Pointless (game show)

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Also known as Pointless Celebrities
Genre Game show
Directed by Nick Harris
Julian Smith
Presented by Alexander Armstrong
Starring Richard Osman
Theme music composer Marc Sylvan
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 12 (regular)
6 (celebrity)
No. of episodes 680 (regular; as of 25th February 2015)
81 (celebrity; as of 3rd January 2015)
Executive producer(s) Pam Cavannagh (BBC)
Tom Blakeson and David Flynn (both Brighter Pictures then Remarkable Television)
Producer(s) Michelle Woods
  • Hannah Barnes
  • Peter Elphick
  • David Horwell
  • Neil Hunter
  • Nykki Parker
Location(s) BBC Television Centre (2009–12)
Elstree Studios (2013–)
Camera setup Multiple-camera setup
Running time 45 minutes (regular)
50 minutes (celebrity)
Production company(s) Brighter Pictures (2009)
Remarkable Television (2010–)
Distributor Endemol UK
Original channel BBC Two (2009–11)
BBC One (2011–)
Picture format 576i (16:9 SDTV)
1080i (HDTV)
Audio format Stereo
Original run 24 August 2009 (2009-08-24) – present
Related shows Beat the Nation
Family Fortunes
External links

Pointless is a quiz show produced by Endemol UK for the BBC, hosted by Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman. Contestants on the programme are tasked with finding obscure answers to questions. The series began airing on BBC Two on 24 August 2009, and was later moved to BBC One in 2011. To date, there have been twelve series, plus six celebrity series.[1] The format has been exported to other European countries.


The object of the game is for contestants not only to provide correct answers, but also provide the most obscure possible correct answers. The game features four teams (previously five), each consisting of two contestants. In each round, the team with the highest score is eliminated; the other teams proceed to the next round. In the final round there is the chance to win the jackpot prize. Teams can appear on the show twice (only once if they have made it to the final round on their first attempt). The show's assistant is Richard Osman, styled as Alexander's "pointless friend". During the course of the game, he gives information about the answers that are given, as well as statistics at the end of each round on the most common and most obscure answers.[2]

Prior to the show, 100 people are each given 100 seconds to give as many answers as they can to the questions that will be asked to the teams during the show. Correct answers are assigned a point value equal to the number of panellists who gave them, so that less commonly given answers have lower values than those given by many panellists. Contestants on the show attempt to give answers worth as few points as possible, aiming to have the lowest score amongst the contestants in each round.

"Pointless" answers are those correct answers that none of the 100 panellists gave, making them worth zero points. If a contestant manages to obtain a pointless answer prior to the final round, £250 is added to the jackpot. An incorrect answer adds 100 points to the contestant's score. The format consists of two elimination rounds, a head-to-head round and the final round. If two teams are tied for the highest point value at the end of the first or second round, a sudden-death round occurs, with the highest-scoring team losing. The couple that wins the head-to-head round are awarded a Pointless trophy and the chance to win the jackpot by guessing a pointless answer. If the contestants fail to find a pointless answer in the final round, the jackpot rolls over to the next show and is increased by £1,000. But in the celebrity shows, the prize always starts at £2,500 and it will not be rolled over in the following show, and the prize will be reset to £2,500.

Four episodes are recorded in one day.[3]


The format and gameplay changed slightly between series. The game consists of initial elimination rounds (three in the first series, two in subsequent series) to whittle the starting lineup down to the two teams who contest the head-to-head; the winning team of the head-to-head plays in the Final.

Elimination rounds[edit]

The teams are given a subject such as geography or sport. Each team chooses one contestant from their team to answer the question first. Then the question within the subject is revealed. The order of play is determined by drawing lots in advance of recording. Play starts with the person at the podium nearest to Alexander and ends at the farthest podium; this forms what is known as the "first pass". Then, the contestants at each podium switch to the second contestant, and the order is then reversed for the "second pass". During each of these rounds, teams may not confer.

