Logo used since 2018
Richard van't Riet
Stuart McDonald (celebrity)
|Presented by||Alexander Armstrong|
|Theme music composer||Marc Sylvan|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||
19 (regular) |
|No. of episodes||
1011 (regular as of 20 April 2018[update]) |
163 (celebrity as of 14 April 2018[update])
Pam Cavannagh (BBC)|
Tom Blakeson and David Flynn (both Brighter Pictures then Remarkable Television)
|Producer(s)||Michelle Woods, Ed de Burgh, John Ryan|
Television Centre |
Elstree Studios (2013–)
|Camera setup||Multiple-camera setup|
45 minutes (regular)|
50 minutes (celebrity)
Brighter Pictures (2009)|
Remarkable Television (2010–)
|Distributor||Endemol Shine UK|
BBC Two (2009–11)|
BBC One (2011–)
576i (16:9 SDTV)|
|Original release||24 August 2009– present|
Pointless is a British game show. It is produced by Endemol Shine UK for the BBC, hosted by Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman. Each episode of the quiz features teams of two contestants attempting to find correct but obscure answers to general knowledge questions in order to score as few points as possible, and become eligible to compete for the show's cash jackpot. All questions used on the show are factual in nature, and are asked to a panel of 100 individuals in a pre-conducted public survey. Contestants seek to find correct answers that were given by as few participants as possible; those given by no participants are termed "pointless" and are the most desirable. Every pointless answer given during the main game increases the jackpot by £250, and one such answer must be given in the final round in order to win it.
Although it originally debuted on BBC Two on 24 August 2009, its success in its first three series led the BBC to broadcasting it on BBC One from 2011, though on occasions when the channel is to feature live broadcasts of major news and sporting events, the programme is aired on BBC Two as a direct result. To date, the programme has aired 19 series, and has had peak audience figures of over 7 million viewers. The show has spawned a celebrity edition entitled Pointless Celebrities in 2011, which to date has had 10 series. The format has been exported internationally.
- 1 Gameplay
- 2 Pointless Celebrities
- 3 Development
- 4 Transmissions
- 5 International broadcasts
- 6 Awards and nominations
- 7 Controversies
- 8 International versions
- 9 Merchandise
- 10 In popular culture
- 11 References
- 12 External links
The object of the game is for contestants to provide answers that are not only correct but also as obscure as possible, with each game consisting of teams of two contestants; previously the programme featured five teams to begin with, but this was later reduced to four teams. Prior to each show, 100 people are given 100 seconds to provide as many answers as they can to a series of general knowledge questions as part of a pre-conducted survey, and in each round, contestants are asked these same questions. These questions are set into category, with the contestants given rules regarding what they are searching for in terms of answers, more importantly what answers will be accepted for the question given. If the answer is correct, the team scores one point for each participant that gave it during the survey; if none of the surveyed participants gave an answer listed for the question and a contestant gives it, the team scores zero points for providing a "pointless" answer. If the answer is incorrect, the team scores the maximum of 100 points. After a question is done, a list of answers that are pointless are given, along with the high-scoring answers given in the survey, usually the top three.
The format of the show consists of two elimination rounds to begin with, in which teams must achieve as low a score as possible, with those who achieve the highest score in each round being eliminated from the game; if two teams are tied for the highest score in either of these rounds, a sudden-death "lockdown" round is played, with the higher-scoring team losing. Following these rounds, the two surviving teams compete against each other to find the lowest scoring answer in a series of questions, with the winning team moving on to the final round. Prior to the final round, every pointless answer given adds £250 to the cash jackpot, and eliminated teams making their first appearance are eligible to appear again in the next consecutive game; teams who have appeared twice or reached the final round cannot return (with the exceptions of the teams that appeared in the 1000th episode). The team that reaches the final round is awarded a trophy to keep, and then must supply three answers to a question, in which one must be a pointless answer in order to win the jackpot as it stands for that game; otherwise, the money rolls over to the next show.
