Media: A Moment with Marquis

Endemol strikes again! This time with the improbable figure of Noel Edmonds at the helm of Deal or No Deal. Channel 4 has another roaring ratings success on its hands with more than four million viewers daily and a new 230-episode series commissioned for next year. How do they do it?

Only a couple of years ago, I recall seeing Noel waiting for a train at Exeter station - a dapper but somewhat forlorn little man in a big overcoat. In the late 90s, the BBC decided they, and we, had probably overdosed on Mr Blobby's antics and that Noel Edmonds should retreat to his Devon estate and be seen no more.

But he's back with a vengeance (Noel, that is, not his pink-and-yellow pal), filling the compere's shoes on this simplest of game-show formats with effortless aplomb. He somehow breathes interest, humour and tension into an idea you can hardly believe deserves them, interacting with the unseen "banker" via an ancient telephone complete with suspenseful Hitchcockian ringtone.

It is mesmerising stuff and if you're remotely interested in media - or indeed in human nature - you should tune in. Endemol (the company behind Big Brother) has a knack of tapping into the seven deadly sins - in this case, greed. In pursuit of the top prize of £250,000, the contestants struggle against the equal possibility of walking away with one penny.

After each round, the horrible banker offers the contestant a "deal" if they abandon their quest for the big money. As a showcase for naked avarice, it can't be bettered.

If ever there was a sponsorship opportunity, Deal or No Deal is it. My spies tell me that Channel 4 has finally clinched a deal, but, as yet, the sponsor is not public. With five shows a week and a more than respectable audience, you'd think it would have been snaffled up. It may be that the sheer quantity of sponsorship appearances may have put some contenders off. What would you fill all those breaks and bumpers with day after day?

I really hope the sponsor turns out to be a bank. Wouldn't it be great to see one of the high-street megaliths poking fun at itself, while gently disassociating itself from the despicable "banker" in the show? One of Noel's coups is to demonise him as a mean-spirited, heartless beast intent on minimising the show's losses and sending the punters away with the puniest of prizes. We all know real-life bankers aren't like that, don't we? Go on Barclays, Lloyds, HSBC - make my day, please let it be you!

simon.marquis@haynet.com.

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