Poll of the Year 2011

Image:Square Vote.jpg
2011 has been and gone, and once again it's time for the UKGameshows and Bother's Bar snapshot of the year just gone - the Poll of the Year 2011!

There are a couple of new categories to make it even more exciting than usual (yeah, like THAT'S possible), and we're piloting a special category for our international readers. Read on!

Once again a quick explanation of the poll, it was open to everybody (although invariably skewed by people into the genre), in each category you had five votes, and if you thought particularly strongly about a show you could dedicate up to three votes on a show. The Magic Moments category is freestyle.



Hall of FAME 2011

"FAME! I'm going to live forever, I'm going to learn how to fly," it was with those immortal words Irene Cara wrote about the nature of fame. Judging by the tone of your responses this year, it is unlikely many of 2011's new shows will be living forever or indeed learning how to fly.

Once again this year we're going to list the top ten or so, with emphasis on the top five. 40 different shows received votes, which in the seven years of doing this is actually a record.

10= Fast and Loose, Splatalot, Tool Academy

9 Epic Win

7= High Stakes, Impossible?

6 Minute to Win It

4= 24 Hour Panel People, Perfection

A lot of people wondering if we should include 24 Hour Panel People as a gameshow to be voted for. This is something we have a little sympathy with, so if it bothers you you can mentally delete this one and bump the other shows up a place. This said, David Walliams' 24 hour foray into the world of the panel game (although let's be honest, The Generation Game is frankly pushing it a bit) was a brilliantly fun event to watch live and unedited.

Perfection did not get off to the most auspicious of starts having to basically refilm the first series but the true/false quiz has very definitely earned its place on the schedules pulling in viewers comparable to Deal or No Deal in the timeslot.

On 24 Hour Panel People you said:

  • "For me, 24 Hour Panel People was the most creative, adventurous and hilariously funny (particularly Paul O'Grady!) game show project of 2011. It wasn't without its flaws – the webcast crossing to a B-studio at key moments, whilst not entirely avoidable, could certainly have been less jarring – but that doesn't detract from the quality under such enormous time pressure, and the fantastic financial result for such a worthy cause. (Oh, and move over Brucie: now you're a Sir, I reckon the next knight to have fronted an array of game shows – all in a single day! – may well be David Walliams, given his continued endeavours in 2011.)"
  • "Panel People was smashing, although it's questionable whether it's a format.."
  • "Not a vote because it was a wonderful experience that needs to be repeated, heck, it was hard to watch at times. I'm voting for it simply because it was novel, it brought the "event" back to a genre whose events recently had seemed so artificial (c.f. Red & Black), and recognition must be paid for that."
  • "The return of Whose Line..., Give us a Clue and Blankety Blank AND raising money for charity? TV heaven."
  • "I wasn't sure if 24 Hour Panel People really belonged on here as a proper "show", but it was still really cool to see all those formats come together for a good cause. If nothing else, the live webstream was a cool glimpse behind the scenes of shows."

And on Perfection you said:

  • "Decent format."
  • "Making a simple idea work. True of False questions mixing with the Who Dares Wins formula (two games per show) making it a fun 45 minutes. Simply a daytime show for all the family to play along. 12Yard's simplistic formats are popular with viewers and this one joins that group."
  • "A nice quiz to watch for 40 minutes. Despite the constant repetition from the host, the strange naming of 'Usual Suspects' and a slightly strange format, it was fun to play along."
  • "It's quite complex and different every game. It's a relatively hard quiz but anyone can play along"
  • "Not perfection, but very good."
  • "Perfection is a great format, the questions are moderately difficult, and the speed at which they get through the questions is good."

3 Four Rooms

It ought to be noted that there is a massive gap between the top three and the rest of the field. Four Rooms was actually leading early on in the proceedings. A surprise hit for Channel 4, it's effectively the Antiques Roadshow meets the game of Chicken with four interesting and different personalities. You said:

  • "Stylish idea which worked, though it was downhill somewhat after the Banksy Wall."
  • "It's the lovechild of Dragon's Den and Antiques Roadshow, but miles better than that sounds. It relied a lot on the Rule of Cool, and the fact that there were some 6-figure things in there stopped it from being a damp squib."
  • "This show has the right amount of balance. Part Deal or No Deal, part Flog It, AND a primetime hit for C4!"
  • "Thought this would have been too 'artsy' for me but I loved it. Everyone should give it a go!"
  • "Four Rooms, meanwhile, was simply masterful. If extremely artificial."
  • "Nice to take a look at the competitive side of the art world, for once. Add some strong, vibrant characters - everybody loves Jeff Salmon's crazy dice rolling offers! - and you end up with something much more fun than Antiques Roadshow."
  • "For what is basically a souped version of Dickinson's Real Deal this is incredibly good stuff."
  • "Ooh now this i liked, i never thought antiques would make interesting primetime viewing. it did. needed a better host though i feel."

