Postcode Challenge

Image:Postcode challenge logo.jpg



Carol Smillie (2007-8)

Angus Purden (2010)


SMG Productions for STV, 12th November 2007-


Four teams of six neighbours, each team of six sharing the same or similar postcode, answer general knowledge questions for a cash prize, which is determined in the second half of the show. Each team is identified by its postcode, which may be a bit of a misjudgement on someone's part because seeing your postcode area on the telly just isn't as exciting as seeing your village, even if they amount to the same thing. Put "Banchory" on the front of a podium and everyone in or near Banchory will be rooting for the team, but it's hard to imagine anyone getting excited by a team representing AB31 5JF, even if they happen to live in AB31 5JG.

The teams are made up of a main contestant ("team captain") and five of their neighbours ("team members"). The captain answers questions directly to Carol whilst the neighbours answer via keypads.

There are four rounds in all (sort of - the fourth is really just a "reveal" of results from the third) with one team knocked out in each of the first three. In the first, the captains answer multiple-choice questions on keypads. The team members whose captain answered correctly the fastest are then given a multiple choice question of their own, and a majority correct answer on this second part takes the team through to the next round. The second round is the same principle reversed: the team members answer questions on their keypads, and the captains then answer the supplementary question.

Image:Postcode challenge beamout.jpgIf only STV hadn't blown the budget on a futuristic particle beam transporter, the back row could have had chairs as well.

The third round is a head-to-head affair in which all players answer five multiple-choice questions. Afterwards, the team members are banished from the studio (via a woefully out-of-place Star Trek visual effect) while the captains' right and wrong answers are revealed, and whichever team's captain got fewer right will go home empty-handed.

The winning captain's team then returns to the studio, and go through the money ladder, their progress determined by how many got each successive question right. To progress up the ladder they need at least one person to have got the first answer right, two to have got the second and so on. The highest jackpot prize possible is £25,000 - a decent prize on regional television, it has to be said, though it's unlikely to be won very often and the next rung down is only ten grand. Half of the money goes to the captain whilst the other half is shared amongst the five neighbours.

Image:Postcode challenge money ladder.jpgThe three illuminated players answered the second question correctly, so they've successfully lit up the second rung of the ladder.

As with (almost) any format, there's good and bad elements here. On the credit side, it's a properly-integrated team quiz and not just individuals playing in turn, and the idea of having a captain with special responsibility is a good one. The music is rather generic quiz show fare but at least it's not loaded with fake tension like some (these days, most) game show scores we could mention. On the debit side, Smillie was rather mediocre as a host, the contestant introductions go on for ages (we didn't time it, but we reckon it was about three days) after which the players still feel rather anonymous, and ultimately it's just another drawn-out multiple choice quiz, and haven't we had enough of them for the time being?

40 episodes were originally planned, but the show has evidently done well enough to be recommissioned. A small innovation from August 2008 (and, we would guess, the 41st episode?) is that there's now a 25 grand jackpot prize in addition to the standard money ladder, and it rolls over until someone wins it, so potentially there could be a biiiiiig money payout somewhere down the line. Also, as if in response to our complaint about the teams feeling anonymous, they now put interviews with next week's contestants up on the STV website. It doesn't make much difference, mind, but it's an extra 1.5 minutes of fame for a few people and we won't begrudge them that. While we're in an updating mood, we should also mention that there have been a few celebrity editions with teams representing charities, captained by the likes of Bryan Burnett, Kaye Adams, Ford Kiernan from Still Game and her off of Balamory.

Bring on the surveys

The show returned to production during Spring 2010, with Angus Purden (who had been fronting the sponsor's ads) replacing Smilie as host and boasting more than a few highly-contrived adjustments. The captain's greater role is dropped and only two teams play the game.

The opening round now partly involves surveys based on the teams' localities - the contestants answer the same question individually and the team with the most correct answers takes 'control of play' before being asked three more questions ever so tediously linked with the original survey. Round two becomes a timed general knowledge round for each team - the team members take turns to answer each question but only a correct answer will allow them to move onto the next person.

The final involves the winning team 'decoding their postcode' - the code itself is split up into five parts, each involving a question and increasing cash prizes. All the team members answer the same question individually - at least one person must answer question 1 right but two must answer question 2 right and so on. The team must decide after each question whether to go onto the next question or leave with the cash. The final open-ended question worth £25k is answered by the entire team.

All in all, we're split on this show. Some of us think it's OK whilst the rest of us consider it stupendously awful (the ghost of Caledonia MacBrains, anyone?).


Sponsored by The People's Postcode Lottery, already played in the Netherlands and Sweden.

Recorded at BBC Scotland, Pacific Quay, Glasgow - next door to STV!

Promotional tagline: The show that's right up your street. Also used for contestant calls: Get your road on the show!.

Web links

Official website - includes details on how to apply for this series.


Image:Carol smillie postcodes.jpgWe actually Googled these postcodes to find out who they belonged to. We have no lives.

See also

Weaver's Week review


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