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Krypton Factor, The

SUPERLATIVE GREY CELLS weeknight workout, hosted by the unflappable Uncle GORDON BURNS in a quest to find “the UK’s superperson”. Anyone could enter, so long as you had an IQ of 200-odd and could run a marathon on a wet and windy day in a colour co-ordinated jumpsuit. Contestants were always middle management types – computer analysts, personnel supervisors, recruitment consultants – from middle England, and who were put through rounds in never-changing, uber-strict order:

1) MENTAL AGILITY: “What day is ten days before March 3rd” quizzed Gordon through headphones to aid concentration.

2) RESPONSE: Contestants must land a massive fuck-off expensive piece of aircraft – in a simulator, “thankfully!”

3) OBSERVATION: Everyone sits in chairs and watches a short film, before getting the old SCREEN TEST “what happened then?”, “What did he have in his hand?” stuff. Initially these were archive clips, but later became more full-blown specially-staged comedy skits with the likes of TONY SLATTERY and KATE COPSTICK or STEVE COOGAN doing impressions.

4) PHYSICAL AGILITY: Over “a course that demands respect” on the dampest bit of the Lancashire moors available, the contestants try their luck on an adventure playground-style combination of balance beam, tunnel, tarpaulin, climbing net and the obligatory “death slide” finale into (hopefully) a pool of shitty water.

5) INTELLIGENCE: In which the contestants have but a couple of minutes to assemble a fiendishly-complicated perspex model while Gordon provides viewers with whispered asides (“The key to solving the whole puzzle is to start at the bottom”)

6) GENERAL KNOWLEDGE: Your bog-standard buzzer round, only with each contestant in starkly-lit profile for added tension.

Completing the majestic mix was the way everyone got a “Krypton Factor of…” instead of points, and the imperial theme tune by The Art Of Noise.



  1. Mark Jones

    August 2, 2009 at 11:33 pm

    Hurrah. On top of all that, the show also led to Mark & Lard’s phone-in quiz “The Crap Town Factor”, introed of course by the voice of Gordon Burns.

  2. Matthew Rudd

    August 3, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    “They would then spend the afternoon fitting the different sized tupperwares back into the boot – like something out of the Krypton Factor…”

    The simulator thing came in later in the run – it used to be a 5-round quiz, with the assault course as round #2. Why they decided to mix it all up to accommodate the simulator, a repetitive as hell round which essentially had Gordon saying “a very smooth landing from Miriam!” every sodding week, is a mystery.

  3. gman

    April 17, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    When the simulator was introduced, it originally only happened in the group finals and the grand final. In the heats, the response round was different, although I can’t remember what it comprised.
    The revamp has lost all the charm of the original, but any Krypton Factor is better than no Krypton Factor at all.

  4. Richard Davies

    October 12, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    The Response round varied a bit was at one time a mini assult course followed by a hand-eye ordination test against the clock.

    The observation round also changed a bit over the years, for a while it comprised of 2 take with slight differences, then one skit with continuity errors, then a series of 2-3 minute playlets (one had Tony Robinson in) with a series of multi-choice questions afterwards.

  5. Des Elmes

    December 30, 2010 at 10:19 am

    Also, when KF introduced its “futuristic” set in 1991 (as illustrated in the photo next to the one of Gordon), Mental Agility ditched the headphones and became something rather like Mastermind – each contestant would walk onto the set, do their 40 seconds, then take their seat.

    Another great thing about the show was that, up until 1992, the contestants could wear anything as long as it included something that matched their allocated colour. For instance, 1987 champion Marian Chanter – still the only lady to have won the thing, and there have been twenty series now – wore a green dress in the Grand Final, but since she was allocated red she also wore a red scarf.

    From 1992 onwards, though – by which time the cracks were starting to appear – the contestants had to wear polo shirts of the appropriate colour. These lacked charm, and many of the ladies didn’t look all that good in them…

  6. Sonny Jim

    October 24, 2015 at 3:21 pm

    One of my favourite shows of the time, although perhaps lived a little longer than it should have.

    Fascinating challenges, superbly handled by the cool & collected Burns.

    I would perhaps like to see this show rebooted, but I doubt if modern-day producers would understand the meaning of subtlety

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