First cab off the quiz­mas­ter’s rank

Cash Cab 6.30pm, [ V]

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv - Ian Cuth­bert­son

IMAG­INE: it’s a rainy night in Melbourne’s St Kilda. Your part­ner has just dumped you af­ter a huge ar­gu­ment. Feel­ing lower than a lizard’s bum, you de­cide to catch a cab home where you can soothe your trou­bles with a heal­ing ale or six. A cab pulls over, you jump in the back, and be­fore you can say ‘‘ Fitzroy, thanks,’’ the taxi ex­plodes into Las Ve­gas- style flash­ing lights and loud mu­sic. The clown driv­ing turns around and yells: ‘‘ You’re be­ing filmed — you’re on television!’’ Well at least you’re not hav­ing a stroke.

Cash Cab is a new con­cept to th­ese shores al­though it has a long his­tory else­where. Es­sen­tially, it’s a quiz show on wheels. While there are no te­dious con­sents or con­tracts signed in the first episode, which screens tonight, that and the hand­ing over of moolah may hap­pen off screen.

What we see is a kind of soft ab­duc­tion, where en route to the pas­sen­ger’s re­quested des­ti­na­tion, he or she can win money. Now that will make the thing a lot more palat­able to many. Ab­duc­tion? What ab­duc­tion?

Tonight’s first vic­tim, er, pas­sen­ger, is good- na­tured Kathy. We see her filmed at fairly close quar­ters as she is get­ting into the cab in a nar­row lane. Didn’t she worry that at least two cam­eras were cap­tur­ing her ev­ery move as she boarded the cab? Or per­haps the cam­eras were hid­den on their op­er­a­tors.

Ge­nial host James Ker­ley throws the Ve­gas switch just as Kathy is ex­plain­ing her pre­ferred route to the Espy, St Kilda’s grand­est ho­tel, which is also the set­ting for SBS’s RockWiz .

‘‘ Oh, crap. F--- in’ hell!’’ she ex­claims, as the cramped cap­sule of the cab bursts into colour and mu­sic.

But Kathy’s a good sport and she takes to the quiz like a duck to stale bread. ‘‘ For $ 20,’’ says Ker­ley, ‘‘ was Da­mon Al­barn the lead singer of Blur or Oa­sis?’’

Kathy gets it right, then gets a run­down on the rules. The ques­tions get harder and the money goes up ac­cord­ingly. Three strikes and con­tes­tants are out, but they also get two life­lines. One of th­ese can be a friend they phone, but they can also yell out to any­one on the street. As in: ‘‘ Hey you, what’s the cap­i­tal of Bel­gium?’’

Cash Cab turns out to be Who Wants to be a Mil­lion­aire? on wheels, with­out the big pay­out. Still, Kathy ex­its the cab with $ 1700 she didn’t have be­fore she got in.

Not a bad ap­pear­ance fee for an un­wit­ting TV de­but.

Deals on wheels: James Ker­ley, the ge­nial host of Cash Cab

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