The cash jackpot begins at £1,000 at the start of its run. Should it not be won at the end of a game, the amount (including any increases from pointless answers) is rolled over to the next game and increased by £1,000, offering returning and new contestants a chance of winning a bigger cash prize. To date, the highest recorded jackpot won on the show as a result of it rolling over from previous games, was £24,750 on 8 March 2013. Once the jackpot is won, the amount is reset to £1,000. For the celebrity version, the jackpot is set at £2,500, and increases by £250 for each pointless answer found, while special editions have the jackpot set at £5,000, and increased by £500 for each pointless answer found; in neither version does the jackpot roll over to another show.
During an elimination round, teams aim to score as few points as possible, with the team having the highest score at the end of the round being eliminated from the game. Each round consists of a question derived from a subject, with each member of a team required to give an answer during a pass; each round consists of two passes, and teams are required, prior to the question being given, to decide who answers during the first pass, with the other answering during the second pass. The order of play differs; in the first elimination round, it is determined by drawing lots in advance of recording, while in the second, it is determined by the scores in the previous round, though in both, the team nearest to the host answers first, moving on towards the team farthest from them, before going back in reverse order during the second pass. In the event of a tie, the tied teams are allowed to confer and give an extra answer to the question, until one team manages to score more points than the others; if no team can give a correct answer on this pass, the question is thrown out and a new one is asked in its place.
Five different formats for the questions are used/have been used during the programme's run for the elimination rounds in each game, and are listed below:
- Open-Ended – Contestants are given the question, and have free choice of what answer to give. In the first series, this format was used three times in this round, before subsequent episodes used it no more than once. A variant of this format was introduced in the seventh series, in which a list of categories is shown and contestants can give an answer as long as it fitted into any of the categories shown (for example, they could name any member that was in any band on the list); contestants are not required to identify which category their answer belongs to, and will be still credited for a correct answer even if they attribute it to the wrong category. This variant of the format was mainly designed to combine several smaller categories into a round (e.g. the films of several different actors) or to narrow down a wider category (for example, by limiting answers to those starting with certain letters).
- Possible Answers – Introduced in the second series, contestants are given a board of potential answers to a question and must pick up, attempting to find the obscure ones on the board and avoid picking out a wrong answer. Each pass consists of two boards, each possessing at least one pointless answer and one incorrect answer, the latter usually having some indirect link (often humorous) with the question, with Osman going through the board after a pass, revealing the points scores of the correct answers and which were incorrect. This format allowed categories to be used in which no commonly agreed definitive list of correct answers exists. It was discontinued following the end of the fifth series.
- Clues and Answers – Introduced in the third series, contestants are given a list of clues related to the topic of the question, whereupon they must select a clue and provide the correct answer connected to it. An example of this format is that a list could contain the names of different battles, and the questions requires a contestant to name the country that it took place in (i.e. "the Battle of Hastings" – "United Kingdom"). Although the round follows a similar style to that of the "Possible Answers" format, there is no guarantee that contestants may find a pointless answer from within the list.
- Linked Categories – Introduced in the fifth series, each pass consists of two closely related categories; one team member provides an answer related to the first category, while the other provides an answer to the second category. The format follows the same principles as that of the "Open-ended" format, but was rarely used, and was later discontinued after the series.
- Picture Board – Introduced in the seventh series, contestants are shown a picture or pictures, which contain many people or objects that they have to identify, attempting to seek out those that are more obscure than others. The format is occasionally used, and often replaces the "Open-ended" format when it does.
The two teams that survive elimination in the initial rounds, now compete against each other, answering questions with the intention of finding the lowest answers possible. Both teams can now confer, and the winning team of this round moves on to the Final. The format of this round has differed, as listed below:
- Series 1 – Both teams provide as many correct answers as they can to a single question, with the aim of providing answers that score as few points as possible, with the round ending if a team goes above 100 points. The team who scored the lowest in the elimination rounds gets pick choosing which of two categories to answer, with both teams required to give an answer on each turn, regardless of their opponents going over 100. If both teams go above 100, then the team that is nearer to 100 goes through to the final.
- Series 2–5 – Both teams compete in a multi-question best-of contest; best-of-five for the second series, best-of-three from the third series. Each team must give an answer to a question, and once both have done so, the lower score of the two wins the question and earns that team a point. Each question will usually have a minimum of four answers to choose from, and the order of play is that the team who acquired the fewest points in the elimination rounds gets to answer first on the first question.