2 Penn & Teller: Fool Us

Magic IS BACK! on the nation's number one commercial channel, and sadly it went away again when it didn't get enough viewers.

  • "Fool Us may not have lit up the ratings, but it's a solidly entertaining magic show that reveals just enough to add a twist."
  • "Penn & Teller though a genuine highlight - a shame it didn't do better."
  • "I loved the idea of this and despite the fact it got a bit repetitive I think with a production overhaul it might be one of my favourites."
  • "Love magic. Love Penn & Teller. Result!"
  • "P&T's Fool Us realized that the best part of a magic trick was figuring out how it's done. Top notch production and interesting magic drove the show. However, you were left with the feeling that P&T sandbagged a bit to get some winners, which made the whole thing seem a bit off at times."
  • "Really interesting, and good fun. Especially nice to see Penn & Teller expressing love for their craft."
  • "Magic is back on ITV. Sound idea. Trick P&T by doing a trick, and if they can't work it out, you go to Vegas. Let's ignore the slight flaw that P&T have been doing all codes of illusions for over 30 years, so have a good idea how most tricks are done - and gave very little away to the viewers at home, about how the one's they did sniff out were performed."

And that means your number one choice of the year IS:

1 Secret Fortune

Your favourite new format of the last year was a lottery one and is really the only new quiz in primetime to have any sort of success. Or at least we think it's won, we can't quite get our heads around the last bit. Anyway congratulations to Irish company Wild Rover, here's what you all said:

  • "Evolution rather than revolution, but the rules fitted together like a Swiss watch. Shame the production values didn't take a few more risks, though."
  • "The perfect formula when you mix Deal or No Deal with a quiz show. Although it has a sniff of luck. You still need a brain to win life changing money."
  • "I liked this show because of the variety of questions posed to the players so that it took logic to work out which was the best answer to keep. The only sticking point with me was that if the players knew where the largest amount was, Nick would ask them EVERY TIME "Which envelope is the money in?" and have them point to it which was unnecessary. The set was nice-looking and the music, especially in the second half of the game, gave the show some decent tension."
  • "Mixing luck, decision and knowledge made this show really fun to watch. Brilliant format. Only flaw is that last question can be confusing knowing what they are discarding and winning."
  • "Secret Fortune gets my (rather tepid) vote as the best new show of the year, more as a result of a weak field. Despite its glacial pace, the questions are interesting and the structure of the show keeps you hooked until the end. The only new show that could keep my interest through an entire series."
  • "...Was one of the better Lotto-linked formats of recent times - a challenging but good fun format, with lovely touches even right down to the set design - this had 'gameshow' written through it like a stick of rock, just what quiz-heads needed in a year otherwise dominated by reality shows and celeb vehichles. The right mix of jeopardy, skill, risk, reward and entertainment - this is the show the likes of Holding Out for a Hero and High Stakes wanted to be..."
  • "Good Quiz. A welcome new show to wrap around the ball drops, and to break the treadmill of Who Dares Wins and In It to Win It. Only problem is, if you have good memory recall, you can work out what is in the envelopes and by the end it's hardly a 'secret' what fortune you'll end up with by the last question."
  • "Best of an extremely bad bunch. This is probably the better quiz version of Deal or No Deal you'll ever get. Money amounts are a bit too generous though, and it'd be nice if they could get a host who could say "thousand pounds" properly."
  • "Very simply, Secret Fortune was the only new show I really enjoyed seeing this year - a well-judged luck/skill hybrid with no risk management element whatsoever is something I never thought I'd see."

On the Radio

Every year we think the elder medium gets overlooked, so this year we thought we'd throw a bone to new shows that you voted for that maybe others have missed and might like to try for themselves.

This year in actual fact two radio shows fell just outside the top ten placings in joint 13th. History Repeats Itself ("Average Danny Baker is still far far ahead of most things." - this actually may have made joint tenth but someone put it as the sixth vote out of five allowable, so didn't count) and It's Your Round (which got the same amount of votes but nobody left a reason, regretably). In joint 19th place was The 3rd Degree ("Very enjoyable, mildly comic quiz pitched perfectly to its target audience."). Well done all.

