Rise and Fall



Greg James


Emma Clarke (as Voice of The Lift)


Studio Lambert and Motion Content Group for Channel 4, 19 March to 14 April 2023 (18 episodes in 1 series)


The show where the lift's the star.

Rise and Fall Oh, we're thinking of Incredible Games.

Rise and Fall was a microcosm of the social structures of 2020s Britain. Or a satire, or a pastiche - the show kept its tongue in its cheek throughout.

How it works

Sixteen strangers arrive at "an iconic building in central London" (and we'll come back to that later). Over the next two-and-a-half weeks, the contestants will attempt to build up a large prize, and one of them will eventually win it.

Six of contestants emerge to rise to the penthouse, where they'll live in the lap of luxury. These people become "The Rulers", with absolute power over the course of the game. Their one job is to manage the prize fund: make sure it's as big as possible at the end of the show. At the end of the show, only a Ruler can win the prize.

But the "Rulers" won't be able to directly increase the prize fund: that task falls to the others contestants. "The Grafters" live in a windowless basement, subsist on a basic diet of bread rolls and broth, and sleep on hard beds.

Today's work shift: do an impression of Peter Simon on Double Dare.

It's the Grafters who do the work shifts. Nasty little challenges - pet food tasters, lost property workers, sewage disposal, working in an airport's baggage handling, an oil plant, and carrying bricks. None of the tasks was pleasant, all could conceivably be won, all could be lost.

The Rulers guided the Grafters - told them which tasks to do, and when to stop. Should the Grafters fail to complete a task in the allocated time, they would fail it, and lose all the money from the shift.

Later that day, there's an elimination - one of the Rulers is to lose their power and be eliminated from the game. The group gathers in their "Red Room", a wall with red wallpaper and carpets, and a large triangular table.

The Rulers in their penthouse Red Room.

The Rulers debate how they've done, how they're getting on with each other. Who is responsible for running up the prize fund, who has brought it down? Who do the players think is the weakest Ruler? Who is bringing them down like a misfiring rocket? Whoever gets the most votes is dismissed at once, they leave their ruler's brooch on the table, take the lift down to the lobby, out of the game.

All of this is shown on a screen for the entertainment and education of the Grafters. Tomorrow, one of them will replace the deposed Ruler.

But first, there's "a test of leadership skills" – usually an Overtime shift, where two of the Rulers pick small teams of Grafters to do a repetitive job. Blow up balloons, make profiteroles, fold paper swans. The Rulers try to guess how many repetitions the Grafters can do in a couple of hours, and are paid a small amount for each one completed – because these are long tasks, the pot can increase by £4000 or so.

Sometimes, the Grafters will be allowed to request something – a pack of cards, salt for the broth, artificial flowers to brighten the place up – for an extortionate price. There was feedback in both directions – the Grafters told the Rulers what they thought of them, the Rulers gave "inspirational" "advice" to the Grafters. We may have a new person arrive in the basement – the producers needed to keep the number of Grafters at or about 10 for most of the series.

Three Grafters ascend to the penthouse. One will come straight back down.

There's a vote for which Grafters are to go up and be considered as Rulers. The top two in a vote go up to the penthouse, and the existing Rulers pick one of the Grafters to join their number – and be immune from tomorrow's elimination vote. The other Grafter will be sent down, to be part of tomorrow's work shift... and the cycle repeats.

It's all about business acumen, right?

Wrong. Rise and Fall was all about alliances. Make people love you in the basement, where people are bonding because of a shared traumatic experience. Do your best to keep people onside in the penthouse. Try to build alliances in the penthouse, where everyone's looking over their shoulder in an advanced state of paranoia. And certainly don't give anyone in the penthouse a reason to hate you.

Rulers Sydney and Rossi plot over their cocktails.

At this point, we're going to bring in some archive material from Channel 4. When announcing the show in August 2022, a press release said:

With levels of inequality in Britain higher than ever and millions feeling powerless to affect the decisions that shape their lives, Channel 4 is launching a major new social experiment that explores the gap between the haves and the have-nots and asks how wealth and power shape the way we behave toward one another.
In a timely new reality competition series from Studio Lambert and Motion Content Group, ordinary British people, from all walks of life and ages, will find themselves as a have or a have-not, either in a position of power or as part of the powerless, as inequality is explored over 18 stripped episodes.
The show is set in a glamorous Succession-like world, with the powerful living in a opulent penthouse and everyone else living in a basement workplace. Through a series of games and challenges those in power will be responsible for making decisions which affect those who have none, whilst those without power will have to compete to build favour with those at the top.
In a unique game packed with drama, betrayal and power plays, players will have opportunities to rise and fall, from having everything to having nothing. The cash prize starts at zero and only builds if challenges devised by those in power are completed by those who are not. Those at the bottom must find a way to make it to the top, as only the most powerful and influential can win the game.

Compared with the initial announcement, there wasn't much falling - only three people went straight from penthouse to basement, almost a dozen moved in the other direction. It was more "rise and eject" than "rise and fall".

Some of the Grafters plot over exercise equipment.

By the time Greg James was announced as host, about two weeks before the show started, the description had subtly altered:

Sixteen ordinary British people, from all walks of life and ages, will begin the game as equals but soon find themselves either in a position of power as a Ruler or as part of the powerless as a Grafter. While the Rulers live in an opulent penthouse, the Grafters must survive in basic conditions in the basement. And much like life, those in power will be responsible for making decisions that affect those who have none.
Greg James will oversee the action as the Grafters work hard to complete a series of gruelling games and challenges to build a cash prize fund only the Rulers can win. The Rulers must encourage the Grafters to work harder, but if they push them too hard, they might find themselves toppled from power.
Anyone can rise to a position of power and anyone can fall, but only one Ruler can win the prize fund at the end of the game. Who rises and who falls will be decided by the other Players.

"Ordinary people" was, perhaps, stretching it. The inevitable stunt casting included Four Rooms star Jeff Salmon, a member of the aristocracy, online influencers, and numerous businessfolk.

Channel 4 advertised the show with playful posters.

Channel 4 put massive marketing muscle behind this programme. It's not unusual for high-profile new series to get poster campaigns before they start, shown on the advertising billboards in shopping centres. It is very unusual for a series to get this treatment in its final week, using actual quotes from people on Reddit.

Viewers were less receptive: audience figures on transmission were a bit below average, though people who liked Rise and Fall seemed to really like it.

The series went in for "show, don't tell", particularly as the initial diverse group of Rulers were replaced by identikit young white men. They never mentioned this on the broadcast, we had to fill in our own blanks.


Eddy Fulford, who won £85,610.


Rise and Fall Towers.

Rise and Fall never named its filming location. It was 55 Broadway, formerly the home of London Underground, now converted to a luxury hotel. As a very subtle nod to the building and its history, Rise and Fall used the London Underground typeface for all its captions.

Voted the Worst New Show in this site's Poll of 2023

Web links

Channel 4 programme page

See also

Weaver's Week review


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