Weakest Link is a television game show which first appeared in the United Kingdom on BBC Two on 14 August 2000 and ended on 31 March 2012 when its host Anne Robinson ended her contract. The original British version of the show is still aired around the world on BBC Entertainment.
The format was devised by Fintan Coyle and Cathy Dunning, and developed for television by the BBC Entertainment department. It has been licensed across the world, with many countries producing their own series of The Weakest Link. As with the original British version, all of the hosts wear black clothing (or sometimes dark colours with black). Most versions also have disciplinarian female hosts, again similar to the British original (with notable exceptions of Fausto Silva (Brazil), Julien Courbet (France), Eamon Dunphy (Ireland), Edu Manzano, Allan K. (both Philippines), Shiro Ito (Japan), Pedro Granger (Portugal), Tseng Yang Qing (Taiwan) and George Gray (United States)). Recordings of the show commenced from BBC's Elstree facility, but were switched in 2009 to Glasgow and the BBC Pacific Quay studio centre.
Not all the international versions share the title The Weakest Link. The format is distributed by BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC. Australia was the first country to adapt the BBC show, and versions have also been produced in Argentina, Australia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Udmurtia and the United States.
In Croatia, in May 2010 the quiz reached its 1008th episode, and with the British original, is the only version to have reached as many episodes.
The original format features a team of contestants who take turns answering and elaborate general knowledge questions. The object of each round is to create a chain of consecutive correct answers to earn an increasing amount of money for a communal pot within a specific time limit. The number of "links" in a chain are equal to the number of the contestants at the start of the show. An incorrect answer breaks the chain and loses all the money accumulated up to that point; however, a contestant can say "bank" prior to their question being asked, the accumulated money is stored, and the chain resets to zero.
Money not banked is lost at the end of a round. The round ends if time expires, or if the team successfully banks the maximum amount for the round before time runs out (if the team already has one chain banked and then banks the target in the next chain, the bank is augmented to the target amount). If a host is in the middle of asking a question when time runs out, the question is left uncompleted; however, if the host completes the question when time runs out, whether the contestant is able to answer correctly or not, the host gives the correct answer.
In some versions, as a contestant gets eliminated, they are sometimes interrogated about their job or in reference to a wrong answer the contestant had given in the round; such as "The team has found you guilty and I hereby sentence you to the walk of shame" in reference to a contestant who is a lawyer, or "The team is Hungary for money but you've slipped on Greece" in reference to a contestant who incorrectly answered a question about Europe.
As contestants get eliminated, each round gets shorter (anywhere from 10 to 15 seconds shorter than the previous round), and unlike the first round, where the person whose name is first alphabetically starts (in the United States, it was the person positioned in the leftmost podium; in Hong Kong, it was the first person whose Surname is first alphabetically), the previous round's strongest link is first to answer a question. If the strongest link was voted off, then the second strongest link starts.
Strategy for banking money
In a New Scientist blog article, Erica Klarreich argues that there are only two sensible strategies in The Weakest Link (the U.S. edition) when it comes to banking money. Either players should choose to bank after every correct answer, or after six straight correct answers to maximize the pot. The correct strategy to take will depend upon the skill at answering questions of the members of the team. For all but the weakest teams, the optimal strategy is to raise the pot six straight times without banking. But since this happens so seldom on the show, Klarreich argues, the dominant strategy will usually be instead to bank after every question. The common practice of banking after just three questions would only outperform the strategy of banking after every question if a team maintained a success rate of over 67%.
Voting and elimination
At the end of each round, contestants must vote one player out of the game. An announcer reveals to the television audience which player is statistically the strongest link and who statistically is the weakest link. The players themselves, however, are not given this information as they vote (though the host may occasionally reveal this after voting). The votes are revealed one at a time, after which the host customarily interrogates some or all of the contestants about their votes as well as their progress during the round. The player who receives the most votes, regardless of statistical data, is declared the weakest link and is dismissed from the show. (In the event of a tie, the statistical strongest link gets to cast the deciding vote.) The dismissed player leaves the stage in what is called "The Walk of Shame", and a short interview with this contestant is shown before the next round begins.