- Series 6–present – Both teams compete in a multi-question best-of-three contest; while the format is the same since the third series, questions are now designed around the "Clues and Answers" format. Each question now has five answers to choose from, and there are three kinds of questions in this round: a picture/sound question, in which contestants are shown five pictures or are played five sounds or pieces of music, labelled A to E, and must identify them, often with some letters given as an additional clue; a facts question, in which contestants are given a list of clues to notable facts, and must identify the answer based upon the clue given; a word puzzle question, in which the answers, connected to the subject of the question, are given in the form of an anagram, an initialism, have alternate letters missing, or complete a quote or title.
The winning team that survives both the elimination rounds and the head-to-head receives a trophy that they are allowed to keep, regardless of what happens in the final round, and now attempt to win the game's jackpot; the host will usually remind viewers of the amount, including if it is a rollover from a previous game(s). In order to win it, the team first chose a category from a list given to them, whereupon they are given a question connected to it, and have 60 seconds to confer amongst themselves on which three answers they will use; contestants may freely end the debating period early, if they have decided on which three to give. If any individual response is a pointless answer, the team wins the jackpot; otherwise, it is rolled over to the next show.
Originally, contestants could choose from one of three categories, with those not chosen remaining in the list for five days or until they were picked. This format was used between the first and fifth series. The number of categories to choose from was then increased to five at the start of the sixth series. By the start of the second half of the ninth series, the format of the round was modified in that the winning team must supply answers within three subcategories connected to their chosen category, though they may elect to go for any or all three subcategories with their answers. In addition, they must state which subcategory each of their answer belongs to; if it is for the wrong one, their answer is considered incorrect.
Following the success of Pointless and its transfer to BBC One, the BBC commissioned a celebrity edition of the programme, entitled Pointless Celebrities. Like the main show, the celebrity edition featured teams of two celebrities competing against each other to win the jackpot for their chosen charities. While the show used the same format for rounds, the celebrity edition featured notable differences. Unlike the regular show, the celebrity version was reserved for the weekend and placed in a prime-time evening slot for its broadcast. In addition, most episodes usually featured a theme in regards to the celebrity contestants that took part—an example, a celebrity edition aired in December 2015 consisted of celebrities who were made famous on reality television shows like Big Brother and Made in Chelsea.
As the celebrity edition is for charity, celebrity teams compete for a jackpot of £2,500, and can increase the amount by £250 for every pointless answer they find before the final round. While the jackpot will not roll over to the next celebrity game if it is not won, the programme rewards all teams with £500 for taking part, regardless of how well they performed.
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". 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. Osman then approached comedian Alexander Armstrong, a peer of Osman's during their university days, to be the main presenter. Armstrong, who the previous year had been lined up to present Channel 4's Countdown only to back out for fear of being pigeon-holed as a presenter, agreed to present what was perceived as a lower-profile show, with the presence of Osman helping to convince him.
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, while averaging around 1 million viewers per episode. 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. The change saw strong viewer growth with the show subsequently moved to the BBC's main channel BBC One in 2011. By 2013, the programme records four episodes in one day, and averaged 3.6 million viewers daily, gaining more viewers than ITV game show The Chase, which also airs in roughly the same time slot.
In February 2014, Pointless was extended for another 204 episodes, giving three more series, taking the total commissioned to 13 in February 2014. A further 24 celebrity episodes were also ordered. For the 1,000th episode, which aired on 16 January 2017, Armstrong and Osman traded host/assistant duties and four previous couples who had distinguished themselves in various ways were invited to compete again. The jackpot for this episode began at £2,500 (the usual starting value for Pointless Celebrities), and every pointless answer during the main game added £1,000 to it. On 23 February 2016, it was announced that the show had been recommissioned by the BBC to make 165 more regular daytime editions along with 45 prime-time celebrity specials, which will see Pointless continue to air on BBC One until at least the end of 2017. On 4 September 2017, it was announced that the BBC had commissioned a further 204 episodes which will include 165 regular and 39 celebrity specials.