Teams gain points depending on how many people answered the question with that answer. If the contestant gives an incorrect answer, they are awarded the maximum 100 points.

At the end of each round, the team with the highest score is eliminated from the game. In the event of a tie, the tied teams each give an extra answer each until the deadlock is broken and the team with the highest points eliminated. The teams are allowed to confer in the tie-break.

To complete each round, Osman reveals all the pointless answers, or lowest popular three if there are no pointless answers, plus the top three answers, which would be worth the highest amount to any contestant.

There are five different formats of the elimination round which can be played: the first was introduced in the first series (and was the only version used in that run), with subsequent series introducing variant formats.

The original format has open-ended questions: contestants are given the question and a free choice of answer—no prompts or preset answers are shown. If the contestant's answer is correct, they score according to the poll results; an incorrect answer scores 100 points. In the first series, this game was played three times, in each of the elimination rounds, then in subsequent episodes the game would be played no more than once. A variant of this format was introduced in Series 7, where a list of categories appears on the board after a question and contestants can give any answer that fitted into any of those categories (for example, they could name any member that was in any band on the list). Contestants usually identify the intended category along with their answer, though (unlike in the endgame) they are not required to do so and they will be credited for a correct answer even if they attribute it to the wrong category. This variant enables the question setters to either combine several smaller categories into a round (e.g. the films of several different actors) or narrow down a wider category (for example, by limiting answers to those starting with certain letters).

The possible answers format, introduced as the new second-elimination-round format in Series Two and dropped in Series Six, gave the question and a board of seven potential answers; each contestant in turn would pick one of the answers shown, scoring accordingly. Following the first pass, Richard would reveal the value of the remaining answers. The other team members would have a new set of answers to choose from. Each set of answers would include at least one pointless answer and at least one incorrect answer. Usually, the incorrect answer had some indirect link (often humorous) back to the question. As only the provided answers needed to be verified, this question format allowed categories to be used where no commonly-agreed definitive list of correct answers existed.

The third format, clues and answers, was introduced in Series 3. The teams are given a two-part subject, such as "Famous Battles and their Countries", and then a list of names relating to part of the question (for example, a list of historical battles). The contestants must select an item from the list and give the corresponding half of the answer (in this case, the modern-day country where the battle took place). All the options have a correct answer, and a more obscure answer will score fewer points. An incorrect answer to any question scores 100 points. (If the question was "The Battle of Hastings", the correct answer, "United Kingdom", would score 92 points, as most panellists would know this answer.) After the first pass, all the correct answers and their scores are revealed, with a fresh board of names for the second pass. Unlike the "possible answers" format, there is no guarantee that there will be a pointless answer on the board. Seven clues are provided on each pass if this format is played in the first round, six if played in the second round.

A fourth format, introduced in Series 5, provides the teams with two closely related categories (e.g. "Boy Bands" and "Rock Bands"). The first category is played on the first pass (by the teams' first contestant), and the second category is played on the second pass (by the second contestants). The questions are still played in an open-ended format and, so far, this format has only been played in the first round. It was rarely used and is no longer played.

A fifth format, introduced in Series 7, shows the contestants a singular picture containing many people or objects (e.g. cartoon characters) and they had to identify the lowest-scoring person/object in it. This is only occasionally used and replaces an "original format" round when it does appear.

The games which were played in each series were arranged as follows:

  • Series 1 used three rounds of "original format"
  • Series 2 used a round of "original format" and a round of "possible answers"
  • Series 3 used a first round of either "original format" or "possible answers", and a second round of either "possible answers" or "clues and answers" ("possible answers" would not be played twice in the same show)
  • Series 4 and Series 5 used a first round of either "original format" or "possible answers", and a second round of "clues and answers"
  • Series 6 saw the "possible answers" format scrapped. The two elimination rounds are "original format" and "clues and answers" in either order.

Whatever the format, the two teams remaining from the elimination rounds would go forward to the head-to-head round.