Hall of SHAME 2011

"People will see me and cry," continued Irene Cara, just as they do for the shows that feature on this list, your least favourite new shows of 2011.

In all 29 different shows got mentioned - the second lowest amount in UKGS.C poll history, which is interesting given it's a year few have seemed enamoured with and especially as this year had the most ballots we've had yet. However be in no doubt as to the reasons perhaps why, there's a very large drop off between the top three and the rest of the field - position three has over three-and-a-half times the votes of position four, and the "winner" won by a large margin. Here comes the countdown:

10= Minute to Win It, Perfection, Show Me the Funny

9 Compete for the Meat

7= Quiz Trippers, Signed by Katie Price

5= Epic Win, Sing If You Can

Hmm, we're not going to lie to you, we think you're plain wrong about Epic Win which we found with its tongue firmly in its cheek a plenty entertaining and rather silly low-rent reimagining of You Bet! and whilst we absolutely understand the dislike of Sing If You Can, we found it a bit of a guilty pleasure in the end.

But as we say every year the editorial disagrees with the vote, it's not up to us.

Here's what one of you said about Epic Win, because it's the only negative comment anyone left (we got rather more positive ones in truth, even if it got slightly fewer positive votes):

  • "The only show that got my dander up this year was the ironically titled Epic Win (that's the last joke of that nature I'll make, I promise). The direction of the show was all out of whack - I didn't know if I should be impressed by these feats, laugh at the contestants, or just shuffle my feet and awkwardly look around. The awarding of money by the celebrity judges was arbitrary at best, and playing the Bong Game was a baffling and mean-spirited denouement. Attention Producers: If you want to revive You Bet!, just revive You Bet!

And on Sing If You Can you told us:

  • "The only show in 2011 where you can switch off your brain and act like a zombie. They axed The Whole 19 Yards for this? 19 Yards was silly but at least it made you think."
  • "Keith Lemon's about as funny as this show was. The location of this vote should tell you what that means."
  • "would have been a good round on Noel's House Party.
  • "Good idea, but was a bit of a mess."

4 The Marriage Ref

A lot of people wondering if we should include The Marriage Ref as a gameshow to be voted for. This is something we have no sympathy at all with, so if it bothers you then that is just tough luck - it is set up as one, ergo it IS one.

It absolutely tanked in the ratings (although seeing as it wasn't really very successful in the States this may not have come as a surprise). This being said, at least one of our Mums liked it, and we do at least get the impression if it was on twenty/thirty years ago when marriage was a bit more of a thing and featured Bob Monkhouse it might have stood a chance.

  • "The show bombed in America, it bombed here. No Surprise! The Marriage Ref in America had worldwide celebs like Demi Moore, Ricky Gervais and Madonna. We had Sarah Millican. The American version had discussions about a couple's sex life. We had a couple bickering about making jams and chutneys."
  • "It didn't work in the US. It didn't work here. The fact that a certain person in the Bar was touting this as the second coming of Jesus and it coming out decidedly underdone only cements its position in here."
  • "Somewhat tactical voting, there many MANY shows I'd like to mention in this catagory, but i fear this show may be overlooked in the face of more glaring errors, which it must not be. We must never forget the henious crimes this show committed against prime time television. We must learn from history not to repeat its mistakes."
  • "The Marriage Ref felt like it shouldn't even be considered a game show, but just a bog-standard Springer-style talk show. With celebs."

A rather large jump in the voting to the next three. And we'd have put big money on them finishing top three as well.

3 High Stakes

Remember before we all point and laugh that this also finished joint seventh in the Hall of Fame. For whatever reason Americans seemed to dig this format. Not us, though. Still got comissioned despite everyone reading about it and going "wow, really?"

