Country of origin
First episode date
24 August 2009
Pointless Theme Song
Also known as
Theme music composer
Nick HarrisJulian Smith
Number of episodes
873 (as of 24 February 2017)
National Television Award for Most Popular Daytime Programme
Two Tribes (game show), 101 Ways to Leave a Gameshow, The Edge (game show)
Pointless series 15 episode 54
Pointless is a British quiz show produced by Endemol UK for the BBC, hosted by Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman. Contestants on the programme, who play in teams of two, are tasked with finding correct but obscure answers to general knowledge questions based on pre-conducted public surveys of 100 people from the UK. Correct answers that were not given by any survey participants are termed "pointless" and are the most desirable. The jackpot increases by £250 for each pointless answer given in the main game, and another such answer must be given in the final to win it.
- Pointless series 15 episode 54
- Pointless series 3 episode 12 part 1 3
- Elimination rounds
- Series 1
- Series 25
- Series 6present
- Pointless Celebrities
- International broadcasts
- In popular culture
The series was first broadcast on BBC Two on 24 August 2009 before it transferred to BBC One in 2011, although on occasion of news and sport events it occasionally transfers back to BBC Two. To date, there have been 16 series, plus 10 celebrity series. The show has a peak audience of over 7 million viewers and the format has been exported to other European countries.
Pointless series 3 episode 12 part 1 3
The object of the game is for contestants to provide answers which are not only correct but also as obscure as possible. The game features four teams (previously five), each consisting of two contestants. In each round, the team with the highest score is eliminated; the other teams proceed to the next round. The team that reaches the final round has a chance to win the day's cash jackpot. Teams become ineligible for the show after either playing two games or reaching the final once, whichever occurs first. The show's assistant is Richard Osman, whom Armstrong describes as his "pointless friend" during a humorous introduction at the start of the show. During the course of the game, he provides information about the answers that are given, as well as statistics at the end of each round on the most common and most obscure answers.
Prior to the show, 100 people are each given 100 seconds to provide as many answers as they can to a series of general knowledge questions. The contestants are asked these same questions during the show, and each correct answer scores one point for every panellist who gave it. The goal in each round is to achieve as low a score as possible, favoring answers that are correct but uncommon. If an answer is correct, its value is revealed by a display of a score counting down from 100 in time with thin discs being removed from a vertical stack (the latter of which forms the I in the programme's logo). "Pointless" answers are those that were not given by any of the 100 panellists but are still correct, making them worth zero points. Each time a team gives a pointless answer prior to the final round, £250 is added to the jackpot. An incorrect answer adds 100 points to the team's score.
The format consists of two elimination rounds, a head-to-head round and the final round. If two teams are tied for the highest score at the end of the first or second round, a sudden-death "lockdown" round is played, with the highest-scoring team losing. The couple that wins the head-to-head round are awarded a Pointless trophy and advance to the final round, where they can win the day's jackpot by giving one pointless answer in a chosen category. If the jackpot is not won, it rolls over to the next show and is increased by £1,000. In the celebrity shows, the jackpot always starts at £2,500 and does not roll over if it goes unclaimed. For specials, the jackpot starts at £5,000 and goes up by £500 for each pointless answer, but as with the regular celebrity shows, the jackpot does not roll over to the following show.
Four episodes are recorded in one day.
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. In February 2016, it was announced that Pointless had been recommissioned by the BBC for a further 165 regular daytime episodes and 45 prime time celebrity specials, which will see the programme remain on BBC One until at least the end of 2017. 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.
The format and gameplay changed slightly between series. The game starts with elimination rounds (three in the first series, two in subsequent series) to whittle the starting line-up down to the two teams who contest the head-to-head; the winning team of the head-to-head plays in the final.
The teams are given a subject, and each team chooses one contestant from their team to answer the question first. Then the question within the subject is revealed. The order of play is determined by drawing lots in advance of recording. Play starts with the person at the podium nearest to Armstrong and ends at the farthest podium; this forms what is known as the "first pass". Then, the contestants at each podium switch to the second contestant, and the order is then reversed for the "second pass". During each of these rounds, teams may not confer.
Teams gain points depending on how many people answered the question with that answer. If the contestant gives an incorrect answer, they are awarded the maximum 100 points.
At the end of each round, the team with the highest score is eliminated from the game. In the event of a tie, the tied teams each give an extra answer each until the deadlock is broken and the team with the highest points eliminated. The teams are allowed to confer in the tie-break. 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.
To complete each round, Osman reveals all the pointless answers, or the three least popular if there are no pointless answers, plus the top three answers, which would be worth the highest amount to any contestant.
There are five different formats of the elimination round which can be played: the first was introduced in the first series (and was the only version used in that run), with subsequent series introducing variant formats.
The original format has open-ended questions: contestants are given the question and a free choice of answer—no prompts or preset answers are shown. If the contestant's answer is correct, they score according to the poll results; an incorrect answer scores 100 points. In the first series, this game was played three times, in each of the elimination rounds, then in subsequent episodes the game would be played no more than once. A variant of this format was introduced in series 7, where a list of categories appears on the board after a question and contestants can give any answer that fitted into any of those categories (for example, they could name any member that was in any band on the list). Contestants usually identify the intended category along with their answer, though (unlike in the final round) they are not required to do so and they will be credited for a correct answer even if they attribute it to the wrong category. This variant enables the question setters 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).
