Your Country Needs You!



Patrick Kielty


Voiceover: Sarah Cawood


BBC Scotland for BBC One, 13 January 2007


50-strong studio teams representing England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and each headed by two celebrity players, compete in a general knowledge quiz, and viewers can help their country along by playing interactively.

The basic mechanic works quite well - your team votes on a multiple-choice question with the winners getting 5 points, then you can either bank the points or the team captain can take on another country mano-a-mano for 10 points (or, in round 2, versus two other teams for 15pts). Various combinations abound of whether the team captain or the 50 people behind him have to perform throughout the show.

After about half way through the competition, the team are given a chance to dump their captain for another amongst their ranks, if they think they're not quick enough on the buzzer. The celebrity team captains are there to help make the tactical decisions such as which other teams to take on.

The viewers were goaded into ringing a call-and-lose phone number at various points of the show, and bonus points (for the country with the most correct response rate) were added to the team scores at the halfway and full time points of the show. Also there were points given to the team with the best-performing celebrities.

On the night, a fair amount of tactical voting crept in towards the latter stages, which added to the competitive nature but we've heard tell that it did turn a little bit nasty at some points (which were cut out at the last moment of the as-live broadcast). The fact that some teams ended up booing the others, and meaning it, was a little sad given that there was very little at stake.

A couple of other things stick in the craw: First, audience members had to pay their own way to the studio (an expensive trip to Scotland, for some) and only when they got there was it made clear that the producer-appointed team captains would be the only ones who could possibly win the holiday. Also, there were various aspersions cast that the whole thing wasn't quite "on the level" with the points values for various parts of the interactive voting being changed from the pre-published rules at the last minute (not that the viewers would be aware of the fact).

Nevertheless, this was probably the most successful as-live studio event the BBC has done in recent times, and much more atmospheric (sometimes for the right reasons) than Test the Nation.



Sarah Proctor


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