  • "A timely reminder that commissioning editors don't know it all, and that producers should sometimes stick to their guns."
  • "Just too weak a format to have ever made it onto TV"
  • "The only show where nobody wins £500,000 or you get your licence fee back. The only positives about the show were Jeremy Kyle being dim (so we can laugh at him) and the hydraulic floor."
  • "There were literally no redeeming features to the show in any way, shape or form. After about 20 minutes of watching I'd have been more entertained if I decided to lick a cactus."
  • "I gave the show a go, and I was not impressed with what I saw. Obviously, the fatal flaw was that most people would just use all their clues to get to £25k and leave, so there was no way anyone was going to go for the £100k or £500k, so there was really no point in watching on. In the end up, I only really watched it for the break bumpers from Keith at Lights Camera Bingo as I used to be a member there."
  • "High Stakes was just dumb. I'm shocked something like that could make it beyond the initial playthrough without seeing the glaring flaws in the structure of the game. Despite that, it was tedious and slow, and the hook of "the host can help" really only works if you have a host who can help, and Jeremy Kyle, bless his exploitative heart, just ain't that guy."
  • "High Stakes" suffered from a format loophole big enough to drive a truck through sideways - the gambles were viable, but the path of least resistance was to avoid them.
  • "Ick. Host is too aggressive, gameplay mechanics are flawed. Bonus points for the swish moving floor, but not enough to save it from my shame list"
  • "High Boredom, Low risk. A jackpot that was impossible to win. Please ITV, take this format to that room in the basement, where the 40 odd unaired episodes of Golden Balls are kept and leave it there - for ever."
  • "60 painful, painful minutes of Jeremy Kyle trying to talk contestants into playing a game devised by someone without a foundation GCSE in thinking. The couple of people that bothered to play lost anyway. Not enough going on to even make it worth more than the one watch."

2 Don't Scare the Hare

One of the editors rather famously went to the pilot recording of this and declared it one of the most harrowing experiences of his life (9th September. NEVER FORGET). Despite this, 18 months later it reappeared as the flagship new show filmed at the new Salford studios where it had found a new sense of imagination. Which everyone immediately slagged off. And that's a pity, because there are a ton of better and more interesting reasons to slag it off, really. It was pulled after six episodes after low ratings and one of the lowest Audience Appreciation Index scores in history. The remaining episodes were burnt off, one of which was a "best of" compilation.

  • "Nice set, shame about everything else. Physical games have to run to time, otherwise you end up with this kind of over-edited mess."
  • "This wouldn't be here if it was on CBBC. Shame really, Richard Jacques did the music for this and I rather like him.
  • "Meanwhile, DStH worked as well on screen as it must have done on paper: "A bloke from The Gadget Show coaxing a sextet of contestants through It's a Knockout without the funny bits. Oh, and he's ably assisted by the lovechild of Bugs Bunny and The Terminator.""
  • "...would have been a terrible round on Noel's House Party. Even as a children's show, it'd have been questionable."
  • "Don't Scare the Hare will surely break records in this poll this year."
  • "Daft games can work as prime time entertainment, but not in this banal format."
  • "I can't in good faith give a vote to anything else when this is on the ballot."
  • "This actually could have been an average gameshow for CBBC. The person who decided this should be for BBC1 is currently discovering how deep the rabbit hole goes."
  • "Don't Scare the Hare could have been good, but its main gimmick was just annoying and slowed down the proceedings way too much."
  • "When the history of broadcasting in Manchester is written, and the chapter about MediaCity studios starts off with the fact that this show was the first series to be recorded in the new studio facility... God, I'm already embarrassed at the thought."

1 Red or Black

2011's highest profile new show attracted a record-breaking amount of ire. Ambitious in the extreme and backed by Simon Cowell (who apparently had never had an unsuccessful show before, unless you count a few in the US like Cupid), it was the most expensive gameshow in TV history. Yet when this media Midas tried to extrapolate the appeal of his other shows in its lowest possible form, what he touched became something else in its lowest, most processed form. As it were. It gave away the most a gameshow has given away in one week in history (£4m over the seven episodes, leading to exciting interpretations of basic maths and risk assessment on message boards, Twitter and workplaces the UK over) and even almost bankrupted billion pound company ITV if you listen to people on the internet. SUCH WAS THE EXPENSE.

But mainly it was a bit boring for the production costs involved and there were seven days of it.

