The Money List (RTÉ One, 8pm) features a straightforward premise, but its journey to the Sunday night schedules has been convoluted. The format originated in the United States more than a decade ago with the short-lived The Rich List, which the BBC then adapted as Who Dares Wins. Following another name-change, it now comes to RTÉ with the ever-chipper Baz Ashmawy as quizmaster.
He’s the perfect frontman for this fountain of froth. The Money List is the spiritual, emotional and intellectual opposite of the broadcaster’s last big weekend quiz, the Claire Byrne-hosted Ireland’s Smartest. That series was all about clever clog types sharing their intricate knowledge of super-obscure subjects: a sort of Montrose-does-Mastermind. The Money List, by contrast, worships at the cathedral of cash, with participants competing for a prize fund running into the thousands (in the UK version, the record winners walked away with £170,000).
It has everything you’d want from a prime-time quiz. Psychological torture, knife-edge tension and strangers locked together in soundproof booths (or is that the new U2 show?). We are introduced to payroll specialist Angela and special needs assistant Stevie, on one side and, on the other, carpenter Noel and junior doctor Eric.
None have met previously, but now the two pairings must duke it out for dosh. In round one, Stevie and Eric list Eurovision-winning countries. Then comes capital cities with the letter a, b, or c. Later, it’s Queen songs, though primary schoolteacher Dennis and project manager Emily come unstuck when they mangle the name of Hammer to Fall (while being mystifyingly unaware of Queen’s best song, Who Wants To Live Forever).
The best thing about The Money List is that you can play along at home. We all know half a dozen Tom Hanks movies. But can we name 15? And is it cheating to include Toy Stories I to IV as separate entries? Apparently not.
As ringmaster, Ashmawy – “the Egyptian Magician” as he styles himself – is in his element. It’s a cliche to say presenters have the common touch, but he is good at connecting with people and has little of the starchiness that you sometimes get with RTÉ personalities. He’s comfortable in his skin. So, too, is the Money List – a quiz show about the green stuff best enjoyed if you leave your grey matter at the door.