‘If you put ordinary people into a James Bond adventure, would they crumble?’ asks Brian Cox at the start of this 10 episode reality tv show for streamer Amazon Prime; they might crumble, but I’ll be dissolved into dust if I have to watch another episode of this show, which feels like a snail slowly making its painful way down the edge of a razor-blade. Others in the WordPress community use the acronym DNF for Did Not Finish; 007: Road to A Million is more CGS (Couldn’t Get Started) or just a standard CGAF, no translation required.
So don’t get me wrong, like most Brits, I was brought up with Bond, but this officially licenced act of brand extension would make you wish for a better role model for us all. The concept is a treasure hunt; ‘I’ve placed ten questions around the world,’ intones the Controller (Cox) but Coxy hasn’t been up all night sellotaping packages to cranes in far-off countries, he’s sitting behind a bank of monitors in a way that might be like a Bond villain if Bond villains hosted crappy reality cash-in shows. Ten sets of contestants must answer some remarkably inane questions, the kind you’d expect a child to be able to answer at Trivial Pursuit, to win a slice of the dosh that well-heeled Amazon and Barbara Broccoli ponied up as bait. ‘If our world has taught us anything, the best way to motivate people is with money,’ says The Controller depressingly, and providing a greasy pole for us poor to climb for the amusement of the filthy rich is the disturbing gist of this Orwellian nightmare of a show.
So we head off to the Scottish Highlands with no sign of James Bond at all, the contestants are ordinary people, ‘a cross section of Britain today, if you will,’ says the Controller loftily. James and Joey Bone are from Laandaan, innit, and say they fink Scotland is ‘proper naughty’ when a bus drops them near Torrin in the Isle of Skye; there’s nothing encapsulates the heady feel of vintage Bond than two clueless geezers getting off a bus into the cold and offering up laconic gems like ‘…it’s gonna hit me knackers in a minnit !’ The Controller has provided a suitcase primed with a question with three possible answers, Hamlet, Richard III and Macbeth. The question is ‘Which Scottish king was identified with Shakespeare?’ and the Bone brothers cogitate dutifully on this for several agonising minutes. ‘Richard the Third…was a king…who was deformed,’ they surmise, setting back both history and modern thinking by several hundred years. Could Macbeth have been a Scottish king? ‘That’s it!’ says James ‘ That’s it!’ says Joey, ‘That’s IT’ says James. Fresh from this triumph of the intellect, the Chuckle brothers head towards Venice for their next clue, while meanwhile in the B story, two unfortunate girls who can’t pronounce ‘loch’ and think the Huns invaded Scotland rather than the Romans get consigned to the bin-juice of history. So back we go to the Bone brothers, who have arrived at a farm. ‘This is a farm’ they explain while Ian Fleming is fired from his grave like he’s on an ejector seat.
Laughing at these competitors is what Road to a Million is all about; somehow Amazon Prime and the Bond producers felt that it would be great optics to get a selection of ex-cops, nurses, father and son, married couples and make them scrabble for cash as entertainment; we actually hear sound-bites of the victims discussing not having enough money to live from month to month, just to pique our delicious understanding of their desperation. Sporting a message and morality that’s completely alien to Bond or indeed normal people, 007: Road to A Million is amoral junk that brings back bread and circuses in the worst possible way; in this world, the poor are the playthings of the rich, who dangle money in front of their victims for their own elitist kicks. Having made one decent movie in forty years, maybe the Bond franchise makers feel such a victory lap is in order, but they’d be better focusing on making James Bond work for the audience than torturing us all with this muck.