I remember watching Takeshi's Castle for hours on end when I was a kid, because it seemed to be almost constantly airing on Challenge. Me and my brother loved watching it, because let's be real, who doesn't love watching people humiliate themselves and get hurt on national TV?
As someone from Liverpool, I think a huge part of our parents allowed it to play in the background so often was because Craig Charles provided the commentary throughout the show's most successful years. And it was great commentary too, just absolutely mocking the chaos that unfolded. For a show as zany as this one, that's exactly the type of commentary that's needed. There's no way anybody can take a show like this fully seriously. Other UK commentators, like Dick and Dom or Johnathan Ross, were pale imitations.
Most of the games that featured in the show were fantastic. So many poor people must have smashed their teeth by running on the wrong stepping stones. The pachinko game was another highlight, even if it was borderline impossible. Personally, my favourite was the Honeycomb Maze, where contestants had to avoid the guards and make their way to the other side of the maze. I always wanted to take part in the less dangerous games from the show, they looked like so much fun. To be honest, that hasn't changed, even 20 years later.
Also, the final game with the water guns and/or lasers was so blatantly unfair. Only a handful of people were able to win throughout the show's original four-year run from 1986 to 1990, and that's in no small part because the odds were stacked against them from the start. And the prize for joining this very exclusive club of winners? The equivalent of £5,000. And you thought Pointless had a pitiful prize pot for the effort needed to win it. Although the diminishing return of Takeshi's Castle is kind of another aspect of its charm; it seems like the contestants are just going on the show to have fun rather than win a fortune.
The impact this show had around the world was huge. A lot of people associate Japan with wacky game shows in which participants get hurt, with The Simpsons directly parodying this. The fact that one of the biggest shows at the time was parodying shows like Takeshi's Castle shows how much of a massive global hit it had become. And the prominence of derivatives like Total Wipeout and Ninja Warrior show how endearing the concept is. It's even made the jump to video games, with Fall Guys being very much inspired by Takeshi's Castle and these other shows, to the point where some of its rounds are directly ported from the shows.
With there being talks of a potential revival in the near future, we can only hope that it keeps what made the show the amazingly chaotic mess that we all love. And bring Craig Charles back to commentate.