Head-to-head round[edit]

Series 1[edit]

The lowest scoring team overall is given a choice of two categories and picks one, they are allowed to confer. Each team takes it in turns to give as many correct answers as possible to the single question while still keeping their scores as low as possible. The round ends when one team goes above 100 points, after both teams have had the same number of turns. If both teams go above 100, then the team that is nearest to 100 goes through to the final.

Series 2–5[edit]

The format of the head-to-head changed from series 2 to a multi-question best-of-five (best-of-three from series 3).

The remaining two teams face off in a head-to-head battle. The team who acquired the fewest points in the first two rounds gets to go first.

A question is asked which has a minimum of 4 answers, then the teams get to confer and give one answer in turn. The scores for both answers are then revealed and the team with the lower score get a point and the opportunity to answer first on the next question. The first team to get three points (2 points from series 3) wins the Head to Head and enters the final.

Series 6–present[edit]

The head-to-head format kept its previous format of a multi-question best-of-three, but each question is in a "clues and answers" format. There are three kinds of question in this round:

  • A picture question, which up until series 10 was always the first question in this round, unless a picture question was used in either of previous rounds. (From series 10, it is sometimes played as the second question instead.) Five pictures on a common theme are shown, labelled A to E, and contestants must identify the subject of the picture (for example, if the theme is waterfalls, "A, Angel Falls" would be a possible way for a pair to answer). In Pointless Celebrities, an audio round is sometimes played along the same lines.
  • Facts about a subject. Five clues to these facts (essentially questions about the subject) are presented, and each pair must give an answer to one of them
  • Word puzzles. The answers are typically titles of works, quotations, or names of people, and the clue might be an anagram, an initialism, or all words except one of the quote or title. For example, if the theme is Shakespeare quotes, a typical clue might be "Fire burn and cauldron ____", to which the contestants must supply the missing word "bubble"

After both contestants have submitted an answer, the scores are revealed, and the lowest scoring pair wins the point, as per normal.


The aim of the Final is to get one pointless answer to win the jackpot. For reaching the final the team receives a "coveted" (as Alexander always describes it) Pointless trophy, regardless of what happens in the final. Any team that makes it through to the final cannot return for the next show, even if it is their first appearance. The trophy is made from a 120mm tall block of optical quality crystal, 3D laser-engraved with a stack of 100 Pointless discs and the Pointless logo. It is manufactured by Laser Crystal Ltd, based in Poole, Dorset.

The team is given a choice of five categories (three in Series 1–5, and in these series, the categories stayed either for 5 days or until they were picked. Since Series 6, a new set is seen every day). After choosing one, they get the question, and have 60 seconds to give three answers for that category. If any individual response is a pointless answer, the team wins the jackpot and the jackpot is reset to £1,000 for the following game. If not, £1,000 is added to the jackpot.

A record jackpot of £24,750 was won in the episode broadcast 8 March 2013. Beginning with broadcast episode 501,[citation needed] which aired 7 June 2013, a new format was introduced for the final jackpot. Contestants are given four categories to select from, and are given 60 seconds to find a pointless answer by picking three answers from any or all of three subcategories.


The show's format (originally to be called "Obviously") was conceived by Tom Blakeson, Simon Craig, David Flynn, Nick Mather, Richard Osman and Shaun Parry, producers at Endemol UK, in 2009. They envisaged it as a "reverse Family Fortunes....rewarding obscure knowledge, while allowing people to also give obvious answers....a quiz which could be sort of highbrow and populist simultaneously".[4] Osman was not originally intended to be co-presenter, primarily fulfilling the role only as part of a demonstration laid on for the BBC. However the BBC executives asked him to continue when they commissioned the first series.[4] Osman then approached comedian Alexander Armstrong, a peer of Osman's during their university days, to be the main presenter.[4] Armstrong, who the previous year had been lined up to present Channel 4's Countdown only to back out fearing being pigeon-holed as a presenter,[5] agreed to present what was perceived as a lower-profile show, with the presence of Osman helping to convince him.[4]

