Reflections on Only Connect Series 16

So ends Only Connect Series 16 – quite an unusual series, but none the worse for it.

We were initially due to film in March and April 2020, but, like everyone else, had to put everything on hold at the last minute.

For Jack and I, the question editors, this left a bit of an empty feeling, as all the work we’d been doing for several months to prepare the series faced an uncertain future.

So then everyone stayed in their house eating chocolate for a few months or whatever else helped them get by. And we – and our team of magnificent question writers – started on the questions for Series 17 for want of anything else to do.

Eventually, a new filming schedule was arranged, which was both a great relief and, naturally, a little nerve-wracking.

We went through all the questions again, looking for anything that might have gone out of date, or might jar with the new reality.

I can think of two interesting changes we made. The first was a Wall group of Zoom, Skype, BlueJeans and Hangouts (with Zoom a red herring for an ice cream van group of Solero, Twister, Magnum Calippo). By October, this was now the wrong way around. Video conferencing systems had become too easy, and ice-cream vans…who could remember those. So we changed it to Chime, Webex, BlueJeans, Hangouts (and Zoom became part of the ice cream van group). And then we had a sequence of things happening in 1717, 1818, 1919, 2020. The original example answer we had was “Tokyo Olympics”. But by October 2020 they had not happened, and far more significant things had taken place, so we changed it to “Ed Davey becomes Lib Dem leader”.

Anyway, back to the story. When it came time to film, it felt a little strange to be using questions and shows that had originally been written, reviewed, edited, compiled and completely ready more than half a year beforehand.

Meanwhile, there had been sterling work taking place behind the scenes to make sure the studio, contestants and workforce were ready.

When we all arrived in Cardiff, it was clear that most of us were emerging, blinking, into the sunlight for the first time in months. Literally. We usually film in the charmingly changeable Cardiff spring, but here we were in an August heatwave, and there were tents, there were masks and thermometers, there were hand gels, arrows on the floor and, most noticeably, screens, both in the gallery and on the set.

And everyone was wearing shorts! Only Connect? In shorts? Preposterous …

For us, as question editors, we have the same nagging worry at the start of every series – have we got the level right? Will these contestants, about whom we know very little, be able to play this game that we’ve set for them?

The worry was multiplied this time around. How will it work with screens and earpieces? Will these contestants, locked down for so long, still be able to think and communicate in the way the show requires? Only Connect is hard, it has to be hard to be the show people know, love and shout furiously at. We had to hope the circumstances weren’t going to make it too hard.

Mixed in with that was the awareness, more than ever, that we were working on something people love to watch, and that there was value to our being there. We were, without overstating the case, providing something that many people who’d had a tough year would be looking forward to. So perhaps we were a little more conscious of that responsibility than usual.

And so the games began … with one block of filming in August, two in October (just, thankfully, completed before Wales went into lockdown) …

A wonderful thing we immediately noticed was that the teams were evidently very happy to be there, indeed happy to be anywhere. Because of various restrictions, they couldn’t have the full ‘Only Connect’ experience, but everyone seemed so delighted to be participating, it was quite moving.

And very quickly, I remembered how much I love watching Only Connect myself. It is quite a thrilling thing to see, in real time, people taking on the challenge you’ve spent months setting for them …

The satisfaction of a question going just as you’d planned is balanced with the occasional disappointment of a question falling slightly flat, perhaps knowing you could have set it a slightly different way.

Thankfully, it was clear very quickly that the game was, basically, still the same. There were a few subtle, barely perceptible shifts in how the teams had to play, to communicate with Victoria and with each other, but, essentially, all was good. There were lightbulb moments, there was teamwork, there was chat, there was humour, there was bafflement, there was everything Only Connect is always associated with. There was also the unusual aspect that many teams got to see themselves on telly before they had finished their run of recordings, and had time to dwell on their experience – and it felt like teams grew into their experience on the show even more than usual as they moved through the labyrinth of the tournament structure.

It’s always lovely, as a series progresses, when you see moments you know fans of the show will be talking about in months to come. Mitch Benn’s vowel run, Alan Flanagan’s “Is it a protestant thing?”, the Puzzle Hunters’ wordsearch question. Jessica Southworth asking her husband “Are you mental?”. Equally, as question editors, we accumulate a few moments of worry and mild regret. Will that look fair? Did we make the right judgement there? Should we have laid out that question differently?

