filmed segment with each contestant taking part on a flight simulator attempting to land anything from Concorde to a Harrier Jump Jet to the Space Shuttle. This round was marked by a real flight instructor, so you had to do a good job!
And in case you were wondering what the prize was for all this hard work, it was little more than a bronze trophy and the aforementioned title of “Superperson of the Year“. Despite the rather lame prize though, I still think The Krypton Factor was a lot of fun to watch.