Tuesday, 29 September 2009

A Watercooler hit, A Loose End, and a Query

In work I plough a bit of a lonely furrow as a quizzer. I'm sure that many readers have experienced the same in their places of work too. Oh, I'm not saying that my colleagues lack knowledge. No, they're all very intelligent, and neither am I saying that they don't actually enjoy a quiz, especially when I road test a set of questions in the staff room. However the fact is that they're not quizzers, and apart from the odd occasion now and again, going out to a quiz would not be their first choice for an evening's entertainment. Its not a crime.

However it does mean that we tend to approach quizzes from different angles. This is why, if a colleague ever talks to me about what he or she is currently enjoying watching on television, if they do by chance mention a quiz, they'll want to talk about "The Weakest Link" or "Eggheads" or "Millionaire", while I'd much rather discuss the latest edition of "Mastermind", "University Challenge " or "Only Connect".

Don't worry. I do have a point, and we are proceeding in its general direction . In the last fortnight, I have noticed that another quiz show has begun to creep into the general conversation on more than one occasion. And that show, my friends, is "Pointless". A number of friends and colleagues at work have discussed this show with me. And they like it a lot.

Now, OK, I know that a few members of the teaching staff of a South Wales Comprehensive School are probably not a big enough cross-section of the population from which to draw any audience research conclusions. However, just maybe this is an indication of the way that the wind may be blowing for this likeable show. For one thing its the only quiz show that I can tune into daily, and not only will Mary not complain, she will actively watch - if that's not an oxymoron - and play along as well, enjoying it as much as I do. Of course it helps when you see familiar faces walking away with some cash, like David and then Barry last week. But if it was a bad show then I wouldn't sit through three quarters of an hour of it just for that.

When I reviewed "Pointless" on the 27th August I gave it a cautious endorsement, and suggested that it just might catch on. If the BBC are smart, I have to say that I think that they have a winner on their hands. So, if I may be allowed to break the old adage, I would like to suggest a couple of fixes to something which isn't broken.

* IMHO this show is catching on. So get the next series together NOW, and shove it back on as soon as you can. If the BBC are smart, they could have another "Weakest Link" or "Eggheads" on their hands here. Its possible that this one could run and run, once its established.

* We KNOW the rules now, Alexander. Cut down the explanations, and allow Statto, er, Richard, to tell us ALL the pointless answers to each question. We're playing along at home like crazy here, and if we have got one of the pointless answers, then we want to know it !


Ah yes, about that loose end. If you read my review of last Friday's Mastermind - and if you didn't I am compelled to ask why not ? - you will have seen my speculation as to whether Mike Hely who was the joint runner up on the show was the same M. Hely who took part in the inaugural series of Mastermind in 1972. A little minor detective work has shown me that the 1972 contender was Sqd. Ldr. M.H.N. Hely. Now Mike Hely on Friday night mentioned that he had spent 20 years in the RAF before becoming a barrister. So for me that provides sufficient evidence that its the same guy, although Mike Hely himself could probably tell us whether or not it would stand up in a court of law. I'll be honest, I think that's wonderful. He has established a record for the longest gap between appearences in Mastermind - no less than 37 years. I can't help wondering what the longest ever gap between appearences on the same TV show actually is. Answers on a postcard to the usual address, please.


That Quiz Guy said...

I think everyone likes Pointless.
I know I do. I liked it from the off. I often catch up on iPlayer with three or four shows in a row.

It chooses chestnutty areas/pop culture staples designed for everyday joe/joette contestants mass audiences (which means major subject overlaps with the contemporary likes of Know It Alls), because the show has to, but does so in a way that allows the more serious quizzers/quiz show fans to compete in their own way because of the possibility of digging up the magic Pointless answers. Therefore, it is building a wide audience.

The only problem is how they are going to deal with using the broad subject areas the longer and longer the show/repeat series goes on.

When will the noticeable retreading really begin?

It also means that list-learners who do their homework will be rewarded, and as the subject scope narrows, these "revisers" will home in on the untouched stuff and perhaps change the general character of the programme and ultimately the viewers' perception of it.

Geography for one is a relatively easy subject to nail; popular British sitcoms/soaps another; while contestants might be advised to learn great chunks, like the British history lists, of Trevor Montague's A-Z because they are certain to come up sooner or later.

But that is in the slightly distant future. No need to worry now; it's doing fine as it is.

Londinius said...

Hi Olav,

I can't argue with anything you say about the show. I do agree that there is only a finite number of subjects that can be asked of the general public. The concept of wrong answers which score 100 points mean that the show can't get into the meaningless "Name something you can take to the beach " type of question so prevalent on Family Fortunes.

Still, as you say, that's a problem to worry about for the future.