“It’s like Family Fortunes. In reverse” – not the most promising tagline for a quiz show, and I do admit I have some difficulty explaining the peculiar magic of my current, indeed probably all-time, favourite quiz show, ‘Pointless’, to people. But it is clearly a show with a burgeoning fanbase, after its switch from BBC2 to a later slot on BBC1.
It’s not my intention to compare other shows unfavourably to ‘Pointless’ – different people want different things from quizzes. I know my colleague is a big fan of its ITV rival ‘The Chase’, a show on which you get plenty of questions for your money, and having watched it in full for the first time recently, I agree it’s a pretty good format. Since the end of ’15 to 1′ I’ve shared the feeling that a lot of the big shows don’t give a real quiz fan enough questions to get their teeth into, so why then am I so enamoured of ‘Pointless’, which really only has four questions all show?
Well, for starters, I think it’s a very nice premise and a very nice format. Obscure knowledge is rewarded, which appeals to the quizzy quizzer, but there is a sliding scale of reward, so just knowing something about the given category can be good enough. There is right and wrong, but not just one right answer (or one wrong answer). The knowledge starts off very general, but becomes more and more specific as it moves on, so that you tend to actually have to be pretty smart AND lucky to win the jackpot, which is just what you want.
But who am I kidding? Why is ‘Pointless’ great? Because of the banter. I may be wrong, but Alexander Armstrong is one of those genially funny men who is thoroughly undivisive. Who could hold it in their heart to loathe him? He’s funny, of course, and very charming to the contestants, albeit sometimes in an ever so slightly bemused, superior way.
But he’s not even the star of the show. In the standard role of quiz sidekick, we have “my pointless friend” Richard Osman (brother of Mat Osman from Suede, fact fans) who, unless i’m very much mistaken, is a genuinely hilarious man. Ben Miller needs to watch out, as this is a great double act – both are clever and prepared to mock the contestants, but always in a gentle, good-natured way.
Add to that the fact that the show provides great opportunities for viewer participation, as you’re not in a race against the contestants – there’s plenty of time to think about your answers, and to feel pleased and smug if you better them.
I haven’t been this excited about a teatime TV show since ‘Home and Away’ returned to our screens on Channel 5!!!
Have you seen ‘Pointless’? Any flaws? Not a fan of Armstrong? Or Osman? And are there any other quiz show gems out there I’m missing?