The round involved a board of photos of famous people as they had looked in the 1980s. Big hair, moustaches, Gary Lineker looking the same. And very clearly Steven Spielberg. It couldn’t have been anyone but Spielberg.
Up steps Steve, a civil servant from Poole in a shirt that the geese have been at. Steve used to be a national level trampoline gymnast. Tell us Steve: who’s the chap with the beard?
“I’ll go with…Jeremy Beadle?”
I would dearly have loved to see Beadle’s take on Schindler’s List. Henry Kelly plays a genial Europhile who tries to smuggle Didier Partouche back over the Channel, only to be foiled by Sarah Kennedy waving a bottle of Bailey’s around muttering darkly about serious journalism. Matthew Kelly is a diabolical Untersturmführer whose bid to shepherd a baying studio audience into the grim chambers of LWT is undone by a busybody inspector with a tiny hand demanding someone shifts a lorry load of hilarious VHS tapes.
But Pointless cannot answer such prayers. Its sole purpose is to demonstrate the downward trajectory of the nation’s IQ. Pointless can only provide the British public with a daily feast of idiots who answer confidently that the England football manager who won the World Cup was Ian Botham and the capital of Poland is Walsall.
Joy and horror are forever entangled in Elstree as the cretins who think their general knowledge is worth at least £1,250 lay bare their simple minds for us all to see. In a round on historical figures, Gemma shocks the world by revealing the man who was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas was in fact ‘JR’. When the glorious red boom informs Roger that fictional educator Mr Miyagi is not to be found in ‘Mr Majeika and the Magic Instruments’ you can see him already composing his letter to the Director General, cc Points of View. And Sarah, who freely admits to a geography A level, is asked to name a country whose name ends in two consonants, and offers us ‘Paris’.
Not that the studio contestants are alone with their impressive breadth of stupidity. The show claims to give ‘100 people 100 seconds to name as many…’ of each category as they can and I’m sorry Britain but the stats don’t lie. Give 100 people 100 seconds to identify a picture of Margaret Thatcher and only 65 of them will get it right. Much as I’d love to be one of the 35 I had assumed that that woman’s image was still seared onto the eyes of every Briton as they opened them screaming for the first time in the delivery ward. There are more people who know Tommy Mallet than Timmy Mallet. In fact, there are more people who know Tommy Mallet than Tommy Cooper and the country’s officially fucked.
Obviously this is all very amusing at the time. When faced with a young man who thinks Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect and Zaphod Beeblebrock are characters in, wait for it, Pride and Prejudice, you get that sudden burst of untrammelled jubilance in the middle of your chest you usually only feel when you see a child fall off a slide.
But at the same time it’s so desperately tragic, and maddening. I’m not sure how Alexander Armstrong doesn’t run across the set and dive full length at these staggering fuckwits the BBC rolls in front of us like a Broken Britain conveyor belt. Daley thinks the ship that took Captain Cook to Botany Bay was the Mary Rose, because “That’s the only ship I know.” Well, it’s bound to be that then, isn’t it? How many ships can there be? You often can’t see Richard Osman’s hands on the show. Osman studied Politics and Sociology at Trinity College, Cambridge. One wonders if he’s sharpening a blade under there.
Daley is far from the only rabbit to find the studio beams remarkably headlight-like. Max back there had admitted that Pride and Prejudice was “The first one that came into my head”. The first what, Max? The first book, out of all the books you wish you knew how to read? And why are you naming the first thing that comes into your head anyway? If I was on a quiz show and someone asked me to name an artist who had a number one album in the 1990s I wouldn’t simply open wide and shout ‘indiscriminate killing spree’, would I?
It has to get tired eventually. Laughing at simpletons is a national tradition but I’m not sure how many more baffled guesses and Pride and Prejudices I can take. Clearly there’ll never be an end to the multitude of dunces willing to identify former Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Mansell in a line-up in return for a small rotating glass column, but 18 episodes into the 18th series it might just be time to call it a day.
Or maybe this just goes on for ever, because who doesn’t want to live in a world where the UK’s most famous breed of duck is a Maynard? There are two vowels in Kent now, and the famous German political philosopher with the massive beard was Carl Cox. Join us next time for some more Pointless as we tumble and spin down the toilet bowl of reason until Hamlet was written by Serena Williams and Bristol is a kind of gravy.