Consequently, over the years that Jack and I have been in the role, I’ve taken a slightly different approach to watching the show when it airs. Basically, I don’t. I used to watch every episode live while checking twitter, which can certainly be fun, but was ultimately just a little too close to the bone, and provided a little too much temptation to respond to each “that wall was harder” tweet with a “well, actually” tweet … which is all just a bit pointless.

I still have a quick look at twitter every week, but, by and large, knowing that lots of people love the show and that it will play out well and fairly, is enough.

Gratifyingly, for this strangest, most testing of series, the viewing figures have been excellent, and the level of enjoyment and engagement from fans and participants seemed higher than ever.

Furthermore, we knew, best of all, that we had a fabulous final in store, between the Dungeon Masters and the Puzzle Hunters. It’s not for me to say if this was the best episode of Only Connect ever (the final is one episode I did watch in real time), but it was certainly up there for those in our time as question editors.

Two great teams who’d built up their skill and confidence throughout the series brought their absolute best to the contest. The level of play was magnificent. Each of the six participants, in turn, pulled answers out of thin air that we knew would dazzle viewers at home. It was Hearns-Hagler, it was the 2005 Ashes, it was Girls Aloud vs One True Voice, it was … in fact, more gripping and nail-biting than any other dated cultural references I can conjure up.

It felt, still feels now, in various ways, like a particularly emotional series, one that will always be prominent in our memories.

The show goes on, off course. As soon as filming of Series 16 ceased, Jack and I were working hard again at Series 17, which has already started filming …

The good news is, people can still play the game …

Quiz Events: adapting to the virtual reality

This is the story of survival instinct; of adrenaline and Covid-fuelled product development; of the birth of QuizQuizQuiz-style virtual quizzes. As for others in live entertainment and events this has been a rather interesting test, to say the least, and we’re grateful that we are – so far – managing to find a way through.

The last “real-life” quiz night we ran was on March 16th 2020. Then all of a sudden that was it. All bookings for the rest of March and April were cancelled. Then the ones in May and June were cancelled. Our core business of hosting quiz nights had evaporated.

We were trying to work out what to do, how to save money, then two of our quiz masters fell ill with some mysterious (perhaps not so mysterious) bug. And all around us virtual pub quizzes were springing up online – before we knew it zoom quizzing in video chats was the new thing that everybody was doing. Were we too slow? Why weren’t we doing it? We are (we think) the UK’s leading provider of professional quiz nights for company events…what on earth were we doing?

We knew we had to adapt, but we also couldn’t hurry. We had to find a way to get it right – and work out how to produce virtual quiz events that matched the high expectations of our clients – many of them have been booking quiz nights with us for 5, 10, 15+ years. Most importantly we weren’t doing it for free or charging individuals just £1-£2 to take part (as many very successful pub quiz masters were doing as they moved online).

For our business to survive we needed to be charging at close to our normal “real-life quiz night” prices for our virtual quiz services. So we had to get it right, and that took a little bit of time. It felt like we were moving incredibly slowly, but in hindsight, now that we have run several hundred virtual quizzes in the last few months and (we believe) virtual online quiz events are here to stay we realised we did a huge amount in a very short space of time.

We had several key elements that we had to get right before we could launch our new virtual quizzes and start charging our clients:

  • Our virtual quizzes had to be properly interactive – we knew that the corporate market wouldn’t be interested in having their staff just watching a live stream of a quizmaster.
  • We needed to ensure that they worked as social events and team-building events: the motive for employees to go to their company quiz night (online/virtual quiz or in real-life) is typically very different from why you might go to a pub quiz with friends.
  • We needed technology that was totally reliable. Companies have (rightly) high expectations when they are paying for a professional service. Our technology doesn’t go wrong at real-life quiz events, and it shouldn’t go wrong at virtual quiz events.
  • We needed the whole virtual quiz experience to be as easy as possible for our clients and their employees, whatever their level of technophilia/phobia.
  • We needed to be able to run events on a massive scale: many of our clients have hundreds of people at their real-life quizzes, and now the events were online there was no barrier to every person in the company, from all cities and countries taking part. In the virtual world, you can have events for hundreds, if not thousands, of colleagues and not worry about budget with no travel, no catering, no venue hire etc.
  • If we were going to invest in doing this properly, then we needed (well, maybe this is more “want” than “need”) our virtual quiz events to be sufficiently good and have sufficient benefits that our clients would continue to book them when (if?!) real-life events of this type are allowed again.

