GSN Desecrated Pointless

I was part of the way through writing why TV shows don't always convert between countries when I stopped to write this instead. One of my examples was Pointless, and the more I read (it was so bad it never got aired), the bigger a mess Game Show Network made of the whole thing. I've had to base this off a blog written by someone who did get to watch the US version but at least 5 whole series of the UK version are helpfully online for me to watch religiously. I'll be quoting the blog a lot. Assume if I don't mention it or quote them regarding it, it's probably the same as the British version.


Basically whatever they didn't copy from the British version was made worse. The intro animation is just a slapdash logo, but I assume if this wasn't a pilot, they'd have put more effort into it.

The host, Alison Sweeney of Days of Our Lives, walks out from the middle of the set. She is standing on a platform that forms the base of the Pointless tower, the big set piece that counts down the value of each given answer.

A small staircase leading up to the screen forms the bottom 10 coins of the tower stack, so when the digital board empties out, the score’s at 10.

And already they screwed up the set because you're meant to see the whole tower. How do you see the red line if it's below 10? Do the steps light up?

On the left of the tower are three pairs of teams

Three? There's four on the current series and there were five in the early series. Maybe because this to shave the show down to 21 minutes instead of 43?

and on the right there is a large video board and a man with two laptops sat in front of him.

Two laptops? I think they were trying to replace Richard's papers with a laptop but he already had a laptop! It's just been turned off for about 5 years because it's easier for him to read the papers.

Sitting in the Richard Osman role is Doug Mirabello

This was to be one of the major points of the other post. Did Alison Sweeney and Doug Mirabello even know each other prior to making this show? From Series 1, Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman were cracking jokes and making fun of each other because they'd been friends for years! You're not going to get that same atmosphere with two people who barely know each other. If you go all business-like, it's sterile. If you try to pretend, it's phony, and the worst thing you can be according to Holden Caulfield and John Madden is a phony.

Elimination Rounds

They made an absolute hash of this and it's far too much to quote. The British version has a simple formula:

  1. Each team selects who they want to go first.
  2. The players on each team cannot confer.
  3. The selected person on each team gives an answer, hoping to give a correct answer that will score the fewest points. Pointless answers add £250 to the jackpot.
  4. After each team has had their selected person go, the order is reversed and the other person on each team has to give an answer.
  5. The team that scores highest is eliminated. If this is their first time being eliminated, they get to come back for another go on another episode, else they are gone for good. Update: This was changed to three tries instead of two as of Series 25.
  6. If teams are tied, they enter lockdown. The tied teams can confer with their partners and give one joint answer. If they remain tied, a replacement question can be used and lockdown rules still apply. Carry on until the tie is broken.
  7. Repeat until only two teams remain.

Nope, not exciting enough for the US. This is the insanity they had:

  1. Every team can confer.
  2. Each team gives an answer to one question. British scoring applies except Pointless answers add $250 to the team's personal bank. An open-ended question is used.
  3. The team with the lowest score gets $500 added to their bank.
  4. The order is reversed and each person gives an answer without conferring with their teammate. A board with 8 choices is used but 1 is wrong and 1 is Pointless, like the one briefly used for the Bonus Booster, Jackpot Jumper, or whatever name they could come up with on each episode it was used. The question is switched halfway through so one teammate has a different board than the other.
  5. Same as #5 but $750 this time. Highest scoring team is eliminated.

This is confusing and makes no sense. You've mixed two different rule sets from the British version in a sloppy mess and added a dash of Weakest Link in there for the hell of it! "Players can't confer, highest scoring team goes home" is the very core of the game and yet you managed to fuck that up. Maybe the head to head will be better...

I also can't forget this gem before we go on:

The US Pointless Tower always counts down with the slower, dramatic music, and when the counting stops, the sound effect for a Pointless answer in the UK plays, which for someone who watches the UK version a lot is very confusing.

The part I didn't quote before that is in the UK version, the tower is faster in elimination rounds and the head to head but only gets slower and more dramatic during the final. Using it all the time slows things down and turns up tension unnecessarily. Having the Pointless answer sound effect play for every answer is strange.

Head to Head

Instead of playing a best out of three, the teams play two questions, and the lowest score moves on to the Final and banks $1,000.

Ok, so it's sort of like round one again with the amount doubled.

Teams lock in their answers simultaneously on a Final Jeopardy-style light pen setup. In this game, when tasked with naming one of the “For Sale” Categories on Craigslist, both teams locked in “free” and got the same amount of points.

Goddammit. Now you have Jeopardy as part of this unholy orgy! Can anything be spared? What about the final? I mean it's not quite going to be the same because of the banks but can that at least be recognizable?

Jackpot Round

The team that makes it to the Final round keeps whatever money they earned in the main game, presumably to split between them.

Figured as much.

The team is then presented with two categories—in this episode, TV and Royalty. They select one and are given a question in the category.

Sounds like the final round back in the early days of Pointless.

The team then can submit one answer for every round they won, so a team that squeaks through by just winning the Head to Head gets to submit one answer, while a dominating team can submit three answers. This team won two rounds, so they submit two answers.

Seriously, WTF?! This is how you compensate by not having to fight your way through 3 rounds of elimination? Getting a Pointless answer with three guesses is hard enough, much less with one! And the jackpot is $10,000.

How It Should Have Been Done

It probably would have been easier and cheaper to take the British version, put it in an hour-long time slot, and add commercial breaks between rounds. What with copyright and rights issues, that sounds like the lawyers would have had kittens if they were to do that. So here's another way to go about it, starting from the British ruleset:

  1. Use three teams and get rid of round one if you want to still fit into a 30 minute time slot. The rules are easy enough to follow without all that banking bullshit. Otherwise use four. Five is a bit hard to fit on the stage, especially with social distancing and all right now.
  2. Make the bonus for a Pointless answer be proportional to the jackpot. If you still want a $10,000 jackpot, make the bonus for a Pointless answer be at least $1,000. You're looking for that sweet spot where people want to go for a Pointless answer to add to the jackpot without risking their position too heavily and getting an incorrect answer. It's that calculated risk there that's part of the game.
  3. Make your set look like theirs, except you can turn the laptop on if you want the Richard Osman character to use it. The whole tower needs to be visible to each team because they need to see where the red line is that they must score below to make it to the next round.
  4. Use people who have a pre-existing friendly relationship with each other as the hosts. Try to keep the atmosphere between each other and between them and the teams kind and light-hearted to try to break the tension without distracting the teams. This isn't 8 Out of Cats Does Countdown so don't try to be a distraction and this isn't Who Wants To Be A Millionaire so don't turn up the tension.
  5. And if you ever want to remake this show, at least watch the show for a while so you can understand why things are the way they are instead of fucking with things to make it more like other US game shows. This shit doesn't happen in a vacuum. It's been polished over 26 series (as of writing) and the rules are what they are for a reason as things get fine tuned.

Day 95 of #100DayToOffload

Tags: TV Rant