Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The Faffing Around Quotient

I don’t know if you ever watch “Strictly Come Dancing “, but I will admit here and now that it’s something of a guilty pleasure . Mary isn’t a huge fan, but I’ll watch it with whichever of the girls happens to be around on a Saturday evening. Quite often the couples will indulge in a bit of what I believe is technically called ‘faffing around’ before they actually start dancing. The girls and I will look at each other when this happens, and say “Len won’t like that. “ Len Goodman is the chief judge, and he really doesn’t like it when they don’t get on with it. Now, as regards quiz shows, I am a little bit of a Len Goodman myself. This morning I was watching yesterday’s Pointless, and as much as I like the show, and I do like it, I was struck by just how long it takes between the start of the show, and the asking of the first question. So I decided to do a little impromptu research. Here’s a comparison table of the amount of time it took on the last edition to be shown of several current quiz shows.

Show Mins until 1st questionShow duration %
Pointless 8 44 18.18181818
Eggheads 4 30 13.33333333
UC 3.25 29 11.20689655
OC 2.33 29 8.034482759
Breakaway 2.55 44 5.795454545
Mastermind 1.52 29 5.24137931
The Chase 2.0845 4.622222222

The key figure to look at isn’t so much the minutes used, as the % of the show used, since the duration of the shows varies. Where it says minutes as well, the figures after the point are all decimal figures, and not seconds. I think that I should point out, in the interests of fairness, that the edition of Eggheads was a repeat.

So the shows which come off worst on our lists are Pointless, which uses up a massive 18% of the show before the first question, Eggheads , which uses 13% of the show, and UC which uses 11 %.

Now, I fully admit that this was not exactly an exhaustive survey, being as it was based solely on one edition for each show. Also, the three shows at the top of the table are extremely different. Pointless doesn’t set out to be a typical quiz show at all, and it does utilize the relationships and the dynamics between each pair. University Challenge, on the other side of the coin, may take a little while to get going, but it has to be remembered that it’s a 29 minute show, and once it does get started the questions come thick and fast.

On the other side of the coin, I was surprised that the Chase came out so well. What this show does is to spread the ‘let’s get to know the contestants ‘ aspects throughout the show. One suspects that if I extended the survey and assessed what percentage of each show is given over to the asking and answering of questions, then UC and MM would comfortably head the lists.


jim360 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jim360 said...

Another thing is that in UC the first-round introductions tend to be a lot longer than in later matches, so that percentage drops away a bit. But some good analysis.

I like Pointless as a concept a lot - encouraging people with obscure knowledge to come on and compete, and rewarding all thaose weird facts that I gather a bit more than regular general knowledge shows tend to. Only problem is that well over half the contestants don't seem to have that obscure knowledge needed, or even at times general knowledge!

The purest quiz shows are probably UC, Mastermind and OC but Breakaway is good too. A good mix of questions. Biggest gripe is that it seems to encourage, albeit with some risk, selfishness as you can grab all the money for yourself and not as a group. Oh well. At least there's the risk... not like in Goldenballs where you have to lie through your teeth to win obscenely large amounts of cash.

Watergrass Jon said...

The thing that amazes me about TV quiz show contestants is how many of them are completely useless - do you think they were encouraged by their friends? "Go on, you're really smart - you should go on TV". I mean, it's OK not to be good at quizzes (everyone has their talents) but why submit yourself to ridicule in front of the nation when you clearly has minimal GK. Are people that despearate for a piece of fame that they'd accept public humiliation?

Londinius said...

I think that the humiliation factor was certainly one of the factors that enticed people to have a go at the Weakest Link . After all, it's certainly something to talk about afterwards - the fact that you were ridiculed by La Robinson.

As regards many other shows I guess it's partly to do with getting on TV, partly to do with curiosity over what actually goes into making a TV show, and partly the , for want of a better term, 'have a go' spirit that some people have.