After very many tests and failed experiments with a range of technologies, we were nearly ready. And when you are launching a new product – as we were –  nearly ready is the time to get the clients coming in. We updated our website and social profiles, and sent an email out to our client base to let them know. 

And then within a few days our inbox of enquiries was bursting at the seams with delighted and relieved clients saying things like:

  • “I am so happy to hear from you: when can you book us in”
  • “Everyone is feeling so isolated – this sounds perfect as a lockdown social event”
  • Etc. etc.

So what did we do?

We adapted our existing technology into a web-based answer sheet system for teams to submit their answer sheets. And then we learned what worked and what didn’t and rebuilt, and now a couple of months in we’re using our shiny new version which makes the whole experience much easier for participants, and also for our professional quiz masters and for our team of quiz event assistants (who mark the online quiz answer sheet submissions from teams). We’ll be able to use the same technology to make our real-life events better (and lower contact with no handing in of papers etc.).

We tested every known video conferencing platform (and some very unknown yet rather brilliant ones), probing the depths of their feature sets to see how we could make the most of this new medium, working out what formats would be possible – and devising new formats that are made possible by the technology. We already knew Zoom very well, but there was much about it that needed testing to its limits. We knew from our years of experience that different companies work in different ways, and some of them didn’t or couldn’t or wouldn’t use Zoom (for what it’s worth, we don’t perceive any relevant issues with Zoom any more – if the ones that did exist even mattered to what we do or couldn’t be easily overcome, but that’s a separate story!). We worked out how to run quizzes in Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, Google Meet, GoToMeeting and various others. It’s  much easier to get several hundred people doing a virtual quiz on a platform they are already familiar with from work.

Our quiz masters upgraded their webcams and microphones.

We wrote many hundreds of quiz questions that were specifically designed for the virtual quizzing environment – not just “Google proof” questions, but that was a big part of it – and probed our database to extract many hundreds more from our existing content that would work in this online medium..

And then we started hosting virtual quizzes. Sometimes several a day per quiz master. We rapidly iterated our new formats to keep the quizzes engaging, we learned how to keep the pace up, how to handle technophobe participants, and how to get better and presenting to an audience who are on mute much of the time.

We’ve now run hundreds of virtual quizzes, for existing clients and new clients. Some clients are having online quizzes with us several times a month. And for now at least there is no sign of them slowing down, and many clients have said to us that they would intend to run them even after real events are allowed again.

We’ve done quizzes for 8 people in 2 teams; for 450 people in 70 teams spread across three simultaneous virtual quizzes, each with their own one of our professional quiz masters, with one grand finale for the top teams in each heat; we frequently run more than 6 a day, with our current record being 10 in one day; we’ve done quizzes starting at 11pm (our time) for clients in the Cayman Islands and starting at 10am for clients in Tokyo; and we’ve run very international virtual quiz events with people dialling in from offices all around the world simultaneoulsy.

We’d love to get back to running real-life quizzes one day, but virtual quizzes are – we think – here to stay.

Only Connect: The Difficult Second Quiz Book

Only Connect: The Difficult Second Quiz Book is coming out on September 12th, and is available to order now. As you may know, Jack and David from QuizQuizQuiz are the Question Editors for Only Connect, and have put together the book, complete with a brilliant (of course) introduction from Victoria Coren Mitchell.

It follows a “same but slightly different” format to the first book: it’s packed full of question from the show, and includes plenty of brand new material as well. As with the first book, there is even a special Connecting Wall on the back cover so you don’t even have to open the book (though the answers to that one are inside the book).

For every question that has been on the show, we tell you how the teams managed, so you can compare yourself to them.

There’s also a bunch of extra goodies – and one or two lurking nuggets of particular delight that we’ll hope you’ll discover and enjoy.

You can buy the book from Amazon, and of course from all good book shops.


