Did we like it?
Not malleable enough to be moulded into a dumb puppet by Simon Cowell’s mangling hands? Too much dignity for I’m A Celebrity? Not whacky enough for Big Brother? Do you lack the racial diversity to appear on Castaway? Unable to force yourself into a facile regime of a false community and thus disqualify any chance of appearing on Deal Or No Deal? Then fear not; the BBC’s latest reality-show-cum-cash-grab scoops up the detritus of life, paints a big smiley clown’s face on them and asks them questions that most infant school children wouldn’t find taxing.
What was good about it?
• Eighty-seven-year old Marjorie, who was treated with such sickening condescension by the ‘Fearsome Threesome’ and Jamie Theakston. Sadly for them, she rebuked their cynical attempts to show compassion to another human being simply because she was elderly. “You did brilliantly,” Jamie simpered. “Have you had a good day?” “No,” replied Marjorie bluntly. “It was very boring indeed.”
• Bloc Party’s Banquet and Editors’ Blood.
• The format that necessitated contestants to get 10 questions in a row correct was simple and easy to follow.
What was bad about it?
• The questions oscillated between the frustratingly easy and the obscure, which sounds like any normal quiz show except that the easy questions outnumbered the difficult by about eight-to-one. It was possible to answer all ten questions correctly without having to exercise the brain past the daily activity of a sloth such as Sophie’s, while the first ever contestant stumbled on a question about Karl Marx.
• The questions also pander to popular misconceptions, which was nowhere more excruciating that in the first question to the first contestant. “What colour is supposedly meant to infuriate a bull?” asked Myleene Klass. Why not: “Which colour did people think infuriated a bull, but haven’t done so since scientists disproved it and it is a belief now only kept alive by perpetuating the myth on asinine quiz shows?”
• And Kate Garraway: “What is the only major planet in the Solar System not to be named after a Greek or Roman god?” Here’s our question for Kate: “Can you name one planet in the Solar System that’s named after a Greek god?”
• People who celebrate by yelling “Come on”, people who have a primordial soup of bubbling testosterone where the brain once was shouldn’t be allowed to appear on quiz shows, or even television but instead be condemned to act as cannon fodder in frighteningly realistic historical re-enactments of pointless mediaeval feuds.
• Jamie Theakston hovers over contestants with such intensity he seems about to melt into a puddle of rancid cheese.
• The paraphrase stolen from Weakest Link, “Let’s play The People’s Quiz!”
• “We went in search of the cleverest people in Britain,” claimed Jamie. Knowing the name of a number one Blue had in 2001 isn’t on the Mensa checklist. And this is part of the problem as it confuses intelligence with the ability to know worthless facts; and the questions and answers are given to the contestants beforehand reducing it to a memory contest.
• The corrupted folklore surrounding the interrogators. Myleene Klass was labelled the “Queen of Pop Culture”; on what basis was that? Coming second in a show for washed up nobodies? Wearing a bikini? Being part of a vile pop group who wept like impetigo sores over the charts until they were banished?
• And all of the ‘Fearsome Threesome’ seemed to be jostling to see who can out-patronise the others. “I’m ready for you, William [G Stewart].” “I bet you’re not, kid!” Meanwhile, Kate Garraway’s smile is as sincere as a Venus flytrap’s gaping maw.
• The obvious idea was to collate all the stupid answers into a hilarious compendium of idiocy, but it was done with such contrived malice that it instead was reminiscent of a pack of hounds tearing a distressed fox to shreds for the amusement of the rest of the hunt. And besides, none of the answers were quite as stupid as the one given by someone so anonymous we didn’t recognise them on a celebrity Weakest Link: “In human development what is the four-letter word for a new born infant?” “Wasp.”
• The transparent efforts to ape the faux euphoria and optimism of X-Factor such as getting a group of people who look more in need of Nicky Hambleton-Jones than Jamie Theakston to laboriously intone: “It’s the People’s Quiz 2007 and we’re HERE TO WIN!”
• The exploitative manner in which Sarah, who was competing because she “really needed the money”, was reduced to tears after she got a question wrong. But rather than do what they had done for many other contestants and told her not to worry she could have another go, the “Fearsome Threesome” kept mute.