The first series aired on the BBC's second channel BBC Two between August and October 2009, with the corporation announcing on the day of the final episode's broadcast that they had commissioned a second series. The series' audience had peaked at 1.69 million viewers, 17.2% of audience share for the timeslot,[2] while averaging around 1 million viewers per episode.[4] The second series saw audiences grow modestly and the format was tweaked prior to the start of series three, reducing the number of rounds and giving more time for banter between the hosts which had previously been edited out.[4] The change saw strong viewer growth with the show subsequently moved to the BBC's main channel BBC One in 2011.[4][6] By 2013, the programme was averaging 3.6 million viewers daily, and starting to gain more viewers than ITV game show, The Chase, which also airs in roughly the same time slot.[6]


Regular series[edit]

Series Start date End date No. of episodes Notes
1 24 August 2009 6 October 2009 30 No episode on 31 August or 10 September.
2 8 March 2010 16 April 2010 30 No episode on 5 April.
3 30 August 2010 22 December 2010 50 Series 3 took breaks from 16 & 20 September, 4–14 October and 22 November – 21 December. Episode 50 was a celebrity special.
4 14 March 2011 26 August 2011 65 Series 4 took breaks from 18 April – 8 July.
5 29 August 2011 6 February 2012 60 Series 5 took breaks from 17 October – 30 December.
6 13 February 2012 24 August 2012 70 Series 6 took breaks from 23 March, 2–27 April, 3 May and 4 June – 10 August.
7 29 August 2012 5 December 2012 70 No episode on 16 November.
8 2 January 2013 2 April 2013 65
9 3 April 2013 25 September 2013 55 Series 9 took breaks from 29 April – 24 May and 24 June – 30 August.
10 26 September 2013 6 March 2014 75 Series 10 took breaks from 7–25 October, 2 December – 3 January and 3 – 21 February.
11 20 March 2014 29 September 2014 55 Series 11 took breaks from 21 April–23 May & 19 June–5 September.
12 28 October 2014 25 February 2015 55 Series 12 took a break from 20 November – 2 January 2015

Pointless Celebrities[edit]


Series Start date End date No. of episodes Notes
1 4 July 2011 8 July 2011 5 Broadcast daily at 5:15pm on BBC One.
2 25 February 2012 16 June 2012 8 Recorded as a set of eight episodes but broadcast on selected dates across four months on BBC One.
3 20 October 2012 27 December 2012 9 Broadcast weekly on Saturday evenings at 5:40pm on BBC One. Episode 9 was broadcast on a Thursday due to Christmas schedules.
4 16 February 2013 7 September 2013 6 Broadcast on selected dates on BBC One.
5 14 September 2013 TBA 12 Broadcast on Saturdays at selected times on BBC One. Two episodes still unaired.
6 28 December 2013 3 January 2015 31 Broadcast on Saturdays at selected times on BBC One. The series took a break, midway through.
Date Entitle
16 November 2012 Children in Need Special
2 March 2013 Comic Relief Special
15 November 2013 Children in Need Special
21 December 2013 Christmas Special
21 March 2014 Sport Relief


Series Start date End date No. of episodes Notes
1 10 December 2012 21 December 2012 10 Broadcast daily at 5:15pm on BBC One.

Award nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Result
2012 National Television Awards Comedy Panel Show Longlisted
TV Choice Awards Best Daytime Show[7] Nominated
2013 National Television Awards Most Popular Daytime Programme[citation needed] Longlisted
2014 National Television Awards Most Popular Daytime Programme Nominated


Following a celebrity news-themed edition of the show, several fans expressed annoyance at Kelvin MacKenzie's appearance. Richard Osman responded to at least twenty comments on Twitter, stating that he did not know MacKenzie would appear until "about an hour before" recording and "strongly argued against it".[8][9][10]

Other countries[edit]

