In this second blogpost, account manager Ben Phillips shares his experience of appearing on the BBC 1 show Pointless. Ben appeared on Pointless on Tuesday 8th September. Catch up again with the episode on BBC iPlayer.
Having wondered for 15 months whether we would appear on Pointless, the journey to Elstree was remarkably quick. One of the quirks of Pointless is that (unless you get to the final round in your first show), you get two attempts. On arrival at Elstree Studios, we were taken to a small holding room where we were briefed on the ins and outs of the game. After some more form filling, we were then taken to a larger room, where we were to sit and wait until called for filming.
Mid-afternoon, we were given our recording schedule and were duly ushered into makeup. We had been told to bring a number of outfits for the wardrobe department to choose the most appropriate – I was politely told that my wardrobe choices were ‘difficult’ and duly present with two sets of clothes, freshly ironed. The filming schedule was incredibly tight, which meant that we would not be able to go down on set until we began recording. The Production Assistants worked hard to keep the contestants relaxed. As we left the production building to walk on set, my wife quietly whispered ‘I’m scared – shall we just go home?’ I replied that it was now too late for that, and before we knew it, we were on the set of Pointless.
It was an amazing feeling to be on something you know so well from television. I was excited to be on set, but don’t remember feeling nervous – maybe it was because I wanted to play the game the same way as we did at home, sat on the sofa with Gran. Meeting Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman was a great experience – to borrow a cliché, they were “just like they are on TV”. The lights were on, the cameras were rolling, and we could hear the Pointless theme tune. This was it – we were on Pointless. My main concern as the theme song started was how I would keep my mouth shut during the first two rounds when my wife was playing as we couldn’t confer! The prize money for the show was confirmed at £2,000. Not a large amount, but better than a kick in the teeth!
The first round was ominous – name “Famous Bens”. My wife went first, and opted for Sir Ben Kingsley, of “Ghandi” fame. A reasonably high score – worrying, as it could mean we would go out in the first round. At my turn, I resigned myself to the fact that we probably would end up first out, so went with a safe answer of the composer Benjamin Britten. Fortunately, it came in lower than I’d expected, keeping us in the game.
The second round was the disaster I’d been expecting. It was on Sport. I resigned myself to being knocked out in the second round. Then the question flashed up – “Name any team who participated in the 2015 ICC World Cup”. Then I had a brainwave. I remembered reading about the Afghanistan Cricket Team, and how they had been coached by UK troops. I couldn’t remember exactly if they had played in the 2015 world cup, or were aiming for 2020, but this was as good as I could get In our pre-broadcast briefing, we’d been told that if we were likely to be making a guess, we were to talk through it on camera, and then go for it. . So I talked through the answer, and committed to Afghanistan. What seem liked an age passed, as Alexander Armstrong pointed towards the board. I’d got it right… and it was a low scorer. This gave my wife breathing room to choose Sri Lanka – a middle range scorer, but we were safely through to the third round – the “Head to Head”.
The Head to Head round was interesting, as it is the first time that you work with your teammate. Our first question was to identify MOBO lifetime award winners – as can probably be guessed, neither my wife nor I are experts on music of black origin, so were stumped. Out of the line-up, the only person we recognised was Lionel Richie, so chose him. One point to us. The second question was anagrams – a pet hate of both my wife and I. The anagrams were based on identifying parts of a ship. Whilst we got ours right, the other team’s answer was slightly lower. So, to a lightening round – whoever scored lowest on this would go through to the final round. My wife’s love of literature saved the day, in correctly identifying the movie “Minority Report” as having been a short story before being made into a film.
So, on to the final round. At this point, we knew that we’d walk away with the Pointless trophy – but would we make fools of ourselves in the final round? The topics came up – I can’t recall all of them, but I know that my wife and I discussed two topics in the time allotted. We concluded that my knowledge of 20th century American literature would probably not be as strong as hers, whereas we both knew a great deal about politics. The politics topics appeared – Retiring MPs at the end of the 2010-15 Parliament; Members of the Coalition Cabinet, and MPs elected at a by-election during the 2010-15 Parliament. I immediately found the two topics we’d answer.
For MPs elected at a by-election during the 2010-15 Parliament, we opted for Douglas Carswell, UKIP, Clacton (or, as my wife described him, as “the other one”). For members of the Coalition Cabinet, I first opted for Stephen Crabb as Secretary of State for Wales and Alistair Carmichael as Secretary of State for Scotland. So, Alexander put it to the board. First up, Carswell. We looked at the board, and it kept going lower, and lower, and lower… and stopped at 3. I was now hopeful that one of the next two answers would be pointless. I used to live in Crabb’s Preseli Pembrokeshire constituency, so thought it was a nice link to home. So, we looked at the board, and it kept going lower, and lower, and lower… and then it hit POINTLESS! The stage lights lit up and started swirling – it was quite a moment. Alexander asked Richard to verify that it was pointless, when Richard confirms that our third answer would also have been pointless. The £2,000 prize money was ours! After a firm handshake from Armstrong and Osman (my wife managed to get a kiss of Alexander!), we were on our way, having been given our trophies. Our prize winnings would come later.
We’d had a great experience – and now that we can actually talk about it makes it all the more exciting. An eighteen month journey came to a positive end. The next time you sit down and watch a game show and think “I could do that”, find an application and fill it in – you never know what you might come home with!