what is the point? one woman's musings on game shows, general knowledge and actually what being smart means
general knowledge is a general nuisance. a thread
If it being 5:15 on a weekday evening means absolutely nothing to you, well strap in and let me tell you what it does: Pointless on BBC One. It’s a modern classic of the genre, with a rather simple, but effective plot - four rounds, and those with the highest score gets knocked out, until the final where only a pointless answer will you that measly jackpot.
Thanks to Miss Rona, now its meaning has increased. It became a boulder of normality. When everything else slipped away, it’s airing never did. A midafternoon melting of the monotony of the bleary, dreary lockdown, marking the end of the “working” day, the transition into the nice bit of the day, the bit where it kinda feels normal, because well, its Wednesday and when does anything exciting happen on a Wednesday?
Whenever I praise Pointless, someone always seems to jump in with a hullabaloo about how much they love The Chase. To which I say NO! Its too flashy, too much faux aggression, too much tension. Theatricality, a good game show does not make, give me mundane, give me gentle, give me genial. Pointless, with its low stakes, is a trip to the beach. Questions delicately lap the shoreline. The Chase is a tsunami.
False modesty is so 2019, and let me tell you one thing, I’d be amazing on Pointless. A producer once told me I make “great TV” so humble brag I do not. Gemma Collins and I are one. We should team up for our own ITV2 quiz show.
Aside from my potential for a television career, the main reason I’d be great is merely due to not being a middle-aged white man. This makes me an audience minority. My reference base is completely different. For example, the other day, only two surveyed could identify a picture of Elizabeth Warren. I love Elizabeth Warren. Of course, I do! She’s a leftwing female American politician who likes to yell at rich men. Her, Katie Porter and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s viral videos are *chefs kiss* Things aimed at yOunG pEOpLe tend to be low scorers, unless it’s like, really obvious like Lady Gaga.
On a related note, who are these 100 people they call up and ask to name as many x in 100 seconds or whatever? Do they ask the same people each time? Is it done all in-house? Do they disqualify you if you squeal “Ohmigosh, is this for Pointless?”
A conspiracy that I’m willing to spread on the internet is that they do not exist. It’s a lie. They just make it up. Where is the evidence they do? For the sheer volume of episodes, they must have run out of people to call? Not to be all “its never happened to me so doesn’t exist” but it has never happened to me or anyone I know. It isn’t really anything I’ve given much thought about until right now, but does anyone know of anyone that this has happened to? Is it people who answer junk emails with genuine responses? Or who eagerly answer telephone calls asking you to do questionnaires? Basically, what I am asking, is it just suckers?
Also, is it a compliment if the thing you’ve dedicated your life to becomes a question in the final? The final, where the winning duo, who get “the coveted Pointless trophy” which looks like it was designed by a lamppost, is constituted of all the questions that not one baffoon could muster up any recollection of. If the film, song, book or that you scored the winning goal cannot be conjured up by 100 people in 100 seconds, why are you even doing it? Pointless, how many midlife crises have you provoked?
Although after no thought at all, I declare that a life goal of mine is to be a pointless answer on Pointless, an apt goal for being a creative in 2020. This is my only Pointless related goal. I’d never go on because I CANNOT BEAR ALL THE PERSONAL QUESTIONS!!!!!! Why does Alexander “Zander” Armstrong give all the contestants the third fucking degree? So much small talk! The whole thing evokes flashbacks to icebreakers on first days, ones involving throwing a ball, sitting in a circle and summing yourself up with a “fun fact” and you’re like “OH DEAR LORD, I CANNOT SUSS THIS AUDIENCE” Fun facts are weather dependent, and sometimes the storm is tough to gauge.
I get it, it’s about creating EMOTIONAL STAKES and getting us to CARE but sometimes he comes across unbelievably condescending. Yes, it must be hard to care about what Sue, 42, an HR manager from Hertfordshire does in her spare time, but why must you bother? I’m here for the other questions! Sometimes, the pair of them are so judgey! Let people live! This is capitalism. Let us enjoy our weird hobbies in peace! Unless they enjoy mass murder or anything unconsentingly violent, you don’t need to ask and then laugh! Can Ofcom make it a violation to ask about BOTH a TV contestant’s job and hobby? One or the other. Don’t be greedy.
Someone once remarked to me that if you fast-forwarded through all the “filler”, Pointless would be about fifteen minutes. That big black chair is really daunting, but at least I knew that Jon Humphreys wasn’t going to cross-examine me about my favourite book when I meekly admitted I liked reading.
Armstrong and the world’s tallest sidekick, Richard Osman, who I can attest is very tall because I once saw him getting off a train at Edinburgh Waverley, are quite smug. Zander is more so, and I don’t think he does it on purpose, but it seeps out. Osman is more affable with his dad jokes and genuine love of pointless information. Osman much less try-hard while Armstrong cannot help but be like “I know this., and this thicko on podium 3 does not” Their duo chemistry is natural, but just sometimes Zander seems a big off with the great unwashed.
Another thing that stops me from going on is the issue of teams! I also don’t know who’d I bring as a partner. There are a few contenders, but ya know. You’ve got to be strategic, find someone who fills the gaps missing in your knowledge. Conferring is when this most useful, only allowed in the last two rounds. For the first two rounds, you both need to excel on your own - hopefully not becoming a member of the dreaded 200 Club.
Being good at “general knowledge” is one of the worst talents because its meaningless. Succeeding is down to luck. At its core, it’s having an elephant-like memory. This knack for remembering is my dyslexia being an advantage. Honestly? I’d rather be good at drawing. It’s more concrete than recalling what happened at your birthday party five years ago. Knowing things for the sake of knowing them is dry and boring and I want to be excluded from that narrative.
For the sake of my mental heat, I don’t need to worry myself about that. Getting myself all het up about it is all a bit….. Pointless