Country Title Translation Host Network Premiere Date
 Czech Republic Míň je víc! Less is More! Jan Smetana Česká televize 5 January 2015
 Croatia Tog se nitko nije sjetio No one thought of that Antonija Blace, Krešimir Sucevic-Mederal RTL 29 April 2013 – 7 June 2013 (season 1)
 France Personne n'y avait pensé! No one had thought of it! Cyril Féraud France 3 16 July 2011 to 31 December 2011
 Germany Null gewinnt [11] Zero wins Dieter Nuhr, Ralph Caspers ARD Summer 2012
 Macedonia Без Поени![12] Bez Poeni!
No Points!
Snezana Velkov Sitel 1 November 2014
 Poland Tylko Ty [13][14] Only you Tomasz Kammel, Radoslaw Kotarski TVP2 27 February 2014
 Serbia Toga se niko nije setio [15] No one thought of that Tamara Grujic, Dragan Ilic Prva 5 April 2014
  Switzerland Weniger ist mehr [16] Less is more Patrick Hässig SRF1 20 August 2012


Three books have been released of the show, The 100 Most Pointless Things in the World, The 100 Most Pointless Arguments in the World and The Very Pointless Quiz Book. All Three were released by Coronet. In the books, Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman give their insight to pointless matters. Two board games have also been released.

In popular culture[edit]


  1. ^ "BBC One - Pointless - Episode guide". bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-01-24. 
  2. ^ a b BBC Daytime re-commissions Pointless BBC Press Office.
  3. ^ Graham, Alison (2013-06-10). "Pointless star Richard Osman on the show that made him a TV heart-throb". Radio Times. Retrieved 2014-01-24. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Tom Meltzer (2013-06-04). "Pointless: Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman on TV's favourite quiz". The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-06-06. 
  5. ^ Mark Sweney (2008-10-30). "Alexander Armstrong backs out of Countdown job". Guardian. Retrieved 2013-06-06. 
  6. ^ a b TV and Radio (2013-06-06). "Pointless it may be, but Alexander Armstrong's gameshow is certainly addictive". Telegraph. Retrieved 2013-06-06. 
  7. ^ Daniels, Colin (10 September 2012). "TVChoice Awards 2012: The winners - In full". Digital Spy. Hearst Corporation. Retrieved 24 January 2015. 
  8. ^ Morgan, Georgia (27 October 2014). "Pointless host Richard Osman apologises to viewers for Kelvin Mackenzie's appearance on the show". Liverpool Echo. Trinity Mirror. Retrieved 24 January 2015. 
  9. ^ Lazarus, Susanna (27 October 2014). "Richard Osman was not happy about Kelvin Mackenzie's appearance on Pointless Celebrities...". Radio Times. Immediate Media Company. Retrieved 24 January 2015. 
  10. ^ Clarke, Donald (26 October 2014). "PointlessGate isn’t really a scandal". The Irish Times. Retrieved 24 January 2015. 
  11. ^ "Nuhr vertritt Gottschalk während der Sommerpause". DWDL.de. 2012-01-17. Retrieved 2013-05-31. 
  12. ^ "Bez Poeni!". 2014-03-06. Retrieved 2014-03-06. 
  13. ^ ""Nikt tylko Ty". Nowy teleturniej Telewizji Polskiej". tvp.pl. 2014-01-15. Retrieved 2014-01-17. 
  14. ^ "Tomasz Kammel i Radoslaw Kotarski poprowadza teleturniej "Tylko ty" w TVP2". wirtualnemedia.pl. 2014-01-21. Retrieved 2014-01-31. 
  15. ^ "Toga se niko nije setio" (in Serbian). togasenikonijesetio.rs. Retrieved 2014-02-19. 
  16. ^ "Patrick Hässig moderiert "Weniger ist mehr" - Schweiz: Promi-News, Videos und Bilder - glanz & gloria - Schweizer Fernsehen" (in German). Glanzundgloria.sf.tv. Retrieved 2013-05-31. 

External links[edit]