William G Stewart

Although it’s now a few months since he died, I thought I’d write about William G. Stewart, the host of Fifteen-to-One. I loved Fifteen-to-One as I was growing up – it is easy to forget what an oasis of quizzing it was in the early-to-mid 90s. University Challenge didn’t come back till 1994, Millionaire and The Weakest Link weren’t until later, there was no Only Connect, no Pointless, no The Chase. There were a lot of game shows, a lot of light entertainment, but not all that much in the way of serious quizzing.

I knew I liked quizzes – I retained information well and tended to do pretty well when teachers ran quizzes at the end of term. We played Trivial Pursuit at home, too, but apart from that, too young for pub quizzes, there weren’t many avenues for regularly testing my quizzing abilities.

15-to-1 was a dream. Half an hour of compact, solid quizzery. It was usually on at 4, before Countdown, so I quite often didn’t get back from school in time for it, but I’d always watch it in the holidays. The format was notoriously spare – a means to whittle down 15 hopefuls to one winner as quickly and efficiently as possible.

It was brutal – there was no chat, just 2 (or 3, depending on what round you reached) lives, no coming back another day (unless you won the episode – and there were some exceptionally fine quizzers among the daily and series winners). But that was what I, and other people, loved about it. This kind of crisp format needed the right host, and it had it.

I think William G Stewart might even be a little underrated as a quiz host. Not surprisingly, how to run a quiz well is something I’ve given a great deal of thought to in the last decade or so. There are different types, as there should be, but, of his type, I think Stewart was the very best.

His persona was utterly disinterested in small talk, but he was not cold or pompous. He didn’t disdain one answer and elevate another. He read perfectly, he managed to give off the impression he’d written every question (I genuinely thought for the first couple of years that he had! I understand that he did review most, if not all, questions in detail in advance in a way that Bamber Gascoigne did and Victoria Coren Mitchell does). His authority was total, but the quiz, not the personality, led the way.

I actually went on 15-to-1 (pretty unsuccessfully) in my early 20s, in either his last, or penultimate, series. It was pretty much what it seemed like on TV, except, slightly to my surprise, he was quite warm and chatty, putting us all at our ease. Unused to the magic of TV, this break in character slightly shocked me. I blame that for my poor performance …

It also strikes me, looking back, how good the questions seemed to be on 15-to-1. There were, of course, easier and harder ones, but not wildly so – they were always really well calibrated to make a good game. They always seemed like they were on fair knowledge. I know now how hard that is to achieve, and they managed it over and over (and over) again.

I wonder if I’d have got in to quizzing the way I have if it wasn’t for 15-to-1.Perhaps the same is true for other quizzers. It remained a staple throughout university and beyond.

Perhaps when it finished in 2003, its time had passed – that was the age of big money quizzes which also had reasonable credibility, like WWTBAM and The Weakest Link.

I’ve only watched the rebooted show, presented by Sandi Toksvig, a few times. It seems good, a little warmer, slower and more human (as well as there being a serious cash prize for the series winner), and now contestants get to come back (which I would have killed for, but equally it was part of the attraction of the show that it was so brutal).

I think my own taste in quizzing has changed, and I’m a bit more of a fan of a slower pace than 15-to-1 these days. Still, no one should underestimate the importance of William G Stewart in the history of British quizzing.

Quiz Master Checklist

When we send quiz packs out to clients to run quizzes themselves, we always include an extensive ‘Quiz Master Guide’ to help them run the event smoothly, which breaks down the format, the running order, etc. And when we hire a new professional quiz master to run quizzes for us, we train them, ease them in, get them over a period of time to the point where they can confidently and skilfully run a quiz for us.

This post will be rather more informal. It’s just a few observations and hints which I just about feel qualified to give to anyone who fancies running a quiz, is new to running quizzes or is trying to get the hang of running quizzes.

First of all, it’s true that anyone can be a quiz master or quiz mistress. At its basic level, it doesn’t need any special talent. We’ve all been to (and still enjoyed) enough quizzes run by dozy, disinterested bar staff to know that’s true.

But not everyone’s going to be good at it. It does require a base level of confidence and clarity in speaking in public, a certain degree of composure, of decent judgement and, in my view, it really does require that you yourself are pretty decent at quizzes.