The possible answers format, introduced as the new second elimination round format in series 2 and dropped in series 6, gave the question and a board of seven potential answers; each contestant in turn would pick one of the answers shown, scoring accordingly. Following the first pass, Osman would reveal the value of the remaining answers. The other team members would have a new set of answers to choose from. Each set of answers would include at least one pointless answer and at least one incorrect answer. Usually, the incorrect answer had some indirect link (often humorous) back to the question. As only the provided answers needed to be verified, this question format allowed categories to be used in which no commonly agreed definitive list of correct answers exists.
The third format, clues and answers, was introduced in series 3. The teams are given a two-part subject, such as "Famous Battles and their Countries", and then a list of names relating to part of the question (for example, a list of historical battles). The contestants must select an item from the list and give the corresponding half of the answer (in this case, the modern-day country where the battle took place). All the options have a correct answer, and a more obscure answer will score fewer points. An incorrect answer to any question scores 100 points. (If the question was "the Battle of Hastings", the correct answer, "United Kingdom", might score 92 points, as most panellists would know this answer.) After the first pass, all the correct answers and their scores are revealed, with a fresh board of names for the second pass. Unlike the "possible answers" format, there is no guarantee that there will be a pointless answer on the board. Seven clues are provided on each pass if this format is played in the first round, six if played in the second round.
A fourth format, linked categories, introduced in series 5, provides the teams with two closely related categories (e.g. "Boy Bands" and "Rock Bands"). The first category is played on the first pass (by the teams' first contestant), and the second category is played on the second pass (by the second contestants). The questions are still played in an open-ended format and, so far, this format has only been played in the first round. It was rarely used and is no longer played.
A fifth format, introduced in series 7, shows the contestants a picture or pictures containing many people or objects (e.g. cartoon characters) and they have to identify the lowest-scoring person/object in it. This is only occasionally used and replaces an "original format" round when it does appear.
The games which were played in each series were arranged as follows:
Whatever the format, the two teams remaining from the elimination rounds go forward to the head-to-head round.
The lowest scoring team overall is given a choice of two categories and picks one, they are allowed to confer. Each team takes it in turns to give as many correct answers as possible to the single question while still keeping their scores as low as possible. The round ends when one team goes above 100 points, after both teams have had the same number of turns. If both teams go above 100, then the team that is nearer to 100 goes through to the final.
The format of the head-to-head changed from series 2 to a multi-question best-of-five (best-of-three from series 3).
The remaining two teams face off in a head-to-head battle. The team who acquired the fewest points in the first two rounds gets to go first. A question is asked which has a minimum of 4 answers, then the teams get to confer and give one answer in turn. The scores for both answers are then revealed and the team with the lower score get a point and the opportunity to answer first on the next question. The first team to get three points (2 points from series 3) wins the Head to Head and enters the final.
The head-to-head format kept its previous format of a multi-question best-of-three, but each question is in a "clues and answers" format. There are three kinds of question in this round:
After both contestants have submitted an answer, the scores are revealed, and the lowest scoring pair wins the point, as per normal.
The aim of the Final is to get one pointless answer to win the jackpot. For reaching the final the team receives a "coveted" (as Armstrong always describes it) Pointless trophy, regardless of what happens in the final. Any team that makes it through to the final cannot return for the next show, even if it is their first appearance. The trophy is made from a 120mm tall block of optical quality crystal, 3D laser-engraved with a stack of 100 Pointless discs and the Pointless logo. It is manufactured by Laser Crystal Ltd, based in Poole, Dorset.
The team is given a choice of five categories (three in Series 1–5, and in these series, the categories stayed either for 5 days or until they were picked. Since Series 6, unchosen categories return at irregular intervals and not in consecutive shows). After choosing one, they get the question, and have 60 seconds to give three answers for that category. If any individual response is a pointless answer, the team wins the jackpot and the jackpot is reset to £1,000 for the following game. If not, £1,000 is added to the jackpot. In celebrity episodes, if the celebrity duo do not win the jackpot, a consolation prize of £500 is given for their respective charities.
A record jackpot of £24,750 was won in the episode broadcast 8 March 2013. Beginning with broadcast episode 501, which aired 7 June 2013, a new format was introduced for the final jackpot. Contestants are given four categories to select from, and are given 60 seconds to find a pointless answer by picking three answers from any or all of three subcategories. Contestants are required to state which subcategory each answer belongs to, and it must be pointless within the nominated subcategory in order to win the jackpot. If the answer was named under a wrong subcategory, it would be considered as an incorrect answer.
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 was averaging 3.6 million viewers daily, and starting to gain more viewers than ITV game show, The Chase, which also airs in roughly the same time slot.
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 celebrity specials, which will see Pointless continue to air on BBC One until at least the end of 2017.
Pointless Celebrities is a celebrity edition of Pointless and airs on Saturday nights during prime time. Each episode features four pairs of celebrity contestants playing to win money for charities of their choice, and there is usually a theme in regards to the contestants (e.g., a "reality TV" special which aired in December 2015 featured pairs of contestants famous for appearances on reality television shows like Big Brother and Made in Chelsea).
The jackpot on Pointless Celebrities starts off at £2,500, which is £1,500 higher than it does on the regular show, although it does not roll over to the next show if it is not won. If the celebrity pair who make it through to the final do not win the jackpot, they are given £500 for each of their charities.
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 guest. 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".
On 26 February 2014, the official Pointless app, Pointless Quiz, was released for iOS, with an iPad, Android and 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. Four 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 and The A-Z of Pointless: A brain-teasing bumper book of questions and trivia. All four 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 contain updated questions.
In popular culture
Pointless appeared in the BBC sitcom Not Going Out (series 7, episode 5); Armstrong and Osman both played themselves.