Race to The Finish Line with new tv quiz

Sarah Greene joins Roman Kemp in fronting a new daytime quiz where speed is key to winning cash prizes. Midweek Review finds out more from the former Blue Peter presenter

The Finish Line presenters Roman Kemp and Sarah Greene
The Finish Line presenters Roman Kemp and Sarah Greene

A new quiz, filmed in Belfast, sees contestants compete in quiz-fuelled races across a unique racetrack set. Kicking off on BBC One this week, The Finish Line is hosted by Roman Kemp and Sarah Greene.

Knowledge equals speed and ultimately victory, in this fresh new format, with contestants winning up to £5000.  

The Finish Line was commissioned for BBC One Daytime and iPlayer, with funding from Northern Ireland Screen. Airing on weekdays at 4.30pm, 25 episodes have been made. 

Veteran Greene began her TV presenting career on Blue Peter in 1980, going on to host the Saturday-morning series Saturday Superstore and Going Live!.

She has gone on to appear on a wide range of TV shows, from presenting Ghostwatch, to acting in Brookside to competing on Dancing on Ice.  

Sarah, how would you describe the format of The Finish Line?

I'd say it's deceptively difficult! It's got three qualifying rounds: three races, a head-to-head and a final. And if you are the person in the final and you beat the track, you win £5,000. That's it in a nutshell. But of course, within all of that, there are all sorts of subtleties.

So, being able to think under pressure is key?

Yes, because it's all about time. But I did notice that the people who we thought were definitely going to do well in this because they're so motivated, they're so on it, so sharp, they're quite aggressive in their approach; in fact, it would be the person who almost came in from under the radar that sometimes shone through, the person who appeared to be enjoying themselves. I think the ones who appeared to be enjoying it the most coped better under pressure.

You’ve done so much in your career. What is it you’re looking for when you consider new projects to take on?

I have worked in practically every single genre of television except for sport and religion. And I'm saying never say never. But I hadn't done, as they call it, a quiz show before. And so, this was the ideal thing.

I'd been on the answering side and I'd had an absolute ball. It was terrifying being on The Chase, but I had loved the whole atmosphere of the studio because Bradley made it like a party. I loved being on Richard Osman's House of Games, a touch more difficult and a lot harder work because you're recording a whole week's worth of stuff in one day and your brain is absolutely bursting by the end of it.

So I think that really whetted my appetite. And so when I was asked if I would like to be on this show, and I looked at the pedigree of it - the man who invented The Cube is the person who invented the format; and the people behind The Chase, is one of the companies behind this - I thought, "Well, we've got to have a look at this." And Roman, of course, was the other icing on the cake.

How would you describe your role on the show?

Well, I think I am a cross between the Richard Osman role and someone who constantly takes the mickey out of Roman and just gently keeps him in his place!

I'm very much about the scores. It’s talking about the timings, how close people are, what lane they’ll be in and what that means to the game.

The only reason why I'm really comfortable talking about hundredths and sometimes thousandths of a second, is my history of motor racing. Mike (Smith) introduced me to the whole world of motor racing all those years ago.

Did you and Roman do anything to bond before filming?

Well, we met first of all, for coffee right next door to where Roman works for Capital Radio. Now, for me, there are all sorts of strange links here with my past. Because the man who I fell in love with on the radio, who became my husband a few years later, was the youngest ever person to do Capital Radio Breakfast Show. And Roman is that person now. Anyone who can do that job well has my undying admiration.

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What can we expect style wise from you on this show?

I'll let you in on some secrets here. So, neither Roman nor I had seen the set before arriving in Belfast. And when we arrived, we had to hit the ground running. There was no time to go out and say, "Okay, so the set is that shiny? Right, we need to get these kinds of clothes."

So I bought a selection of shirts that I thought would look quite comfortable and relaxed, but not too comfortable and relaxed. And that's what I did.

Were there any funny moments that had you giggling when a contestant gave the wrong answer?

Oh, gosh, there were quite a few. And under pressure, in the heat of the moment, some of the things that people say are brilliant.

There was one question, "What's the first consonant in the alphabet?" This person went, "Antarctica." And of course, they completely misheard it as continent. It was just the way he went, “Antarctica!" And everybody just fell on the floor laughing. But it's those things that can happen - even to Roman.He thought a petticoat was a small coat.

It sounds like you’ve had a lot of fun filming this show?

This reminded me of how much I love working on television. The production team were excellent bar none. And the crew. My only problem was that I got so involved with what was going on, sometimes I forgot that I was actually on the telly.

Would you want to do a celebrity version and who would you want as guests?

I would absolutely want to do a celebrity version. I’d love to see Hannah Waddingham, Peter Kay, Miriam Margolyes, Bradley Walsh and Shirlie Kemp (Roman’s Mum). I’m thinking this mix might work well. And how about a drag queen special featuring Hope Springs, Scaredy Kat, Lavinia Co-op, Lady Portia Di’Monte and Ru Paul? I think we'd have to have a politician in there. It’s who I want to give the worst time to. We could even have a special for Comic Relief or Children In Need. That would be amazing.

How would you sum up the show in three words?

Nail-biting, hilarious and actually tear-jerking sometimes.

The Finish Line is on BBC ONE Monday to Friday at 4:30pm and on iPlayer.