2009 saw the BBC try out a number of different quiz formats, some which will definitely be back this year – A Question of Genius – for example, and some of which probably won’t. The surprise hit of them all , though, was Pointless, which you’ll remember I’m sure earned a very honourable mention in the 2009 LAMMY awards, despite losing the best new show category to The Chase. Fronted by the most likeable Alexander Armstrong, this show made a bit of a splash with quizzers and non quizzers alike, and so I am delighted to see that the BBC took the advice which I freely offered them, and very quickly commissioned and made a second series, which began last night.
If you didn’t manage to catch it, and you were a fan of the first series, I think that I should warn you that there have been tweaks to the show. Last season we had five pairs of contestants in the first round of each show. This season that’s been cut down to four. That’s probably a good thing too, although I’ll be interested to see if it tempts Alexander to try to bring out the personalities of the contestants a little more. On balance I hope not, as a little of this sort of thing goes a long way. The gameplay of the first round is the same as it was in the first series. Basically, a question category is announced. The first one yesterday was Beatles’UK number 1 singles. Then contestants are told that 100 people were surveyed and given a minute to name as many of the above as possible. One member of each pair is asked to give an answer, then when all pairs have had their first turn, the other member of each pair has to give an answer to the same question. The goal is to give an answer which nobody in the survey came up with. These answers are ‘pointless’ and add money to the prize total. Wrong answers earn the team 100 points. The team with the highest score at the end of the round leaves with nothing. Just out of interest, The Long and Winding Road was never released as a single in the UK apparently , Twist and Shout was part of an EP which didn’t count, and Strawberry Fields was not accepted as the correct title is Strawberry Fields forever.
As before, a losing pair can come back once more later in the week. So far , so good , much the same as last year. Tweak number 1 is that they seem to be showing all the pointless answers, and in fact most of the scores for other possible answers too. Well done Production team – this is what we wanted last year.
Gameplay for round two is rather different now. We still have one subject category. In this case its team ball games with an odd number of team members. Now , though, the teams don’t think up answers off the top of their heads. They are in fact given a set of answers to choose from. At least one of each set is guaranteed pointless, and at least one of each set is guaranteed to be wrong, and worth an instant 100 points. I have to be honest, I rather enjoyed this, although it is nice to be given the chance of thinking of answers from the top of your head.
Round three, the round of two pairs, is different again, now. A selection of categories is given , and each team plays a series of head to heads. Win a category and a light goes on. Get to three, and you win the round, and go to the final. I liked this more, since no help was given again, and players had to pick their own answer. I would have liked it even more if some of the categories were even wider. Take the 8 planets of the Solar System for example. Such a narrow category negates the possibility of either pair picking out a 100 point wrong'un, and hence detracts from some of the fun of the game.
The final, though, was the same as before. The winning pair are given a choice of categories. In this case it was The Winter Olympics – Poets – British Walks. They opted for poets, and it didn’t take a genius to guess that they were going to be asked to provide a pointless answer for a British Poet Laureate. As before , they were given three chances. Sadly for Annie and Stephanie they offered us William Wordsworth, John Keats and Andrew Motion. Keats never was, Wordsworth is too well known, and Andrew Motion was the previous, so I’m afraid that their best was Wordsworth with 10. As a point of interest, there were 9 pointless answers, and my choices Nahum Tate and Colley Cibber were among them.
So, what’s the verdict ? Well, you get more out of playing at home because they tell you more about the pointless answers, so that’s got to be a plus. It moves along at a fair old pace still, and seems in no danger of running out of categories. I’m no oracle, but there’s no reason I can see that it won’t be as popular as it was first time around.