Tuesday, 9 March 2010

TV Watch - The Return of Pointless

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.


Andrew B. said...

For what it's worth: I really dislike the change to round 2, but do not object to the change to the penultimate round.

Londinius said...

Hi Andrew
Its early days yet - we'll see how we all get used to the changes I'm sure.

Thanks for dropping by.


Andrew B. said...

On a second viewing, I can see the point of the new round 2 - it brings in some questions which wouldn't really have worked before.

Ben Dutton said...

I like all the changes, though in the second round some of the wrong answers are evident immediately (such as in the British Rivers one today).

Interesting that you chose Tate and Cibbey - I chose them both as well, feeling certain they must be pointless. The Pointless crew clearly don't survey proper quizzers!

Rach Cherryade said...

I'm really pleased Pointless is back too, though having just watched today's episode back on Iplayer I did have to cringe at the answer one of he team's gave for a member of the Monty Python crew, but this is always going to be the case with the show as if it's a subject that you're very familiar with its easy to be amazed when the teams struggle with it. Not sure I like the change to round 2 either, I think it makes the game a a bit too easy and agree that it's possible to work out which answer to give without having to know anything about the subject. I do however really love round 3 as it gives the teams (and viewers) the chance to get through more subjects meaning it's a bit fairer as a subject you're familiar with is more likely to appear rather than one team being immediately doomed if a topic they know nothing about comes up.

All in all very glad to see it back on though have to watch it on my own as my partner can't stand it, I can see how it might be a bit devisive for serious quiz fans but still think it requires quite a lot of knowledge of a range of subjects, it's certainly no Family Fortunes as some have suggested!

Des Elmes said...

This may be a bit off topic, but I have to admit I'm slightly surprised that A Question of Genius is getting a second series.

It is a good show, even if it has some similarities to the likes of Going For Gold - but a good number of people weren't impressed by the way the first series was executed, and few took to Kirsty Wark as host.

I gather the odd change will have been made in order to improve the show.

Londinius said...

Hi Ben, Rach and Des,
The crew probably don't survey proper quizzers, no, but at least a couple of proper quizzers made it into the first series. I'll be honest, the new second round still isn't to my taste that much, but as I say, its early days.

Des, feel free to comment off topic ! I'll be honest, I think that there were things about A Question of Genius that could be tweaked - maybe they will have been addressed. I don't think it will be that long before we find out .



Andrew B. said...

I like the new round 3 except when they have a feeble category like "Grand Slam tennis tournaments".

cfe_felton said...

I didn't see the 1st series but as a latecomer i've got to say i found the format really refreshing. Its seems a bit like a tuned-up version of those exploitative late night quiz shows that you can't stop shouting answers at. Good to have a fun quiz show with actual questions on tv. Here's our review, if you're interested:


Londinius said...

Hi cfe_felton - or may I call you cfe ?

I enjoyed your review on your own site - and I have left a comment , although I'm not sure if it came out or not. I can recommend your site to any LAM readers - if you like LAM then you'll like this very much too.

I agree pretty much with everything you say about Pointless - here's to another successful run.