Thursday, 23 August 2012

Being Fair To Pointless

When I´m on holiday I am extremely susceptible. By this I mean that I´ll read almost anything, and pretty much suspend my normal critical filters, and just be open to the experience. When I´m here in Spain, if there´s any redeeming feature of a book at all, then I´ll find it. In the same way I´ll often watch and enjoy things on television which I´m not normally in the habit of watching back home. For example, I never watch "Deal or No Deal " or "Come DIne With Me" back home, but in previous years when the in laws were living in the Casa Me Duck I´d always arrange to be safely out of the pool in time for my daily fix.

This having been said I am in no way suggesting that I ever thought that "Pointless" is not a very good show. That was obvious from the first series. Still, I never got into the habit of watching it at home. Which didn´t stop me applying for an audition, if truth be told. It happened like this. A year or two ago my son Mike told me that he´d really like to go on the show, and he asked me to apply with him. I wouldn´t go so far to say that I begged him to ask someone else to apply with him, but I did tell him that in my opinion he´d stand far more chance of getting on the show if he didn´t apply with me. He persisted though, and to be honest I´d love the opportunity to play in a show alongside Mike. We never heard back, anyway.

As I say, I never quite developed the habit of watching the show at home, partly, I suppose, due to the fact that it´s scheduled in that awkward slot when I might well not be home from work. Still, my mother in law - who is the Guardian of the Remote in her house - loves it, and so I´ve watched every edition since we arrived last week. And I just have to say, what an engaging show it is. I´m currently feeling very smug having picked three out of three pointless answers for yesterday´s final - naming three pointless answers for losing finalists in the world snooker championships, and then managing to get one pointless answer for naming a celebrity who appeared as him/herself in Ricky Gervais´and Stephen Merchant´s Life´s Too Short.

It´s not difficult to see the appeal of the show. Amongst its positive features are the fact that the questions and the games require actual knowledge and skill. Alright, while I can easily accept that there may be times when the pair with the widest and deepest general knowledge don´t win, I think that it´s a show which definitely rewards wide knowledge, and I like that. I like Alexander Armstrong very much - I used to enjoy his shows with Ben Miller - and I think his double act with Richard Osman is highly effective. To give Richard Osman his due as well, while I occasionally find some of his rejoinders to contestants a little glib, I have to say that he does come up with something usually very funny in each show that I´ve seen. The chemistry between presenter and pointless friend works perfectly in the context of the show. What I´ve noticed watching the last few shows as well is the fact that there is a tactical side to the game too. In almost ever show I´ve seen at least one couple come unstuck through taking a flyer on an obscure answer, and ending up with 100 points, when playing safe with a relatively popular answer would have seen them home and dry. I´ve also seen teams picking popular culture and entertainment subjects for the final, and getting absolute stinkers. If I ever did go on the show , and if I ever did get through to the final, I would be tempted myself to pick the most obscure subject on the board, working on the basic premise that if it´s difficult and obscure to you, hopefully it should be so to the general public.

What has really surprised me, though, is the fact that I´ve even found myself getting interested in the personalities of some of the teams involved. This is not like me at all. I´ve always said that I don´t want to know anything about the teams in quiz shows other than their ability to answer the questions they´re asked. Actually , on this score I could still do without ´Zander asking the team who get through to the final what they´re going to do with the cash. Still, the fact that there are two to a team means that you can become interested in the dynamic between them. Case in point. Today´s show was the second show to feature two students, who were called Charlotte and Lucy. Yesterday they were taken out in the first round by a question about the towns and cities where specific football grounds were located. Bad luck that. Today they made it through to the round of three, which featured last lines of famous movies. The last lines were given. Each team had to pick one, and first of all correctly answer which movie it came from, and then hope that it had gained less points than the others. The first of the team had a terrific answer, picking out that a line which had the name Jem in it came from "To Kill A Mockingbird". Two points only. The first team had scored 34 points, and the last team came up with a cracker as well, and scored just the 1. The second board with last lines seemed a bit harder to me. The team who went third now went first, and the other team member struck out, and earned 100 points. So all the other member of the team I was following had to do was to answer one correctly and get less than 99 points. She then struck out and what is worse, she knew that she was going to do so as well, since she said that she thought that her answer was probably going to lose her a best friend. The last team gave a safe answer, and so my team were out. What was fascinating was that neither the director, the camera operators, nor ´Zander and Richard made any effort to hide the fact that the one team member seemed thoroughly disgusted with her friend. In fact they drew attention to it. Her applause for the other two teams was understandably half hearted, and she didn´t manage to raise even the ghost of a smile. How many shows would let you actually see that happening, I wonder ?