  • "The full title being "At the end of the series, was the production budget in the...?""
  • "Simply for its terrible value for money."
  • "Should have felt like an event, was more like a dying cow."
  • "Because with a hype machine THAT big, we'd all have been a lot better off if they just revived Fluke".
  • "Red or Black... don't get me started. WWTBAM blew everyone away through incredible tension, even though it never once claimed to be tense – indeed, it was only 15 questions, with the right answer always in front of you. Could, maybe should be easy as pie. (See also: The Cube.) RoB (an apt abbreviation, as it robbed me of over two hours of my life before I finally switched over) set its stall out from the off: this was the place to see tension! Sweat! Tears! It delivered perhaps 30 seconds of "ooh-er" at the very end, and was otherwise wholly disappointing."
  • "Excellent idea poorly excecuted. Rather than on, for example, You Bet there was no excitement in whether the challenges would be completed, they were guaranteed to be completed and as such there was no jeopardy as far as we could experience as an audience. That being said, the first time they did the million pound spin was one of the most heart pounding moments on television this year."
  • "Spectacular, I'll give it that. I won't give it anything else, though.""
  • "To the show's credit, it did have some very good production values behind it and the variety of stunts and challenges the show had was excellent. Also, the final spin of the roulette wheel made for some tense and exciting moments. However, it was far from perfect."
  • "The show had potential, but its execution was all wrong. When the first person won the million pounds, like any other show Simon Cowell touches, it was marred with controversy which I get fed up of hearing about in the news. At the end of the day, it was just another luck-based show where someone who can get a bunch of 50/50 gambles right can win £1m."
  • "Oh Dear! Heads or Tails but worse - at least that had a game in it"
  • "It was OK, but was a bit of a drag."
  • "Again, nothing else really sticks out. But Red or Black? was memorably bad. As Jeremy Clarkson would say, "Ambitious but Rubbish." I watched the first episode, the first stunt wasn't half bad, but the rest was overblown rubbish."
  • "Bad or Cack? BOTH."
  • "Red Or Black was X hours of filler, and 1 minute of tension, per episode. No skill required. No tactics, knowledge, or ANYTHING."
  • "Red or Black? was the most expensive game show in UK history, yet still couldn't be bothered to do basic contestant checks, or to create an actual game; the only highlight of the entire series was that it gave Simon Cowell a negative front-page headline in all the tabloids."
  • "Red or Black was old by the end of night one. I wouldn't knock pegs off for the fact that they had an "improper" contestant on the first night, but how they handled it after that made it really evident how shady the whole thing was."
  • "Cowell does a gameshow - But can't break the audience at 100 decible level, LED heavy studio sets or the blubbing vt's about how this is there last chance at winning £1million habit. All noise and little substance. Many press column inches beforehand - and then the first person won the £1million, and the red-tops went for the kill."
  • "Red or Black - or to give it its full title, "Simon Cowell Spends £15,000,000 on 0 Reaction Shots.""

Your least favourite new show of 2011, ladies and gentlemen! And how!

The Golden Five

But let's move back onto something nice. Every year we open the polls up to any UK show where new episodes are broadcast. Previous winners include Deal or No Deal and Only Connect and when we say include we mean that's all who have managed it. In the sixth year of running this category, will it be one of those two again?

Many of you this year suggested that although it has not been a good year in terms of new formats, in actual fact existing formats have gone from strength to strength, and looking at the top five it's not difficult to see why people may think that.

5 Deal or No Deal

It's the only show to have been on every list since we started doing the yearly polls - it won the first Hall of Fame in 2005 and topped the Golden Five(r) for the next two years running. In 2011 it ends fairly comfortably in fifth spot (down one place on last year), helped no doubt by a teriffic two week run of live specials which seemed to go down very well indeed.

  • "The live shows have brought a new life to the six year old show. Even Noel loved doing live telly again. Also a record payout to boot with two £250,000 winners and one having the dream finish."
  • "This was certainly DOND's biggest year in terms of game-play - a record number of people going for the £250k and a record number getting it. Also the live shows made for very exciting viewing."
  • "Whilst I personally don't feel DOND has grown stale, it's hard to deny that such a repetitive format (by nature) means after six years the gloss can seem to have faded. To broadcast live, and fit so much drama into an hour of telly (outstandingly directed telly, at that!) was a high point in the long and healthy life of an afternoon's guilty pleasure."
  • "Somehow the live shows reminded me how brilliant this show can be and I started watching it again!"
  • "I'm sure you'll throw all DoND votes together, but the live episodes were genuinely worth watching, and the two winners this years both examples of how good this show can be - though in both cases I watched the episodes having found out the £250,000 was won rather than because I still watch daily."
  • "Still got it. The regular editions are still the most enjoyable. Noel is still one of the most competient broadcasters around, and as the master of live television proved it during the live fortnight during the autumn. If only they would stop dressing up so often..."

