Only Connect (2)
Victoria Coren (credited as Victoria Coren Mitchell, 2013-)
Presentable for BBC Four, 15 September 2008 to present
Fresh from her hit documentary A History of Corners, Victoria Coren continues her career on that darkest recess of Britain's television corporation, BBC Four.
Two teams of three people vaguely connected by a job or hobby turn up to be ritually humiliated by some of the most - if not the most - difficult questions ever seen on a TV show on these shores, certainly outside a specialist subjects quiz. Clearly appealing to the widest demographic possible the show opens with, er, a string quartet and a flurry of Greek letters which will later adorn the game board.
In the first round, the teams take it in turn to pick a Greek letter from the A Question of Sport-esque board whereupon the first of up to four clues are revealed. Further clues can be revealed but at a cost - 5, 3, 2, 1 points are earned after the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and final clue. The teams have 40 seconds to spot the connection, and the captain must buzz in during that time to offer a correct guess, otherwise their opponents get the opportunity to pick up a bonus point if they know the answer. The connections can range from the straightforward ("Card games") to the frankly bizarre ("People with palindromic surnames"), and it can take a few shows before you tune into the show's own mindset.
In the second round, the clues form four terms of a sequence. The points are given for providing the fourth item in the sequence even if, as has happened in some cases, the team arrive at the right answer for completely the wrong reason.
Undoubtedly the most popular round is the Connecting Wall, where 16 clues have to be grouped together into four lots of four. The team use a touch screen to stab in their guesses, and tactics come into play towards the end as the team only get three attempts to differentiate the last eight clues into the 3rd and 4th groups. One point is earned for each correct group found during the time, another point is earned for the correct reason behind the connection, and a bonus two points are added if all four groups and connections are given. The grid itself is cleverly programmed as a 3D virtual wall and works very well on screen.
The final word game, Missing Vowels, requires the contestants to buzz in when they can identify phrases, names or titles from which the vowels have been removed and the consonants respaced (e.g. THL NN GTWRFP S for THE LEANING TOWER OF PISA), appearing in batches of four connected clues. It doesn't particularly fit in with the rest of the show, but overall the rounds provide sufficient variety to hold up the interest.
Though not her first presenting role, it is La Coren's first quiz and surprisingly so, as she gets the hang of it rather quickly, keeping up the pace with a whip-cracking schoolmistressy charm while providing sufficient background from her notes to fully explain any loose ends.
It's not for everyone but those who like it, like it a lot.
2008 Crossworders (Mark Grant, David Stainer, Ian Bayley)
2009 Rugby Boys (Richard Parnell, Gary Dermody, Mark Labbett)
2010 (April) Gamblers (Jenny Ryan, Dave Bill, Alan Gibbs)
2010 (December) Epicureans (Katie Bramall-Stainer, David Brewis, Aaron Bell)
2011 Analysts (Paul Steeples, David Lea, William De Ath)
2012 Scribes (Dom Tait, Holly Pattenden, Gareth Price)
2013 (August) Francophiles (Ian Clark, Mark Walton, Sam Goodyear)
Curiously, uses the same title - but is otherwise unconnected - as one of the most unpopular Radio 4 panel games in living memory. That version of Only Connect was helmed by Arabella Weir.
The title comes from the epigraph to E. M. Forster's 1910 novel Howards End.