After a one-off special last year hosted by Stephen Merchant, Richard Ayoade has taken over the job of “Maze Master”, and he does excellently.
Whereas Merchant’s episode was filmed at the crowdfunded Crystal Maze live experience, the new series has been made at a purpose built set, with three of four zones built to look like as they were back in the 1990s. Only the Futuristic Zone has been revamped, from the old grim, slightly dystopian look; to a more modern, white, gleaming set. The Crystal Dome is also slightly different, decorated with lights but without a moat and bridge.
The first episode of the series was celebrity edition for Stand Up 2 Cancer, the first of many before we actually get to see some normal contestants. The Last Leg’s Alex Brooker was team captain and Lydia Bright from The Only Way is Essex was vice-captain, with the rest of the team consisting of Strictly champion Ore Oduba, Geordie Shore’s Vicky Pattison and the world’s most flamboyant choreographer Louie Spence. All five provide some sort of value to the show, whether it be comedic or their use of skill to win crystals.
Ayaode was wonderful as host, primarily because of his attitude. He always comes across as serious, even when everything else around him is far from it, so you can’t help but laugh. It is also hard to look serious when you are wearing a pink suit and carrying what looks like a gold hand on the end of an umbrella handle. Along with: “Will you start the fans please”, it looks like: “Follow the hand” could end up becoming a catchphrase. Ayoade might be even trying to get his term in the dictionary with “ALIS” (Automatic Lock-In Situation).
If there was a downside, I did find some of the sound effects a bit unnecessary at first, but eventually you get used to it.
The Crystal Maze goes out on Fridays at 21.00.