Pointless without the laughs

The British game show Pointless has been a cult afternoon hit on the ABC for a few years now, delighting retirees and people taking sickies alike with its mix of obscure trivia questions and twee comedy banter. It’s the kind of show we don’t make much of here. We Australians make game shows (featuring ordinary people answering quiz questions for prize money) and panel shows (featuring comedians trying to make us laugh for an appearance fee), and, Have You Been Paying Attention? aside, never the Twain shall meet…until Ten bought the rights to make a local version of Pointless.


Mark Humphries wouldn’t have been our first choice to become this country’s Alexander Armstrong, or anything really, but at least it stops him making more terrible satire. Also, it’s nice to feel like you’ve got a shot at answering most of the questions; all those UK-centric rounds in British Pointless, of the likes of “Chancellors of the Exchequers of the 1990s”* or “Leicester City captains 1970-2015″**, are a bit hard-going if you’re from Adelaide. Whereas Aussie Actresses? That’s more our style. Although, annoyingly, we never found out whether last night’s contestants would have got a pointless answer if they’d gone with our answer of Naomi Watts in Funny Games…because they’ve cut all that out.

Yep, one of things quiz nuts really like about Pointless, the bit where Richard Osman, or Dr Andrew Rochford in this case, runs through what all the different possible answers would have scored, isn’t part of the show – there’s no time. This is a 45-minute quiz show in a 30-minute slot, so it’s bye bye that long list of answers, and bye bye lots of other things too, like one of the teams, and one of the rounds, and some of the questions.

But this is possibly a good thing. Pointless Downunder, as absolutely no one is calling it, is fast and question-focused. There’s no pfaffing around talking to contestant Dave about that hilarious thing that happened when he was working for the NHS, it’s: question, answer, question, answer, ad break, more questions and answers. It’s a format that better suits the timeslot of 6:00pm on a commercial network. And as TV Tonight pointed out the other day:

TEN is banking that most viewers won’t have seen [the British] version

Time will tell whether this will rate as well as Grant Denyer’s Family Feud in that timeslot, but there’s a strategy to get it seen by the viewers that seems to be paying off. Or it’s all going to go tits-up really soon. One of them.

What do we think? We like the fast pace but miss the comedy. Admittedly, after two episodes, Humphries and Rochford haven’t yet had time to build up that back catalogue of in-jokes about the Central African Republic that Armstrong and Osman have, and based on what we’ve seen of them so far, it’s Rochford who’s the funniest of the pair, but who knows? When the main problem the show faces is not getting axed or re-worked with Grant Denyer as host, they’re not concerned about making us laugh. Piss off and watch the British version on iView if you want that.

* Gordon Brown?

** No idea.

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  • Margo B says:

    Could we please get the aussie version of Pointless off the screens ASAP. There is absolutely nothing funny nor amusing about the guys who host this show. The English version works so well because its hosts are educated and in turn their subtleness is beyond sublime. This is what makes it funny to watch. Those two guys on the aussie show just don’t cut it. As usual, the Brits have it right. The Aussies have it desperately wrong.