Catriona Shearer


Mighty Scotland for BBC Scotland, 11 March to 3 May 2019 (30 episodes in 1 series)


The game is played by pairs, three of them in each show. Each pair has a colour – pink, purple, blue – and five numbered balls in the velvet bag.

The show begins with these balls in the bag, plus one Danger Ball. If this is the last ball in the bag, no-one wins the jackpot.

The sixteen balls at rest.

From left to right, the teams pick a ball out of the bag. We viewers get to see inside the bag, thanks to a microscopic camera inside.

What happens? Pick a ball from another team, so you want to keep it out of the bag. Answer a relatively simple general knowledge question correctly, and they've done it. Pass the ball along to host Catriona Shearer, and keep it out of the bag. But should the Pinks manage to get their question wrong, the ball's going back in the bag.

Pluck out one of your own balls, and you would like to put the ball back in the bag, so it can still be the Wonderball at the end of the game. To do this, they'll need to answer a slightly harder question.

What happens if one of these Danger Balls is pulled out of the bag? Catriona will ask a Difficult Question, one to which the answer is obscure. All the teams get to confer on the answer, because everyone wants to see the Danger Ball removed.

Play passes from left to right, from Pink to Blue to Purple and back to Pink.

The set has a curved desk with an inset for the ball bag, and giant balls round the outside.

Sooner or later, five balls will be out of the bag. The questions pause, and Catriona offers each team a cash-out. They can sell one of their balls for a guaranteed £100. The team sell a specific ball, so the Pink team would say "We're selling ball number 5", not just "We'll sell any ball".

The team hopes that someone draws out the ball they've sold, because if it's the Wonderball at the end of the game, they've sold the jackpot for much less.

Each team makes their decision, to sell or not to sell. Catriona adds a second Danger Ball in, and play resumes.

Five more balls come out through questions, and there's another round of cash-outs. Now the offer is £200, cash in hand.

The Purples have now sold two balls for £300. They don't have the Wonderball, and won't take part in question rounds.

Another danger ball goes in, before three more balls are eliminated through questions. When a ball sold by one of the teams is picked, it leaves the game at once, no questions asked.

There's one last round of cash offers, now £300 for one of the balls. A guaranteed chunk of money, or a one-in-five chance of winning the jackpot? Or maybe both!

Catriona Shearer with her collected balls.

These last balls are removed without questions - once it's pulled out, it's out of the game. Is the Wonderball a sold ball or a Danger Ball? No jackpot for anyone. Is it still owned by a team? They've won £2000, plus anything from selling other balls earlier. Like on Pointless, all teams appear on two shows unless they win the jackpot first time out.

When we come to write it down, we're amazed at how complex Wonderball actually is. So many branches, so many if-then-elses, lots of conditionals and subclauses. Catriona Shearer does a tremendous job by making it look almost effortless. While it's not a particularly exciting show - "pleasant" and "good-humoured" spring to mind - there's a lot going for this relaxed programme played for decent stakes.


Devised by Hugh Rycroft and The Mighty Team

Title music

Composers - David Roper and Nick Norton-Smith


This may well hold the dubious honour of being the BBC's worst rated quiz show, going out to just 8,000 viewers. They missed a treat.

Web links

BBC programme page

See also

Weaver's Week review


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