Crazy Contraptions



Richard Hammond


Judge: Zach Umperovitch

Insert presenter: Shini Somara


Optomen for Channel 4, 29 April to 5 June 2022 (7 episodes in 1 series)


A sort of inversion of The Great Egg Race. Teams compete to create "chain reaction machines" to carry out a simple task in the most complicated way, for example stopping Hammond from having to get out of his bath to feed his dog at the other end of his mansion. In one section they have to demonstrate a particular scientific principle and in another they need to incorporate a particular object. Knockout series structure.

Part of a machine built by team "Social Mediocrity" to flip a switch on the kettle at the right of the screen.

Unfortunately, with so many moving parts (and on this occasion that's not a metaphor), there's very little time to focus on the various engineering challenges in any depth. Hammond has a good track record in formats that balance science and entertainment, but this one constantly misses the mark on both of those elements: Dr Shini Somara provides cursory VTs on the required elements, but would have been better deployed in the studio where she could have picked up on all the technical matters arising, and then the finale is critically undermined by choppy editing. To show off a chain reaction machine properly, the camerawork needs to be as well choreographed as the machine itself, capturing the whole thing in a single flowing shot if at all possible. 48 edits in 70 seconds (as we saw in the first episode) really won't cut it - or rather it will cut it, to ribbons, robbing us and the teams of the big "wow" moment at the end.

There was also quite a bit of "finagling" in the rules, given that Hammond asked the contestants to carry out a task without making him move, yet gave the teams up to three interventions. Eh? To be clear, apart from the initial trigger, teams weren't allowed to design human interaction into their machines; the permitted interventions were just a measure to avoid a machine being a damp squib due to failing early, and they (apparently) counted against the team - but it was never clear how much weight that carried, so it just made the judging criteria ever more opaque.

All a bit of a shame, because this could have been a fun twist on the build-a-machine genre, if only the contestants' ingenuity had been matched on the production side.


Fieldhouse Brothers (Adam, Damian and Robin Fieldhouse).


Officially billed as Richard Hammond's Crazy Contraptions.

The heats aired at 8pm on Fridays, with subsequent episodes shunted off at 10:55pm the Sunday before (i.e. with just over 50 hours separating episodes 4 and 5). Possibly the skits supposedly showing Hammond supposedly flaunting his wealth fell a bit flat in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis. But even if that hadn't been going on, the show was more than capable of failing on its own demerits: in the entire run we saw only one professional review of the show (by Benji Wilson in The Telegraph) and the headline was "Richard Hammond’s Crazy Contraptions tries to take on YouTube (and fails)". Considering that every week Hammond's opening spiel told us that chain reaction machines were "made famous by viral videos", you'd have to say they brought that on themselves.

Even if you did stick with the show on catchup, All4 managed to spoil the result anyway by having the final represented by an image of... the winners holding their trophy. D'oh.

Web links

Channel 4 programme page


They had the "social distancing" thing sorted, though.

See also

Simply Complicated


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