Recently we had the chance to attend a taping of BBC One’s Pointless and speak to its executive producer James Fox – read on for a behind-the-scenes look at the show!
As you can probably see, we here at Tellymix have an obsession with reality television that’s bordering on unhealthy.
But when we’re not keeping up with the drama in the Big Brother house, cheering on our favourite acts on The X Factor and The Voice – or even chuckling at the belly-flops on Splash! – we are partial to a good gameshow.
And there are none better than Pointless, the obscure knowledge-rewarding quiz that’s become a surprise hit among everyone from students to OAPs.
If you haven’t seen it, we’ll explain: Pointless is sort of a reverse-Family Fortunes that involves pairs of contestants plumbing the depths of their brains to come up with the least obvious answers for questions that have been asked to 100 people beforehand. The less people that said their answers, the fewer points they’ll get – and whoever gets the highest score is eliminated.
Producers Endemol are currently preparing to launch an official Pointless mobile game, so to celebrate they invited us and some other wonderful bloggers to Elstree Studios to give us an inside look at the show.
After getting a sneak peak at the app – which we unfortunately can’t say much about yet, other than that it’ll be released on iOS and Android next month – we were let loose in the studio, which to our surprise was not only bigger, but also a lot brighter than it looks on screen.
We were intrigued to see some of the details, such as just how close the audience seating was to the stage, and what the screens display when the swanky graphics aren’t switched on – as it turns out, the column runs Microsoft Windows.
As we took it all in, executive producer James Fox – who’s worked on Pointless since it first began way back in 2009 on BBC Two – came out for a chat, and it he’s just as surprised as anyone at how big it’s become.
“You never quite imagine that a show that started on BBC Two is gonna be doing six or seven million on a Saturday night on BBC One, or even four million in the daytime slot,” he commented.
Fox believes that its ‘heart’ is the rapport between its presenters, Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman, who became friends at university.
“Over time their relationship has developed on screen in that they can say whatever they want to each other because they know each other well enough and they can go off on strange flights of fancy, and it doesn’t really matter because you’ll always come back to the game,” he explained. “We’re always very keen to leave in as much of Xander and Richard as we can.”
It wasn’t long before we were seated to watch an episode of show and we got to see the pair do their thing, trading banter that left the audience in stitches.
After four years on air, the recording process has been fine tuned, with only a few retakes required. The audience even has specific instructions on how to do the ‘ooh’ sound you hear whenever the column counts down – they’re told to come in at 80 and gradually get louder until the score is revealed, before reacting accordingly.
Now that everyone involved with Pointless has become so used to making it, we wondered whether it could follow the likes of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and Deal Or No Deal by doing some special live episodes.
“Do you know, I was thinking about that the other day. We’d love to do it, I don’t know if Richard and Xander would do it,” Fox told us. “As you’ll see today, there are certain things that would make it a challenge, but who knows what the future holds.”
One such challenge is making sure that contestants are aware of how to conduct themselves on camera – one we saw hilariously slipped up twice during his introduction, going against impartiality rules by naming the chain of DIY stores that he worked for.
But another more technical issue came during the jackpot final round, when the players faced an anxious wait as the taping was paused for several minutes so the bods upstairs could check the answers they had given.
Since Pointless began, it has aired more than 600 episodes, and hundreds more are being recorded every year. With so many being churned out, you’d be forgiven for thinking that they might run out of questions to ask. So how long does Fox think the show can last?
“You’d have to ask the BBC that!” he laughs. “Just when you think, ‘what are we gonna find now’, we find new ways of asking questions.
“It’s our challenge that we set our question team, and I would say this but I really think they are the best in the business in terms of the amount of information they need to find and check. If we’re surprised by the questions, and we’ve been through 600 shows, then that means the viewers will be as well.”
Fox – who also works on Channel 4′s The Million Pound Drop – continued: “We can ask questions that no other show could, because it’s about obscure knowledge. On other shows, even other shows we make, we’d say, ‘we cannot possibly have a question about 20th century American playwrights’. On Pointless you absolutely can.
“Also stuff happens, things change, there’s this year’s sporting events, there’s this year’s TV shows, films, whatever it is, there’s always new stuff happening.
“It’s going from strength to strength. Hopefully there will be many more episodes to come.”
Pointless airs weekdays on BBC One with Celebrity editions on Saturdays. The app will be released in January 2014, while Alexander and Richard’s book The 100 Most Pointless Things In The World published by Hodder & Stoughton is available now at RRP £14.99.