Strategy for voting and elimination
The strategy for eliminating players changes as the game progresses: eliminate weak players in the early rounds, but strong players in the final rounds. In the first rounds it makes sense to eliminate bad players since the jackpot grows only when correct answers are given. In later rounds the strategic incentives are flipped. The value of building the jackpot is now outweighed by each contestant's desire to win the jackpot. It's easier to do that if you eliminate the other good players. So, roughly speaking, the typical contestant will vote to eliminate the worse players in the early rounds and the better players in the later rounds. In the British version, the presenter, Anne Robinson, declares "You are the Weakest Link, goodbye!", to the player who has been voted out; this is also used on international versions in the country's native tongues.
The statistical strongest link can be determined by:
- number of correct answers in the round.
- questions answered that are of high values.
- most money banked for the team.
Conversely, the statistical weakest link can be determined by:
- number of incorrect answers in the round.
- questions answered that are of low values.
- least money banked for the team.
- most money lost for the team by answering questions of high values incorrectly.
- time spent/wasted on answering a particular question.
Final two rounds
When only two contestants remain, they work together in one final round, identical to previous rounds except that all money banked at the end of the round is doubled, tripled or quadrupled (depending on the country), and there is no elimination: the game moves to the head-to-head round instead.
For the head-to-head round the remaining two players must each answer five questions (or three as in the United States syndicated version) in a penalty shootout format, with the strongest link from the previous round choosing who goes first. Whoever has the most correct answers at the end of this round wins the game unless there is a tie; in which case the game goes to Sudden Death.
In Sudden Death, each player is asked a question in turn indefinitely, until one gets a question right and the other wrong (in some countries this round is edited down to only one question each for airtime reasons). The winner of the game takes home all the money accumulated in the prize pool; the loser, like all the other eliminated players, goes home with nothing.
Legend:Currently airing No longer airing Future version
|Country||Name||Host||TV station||Top prize||Premiere||Finale|
|Arab World||الحلقة الأضعف
|Rita Khoury||Future Television||US$16,000||2002||2003|
|Australia||Weakest Link||Cornelia Frances||Seven Network||A$100,000||February 2001||April 2002|
|Azerbaijan||Zəif Bənd||Kamila Babayeva||Lider TV||AZN9,000 (Formerly AZM 45,000,000)||2004||2006|
|Belgium (Dutch)||De Zwakste Schakel||Goedele Liekens||VTM||2,000,000BEF||2001|
|Brazil||Ponto Fraco||Fausto Silva||TV Globo||R$1,000,000||2001 (Pilots rejected by BBC)|
|Chile||El Rival Más Débil||Catalina Pulido||Canal 13||CL$40,000,000||2004|
Tài ruò liú qiáng·zhìzhě wéi wáng
|Chen Lu Yu||Nanjing TV||CN¥200,000||2002||2004|
Zhìzhě wéi wáng
|Czech Republic||Nejslabší! Máte padáka!||Zuzana Slaviková||TV Nova||Kč1,000,000||2002||2004|
|Croatia||Najslabija karika||Nina Violić||HRT1||kn 90,000||2004||2010|
|Denmark||Det Svageste Led||Trine Gregorius||DR1||KR200,000||2001||2002|
|Estonia||Nõrgim lüli||Tuuli Roosma||Kanal 2||500,000 kr||2004|
|Finland||Heikoin lenkki||Kirsi Salo||MTV3||€15,000||2002||2005|
|France||Le Maillon Faible||Laurence Boccolini||TF1||150,000F
|9 July 2001||12 August 2007|
|Nino Burduli||Rustavi 2||ლ10,000||200?||-|
|Germany||Der Schwächste fliegt!||Sonja Zietlow||RTL Television||DM50,000||19 March 2001||March 2002|
|Greece||Ο Πιο Αδύναμος Κρίκος
