We love a quiz show here in Britain. Whether it’s through our unending thirst for knowledge, our competitive desperation to out-know everyone else or just to pass an hour at bedtime (my marriage has never been more on fire than when the Mrs and I are tackling a trivia challenge or an arrow-word under the duvet), the thrill of answering general knowledge questions correctly gives us a little bit of a buzz.
The best place to compete in quizzes for the vast majority of the UK’s population is from the non judgemental comfort of our own living room armchairs. We pour scorn on the contestants on the various quiz shows who don’t know that the chemical symbol for Potassium isn’t as easy as it seems, who can’t tell the Kardashian sisters apart or worse, go for a lower offer on The Chase. Of course, we could do better every single time; ‘where do they get these people?’ we ask ourselves incredulously as we sip on our Ovaltine and tut at John Smith missing out on a perfectly easy Pointless answer.
Of course, for the contestants themselves, as highlighted in our interview with The Chase contestant Charlie Gardner, it’s a lot more tricky than it looks. But for us viewers, quiz shows are a thrilling mix of education, entertainment and competition that are a staple of our television schedules. With so many popular formats on our screen, our friends at Quiz Britain, a popular site which draws together everything remotely quizzing related, are running a poll to find out what our favourite quiz show of all time is. I spoke to Ian Woolley, the ‘Mastermind’ (see what I did there?) behind Quiz Britain, to find out more… Continue reading
Many of my extensive, shuddering fanbase will have an inkling or two that I have a mild fascination with trivia and, therefore, quiz shows. This evening sees the welcome return of BBC4 hit Only Connect, in its snug new home on BBC2.
With 9 series under its belt already, the show is moving to a new home where it can be discovered by a whole host of new viewers, eager to be bamboozled by its notorious difficulty. For those of you who have yet to come across it, Only Connect is a show in which teams participate in a trivia contest and work together to combine a set of seemingly unrelated clues together to come up with what is often an obscure, but always intelligent, link.
As series ten gets underway under the expert eye of presenter of Victoria Coren (incidentally one of my favourite guest panellists from Have I Got News For You) on BBC 2 at 8:30pm, I got the chance to chat to one of the senior question setters of the show, Jack Waley-Cohen. Jack, who takes quizzing all over the country with the successful QuizQuizQuiz company, has penned many of the brain-taxing conundrums on Only Connect since Series 9, and tells me how a fiendishly difficult and/or intriguing set of clues are developed from the birth of simple ideas. Continue reading
Another New Year’s Day, another New Year’s Headache. And that was just from watching Sherlock. Thankfully, Channel Four are, as ever, on hand to provide something a bit less cerebral but even more fun.
Michael Kitchen as Stanhope Feast
Welcome to Hacks, telly’s first proper (fictional) pop at the phone hacking scandal that turned last year entirely upside down (thus making it 1105, by my reckoning) (sorry). The newspaper in question is the fictional Sunday Comet (motto – “Let The Truth Be Heard”) owned by the fictional Australian media magnate Stanhope Feast (Michael Kitchen, being good value as always) and watched over by the fictional new Prime Minister David Bullingdon (Alexander Armstrong being, well, Alexander Armstrong) but like all of these spoof docudrama things, it’s pretty damn obvious what’s actually what.
Pretty Damn Obvious is probably a fair description of Hacks. Its trajectory almost exactly mirrors real life events. And therein lies the problem – as Peter Kay found when he tried to satirise Reality TV with Britain’s Got The Pop Factor etc etc, it is impossible to spoof something that is already absurd. Hacks doesn’t tell us anything that we don’t already know and haven’t already thought.
Having said this, it’s still good, if somewhat cartoonish, fun. It’s written by Guy Jenkin of Drop The Dead Donkey and Outnumbered fame and the dialogue is predictably as superb in parts. In fact, it makes up a large part of my notes. “I’ve seen more of Ashley’s cock than Cheryl has – we’ve had to install more memory to cope with it”, “I won’t have a word said against the Royals – they always die on Saturdays so we can break the story on a Sunday”, “Our Weather Forecast is too depressing; I want less rain”, the newspaper headline that reads “BBC Bosses Gave Cake To Terrorists”; it’s pretty much spot on throughout. It even stops to make a few pithy observations on the way – my personal favourite being “they are ashamed they were scared of us so now they’re going to destroy us”. My favourite line, however, concerns the sacking of Mystic Marilyn. I won’t spoil it for you here, but suffice to say it sums up the programme nicely – glaringly obvious but still strangely hilarious. Continue reading
Filed under Comedy, Drama
There is something about Doctor Who and Christmas that is such a good fit that the DW Christmas Special already felt like a festive tradition by 2007.
It’s been, amongst other things, a disaster movie, and A Christmas Carol, but despite the title this is only superficially a visit to Narnia. We’re not faffing about with Christian analogies and talking lions, we’re dealing with the big stuff; plundering the depths of the human heart, relearning that the price of love is grief and being reminded why we love and treasure our mums.
The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardobe is classic Steven Moffat, funny, inventive, shot through with razor-sharp observations and guaranteed to make you feel very ‘humany-wumany’.
Simon Amstell’s new comedy Grandma’s House is marmite TV and I’m on the dark side.
But one aspect which even the most ardent yeast addict admits is that Simon Amstell himself is a truly rubbish actor, which is quite a flaw in a programme centred on him.
So I’ve invented a new game which makes watching Grandma’s House even more fun: who should actually be playingthe part of ‘Simon Amstell’?
Here’s my top-of-the-head five:
- Stephen Mangan: he would bring the right degree of hang-dog put-upon angst to the role. Plus he’s got the necessary shaggy-haired lost look. Is he too old for the role?
- Chris Addison: brought to mind since two of the gems in this programme are co-stars from The Thick of It – Rebecca Front playing his mother, Tanya, and James Smith her new boyfriend, Clive. Maybe too clean cut. But he could also tweet while he’s doing it which would bring a whole new social media dimension to TV comedy.
- Chris O’Dowd from the IT Crowd: plausibly lost and distrait. Plus you can easily see him being put down by his family. But can he ditch the Irish accent?
- Benedict Cumberbatch? Very now. But no.
- David Mitchell: young enough. Weedy enough. But not sure he’s actually any better at acting than Amstell.
Alternatively, they could go postmodern and have Simon Amstell played by a different comic actor each week, culminating in a tour de force from Bruce Forsyth – with Lisa Tarbuck being surprisingly good and everyone agreeing that Alexander Armstrong should probably get the job full-time.
There you go. Suggestions for the part of Amstell welcome.
Posted by arialbold