“We’re not mucking around,” host Mark Humphries announces in the debut episode of TEN’s new quiz show Pointless, and he isn’t kidding.
There’s next to no time to chat with the three teams competing to win the general knowledge show, based on the long-running UK series. That will be good news to those tired of relentless contestant back-stories in game shows. It speaks to the Australian adaptation’s biggest challenge: how to cut down a one hour format to just 22 minutes on commercial TV. In fact, the first team is eliminated before the first ad break (but will get to return in a subsequent episode).
Pointless UK has been screening for some time on ABC with Alexander Armstrong & Richard Osman, but TEN is banking that most viewers won’t have seen that version. When it was featured briefly on TEN’s own Gogglebox, most of the couch-reviewers were confused by the format.
Like Family Feud, which this show ironically replaces, it surveys 100 people on general knowledge questions to identify the most-obscure “pointless” answer. Teams who score too high are eliminated.
In this condensed version are familiar challenges such as Open-ended Answers and Picture Board, although we arrive at Head to Head with 2 teams by just the second break. Opening night topics include Phobias, Paris tourist sights, The Beach Boys and Aussie Cuisine.
A smiling Dr. Andrew Rochford, whose brain is apparently brimming with Pointless answers, is on hand with Humphries as the show’s adjudicator on a set that crosses futuristic with the Opera House, before a small studio audience.
The polite contestants are varied, including older and multicultural representation, which the genre is usually good at embracing.
But the prize money is modest, kicking off with just $2000 (which jackpots with each unwon episode) and a $500 bonus for any Pointless answer. That made me laugh out loud, which may not have been the intent.
With such time constraints the onus is on the home-audience playability and the chemistry between the two hosts. On that front Pointless does pretty well.
Sure, there are fewer questions than the UK version but a quick show is hopefully a good show. It’s great to see a non-network name given hosting duties in SBS comedian Humphries (although we still struggle to see females fronting the genre). With a satirist in the hosting role, I did sometimes find myself wondering if the sincerity was an act, or waiting for a punchline after the perspex trophy was given the angelic choir music treatment. But Humphries assures he lerrrrves the show and his asides were indeed game-show ready.
Given most of TEN’s audience presumably haven’t seen Pointless on ABC, and probably Humphries on SBS, the cosmetic changes will probably be easy to overcome.
Whether they prefer the simplicity of Grant Denyer’s effusive Family Feud to its natural enemy in the very same timeslot, as opposed to one that draws less comparison, is an exercise that is hopefully a lot less Pointless.
Pointless screens 6pm weeknights on TEN.