O Pio Adynamos Krikos
Jat1 bat1 OUT siu1
|Carol Cheng||TVB Jade||HK$3,000,000||20 August 2001||18 January 2002|
|Hungary||A Leggyengébb Láncszem||Krisztina Máté||TV2||3,000,000 Ft||2001||2004|
|Nincs Kegyelem||6,000,000 Ft|
|India||Kamzor Kadii Kaun||Neena Gupta||Star Plus||Rs.2,500,000||2002||2003|
|Ireland||Weakest Link||Eamon Dunphy||TV3||€10,000||2001||2002|
|Pnina Dvorin||Channel 10||₪100,000||2002||2004|
|Italy||Anello Debole||Enrico Papi||Italia 1||€15,000||2001|
Uikesutorinku hitori-gachi no hosoku
|Shiro Ito||Fuji Television||JP¥16,000,000||2002|
|Zivkica Gjurcinovska||Alfa TV||420,000 MKD||2010||2011|
|Malaysia||Weakest Link||Sekilara Kiramila||RTM||RM80,000||2003||2009|
|Mexico||El Rival Más Debil||Montserrat Ontiveros||Azteca Trece||MX$200,000||2003||2008|
|Lolita Cortés||27 July 2013||7 September 2013|
|26 May 2014||-|
|Moldova||Veriga Slaba||Andrei Gheorghe||Kanal 1||1,000,000 MDL||200?||2009|
|Netherlands||De Zwakste Schakel||Chazia Mourali||RTL 4||€10,000||2001||2004|
|New Zealand||The Weakest Link||Louise Wallace||TV One||NZ$20,000||July 2001||March 2002|
|Norway||Det Svakeste Ledd||Anne Grosvold||NRK||KR200,000||2004|
|Philippines||Weakest Link||Edu Manzano||IBC||PHP1,000,000||2001||2002|
|Poland||Najsłabsze Ogniwo||Kazimiera Szczuka||TVN||27,000 zł||2004||2006|
|Portugal||O Elo Mais Fraco||Julia Pinheiro||RTP1||€10,000||2002||2003|
|Romania||Lanţul Slăbiciunilor||Andrei Gheorghe||Pro TV||lei50,000||2001|
|Russia||Слабое Звено||Mariya Kiselyova||ORT||RUB300,000
|Nikolai Fomenko||Channel 5||RUB350,000||2007||2008|
|Serbia||Najslabija Karika||Sandra Lalatović||BKTV||RSD5,000,000||2002-2006|
|Yvette Cui (Cui Lixin)||MediaCorp TV Channel 8||S$100,000||2002||2003|
|Weakest Link||Asha Gill||MediaCorp TV Channel 5||S$1,000,000|
|Slovenia||Najšibkejši Člen||Violeta Tomič||SLO 1||2,400,000 SIT (€10,000)||2003||2005|
|South Africa||Weakest Link||Fiona Coyne||SABC3||R50,000||2003||2008|
|Spain||El Rival Más Débil||Nuria González||TVE1||€7,200||2002||2004|
|Sweden||Svagaste Länken||Kajsa Ingemarsson||TV4||100,000 kr||2011||2013|
|Taiwan||Weakest Link 智者生存
Weakest Link zhizhe shengcun
|Belle Yu||STAR Chinese Channel||NT$400,000||2001||2003|
|Tseng Yang Qing|
|Thailand||Weakest Link กำจัดจุดอ่อน
Weakest Link Kacad cudxxn
|Krittika Kongsompong||ThaiTV 3||฿1,000,000||2002||2003|
|Turkey||En Zayıf Halka||Hülya Uğur Tanrıöver||Show TV||TL100 billion||2001||2002|
|United Kingdom||The Weakest Link||Anne Robinson||BBC||£10,000 (Daytime)||14 August 2000||31 March 2012|
|United States||Weakest Link||Anne Robinson||NBC||US$1,000,000||2001||2002|
In popular culture
Anne Robinson's catchphrase "You are the weakest link. Goodbye!" has made several appearances in pop culture, including references in Family Guy, Scary Movie 2 and The League of Gentlemen. In the first season of the 2005 revival of Doctor Who, character Rose Tyler appears on a futuristic version of The Weakest Link, hosted by an "Anne droid" voiced by Anne Robinson, where eliminated contestants were supposedly disintegrated. The "Anne droid" began a special Doctor Who themed version of the real show, with actors from the series playing for charity; the real Anne Robinson, however, unplugged her droid counterpart and continued the show herself.
- "Millionaire dominates global TV". BBC News. 12 April 2005. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
- Klarreich, Erica (16 January 2002). "Strongest strategy for The Weakest Link revealed". New Scientist. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
- "About the TV Show". The Weakest Link. BBC. Archived from the original on 6 March 2007. Retrieved 17 December 2013.
- Official website
- UK Gameshows Page: The Weakest Link
- Official site of the Israeli version (via Internet Archive)
- Official site of the French Version (Boccolini era)