What I really don't understand is I've known one or two people who have actually told me that they didn't prepare hardly at all for their specialist rounds on Mastermind. If you prepare thoroughly and it all goes pear shaped, well, that's sad, but you have nothing to reproach yourself about. But if you don't actually bother to prepare at all, it's a recipe for disaster. Whatever anyone might say I doubt very much whether getting a very low score in the Mastermind chair is enjoyable on any level.

jim360 said...

I never really did much preparation in terms of trying to get extra knowledge. I listened to lots of classical music and watch the last three or four series' worth of episodes (OK, so maybe it was a lot of preparation). But in terms of trying to learn new facts, I just can't motivate myself to read list after list of names, dates and facts. I pick up knowledge by reading, listening and watching things in my daily life rather than going out of my way to learn things. It's surprising what you can pick up without even trying.

I'm fairly convinced I'd never do well on Mastermind for that reason - that honestly I don't have the energy to devote to trying just to quiz. Though maybe I don't need to - what did you do before your Masterminds?

I was going to say the same thing as Jon, though - seems to be no point in going on a quiz show unless you feel that you're going to give a good account of yourself.Is it really impressive to admit "I don't know much about {insert every topic you're asked about here!}" throughout the show. Or maybe people enjoy looking like berks, or just can't cope with the cameras or something, which is understandable now that I've had that experience.

I've watched University Challenge for years and it's always been something I'd really wanted to do myself. So glad to have had the chance and to have taken it - and I said to myself, and think I meant it, that it was about the taking part and giving a good account of myself personally, and I hope I managed (and will manage) that. The disappointment at losing against St. George's was tempered by all those starters I got, especially the Thermopylae one (with all those classicists next to me!). Also that one about the Hamiltonian that was just a gift to me, what with it being essential to the Theoretical Physics I study.

You can tell I'm just dying to be interviewed about it all... haha.

Londinius said...

Hi Jim

Well, if you wanted to write a full account of your experiences on each of your shows I would be happy to post it here on LAM.

AS regards my preparation for Mastermind. If you don't thoroughly learn your specialist subject you're playing with fire. If you include my first unsuccessful appearence,my winning season and my appearence in Champion of Champions I participated in 5 specialist rounds. For each one I gathered at least 3 books on each subject. From these I would select my main source. This I would read chapter by chapter. Each time I came across a fact I thought I could make into a question I put an asterisk by it. At the end of each chapter I would turn each of these into a question and write it on a little flash card. Then I'd test myself on each. In a few days you could have a couple of hundred questions. It varied from subject to subject, but for each one I learned somewhere between 750 and 1200 questions. Each of my SS rounds was a 2 minute round, and my scores were 14, 14, 15, 15 and 17. So for me, it worked.

I trusted to my GK in most shows, but for the final I worked on my weakest areas - not to become strong in them, bu tto make sure that I didn't get any sitters wrong in these areas should they come up.

I can't say that I did any preparation for other shows that I've been on.

Ben Dutton said...

If you fastforward through all the talking on Pointless you can get it down to a 30 minute show (some days even less than that). But with that show viewers do really enjoy the chat and the interplay between Alexander and Richard.

As to contestants not having any general knowledge - Pointless had a good example the other day. A young team had never heard of (or heard) Lady in Red. A lot of people were really shocked by this, but not me - the week before I'd asked in a quiz who sang Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and the three teams of younger players (18-25 year olds) had never heard of it. So what we think of as very easy, being wiser, somewhat older and experienced quizzers is, to the new quizzers, actually quite tough.

Watergrass Jon said...

Sometimes however it just comes down to common sense. For instance, on Pointless the other week contestants were asked to name any film starring Tom Hanks. The first person (the FIRST one mind) said "Toy Story 3" and got a very respectable low score. We then went through the other 7 contestants and not one of them had the wit to suggest "Toy Story" or "Toy Story 2", some even producing wrong answers, moaning that "films isn't really my subject". Now why do people without GK OR common sense still clamour to go on the show? It's not even as if the prizes are fantastic.

jim360 said...

Hi Londinius,

I asked and I can provide an account up to certain restrictions, so might give a more detailed account of my next match after it comes on. And, with luck, any future match(es) afterwards!