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Romesh Ranganathan and Tom Davis talk Takeshi's Castle

The cult classic show is back - and it has the perfect commentators along for the ride…

Romesh Ranganathan and Tom Davis talk Takeshi's Castle
Marc Chacksfield
19 August 2023

Takeshi’s Castle is back. The game show where upwards of 100 contestants try to get through some frankly ridiculous obstacles and games, for a chance to win 1 million yen (around £5,500), was a must-watch in the '90s. It was on TV at the perfect time on a Sunday to feed a hangover and get you back to the land of the living.

The show was a revelation in its homestead of Japan and has actually been around since 1986, starring Takeshi Kitano, a serious Japanese actor who is most famous for his take on the samurai legend of Zatōichi.

Takeshi’s Castle was franchised out over the years, with the mighty Craig Charles and Dick and Dom having already lent their dulcet tones to commentate over the madness for the UK.

Now it’s Amazon’s turn to take on Takeshi, streaming the reboot of the Japanese show - now titles Romesh and Tom Take Takeshi’s Castle - for a new audience. The commentary for the UK this time around is being provided by comedy heavyweights Romesh Ranganathan and Tom Davis.

The pair already work together on the fantastic podcast Wolf and Owl, so are perfect fodder for a gameshow which is close to many of our hearts.

ShortList caught up with the comedy cohorts before their Takeshi’s Castle debut to talk about the show and just why they love it so much…

Romesh Ranganathan and Tom Davis talk Takeshi's Castle
Image Credit: Prime Video

ShortList: Takeshi’s Castle is a cult classic show - what do you both love about it?

Romesh Ranganathan: Takeshi’s Castle is just like a nostalgia fest. Many people have a relationship with the show from back in the day. And they've brought it back and amped it up a little bit.

Tom and I are both fans of the show. I mean, Tom's a superfan to the point I would say it’s a worry. But it was just a bit of a no-brainer, to be able to talk on a show that we really like but also to be able to do it together. It felt like a dream job, really.

Tom Davis: Takeshi’s Castle doesn't take itself too seriously. It's just silly, it's fun.The world needs shows like that at the moment. I think it's just perfect escapism, it's amazing.

It was a joy to sit there with Rom and immerse ourselves in this madcap world of bedlam and just let ourselves go. I mean, some of that stuff was terrifying. The cannonballs that were being shot at them. The water, the dysentery in the water [laughs], was maybe one of the most disgusting things I've ever seen. That was a real worry.

SL: What are your memories from watching the original Takeshi’s Castle?

Tom: Being hungover! It was the sort of perfect Sunday morning television, knocking the cobwebs off of quite a busy night at Liquid Lounge or Zoots, with the evidence of the kebab from the night before around you, having a full fat Lucozade and then watching other people suffer just made my hangover disappear.

Romesh: I remember being hungover, too. I hadn't been out, though, [laughing] I never really got invited out but still got drunk at home looked forward to hearing about all the adventures other people had.

Romesh Ranganathan and Tom Davis talk Takeshi's Castle
Image Credit: Prime Video

SL: Do you think people watch the show to see people succeed or fail badly?

Romesh: For me, there's a lot of humiliation. Personally, plug that into my veins. I want to see as much of that as possible. I think it's so funny that, some of the games, as soon as they set them up you just go ‘there's absolutely no way that anybody can do this’.

Tom: There’s something I just love about the failure of it and the fact that you can fail but then someone could tap you on the shoulder and go ‘hey, here's a fighting spirit award’.

SL: What was your favourite bit working on the show?

Tom: Watching the show with Romesh and seeing his disbelief at some of the more contentious moments is by far my favourite thing. Him not able to get his head around the sort of insanity and the bedlam was always joyful.

Romesh: We set it up to be very relaxed in the way that we did it. Tom and I did a podcast together and this was kind of set up like a podcast booth. It is a very relaxed environment - we just chilled and watched the shows. My favourite moments were where we had to either rewind or delay the episode because Tom was still chewing his way through a chocolate caramel doughnut.

SL: How did the commentary process work?

Romesh: We had bullet points. We had to know who the key players were otherwise you might as well find two randoms to do the commentary on it. But I think the key thing is we wanted to keep it as fresh as possible. We wanted to be reacting as we watched it. There are a couple of occasions where we hadn't got across maybe everything we wanted to get across for the viewer, so we would do it again. But there would always be a tape where we're just kind of in the moment, because we wanted to keep it as close to live as we possibly could.

There's times as well when you almost forget that you're doing commentary and you get lost in sort of the insanity a little bit.

SL: Do you think you could take part in Takeshi’s Castle?

Tom: I think there's certain challenges that Romesh could be really really good at and certain ones I could be good at. I think, actually, we make quite a good tag team.

Romesh: Can I just openly disagree with Tom. We would really struggle on every single thing and like, you know, I'm talking as somebody who's done a load of League Of Their Own challenges. Even on the challenges where production has done a health and safety check, I've managed to break a wrist, or dislocate a thumb on it. I've injured myself on almost everything. My hand eye coordination is tragic.

Romesh Ranganathan and Tom Davis talk Takeshi's Castle
Image Credit: Prime Video

SL: Did you listen back to the Craig Charles commentaries from previous seasons or the Dick and Dom commentary. Did you get any inspiration for them? Or did you just go your own way?

Tom: I think Craig was so iconic on the show, he was the voice of the show for so long and Dick and Dom as well. But, for me and Rom, it was always bringing our own sort of take really, so I didn’t go back and listen. It’s the first sort of show where I’ve done a reboot and I think we wanted to bring our own energy, rather than replicate what went before.

It always happens really naturally between the two of use, where we find out schtick really quick and it was a joy of a thing to do to watch the show and have a laugh with Rom.

SL: What’s your favourite challenge on the show?

Tom: I think it has to be the final challenge. When you watch the first version of it it’s pretty difficult but watch the new one and it just gets harder, it’s insane. Then someone does it, then they just make it twenty times harder.

Romesh: I love ‘stepping stones’. They have to make it over the stepping stones, then they put a fish man in there, a half man half fish who provides a distraction if he can be bothered it seems. Half the time he’s actually shooting them then the other half he’s looking in the wrong direction. He looks like he’s just having a swim.

Romesh and Tom Take Takeshi’s Castle will be available on Prime Video 30th August