With the start of the 11th series of Pointless Celebrities on 23 December 2017, the show gained a brand new set design and an updated intro that replaced the one used since the show's debut. This extended to the 19th series of the daytime version when it premiered on 2 April 2018.
Episodes of Pointless are shown daily during weekdays, within a tea-time timeslot:
|Series||Start date||End date||Episodes||Notes|
|1||24 August 2009||6 October 2009||30||No episode on 31 August or 10 September 2009|
|2||8 March 2010||16 April 2010||30|
|3||30 August 2010||22 December 2010||50||Series 3 took breaks from 4 to 14 October and 22 November to 21 December 2010. Episode 50 was a celebrity special|
|4||14 March 2011||26 August 2011||60||Series 4 took a break from 18 April to 8 July 2011|
|5||29 August 2011||6 February 2012||60||Series 5 took a break from 17 October 2011 to 2 January 2012|
|6||13 February 2012||24 August 2012||70||Series 6 took breaks on 23 March, from 2 to 27 April, on 3 May and from 4 June to 10 August 2012|
|7||29 August 2012||5 December 2012||70||No episode on 16 November 2012|
|8||2 January 2013||2 April 2013||65|
|9||3 April 2013||25 September 2013||55||Series 9 took breaks from 29 April to 24 May and 24 June to 30 August 2013. 500th episode aired on 6 June 2013.|
|10||26 September 2013||19 March 2014||70||Series 10 took breaks from 7 to 25 October, 2 December 2013 to 3 January 2014 and 3 to 21 February 2014|
|11||20 March 2014||29 September 2014||55||Series 11 took breaks from 21 April to 23 May and 19 June to 5 September 2014|
|12||28 October 2014||25 February 2015||55||Series 12 took a break from 20 November 2014 to 2 January 2015|
|13||23 March 2015||28 July 2015||51||Series 13 took breaks from 13 April to 3 May, 25 May to 11 June and 25 June to 10 July 2015|
|14||29 July 2015||29 February 2016||55||Series 14 took breaks from 3 August to 4 September, 30 September to 23 October, 17 November 2015 to 1 January 2016 and 27 January to 26 February 2016|
|15||1 March 2016||20 September 2016||55||Series 15 took breaks from 21 March to 19 April and 24 May to 26 August|
|16||24 October 2016||15 March 2017||55||Series 16 took breaks from 21 November to 9 December, 15 to 28 December 2016 and 24 January 2017 to 23 February 2017. 1,000th episode aired on 16 January 2017.|
|17||19 April 2017||29 September 2017||55||Series 17 took a break from 7 June to 1 September|
|18||2 October 2017||12 February 2018||55||Series 18 took a break from 6 November 2017 to 1 January 2018|
|19||2 April 2018||15 June 2018||55|
|20||19 June 2018||TBC||TBC||Series 20 took a break from 20 June to present|
Episodes of celebrity editions are primarily aired on Saturdays, during a prime-time evening timeslot:
|Series||Start date||End date||Episodes||Notes|
|1||4 July 2011||8 July 2011||5||Broadcast daily at 5:15 pm on BBC One|
|2||25 February 2012||16 June 2012||8||Broadcast on selected dates across four months on BBC One|
|3||20 October 2012||27 December 2012||9||Broadcast weekly on Saturday evenings at 5:40 pm on BBC One. Episode 9 was broadcast on a Thursday due to Christmas schedules|
|Daytime||10 December 2012||21 December 2012||10||Broadcast daily at 5:15 pm on BBC One|
|4||16 February 2013||7 September 2013||6||Broadcast on selected dates on BBC One|
|5||14 September 2013||21 December 2013||12||Broadcast on Saturdays at selected times on BBC One|
|6||28 December 2013||3 January 2015||31||Broadcast on Saturdays at selected times on BBC One. The series took a break midway through|
|7||11 April 2015||26 September 2015||7||Broadcast on Saturdays at selected times on BBC One|
|8||29 August 2015||30 January 2016||17|
|9||9 January 2016||3 September 2016||8|
|10||14 May 2016||31 March 2018||45|
|11||23 December 2017||TBC||39|
Awards and nominations
|2012||National Television Awards||Comedy Panel Show||Longlisted|
|TV Choice Awards||Best Daytime Show||Nominated|
|2013||National Television Awards||Most Popular Daytime Programme||Longlisted|
|2014||National Television Awards||Most Popular Daytime Programme||Nominated|
|2015||National Television Awards||Most Popular Daytime Programme||Nominated|
|The Television and Radio Industries Club Awards||Daytime Programme||Won|
|2016||National Television Awards||Most Popular Daytime Programme||Nominated|
Following a news-themed edition of Pointless Celebrities which aired on 27 October 2014, several fans expressed annoyance at former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie's appearance as a contestant. This was in reference to MacKenzie's infamous "The Truth" front page report concerning the 1989 Hillsborough disaster. Osman responded to this criticism with at least twenty comments on Twitter, stating that he did not know MacKenzie would appear until "about an hour before" recording and that he had "strongly argued against it".