Having said that, this checklist is for quiz masters, not quiz writers. That’s a different ball game. I’m not going to talk about actual round construction and question writing here.

So here’s a bullet list of tips as they come to me. You may not feel they are universally applicable, but I think they’re a decent place to start.

  • Know your material – I’ve said it here and in other places many many times, but for me this is the Number 1 fundamental. Even if you haven’t written the questions, you have to seem like you have, you have to know their context. This applies to everyone from a TV quiz master to a humble pub quiz host. Otherwise you risk looking like an idiot and a fraud very quickly.
  • Don’t try and be too funny. The quiz is the main thing, funny can be a nice side product. We get a fair few enquiries from aspiring quiz masters telling us they’ve got cracking banter, or words to that effect (if you want to be a QuizMaster for us, we don’t want you to be the entertainment…you are the medium for the entertainment).
  • Be nice. People can be annoying and sometimes you do need to be firm with them, and sometimes it’s ok to put someone down a little to show you’re in control. But, by and large, stay calm, be patient and be nice.
  • Have a clear table/space on the bar in front of you to keep everything tidy and nicely organised..
  • Keep people informed on exactly what is happening in the short term, so they’re not confused and irritated, but keep the long term plans back so that you can adapt, and also retain an element of pleasant surprise.
  • Have a helper to do the marking and field enquiries if you can.
  • Be aware of what is and isn’t pleasant to listen to. It’s really important to get the acoustics as close to right as you possibly can. Do a sound check beforehand, and be aware of where people are sitting in relation to the speakers.
  • Repeat things, sometimes a lot. Questions, question numbers, instructions, answers, scores etc. There’s always someone who wasn’t listening first time, there’s probably someone who will tell you that you didn’t make something clear, and you will be able to be absolutely confident you did if you repeated it!
  • Don’t give half marks.
  • Don’t make up magic bonus marks on the spot!
  • Be aware of pacing. Give people time to work things out but don’t let it drag. Don’t run rounds which turn into epic adventures. Don’t run “sessions” which are too long. One and a half hours is probably longer than one session of a quiz night should be without a break.
  • You don’t have to have background music, but it helps to avoid “dead air”. You can cover not knowing what you’re doing for a second by playing a little background music.
  • What if, heaven forfend, you’re wrong? How do you deal with it? Is the quiz master always right, even if he/she is not? I’m going to sound like a right pompous chump here but I don’t quite remember, as it’s been a long time since I’ve actually run a quiz where one of my answers was wrong, wrong, wrong. That goes back to point 1. I’d say, “no, the quiz master is not always right”. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong. People have google. Who are you trying to kid? Find a way to swallow your pride while holding your dignity if there’s a blatant mistake. However, quite often, a question might have some manner of viable alternative, which people suggest, which the quiz writer hadn’t thought of… I can only say “be flexible” and be prepared to be generous. Use the magic of the internet yourself to confirm facts quickly.
  • Don’t disqualify people. You don’t want a fight to break out.
  • Don’t drink while running a quiz. Well, drink water. Anyone might stumble over their words once or twice within a couple of hours. Stumbling over your words looks a lot worse if you’ve a beer by your side. Also, a little tip from personal misadventure. Don’t drink too much Diet Coke while running pub quizzes or corporate quizzes! Just don’t, trust me. It’s a hard habit to break.

Ok, that’s all I can think of for now. A lot of that is probably blindingly obvious, and I’ve probably missed quite a lot of it. You mightn’t necessarily agree with all of it, but hopefully it’s of some use.

University Challenge is so hard

When I tell people I am a professional quiz master, and that I set quiz questions for iPhone quiz games, TV shows etc. I am often asked if we write the questions for ‘University Challenge’ (we don’t), such is the high profile of the show in the UK.

‘University Challenge’ style questions are very hard to write well. They should, ideally, unambiguously point towards the correct answer from the start, gradually giving more and more clues and getting easier as the question progresses, and should flow reasonably naturally to make them easy for players (and viewers) to understand when they hear them read out quickly.

But people who watch ‘University Challenge’ often feel that they are stupid for only getting  2 or 3 starter questions before the contestants. However, this is actually almost exactly par for the course.

