I blame Mrs. Londinius, actually. It was she who asked me to take her to a car boot sale yesterday, which is where it happened. As I think I may have explained before, while half of me wants to just sit in the car on these occasions, the other part of me says that you never know what’s going to be there if you don’t look. So I looked. What I found was a copy of the 1992 Family Fortunes quiz book.
If you’re not familiar with Family Fortunes, it was ( is ? does the All Star version count – I’ve never seen it ) a popular game show for many years. Basically the host invited two family teams to answer a series of questions based on a survey of 100 people. For example –
“We asked 100 people to name a hairy dog. “
One family would then be asked to supply a list of the highest scoring answers. If they gave 3 incorrect answers, then the opposing family only needed to get one right to steal the points. If you’re thinking that it sounds like an inverted Pointless, then you’re almost right, only it came first, so correctly speaking Pointless is like an inverted version of Family Fortunes.
If you’re a long term LAM regular you might possibly recall me mentioning how much I dislike it when a question master resorts to Family Fortunes questions. For example, a question master might ask something like this -
in a recent survey , what were the top 4 answers to the question - name a useful household object ? -
You answer - telephone - TV - oven and washing machine, and end up with zero points because the question master tells you that the 4 most popular answers were DVD player - tumble drier - microwave and PC. You catch my drift , I'm sure.
The problem I have with questions like these is that they are essentially guessing questions,where application of your own knowledge or intellect can't really help you, and frankly they turn a round, or a quiz, into a bit of a lottery. This is not true of Pointless, I hasten to add, where you do have to use knowledge and intellect to find the lowest correct answers. But as for Family Fortunes questions, well, for the reasons I've already given I just don’t like them. As I’ve said before I’m a straightforward question and answer man. So much so that one of my literary heroes is Thomas Gradgrind ( What we need are facts – nothing but facts- see Hard Times by Charles Dickens )So you might well be wanting to ask me the question – well if that’s how you feel, then why the hell did you buy the book ? Fair question. When I bought it yesterday, the justification I gave to myself was : -
a) it was very cheap ( 50p )
b) if I keep it in safe hands, then it can’t possibly find its way into the hands of a less experienced question master whom it can pervert from the path of true quizdom.
I made the mistake of reading it idly yesterday. I have to admit, it had a certain evil fascination. I mean, take this question : -
Name a London Railway Station ( apart from Euston )
I have to ask – why not Euston ? Or was it that the 100 people they asked were all in Euston Station at the time ? I want to know, how much of a cross section of society were the 100 people who were surveyed. In fact, for that matter, did they REALLY survey 100 people ? Lets be honest, you could easily fabricate the results if you wanted to. If they did carry out the survey, then did they survey the same 100 people for every question ? Who knows
The worst thing about it is this. It is my turn to produce the quiz for the rugby club this week. Against all my principles, against everything I believe in as a quizzer, I KNOW that a handout consisting of half a dozen questions from this book, along the lines of : -
Name an instrument which would be dangerous for a nude musician to play
will go down an absolute bomb with the teams who regularly turn up. You may ask, does that mean I will swallow my pride and everything I have every said about hating this kind of question in a quiz, and produce a Family Fortunes handout ? Yes, already have done, and it will be used this Thursday. Oh the shame of it. I’m ready for my Hypocritic Oath now, Mr. Demille.