I love quiz shows, I really do. I love getting the answers right. I love pretending I got the answers right. I love mocking the contestants when they do not get the answers right. Though apparently not as much as Jeremy Paxman and his quizzical brow do. They are a chance to prove one’s unequivocal knowledge of the culture capitals of Europe, or films starring Kevin Bacon; essentially they are a great way to feel like a bit of a clever clogs whilst a wordless word document stares at you from across the room. However, the time of lording my superior knowledge of all things uninteresting over my family and friends whilst they try to enjoy their evening viewing has finally come to an end.
‘Only Connect’, the most viewed show on the somewhat haughty and grown up BBC 4, is like an intellectual punch in the face. Scheduled to begin just as University Challenge ends, it maintains the mood of civil Monday night viewing (or in my case, aggressive fact fighting), but forces you to climb several rungs up logic ladder. As opposed to reeling off random facts potentially overheard at a pub quiz, the teams have to actually think about things. The basic format requires the teams to make connections between seemingly random images, words, or pieces of music, meaning you have to be able to link stuff like “things made out of melted guns”, or “tube lines if they were translated as snooker ball colours.” It’s torturous. It’s also genius.
Everything about this program is clever, sharp and a teensy bit elitist. From the titular E.M Forster reference, to the fact that teams choose their question by selecting a hieroglyph (seriously), no academic is left unruffled. Even the classically stringy introductory music gives everything a sense of serious if-I-get-one-right-I’ll-be-a-better-person-ness. Cleverest of all is the show’s presenter, Victoria Coren. I don’t want to be quizzed by her, I want to be her. The somewhat unnerving lack of a studio audience does not phase this lady, as she embarks on monologues and witticisms, gently mocks the teams (most of whom look like they followed University Challenge when Bamber Gascoigne still presented it), and makes us believe she really did already know the answers to all the questions.
So, though quiz show fans may have a more relaxing time watching QI, or a more successful evening watching The Weakest Link, nothing says ‘wild Monday night’ like a quiz show that repeatedly assaults you with stuff you didn‘t know. All it needs now is a drinking game.