People's Quiz Wildcard



Jamie Theakston


Voiceover: not known


Fever Media for BBC Two, 28 May to 21 June 2007 (19 programmes)

Image:People's Quiz logo.jpg


What to do when you have a slightly ponderous Saturday-night quiz which due to its format you can't possibly stop showing before its really rather long run finishes? Why, you devise a sister show to take up half an hour of prime BBC Two early-evening real estate, of course!

The premise of the People's Quiz Wildcard show is to give those of us who failed at, or didn't bother to turn up to, the exciting nationwide auditions for the National Lottery People's Quiz another chance at getting a place in the grand final and just maybe winning the £200,700 grand prize. Will it uncover the Goran Ivanisevic of the middle-brow quizzing world?

Here's the format. It's a bit complicated; bear with us. The idea is to win a round of quizzing, hence becoming the champion, and then to win as many more rounds as possible, hopefully building up an unassailable score and becoming one of the five highest-scoring champions who at the end of the series play for the wildcard place in the People's Quiz grand final. So, the pool of nine waiting players is asked a multiple-choice question, answering on keypads. The two quickest correct answers are introduced to us via an astonishingly irritating voiceover which, as well as the standard information, also gives us their 'Quiz Credential' and 'Wildcard Fact'. Joy. Which of them will face the current champion is decided by the previous champions, in whose interests it is to pick the most formidable-looking opponent, that the champion might be defeated and hence prevented from winning more rounds than they have. Those who don't get the chance to play in one show return the next day, with new blood added to fill the gaps (except at the end of each week, when they all clear off to make way for nine new contestants – so bad luck to you if you join on a Friday).

The quizzing duels follow the ever-popular, if blatantly unfair, last-person-to-answer-incorrectly-loses mechanic. Beginning with the challenger, the players are asked ninety seconds of rapid-fire questions, with a wrong answer passing control to the other player. Whoever is in control when the time elapses is the winner; the loser leaves the show, unless they've won enough rounds already to join the previous champions. Interestingly, if a player doesn't know the answer, they can pass control voluntarily to their opponent in the hope that they get it wrong and control is passed straight back. What's baffling, however, is that this option is taken by saying "switch", while saying "pass" is taken as an incorrect answer. Why anybody would therefore pass on a question is unclear, but under the pressure they sometimes do.

One cycle takes about five minutes, so with this repeating for half an hour every day for several weeks, things get a tad repetitive and about a hundred rounds will have been played before the end of proceedings.

The game throws up some interesting tactics. (Interesting when compared to the tactics we're used to at six o'clock on BBC Two anyway: "Well, it's worked so far, so I think I'll go first, Dermot.") For instance, when the current champion has overtaken the scores of the previous champions, it becomes in their interests to choose weak opposition for the current champion who, being ahead of them anyway, can't harm their chances of finishing in the top five, but can act as a kind of filibuster to stop anyone new threatening their places. If a champion appears unassailable, and is near the ten wins after which they retire, should the waiting contestants perhaps get the qualifying questions wrong on purpose, biding their time until the way is clear for them to have a good run themselves? Luckily, they don't do this, since it would grind the show to an embarrassing halt.

The final episode disappointingly consisted of more of the same quizzing duels, with the reigning champion at the end of the regular shows facing off against the fifth-place previous champion, then the winner of this playing against the fourth-place finisher, and so on up to the match against the first-place contestant, the winner of which receives the wildcard slot in the main show's final. (The same idea as one of the rounds in short-lived Channel 4 quizzer Number One, fact fans.) In a sop to fairness, initial control in these duels was decided with a question on the buzzer (normally an outrageous swerve), but as proceedings got nearer to the giant cash prize on offer for the winner, the iniquities in the format only seem more important.

Notable by their absence from the lowly Wildcard show are the 'Quiz Gods' from the main Saturday programme. As it turns out, Jamie Theakston can read out questions perfectly well on his own thanks very much. Not having Myleene Klass's expert opinion on quiz matters interjected into proceedings mean each show gets through the questions at a fair lick, one of the plus points of the show. In fact, the whole affair rattles along quite amiably really. The banter from the previous champions makes a change from William G. Stewart's faux-misogyny, and half an hour is much more bearable than the fifty-five minutes the main show is stretched to. Just get rid of that voiceover for the next series. What's that? There's not? Oh, never mind then.


"Let's play for the wildcard."


James T. Lundie


Alan Morgan

See also

People's Quiz

National Lottery shows

Weaver's Week review


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