4 The Cube

Down two places. A fan favourite for a number of years now (please repay us by letting us have the fantastic Bolam/Foster musical score, thanks), it's had a fairly difficult year in the ratings but has at least done well enough to get at least a fifth series next year. You said:

  • "...must be commended for its fabulous visuals."
  • "Still one of my favourite formats with plenty of new games on offer. Please, someone beat it already so I don't have to hear Schofe say "Could YOU beat The Cube?" any more!!!"
  • "'The Cube' is still entertaining, even if it's hard enough now to be clearly in cost-cutting mode."
  • "Another strong year for ITV's slick square. Pleasing to see the format has been allowed to develop naturally. Some cracking new games kept the show fresh, and the continued warm response to the show has seen it brimming with confidence. Even the Coronation Street special didn't feel out of place!"
  • "Still light years ahead of the rest of the pack. Not many shows can make four series and keep the presentation package this fresh each time round."

The battle between the top three proved exciting and bloody. At one stage each held the top spot, but in the end there can only be one winner (because we're not twee)...

3 The Chase

Up three places, 2011 is the year The Chase sat down on the bench marked "ITV1 Teatime Schedules" and told everyone it wasn't going anywhere, it has become ITV1's most successful show in the slot for years, doing so well it spawned primetime celebrity specials and a Youtube sensation, which we are sure you know what it is and which we will get to later (although we would hope they find a natural outlet for this sort of thing and don't deliberately do it to the point it gets wearing). Basically it has been great to see a fast-paced, difficult quiz which still has plenty of room for personality find a place in the schedules. And this is what you said:

  • "I know I am biased but slowly growing and evolving. The Chase/Pointless battle looks like being a long and bloody one in 2012."
  • "A brilliant choice in having Paul Sinha as the fourth Chaser. Final Chase still fantastic, especially the music, which despite hearing about 100 times still hasn't lost touch."
  • "The Chase gets better and better. With an addition of Paul Sinha adding humour and banter to the show. You also got the evil twist with negative offers and Bradley trying not to laugh on certain questions."
  • "Still staying as strong as ever in my eyes, although the recent Celebrity editions have dulled it slightly, seeing as they opted for easier questions and I can't help but feel that the Chasers were told to throw some questions in the Final Chases as the shows were for charity."
  • "I am completely obsessed. One on hand, the quiz is solid - nearly all of the questions are well-written and interesting, and the Final Chase is often spectacular. On the other hand, the show remembers that it's supposed to be entertaining - leaving in incidents like Fanny Chmelar, which other shows would cut out - and allowing Bradley to tease Chaser and contestant alike. Long live The Chase.) "
  • "Now that it's found it's feet, the producion is slick, the pace is right, and the chasers are allowed enough 'give' in their on screen personas to either be a pantomine villian or a runaway sarcastic brainbox. Great fun."

2 Pointless

Up three places. 2011 is the year Pointless sat on the bench marked "BBC1 Teatime Schedules" and told everyone it wasn't going anywhere, it has become BBC1's most successful show in the slot for years, spawning celebrity specials and a Youtube sensation, which we are sure you know what it is and which we will get to later. Basically it's been great to see a clever, warm and funny quiz which has plenty of room for personality find a place in the schedules. And this is what you said:

  • "The Armstrong/Osman double act make the show, with their banter. Really wish Pointless and Chase did not clash :)"
  • "Granted, I prefer The Chase to this in the 5pm slot, but Pointless is still a very strong show, with decent humour and the sort of game that you can very easily play along at home with."
  • "Although I prefer the Series 1 round structure, this is still a highly entertaining afternoon game. I play along with this show with my dad and we both try to find those elusive Pointless answers."
  • "This was Xander and Richard's big year. Promoted to the top table as anointed successor to the expiring Weakest Link after serving a warmly-recieved apprenticeship on BBC Two, Pointless has become a new national obsession, if Twitter traffic around showtime is anything to go by. With its berth as part of a growing number of viewers' teatime routine, it's that now sadly rare beast - a warm-hearted, good-humoured game of knowledge and skill. A cheering way to spend the afternoon - it's plausible that in 25 years from now, people will toast and revere Pointless in the same warm tones that we today recall Blockbusters and other such shows of yore."
  • "Again, apart from some editions where the soundtrack sounded like the mics were not in the studio, but in a cupboard on the 6th floor of television centre, this is another show which is enjoying itself now it's found it's home. New rounds help keep the show fresh. If only slightly more 'riffing' banter between Armstrong and Osman could be left it every now and then."

