A look back at some early responses to the return of Knightmare in YouTube's Geek Week.
On 5th August the first new episode of Knightmare in 19 years was put on YouTube.
If you haven't yet watched it, stop reading this and watch the extended version.
But was it a success? Did this revival manage to capture the hearts of a new generation of fans and did it satisfy the demands of the old faithful?
First, some statistics. Within 48 hours of the episode becoming available, the Knightmare Geek Week revival had received over 215,000 views (now over 552,420 and counting).
On the YouTube page 10,829 viewers had given it the thumbs up (now 20,380 and counting), 240 the thumbs down (later climbing slightly to 485): an unbelievable 98% positive response in the often harsh world of YouTube opinion!
It's difficult to summarise the 3000+ YouTube comments (now nearer 6000 comments, if not more by the time you read this!) but here are a few which give a flavour of the reaction:
- surfergal17011: "I wish they did this show on YouTube every week! this was really fun! wish i could have seen the original show. and yes i LOVE that girls hair!!!"
- Hannah Skoglund: "5:35 PULL UP YOUR PANTS DAN!!"
It's great to see that people who are too young to have even heard of Knightmare before this episode are engaging positively with the show. Although some older fans have criticized the fact that trendy young YouTubers were used as the contestants, it's obvious that they've been successful in attracting a new demographic - something vital if the show is to have a future.
- FaxanaduJohn: "very worthy pastiche of the most venerable after-school kids television programme of all time. Knightmare brightened up many a dreary Wednesday afternoon, and I'd bring it back today with Treguard and Daisy at the helm. Somebody make this happen!!"
Most viewers have accepted that this was never intended to be an episode worthy of a brand new series of Knightmare. Rather, it was a fun remake which, in line with the Geek Week agenda, intentionally harked back to the past and celebrated a television format which was extremely popular twenty years ago.
It also seems to be the general opinion that, while this particular episode was a little rough around the edges, it shows that the format still holds up today and that with appropriate resources a new series could be something very special.
- zrobeast: "As an American who has never seen this show before, I'm now tempted to watch some of the old episodes."
Twenty years ago Knightmare was a very British phenomenon. Comments such as these highlight the exciting possibility that an eager global audience is waiting in the wings.
- TheCelinetheVioline: "WHAT THE F*** IS IT???!!!" OMG Daisy @24:13"
Another common YouTube comment and something we take the opportunity to clarify: Isy Suttie definitely says "what the heck". So there!
It's a similar story on the Knightmare Facebook page where most of the comments seem to be from fans of the original show:
- Flower Power: "Was soo exciting to watch it again!I didn't want it to end! Fantastic to see Hugo and some old faves like Lissard and Lord Fear return. I got soo engrossed in the episode it seemed to end too quick"
- Ross Howells: "It needs to be with child contestants if it comes back full time. Adults don't work."
- Duncan Kilburn: "Superb, must commission a new series. Older contestants work better as well. You couldn't have a better pilot to sell."
- Carl Pennock: "More please!!!!!!!"
Although the consensus is that Knightmare's renaissance shouldn't end here, there is some debate around how the format should evolve. Given the current economics of the TV industry a new Knightmare probably wouldn't be a children's show, so how can it appeal to new young fans as well as thirty-somethings keen for more?
A riposte to the claim that adults don't work was that perhaps it would be better with adults unused to being on camera and not quite so obviously relaxed and confident (as the YouTubers were). Regardless, the main reaction was one of absolute joy accompanied by the cry for a new series!
Comedy is Dead
The review of the new episode by TV Comedy Is Dead was helpful for its range of Knightmare links, and it took a balanced view by identifying both positives:
"Nostalgia hits the instant you see those repeating pattern floors and a giant 8-bit bomb hovering overhead. The actual playing of the show is a great as it always was; it's amazing how much fun can be garnered from ineffectually trying to navigate a blinded contestant whilst a super-imposed giant spider advances from behind."
"It was the unpredictable and odd conversations between bewildered children and actors struggling to ad-lib that were an essential part of the show. By having older contestants this element is lost.
"The YouTubers do indeed take the show seriously, but of course they also make glib comments, laugh at the absurdity of what they are doing, and have little interaction with Treguard; the looming voice and goggle-eyed face of the show who terrified as much as assisted the kids who used to appear. The look may still be there, but the feel is altered when you age the players upwards."
Meanwhile, over on the Knightmare.com forum (where questions and opinions on Knightmare are always welcome from fans new and old) the hardcore fanbase has been analysing the episode:
- Debz_g: "The old format still works and I do think it has potential to work in this format going forward."
- Granitas is Cute: "The episode showed that there is great potential for a new Knightmare if they do it right. It was certainly not bad, but not brilliant either."
- Dark Comet: "Thoroughly enjoyed. Looked great. Could see everyone having so much fun. Really want more. I hope there will be more."
- Malefact: "I think everyone did a fine job especially given the constraints involved. This episode felt like Knightmare and I was absorbed."
- Illuminate: "Loved it!"
The general response has been really positive, with long-time fans absolutely delighted that Knightmare is back on their screens. If one had to use a single word to sum up the reaction it would probably be 'excited'.
Although there were some quibbles around the slightly jokey tone of this new episode, it is acknowledged that as a one-off YouTube presentation some compromises were inevitable and justified.
Once more, the general feeling is that the episode proves that Knightmare could have a future if only a broadcaster would put some resource behind it.
Knightmare fans can be hard to please though, and it's no surprise that some of the minor details of the episode have been criticised:
- Canadanne: "The CGI antechamber did look, well, pretty dreadful, but that can't be helped since there wasn't time to build a real set."
- Malibupete: "The less said about the opening couple of minutes, the better."
Apart from the rather sparse CGI antechamber, the goblin horn sound effect has taken a bashing (it's not the original) and several think the new Ariadne doesn't hold a candle to the 'real' spider of the original series.
There are a number of additional nit-picks which it is the passionate fan's prerogative to point out. However, it's largely recognised that these little touches are mainly due the fact that the episode's budget was relatively small and the development time short.
A significant number of fans were unimpressed with the opening of the episode, believing it to be unnecessary and only serving to slow down the pace of the show. This view certainly wasn't unanimous however, with other fans accepting that a bit of exposition was necessary to introduce knewbies to the programme.
Again, it was agreed that such theatrics were only there given the nature of this particular production and weren't indicative of what a possible Series 9 would be like.
Overall, the episode was believed to have been a success; the tone is one of 'I'm really glad this happened, but imagine what the show could be like if the financial and operational constraints were removed'.
I'll leave you with one more Facebook comment:
- Shabz Khan: "Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you."
To countless 'original' fans, Knightmare wasn't just a TV show but a way of life. As children, their lives throughout the autumn months would revolve around the programme.
In their minds, school bags became knapsacks, every meal replenished lifeforce and each pass through a doorway would be accompanied by a whoosh or an imaginary eyeshield sequence. To see any kind of revival is literally a dream come true to so many.
"Join us again for Knightmare," says the Dungeon Master. Here's hoping, Treguard, here's hoping."