THOSE of a nervous disposition, look away now.

Dim the lighting, cue atmospheric spooky music, make with the owl sound effects and listen in terror as Reggie Yates sets the scene...

“Legend has it there’s a country estate hidden deep in the English hills. An estate haunted by centuries of evil.

“It’s rumoured the lord of the manor leaves money locked in chests to tempt the brave, the greedy and the foolish.”

Or, to be more accurate and ruin the illusion, welcome to Release The Hounds, an ITV2 horror game show from just off the A41, near Hemel Hempstead.

As the title suggests, contestants are chased by “an angry pack of dogs” down an escape run towards Yates propped on the perimeter wall.

Those who make it win the cash in their backpacks. Those who don’t, well, according to the host: “If the hounds catch you, we’re not going to see you or that money again.”

Call me old Mister Cynical Pants but the nod to the “health and safety” team in the end credits and the fact maiming contestants is slightly illegal and potentially costly suggests they’re not actually in any danger.

Especially as one of them appeared to have been brought down by none other than Lassie.

Honestly, the pursuit carries all the fear factor of an Ashleigh and Pudsey routine.

It’s the least scary canine-based TV moment since Scrappy Doo yelled: “Let me at ’em!”

And, I’m only guessing here, but it’s amazing what you can do with some dogs and a backpack full of Cumberland sausages.

That said, the hound-releasing is only a tiny part of the show.

It’s mostly problem-solving challenges, a sort of I’m A Civilian... Get Me Out Of Here!

But it actually has more in common with ITV’s 2010 celebrity game show disaster The Door.

Nevertheless, the producers do deserve credit.

The high-wire aerial shots in the treetops are fabulous and there are genuine frights, not least because it’s filmed from dusk through the night and they’ve hired extras seemingly from Madame Tussaud’s live zombie Chamber of Horrors.

It had Monday night’s winner Jamie jumping at shadows, pleading with his mate: “Can I hold your hand, please?” in a pitch-black haunted house and, by the end, squealing on seeing some grass: “Agh! It’s long!”

The casting was smart too. In addition to jumpy Jamie we had a former couple who inevitably began rowing, as exes do.

And he might be no Ant & Dec but Reggie Yates fits the role as presenter much better than he did on The Voice.

He got everyone worked up about what might lie ahead and, from the other end of a walkie-talkie, was responsible for this exchange: “Well done, mate. You did it. Are you OK?”


“I’ll take that as a no.”

He sits in the safety of a control room like a villain from the Saw movies and obviously has no intention of leaving...

Jamie: “Are you going to come in with us?”

Yates: “They ain’t paying me enough to go in there, fella.”

So I say to ITV2, find the money from somewhere, give the man an offer he can’t refuse, hand him a backpack and set him loose in the grounds.

Just don’t scrimp on the sausages.

This week’s Couch Potato Spudulikes...

BBC2’s life-affirming Marvellous.

The late, great Rik Mayall’s fantastic, snarling, eyebrow-raising, lunatic-grinning final TV performance, on Dave’s Crackanory.

The Driver’s opening car chase, plus this line from a perplexed heavy on learning where Hartlepool is: “I didn’t even know the North East had a coast.”

Gyles Brandreth presenting The One Show’s Alex Jones with a deed-poll form to change her name to “Dolphin Impersonator I Can’t Cook Jones”. (Sign it!)

And C5’s Can’t Pay? We’ll Take It Away “super bailiff” Paul Bohill, armed with a High Court writ, taking the wind out of an irate Neil “Razor” Ruddock’s sails... Razor: “Do you know who I am, yeah?! What’s this? A fine?!” Bohill: “I think it’s a dog food bill.”

This week’s Couch Potato Spuduhates...

Downton Abbey’s jam-for-brains Kindle sponsorship ads.

EastEnder Ben Mitchell’s fifth head transplant.

Katie “I now like fatsos” Hopkins restyling herself as Mother Theresa on This Morning.

ITV2’s Tricked prankster magician Ben Hanlin assuming he needs a disguise to avoid being ID’d.

Dogs: Their Secret Lives’ Mark Evans claiming: “You’ve been sending in your dogs’ selfies.” (They’re not “selfies”. They’re “photos”.)

Loose Women’s Ruth Langsford: “There’s a claim that for 10 days every year the UK’s women are in a mood.” Ten days a year? Ten days a fortnight, more like. Monday to Friday, 12.30pm to 1.30pm.

And this answer on The Chase: “Offa’s Dyke traditionally separates England from which other country in the UK?” “Ireland.”