And that leaves number one, with boring predictability:

1 Only Connect

Topping the bill since 2008 I don't think this requires much blurb, only to say that this is the first year in a while it didn't run away with it, and at one point in the count was even third place! It's now the only place on TV where you can see Victoria Coren wearing a set of Pudsey ears.

  • "The only reason I watch BBC4, really. It's the show where high-culture and pop-culture collide...oh wait, that's You Don't Know Jack. Still, it's rock hard, full of snark, and even though in BBC4 terms it's a ratings smash, it deserves a LOT more than it has."
  • "Only Connect is consistently brilliant. It takes a special breed of quiz to provide enormous entertainment even when you feel flummoxed by seemingly every question. And when they show the 2 or 1 point clues and, by Jove, you can see the link?! Nothing can rival OC for coercing viewers (well, me at least) into joyously shouting at the screen."
  • "Another of my favourites for the sheer mental workout you get from it."
  • "OC and UC are easily the best pure quizzes on TV, with OC pipping UC at the post. 5 points: a creative and interesting set of questions. 3 points: it's proper and intellectual, without gimme questions, and contestants get time to think a bit deeper. 2 points: the format is pretty unique, and the types of question are varied and give lots of options to the setters. 1 point: the slightly-awkward-but-funny chat (I hesitate to use the word 'banter' in relation to Victoria Coren) has grown on me."
  • "Only Connect is none the worse for extreme difficulty, because it finds contestants who can rise to the challenge; you will never see a show like this on commercial television."
  • "Despite all the protest and panic about the future of BBC Four amid budgetary confusion, one of that channel's entertaining gems pulled out a storming year. With every series the show grows bolder and brighter, and a sharp-as-ever fifth series was accompanied by some excellent specials, and allowing viewers to play along online (and create their own walls for the website) shows how far interactivity has come since the shouting-at-the-telly era. Indeed, OC's confidence has grown to the point that it has established its own lexicon and traits, to the point that it now feels bold enough to include questions about other gameshows - and even itself! In a year when shows like The Only Way is Essex can get praised to the hills, it's good to see there's still room for an intelligent and engaging quiz. Spare it the sword, please, BBC."
  • "Run up the flagpole as one of the reasons why the shutters must not come down on BBC Four - and rightly so."

Bubbling under 6 The Million Pound Drop, 7 University Challenge, 8 Countdown, 9 The Apprentice, 10 QI, 11= Four Rooms, Who Dares Wins

BEST IN(ternational) SHOW of 2011

We tried a few new things out with the poll this year, some were better thought out than others. This year, because we know we have international readers who will probably know better than us (and because plenty of our readership is savvy enough to work out how to watch them) we thought we'd open up a category to showcase international shows, hopefully the cream will get noticed and perhaps we'll get our own versions. This was a bit more difficult than anticipated, ideally we were limiting to shows that were new for 2011. But does that mean new generally or does it count as new to a country?

Well whilst we consider that deeply for next year, let's have a look at the shows that the people who put votes in voted for.

4= The Voice, Who's Still Standing?

The Voice is a popular John de Mol singing competition that's coming to the UK in March. Armoza's "Who's Still Standing" is a popular Israeli trapdoor trivia show that was bought up by the States to unspectacular audiences. And editing, by the sounds of it.


Or to give it its English catalogue name, PHAROAH! it is a popular and quite brilliant combination of puzzle solving in apparent death-dfying situations. The show was originally Dasshutsu Game DERO! (EXIT! Escape Game), but after the big earthquake in Japan it was decided to retool it to make it a bit less scary. So now it's gone all Indiana Jones.

Bother's Bar has a feature on the original version of the show, which includes links to TORE! on Youtube.

  • "I wanted to give it to Escape Game DERO!, but that was in 2010, so I gave it to its 2011 reversioning, TORE! instead. Great mix of tough puzzling I don't quite understand with genuine fake jeopardy."

2 Take The Money And Run

It's another well-regarded show from Irish wonderkids Wild Rover. Here two people hide a briefcase of money, two people in law enforcement attempt to find it whilst being helped by two professional interrogators questioning the contestants. A 48-hour CSI-esque race against time ensues. The result is rarely close or surprising, but it's very well produced and fun to watch.

