On Safari (2)



Richard McCourt


Scottish Television for ITV, 21 July to 1 September 2000 (7 episodes in 1 series)


You wouldn't think animals and driving would make an interesting television show would you? Well, you'd be right! Unless the animals were driving as happens in all the best Disney films like... um...

Yes. Anyway, On Safari is nothing to do with the On Safari from ages ago (shame!) that was presented by professional panto dame Christopher Biggins (who, incidentally, doesn't exist for ten months of the year and is kept in a box marked 'Do not Open' between January and October). Both shows share the same title, but here the similarity ends. The original On Safari was a cheap 80s game show set in a studio played for laughs by adults. This On Safari is a slick action/adventure kids show with a genuinely impressive prize at stage. Coo!

Two teams of kids battle their way through Longleat safari park to win a trip to a real safari to Kenya to complete two day's worth of various challenges. Cleverly, the park being private property, the kids actually get to drive around in off-road vehicles (painted in zebra patterns, to make the kids look tastier to the lions, we guess). Way cool!

Day One involves two challenges: drive to a particular animal den and help the keeper there look after the animals and then drive back. And those lions are real too. Way cooler. Animal challenges include things like give a rhino a mud bath, photographing a certain llama away from the others that sort of thing. When they get back to base they are marked on style (read: driving ability) and artistic merit (read: how well they performed the challenge). Then, as reward, they get to stay the night in tents. Boys in one, girls in the other - this is CITV, not Sky One.

Cunningly, during the tasks on both days, a little side bar will pop up with 'incredible' facts on the animals and contestants, which is nice.

Day Two sees the obvious inclusion of a physical challenge like tie this bit of wood together then send it across the river using your jeep's tow cable. Kind of interesting but at the same time kind of dull. Anyway, both teams are marked and all the scores are added up. The tension is mounting... who will win? Well it's the team that has accumulated the most points, as in most shows in fact.

The winners go through to the Lion's Den, a cage-based lion enclosure which has real actual lions in it. Rather than have a gladiatorial fight to the death (this is CITV - not Bravo), the players play a game of hunt-the-keys-that-will-let-the-lions-out-so-they-can-move-to-another-room game. IF! they can find the keys hidden in the bric-a-brac in each cell and IF! they can let the lions out then they can open a cage at the end and win their prize. The kids are in separate parts of the cage to the lions, but even so it's still quite scary. On the other hand, the kids can't shout (it would scare the lions) which can make progress hard to follow, and they seem to be a little too over-rehearsed at the whole thing.

Because there is a lot of actual danger possible, there are literally swathes of assistants, professionals and animal tamers in shot to help the kids in case they get into trouble. While this certainly reassures the viewer that the kids aren't going to come to any harm, sometimes they are so prevalent - with even the camera crews getting in on the act - that it takes all the suspense out of the situation.

So, this is certainly a good stab at CITV doing something 'different' but also, interestingly, it's one of CITV's duller shows which can't decide if it wants to be a game show or a wildlife programme because it does neither particularly well. A shame, actually because it is kind of a nice idea and it's a change from those shows that shout "KAPOW! SCHWING! EIFGHERIGN! IT'S FRIDAY AFTERNOON YOU CRAZY KIDS!" at you.


Along with Get Wet and Twister, STV decided to defy logic and give this series a second airing as part of Wknd@stv a full nine years later.


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