Sky TV review: Wild Things
Brainless chance to unwind7
People in giant animal suits8
Ivan Radford | On 15, Mar 2015
Is there any night of the week that can’t be improved by people dressing up in giant animal costumes and running into things? Trigger Happy TV did just that for Friday night on Channel 4, when dogs as tall as humans hit each other with plant pots like two extremely violent sports mascots. Now, Wild Things hopes to do the same for Sunday nights.
A game show on a Sunday evening? It’s a smart calendar pick by Sky 1, positioning its ridiculous offering against rivals such as Mr. Selfridge and Poldark. On the one side, brooding men and attractive hats. On the other? An oversized stag throwing buckets of dirty water at an owl.
The programme continues an honourable tradition of encouraging audiences to laugh at people, as they complete over-the-top physical challenges. In 2002, Takeshi’s Castle became a surprise hit on Challenge. In 2009, the BBC came up with Total Wipeout, a UK version of the famous US obstacle course.
Wild Things, though, has a unique twist: the contestants are in teams of two, with one of them dressed up as an animal. This means that 1. They look silly, and 2. They can’t see a thing, leaving them to rely upon their partner’s instructions to know where to go and what to do.
At stake? £10,000, more than enough to convince your average member of the public to give up their dignity and don a furry suit. While they dash about and bump into each other, the surreal spectacle is accompanied by raucous commentary from Jason Byrne, with Kate Humble joining him as presenter.
“Would you look at that!” cries Byrne, as a duck trips over a log and falls flat on his humungous, cuddly beak. The state-the-obvious punditry can get a tad too excitable – you may well wish you were in an animal suit that blocked your ears rather than your eyes – but the absurdity of it is hard to resist.
Even as the tasks (walk across a booby-trapped path of lilies, pass along enough swill to feed the pigs) feel vaguely similar and repetitive, the one-hour runtime flies by like a massive owl hunting a cash prize: Wild Things understands that it’s not the obstacles themselves that matter, but the reaction of the people facing them. Vox pops between rounds are accompanied by knowingly tragic piano music. “I’m not angry, I’m just sad,” says the duck, looking at the ground. Elsewhere, teamwork descends into arguments and losing players are launched into the air on cables, all things that are more entertaining when the subjects in question are moles the size of basketball players. (Nothing in life can beat the sight of an airlifted mammal.)
The final set piece sees one of them dashing through the undergrowth with a briefcase – a comically inspired sight – while the others stagger about wielding nets. It’s a rousing finish to a dated format given a surprisingly enjoyable new (ahem) leash of life. Is Wild Things a classic game show? No. Is it a welcome change of pace to serious Sunday night telly? Excuse us while we go find our nearest costume shop.
Not got Sky? Wild Things is available to watch online live on NOW, as part of a £6.99 a month subscription – no contract. You can also catch up with it on-demand, along with other Sky shows, such as Game of Thrones. Sky customers can watch online on Sky Go and catch up through Sky On Demand.