With its red boxes, ringing telephones, and a mysterious unseen banker – Channel 4’s Deal or No Deal graced our television screens for over a decade between 2005 and 2016. The Noel Edmonds-led show became a tea-time staple in the television diets of thousands in that time, with the program’s tension and drama making it essential weekday viewing for many.
There were undoubtedly tears shed when the decision was made to cancel the show in 2016, but in its 11-year run, the game show entertained millions and made many members of the public rich beyond their wildest dreams. The show has had many iterations in other countries around the world, many of which continue to run. You can even play online Deal or No Deal themed games at https://games.paddypower.com/game/deal-or-no-deal-gfg.
So what was it that made Deal or No Deal such a hit throughout those 11 years? For one, the premise of the show was ingenious, offering a perfect balance between chance and strategy. At its most basic level, it was a very simple game show, but the many variables, not least the intriguing figure of The Banker, gave the program that extra edge.
The Banker’s job was to make offers to the contestant based on the set amounts of prize money that were remaining on the table. It was his aim to get the contestant to walk away with less money than was revealed to be in their box. The idea of ‘beating The Banker’ gave the show a competitive element, and in many ways, the fact that no-one ever saw, heard or knew the name of The Banker added to the desire to see him bested. Since we knew nothing about him, there was little about The Banker to sympathize with and this strengthened the collective bond between contestants and audience alike, geared towards defeating this voice at the end of the phone line.
Indeed, the team spirit developed between the different contestants was one of the most appealing aspects of the program. As the show was being filmed, the contestants would stay in the same hotel and socialize together, and the friendships that developed, as a result, gave the show a human element. Viewers would get to know different contestants as the shows went by, and many would develop their own favorites to cheer on towards winning that top prize of £250,000.
Where Deal or No Deal triumphed, where perhaps other game shows have failed, is the way in which it emphasized the importance of the potential prize money to the contestants involved. We learned about their life stories, their struggles and ambitions – things the viewer could easily relate to – and how the money would impact their lives. The contestant’s family were usually in the audience, and this emotional attachment formed between viewer and player was vitally important to the show’s success.
Edmonds, too, must take a lot of credit for Deal or No Deal’s longevity. He was the face of the program and made it his own through his stellar skills in building tension, and his easy rapport with the contestants, the audience, and of course, The Banker. Edmonds’ exchanges with The Banker formed the comedic backbone of the game show, and his role as mediator between Banker and contestant added plenty of laughter and drama in equal effect.
The gap between the smallest available prize and the biggest available prize was undoubtedly a major draw for viewers. Contestants could walk away with as little as 1p, or as much as £250,000. When the stakes are that high, drama inevitably is conjured, and those few unforgettable games where the final two boxes contained one of the highest and lowest prizes respectively were what viewers tuned in every day to see.
While the show is no longer on our screens every weekday afternoon, the memories live on, and the impact prize money has had in the lives of many contestants is undoubted. In the pantheon of great British game shows, Deal or No Deal will always be right up there.