Let’s say there are about 25 starter questions in a show. Assume all the players on the show have an even spread of knowledge, and answer all the starter questions evenly. That’s 3 starter questions per person. If you’re sat at home getting 2 or 3 then you are bang on the mark for what is expected. Once you are getting more than 2 or 3 starters before the contestants then you are a cult UC star (Trimble/Guttenplan/Fitzpatrick etc.) in the making.

Of course the often overlooked fact here is that bonus questions are where it can be won or lost. It is quite conceivable for a team to get only about one-third of their bonus questions correct whereas the other team might get two-thirds of theirs correct. The team that has a deeper knowledge for winning points on bonus questions in this example can afford to answer significantly fewer starter questions while still managing to win. (In this example the better team on bonuses could answer 10 starters and have 200 points whereas the better team on starters but worse on bonuses could answer 13 starters and only have 195 points. Fine margins – but the importance of the bonuses is easily forgotten).

How many starter questions do you typically get before the contestants when you watch ‘University Challenge’?

[poll id=’2′]




Ask the Audience (by Derren Brown)

We’re going to veer away from the world of the pub quiz night for this post (but will come back on topic next time). I noticed that ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’ is taking applications for shows in the summer: details on their website. But that isn’t really what this post is about (well not entirely). If you do apply, and get on, here’s a little strategy that might help you out.

Imagine you are in the hotseat, you are doing well, but up comes a question that stumps you. You’ve still got lifelines left, but you don’t fancy using 50:50  because you don’t feel 50:50 will really help. Perhaps you are pretty sure that one of the four options is wrong, but you can’t really choose between the other three. You don’t think any of your Phone-a-Friends will know this either. And you still have your Ask the Audience lifeline left but you are pretty convinced that this audience won’t know the answer (either because you can just tell the question is genuinely hard, or because you have been unimpressed by this audience’s efforts to help out a previous contestant – or a bit of both).

I’ve seen occasions on the show when a contestant has said “I have a feeling about option C – I think I’ve read that somewhere” and then, lo and behold, 70% of the audience vote for that option – and turn out to be wrong.

So – you have a question that stumps you, minimal confidence in your audience to help you, but that crucial feeling (or even certainty) that one of the four options is definitely wrong.

Try this: announce confidently that you are pretty sure it is option A (where option A is the one you are sure is wrong). Come up with some spurious reasoning to make it sound convincing. Now is the time to Ask the Audience. Those in the audience who are like sheep will have been convinced by your reasoning and will vote for A to “help you have confidence to go for your answer” or because “I’m pretty sure that sounds familiar as well”. I reckon Derren Brown would agree that this is how many people in the audience would behave if you managed to do your manipulation effectively earlier on whilst thinking outloud.

So, in one fell swoop you manage to divert all the people in the audience who don’t know the answer onto the one option that you are convinced is wrong. Those who do actually know the answer (and you can be pretty sure that there will be some people in the audience who do actually know the answer) will of course choose the option that they think is correct, which, with luck, is not the one you are sure is wrong (and the one that the sheep in the audience have voted for).

To find the correct answer then just go for the highest Ask the Audience vote that isn’t the one you have diverted the sheep onto.

It could, of course, go horribly wrong, but could be one of the greatest moments in quiz show history if executed successfully. If you get onto the show, and try this, and win big, then remember where you got the idea from…

Do you have any cunning strategies of your own to help you navigate the ups and downs of big money quiz shows?



My Pointless Friend

“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?


Quiz show parodies

I don’t watch a vast number of quiz shows on TV anymore (apart from Only Connect), although  “UK TV Quiz shows” was my chosen specialist subject on ‘The People Versus’ back in about 2000.

I do enjoy a good quiz show parody though, and they don’t come along all that often.

Here are my favourites, all very different and marvellous in different ways. Enjoy.

1. The Two Ronnies’ Mastermind is very funny although it does lose momentum a bit towards the end

2. Adam and Joe’s Quizzlestick is pure genius, and if this leaves you confused, then read the UKGameshows review

3. Alex Zane’s Cleverness Game is my favourite, although the cruellest to the contestants…

4. I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue: The Quiz of Quizzes is perhaps less well known, but very amusing indeed (although possibly not an ISIHAC classic).

Have we missed any good ones?