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Patrick Dowling & The Adventure Game

June 19, 2009

There’s a pooly lit corner of television history which anyone of a certain age will feel instantly comfortable residing in for a while when they’ve been directed to it.

That programme was The Adventure Game, a series of puzzles and conundrums laid out for celebrity participants set on the fictitious planet of Arg. Contestants had to solve the puzzles and successfully cross the seemingly deadly Vortex in order to win their inter-galactic tube train journey home.

I remember it first and foremost for The Vortex, a simple game of cat and mouse played out using green screen and BBC Computer graphics. OK, so I may not have appreciated the complexities of green screen broadcast technology when I was a mere 12 years old, the graphical representation of the Vortex sedately chasing after the contenders crossing the board was realistic. Our computer lab at school was populated with BBC computers. I saw similar graphics on our monitors at school. No real surprise that me and my contemporaries spent many a lunch break trying to recreate the excitement of the Vortex on the tree stumps outside school.

Producer of the show Patrick Dowling (whose death at 89 was announced yesterday), revealed in an interview just how challenging a process the production of the show was in an interview for Off The Telly in 2004. I hadn’t appreciated to what extent the celebrity participants hadn’t been on-script.

What Dowling and his team were doing (in effect) was filming a series of problems being solved and then editing them together for TV entertainment. The accomplishment deserves raucous applause given that such a relatively risky production resulted in entertainment I engaged with at the age of 12. The fact that Dowling was doing exactly the same as Big Brother and a whole string of other reality TV programmes continue to do nearly 25 years later makes it even more remarkable.

  1. The Adventure Game was The Crystal Maze, but earlier and better. And for kids. Excellent TV.

  2. nice 🙂

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