Dr. Kevin Fong
Zeal Television for Channel 4, 2004
One-off, two-hour extravaganza in which five men and five women undergo a series of extreme physical and mental tests to find Britain's most super human. Those deemed most super of all get a truly unique prize: a London Science Museum exhibition all about how super they are.
Filmed over several months, the ten contestants faced twelve tasks.
Emotional intelligence. Each contestant in turn is interviewed by a journalist about appearing on the programme. Except, of course, that unknown to the hapless participants, it's all a set-up, the "journalist" is actually an actor, and their response to hostile questioning is being judged by a psychologist in another room.
Fearlessness. The contestants are given bungee ropes and suspended in pairs over a 100ft drop. Looking down on the abyss, the first to use up 500 heartbeats gets dropped. Five points to the man and woman who hold on the longest, others pro-rata.
Mortality. An easy one. The contestants fill in a questionnaire, which is then run by http://www.deathclock.com - top points to the man and woman who they reckon will live longest.
Navigation. Each contestant has 45 seconds to study a route map, then are put in an off-roader and told to navigate the course, in reverse. Least wrong turns, most points.
Rhythm. The contestants have to tap out increasingly fast and difficult rhythms. We didn't get to see a lot of this round. Fewest mistakes, most points.
Endurance. Or, Ride An Exercise Bike With A Regulated Oxygen Supply For As Long As You Can. Looks like agony, and probably is. Longest time, most points. After this round, the lowest-scoring man and woman are eliminated.
Attractiveness. A polling organisation has asked people to rate the remaining contestants in order of physical attractiveness. Well, Britain's most Super Human could hardly be a minger, could they? An entertaining discussion ensues, as contestant Jak insists that he should have come first, rather than third.
Memory. Commit a series of faces, names and occupations to memory and recall them under stress. The stress being provided by having to escape from an overturned, underwater crash simulator. In pitch blackness. It's all in a day's work for... Superhuman!
Sleep Control. Possibly the toughest test of the lot. The contestants are kept awake for 48 hours, then spend the next 12 hours alternating 30 minutes sleep and 30 minutes playing a monotonous computer game to test their alertness. Another round of elimination follows. The scoring system is a bit flawed - initially the scores are 5,4,3,2,1 points, but the lower tier is removed after each elimination. The upshot of this is that for the final three tests, nobody can gain more than two points on the leader in each round, and Nina Anderson's 5-point lead in the women's competition is all but unassailable with three events left.
Extreme Hypoxia. The contestants are stuck in a decompression tank, starved of oxygen, and given puzzles to solve. Not as exciting as it sounds, and we don't dwell on it very long.
Extreme G-Force. This is more like it! The contestants are stuck in a centrifuge and spun roundandaroundandaroundandaround, being subjected to ever higher G-forces until they pass out or throw up or chicken out. This kind of thing always makes great television, especially the throwing up, for some reason.
X Factor. And so to the finale. The studio audience have watched all these tests and now they are asked to vote for, quite simply, the contestant they like most. The usual 5, 4 and 3 points for first, second and third in each gender, and it actually swings the men's contest at the last moment.
Superhuman was originally intended as a series, but for some reason was eventually put out as a single two-hour show instead.
There was actually an earlier version of SuperHuman, also made in collaboration with the Science Museum - Are You Superhuman? was hosted by Gary Lineker and shown on BBC2 in 2000 as a spoiler against Channel 4's Royal Institution Christmas Lectures. It featured physical and mental tests too, but more in the manner of genuine experiments rather than being a competitive gameshow.
Contestant Jak Beula devised the little-known game show Who Knows Jak? (and the rather better known board game Nubian Jak on which it was based).
The equipment used in the Fearlessness test was built by Jonathan Hare of Rough Science fame.
Here's the original contestant call published on the Channel 4 website:
FIND OUT WHAT YOU'RE MADE OF... Do you want to find out what you're really made of? Are you one of the most intelligent, fearless and attractive people in Britain? Are you ready to be put to the test in TV's contest to end all contests?
Channel 4 are calling for Britain's most amazing people to take part in a unique once-in-a-lifetime scientific competition. You will need the reactions of a fighter pilot, the physical stamina of a marathon runner and the emotional intelligence of a hostage negotiator. And that's just for starters.
In this truly unique scientific experiment, you must be ready to be tested to the absolute boundaries of human ability across 15 mental, physical, psychological, creative and social functions [In the end it was only 12 tests, not 15.]. These truly challenging tests have been devised in collaboration with the world's leading human scientists.
from Internet Archive
Contest was won by Monty Halls and Nina Anderson.
Devised by the Chatterbox Partnership.
Channel 4: Superhuman (archive.org copy)