We’ve all seen the adverts for ITV’s Release the Hounds and everyone has probably come to the conclusion it looked too ludicrous and stupid to be worth watching.
A team of three must try to complete three gory challenges and, after each one, sacrifice a member to run away from “the hounds”. Meanwhile, Reggie Yates… doesn’t do much.
But after accidentally tuning in for the celebrity Halloween episode, I can now tell you all that we were very wrong – Release the Hounds is actually seriously entertaining. The show is a bit like Fort Boyard or Crystal Maze – if everyone planning the tasks took meth and the contestants were chosen from a sample of people with IQs of less than 75.
In Fort Boyard, the challengers would never realistically have been left with the tigers in the final task, but in Release the Hounds the contestants are genuinely mauled by dogs. Yes, you can’t quite believe it actually happens, but the vast majority of the time they can’t run fast enough and get completely KO-ed by the hounds, which have been trained to go for their backpacks.
The “run” from the hounds is the highlight of every episode. The contestants burst from a cage as if someone is dangling a reality TV career in front of their noses, but rarely manage to nail the art of the run itself. The vast majority gallop along like they’re in one of those dreams where your body has forgotten the technique and only make it 20 metres. After watching a few episodes, you’ll gleefully work out that most won’t make it if their head start falls under 70 metres and subsequently enjoy their ignorance as they ponder sacrificing five metres for an extra three grand.
But what really makes Release the Hounds weirdly enjoyable is just how freaking bonkers the rest of it is. In the aforementioned Halloween episode, they actually pretended that Joey Essex had accidentally died. Producers made out a task had gone wrong and a TV had dropped on Joey’s head. Reggie was sat there attempting to look confused before ripping off his microphone. Except if Joey Essex had actually died filming this show we would have known about it. It was wholeheartedly bizarre and not entirely clear whether they were trying to convince the audience or just his fellow contestants that it was genuine. Even more unbelievable: Joey Essex might not even be the stupidest person on the show. I watched a guy take a full four minutes of chanting ‘C-H-I-M-N-E-Y… what does that mean?’ before he managed to read the word ‘chimney’.
In another recent episode, the crackhead producers had a similar epiphany when they decided it’d be entertaining to film a contestant’s father and pretend they’d murdered him by putting his body in a suitcase and lobbing him into a lake. The poor bloke doing the task seemed convincingly distressed as he hauled the bag out of the water and ripped it open to find out if his Dad had really had his head bashed in with a bat. Then there was the time well-known Geordie Shore star Charlotte Crosby was locked in a room with a maniac who’d supposedly had his eyeballs cut out. Or another time when they thought it would be tasteful to stick a contestant in an electric chair.
These twisted setpieces often involve lots of blood, gore and messed up shiz. They also cunningly select people who fall apart quicker than a Nature Valley bar at the first sight of a creepy mask, so every challenge is completed at a glacial pace amid a cacophony of screaming and squealing. Although some tasks are just ridiculous, others are genuinely frightening and a few of the jump-scares are pretty effective. Saw fans won’t be left shaking, but remember: the main purpose is to watch people make a tit of themselves.
Reggie continues the ‘people really die’ theme at the end of the show by consoling whichever contestant(s) survived the dog run by saying: “Well, obviously your friends have died and been torn apart by the dogs, but you have £4,000 to take home. So it isn’t all bad is it?”
Then the contestants have to reply: “Oh yes, Reggie! It’s sad my mates have died in the woods, but at least I can go on holiday to Ibizia now.” Or something.
Not all of Release the Hounds is watchable. Reggie’s little chats with the contestants only serve to pad out the show, so fast-forwarding through those bits is a must. Do the same with the five minutes of confusion that ensues every time a contestant gets the extra money out of the box before the run, because none seem able to figure out what ‘£4,000, 5m’ means – they win that money if they sacrifice that distance.
Despite the filler, Release the Hounds is the epitome of easy watching, and whether you’re laughing with the show or at it, you’ll definitely enjoy it.