Legend:Currently airing No longer airing
|Country||Local title||Channel||Presenter||Premiere date||End date|
|Australia||Pointless||Network Ten||Andrew Rochford
|23 July 2018||TBC|
|Czech Republic||Míň je víc!
(Less Is More!)
|ČT1||Jan Smetana||5 January 2015||17 December 2015|
|Croatia||Tog se nitko nije sjetio
(No one thought of that)
|29 April 2013||7 June 2013|
|France||Personne n'y avait pensé!
(No one had thought of it!)
|France 3||Cyril Féraud||16 July 2011||TBC|
|Das Erste||Dieter Nuhr
|20 July 2012||1 March 2013|
|Italy||Zero e lode!
(Zero with honours!)
|Rai 1||Alessandro Greco
|11 September 2017||1 June 2018|
|Sitel||Snezana Velkov||1 November 2014||7 March 2015|
|Netherlands||Pointless||NPO 1||Lucille Werner
|27 July 2015||28 August 2015|
|27 February 2014||30 May 2014|
|Serbia||Toga se niko nije setio
(No one thought of that)
|5 April 2014||TBC|
|Switzerland||Weniger ist mehr
(Less is more)
|SRF1||Patrick Hässig||20 August 2012||September 2014|
On 26 February 2014, the official Pointless app, Pointless Quiz, was released for iOS, with an iPad, Android and an Amazon version released a few months later. The Pointless app features animated versions of Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman and allows the player to tackle questions in a similar format to the TV show. Five books have been released of the show: The 100 Most Pointless Things in the World, The 100 Most Pointless Arguments in the World, The Very Pointless Quiz Book (not to be mistaken for The Pointless Book), The A-Z of Pointless: A brain-teasing bumper book of questions and trivia and "A Pointless History of the World". All five were released by Coronet. In the books, Armstrong and Osman give their insight to pointless matters. Three editions of the official board game have also been released, plus two mini-sized versions, each of which contains updated questions.
In popular culture
Pointless appeared in the BBC sitcom Not Going Out (series 7, episode 5); Armstrong and Osman both played themselves. Pointless was also parodied in several sketches of the satirical show Newzoids, in which a caricature of Osman interrupts people in regular situations with phrases used in the game show.
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- "Zero e Lode!". raiplay.it. 11 September 2017. Retrieved 1 June 2018.
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- ""Nikt tylko Ty". Nowy teleturniej Telewizji Polskiej". tvp.pl. 15 January 2014. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
- "Tomasz Kammel i Radosław Kotarski poprowadza teleturniej "Tylko ty" w TVP2". wirtualnemedia.pl. 21 January 2014. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
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- "Patrick Hässig moderiert "Weniger ist mehr" – Schweiz: Promi-News, Videos und Bilder – glanz & gloria – Schweizer Fernsehen" (in German). Glanzundgloria.sf.tv. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
- "Endemol UK – Brand new Pointless app launches". Endemol UK. Archived from the original on 12 April 2015.
- Briant, Michelle (14 November 2014). "Not Going Out guest Richard Osman: 'If my kids don't laugh, it's Lee Mack's fault'". What's on TV. Retrieved 28 November 2017.