So, as I say, this holiday has made me confront the fact that this is actually a terrific show which I probably haven´t given its due in the past.


Andrew B. said...

I frequently get annoyed with the "banter" with the contestants on Pointless, but today's was more entertaining, at least to the viewer...

I got the impression that Charlotte was trying to take it seriously, and Lucy was just there for a laugh - she gave 3 wrong answers out of 3, and 2 of them weren't even really plausible ("Hampden" for the location of Hampden Park, and "Beauty and the Beast" for "It was beauty killed the beast".)

Londinius said...

Hi Andrew,

Wll, as I´ve said myself before now , I´m not a great fan of ´banter´yself, but as you say this was genuinely entertaining. The Hamden answer was on Wednesday´s show, and although I definitely agree that Charlotte seemed to be trying to take it seriously, she did also get 100 points for her answer to that question. As for yesterda, well, if Lucy honestly didn´t know the answer to any of those quotes, then there really wasn´t a lot she could do. Presumably Charlotte chose her as a partne, or Lucy asked Charlotte to apply with her. Whichever was the case, if they were really friends, then Charlotte probably knew what her Lucy´s limitations were, in which case she doesn´t really have any grounds for comlaint. On the other hand, if Lucy was just messing about and could have given a correct answer, then I can completely understand Charlotte´s anger - which certainly looked genuine from this side of the television.

Unknown said...

It never ceases to amaze me that people seem to go on quiz shows with seemingly no quizzing ability at all. Or go on Pointless and admit "Actually, geography, films, TV and music aren't really my strong points" (like these don't come up on every show). Have they been told by their friends "Ooh, you're really good - you should go on telly"? Why would they be so willing to be humiliated on national television - it's not like BBC prizes are worth it. Anyway, glad to see you are a Pointless convert.

Londinius said...

As I said, I never had anything against Pointless in the first place, but, yeah, I´m really enjoying it now.

As regards why people with little or no general knowledge apply to go on quiz shows, well I think you can actually make a distinction. I don´t understand why anyone without, at the very least, a real interest in quizzes would ever want to go on a show like Mastermind, Only Connect or Brain of Britain - and to be fair I think each of these shows does take care to ´save people from themselves´ by screening applicants well. But then with daytime shows, with a cash prize, I think there´s a lot of the ´let´s have a go, it will be a laugh, and you never know what could happen´attitude - and who´s to say that they´re wrong to think this.

However, I do agree that if you put yourself forward for a show, and it doesn´t work out and you only end up with egg on your face, then don´t go crying to anyone else about it because nobody forced you to apply.

Unknown said...

Just got round to watching this week's Pointless episodes. The Charlotte/Lucy thing was funny - or maybe she just looks naturally pissed off. Richard boldly bet that no-one would get all 12 film last lines - well considering how famous most of them were I suspect I wasn'tthe only one who made that boast look rash. I also got 3 pointless answers for the losing snooker finalist question (I went old: Perrie Mans, Grahem Miles, Joe Johnson). That was the first pointless answer for a while - they keep choosing pop music (not my strong point). I wonder what "Statistics" would have been?

Londinius said...

My three were Nigel Bond, Joe Johnson and Matt Stevens