Bother's Bar discussion

  • "Brilliant, felt very fresh and the interrogations were excellent, great casting all round."
  • "Decent, hard, adventure show. It's a Mole challenge writ large, but that's not a bad thing."
  • "TTMAR was an interesting concept, but was a bit too polished and edited to really grab my attention the way it should. I recognize that these production decisions were necessary evils due to the format, but doesn't that say something about the format? Still, it was a good show and fun to watch, and credit should go to ABC for greenlighting these shows."
  • "TTMAR was also quite a fun show, and had some amazingly tense moments. I'll never forget the bit where the opera singer guy almost cracked the interrogator... and I'll never forgive his partner for caving."

1 Million Dollar Mind Game

This topped the vote by an absolute landslide. Based on the long-running Russian show What? Where? When?, everybody was taken by complete surprise when the Americans made a domestic version and decided not to completely stuff it up. Stunned by this un-American way of doing things, ABC decided the best thing to do with it was to sit on it for ages then burn it off on Sunday afternoons against American football on other channels where it picked up a small but fiercely loyal audience.

MDMG is a game where teams of six tackle questions based around logic rather than knowledge (i.e. what can you infer and deduce from the clues in the question?) asked by Vernon Kay. The question writing was terrific, the set glamorous and included some amazingly tense moments thrown up by the team dynamic.

Bother's Bar discusses it variously here and also links to an episode.

Meanwhile here is a fascinating interview with the US producers conducted by Buzzerblog.

  • "Only the third show in America that makes you think (Millionaire and Jeopardy! being the other two). Vernon Kay is an ideal choice of host."
  • "The format was highly derivative, but the show had some great moments and was well produced."
  • "A rare thing, a big-money show that relies on genuinely tough lateral thinking with no luck-based faffing about! It's a crying shame that ABC refused to give it a chance, really."
  • "MDMG is wonderful, and it'd never really work as well in the UK, which is a shame. You need BBC4 viewers and an ITV1 budget; a team competing for an equal share of £10,000 (or just under £2k each) just wouldn't have the same drama."
  • "The best new International format for me would have to be Million Dollar Mind Game. I'm a fan of shows where you're required to think outside the box. Back in the day of BBC Four, I enjoyed their Mind Games series which dealt with logic problems and brainteasers. After watching what I could of MDMG, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It had it all, the lavish set, a competent host and some truly testing questions. I hope that it can be picked up for another series in the States and that a format here in the UK could be on the cards."
  • "MDMG - Brilliant show. Shame about the host. He wasn't terrible, to be fair, and the fact that the show was so good made it easy to ignore Vernon. Excellent questions, nice format with the lives & unanimous voting to leave the game."
  • "MDMG was cruelly buried by ABC. We've never seen anything like it before, but I can only hope we'll see it again soon. Sure, the money ladder had some weird kinks to it to accommodate having to split the money 6 ways, and the questions didn't really seem to increase in difficulty as the money increased. Still, to see a game show revolve around brainteasers and work so well within them was something I never thought I'd see. Vernon Kay was a capable host for the format (although I'd love to know the casting decision on that one. British accent + American audience = Instant class, even if it is Mr. Tess Daly?). The unanimous decision to stop ended up producing one amazing moment (The $600K loss). An excellent show, and one that deserved a hell of a lot better."
  • "MDMG is the game show I've wished would exist in America for years now. Brainy yet accessible, challenging yet deceptively simple. I'm still praying for a second season miracle."


This year we asked you for the first time what your favourite UK gameshow moment was. We got some interesting responses. We'll show you the ones that got the most votes, and attempt to list and link to some other ones where possible.

24 Hour Panel People threw up a couple of responses (both of which are rated at least 15):

Lots of people admired Deal or No Deal's live shows this year, but the moments everyone listed involved the two £250,000 wins, one involving the dream top two box finish, the other highly emotional:

  • "The surreal moment when Jeffrey Salmon got his d6 out for the first time on Four Rooms is probably my highlight moment for the year."
  • "I'd have to say two couples in a row losing all their money on the first question on The Million Pound Drop last month - it literally made me gasp out loud."
  • " Hit Rate coming down to 6 milliseconds on The Cube"
  • "The Cube. That guy who played Hit Rate for 50k, and won it on his final life, with SEVEN THOUSANDTHS OF A SECOND making the difference between him winning and him losing everything. Everything about that was pure heart-in-mouth stuff. When you have Pip himself holding back tears you know that's a DAMN good moment."
  • "That guy winning Hit Rate on The Cube. Only The Cube can break you and bring you to your knees. Certainly a heart stopping moment."
  • "The best UK moment would definetely be the contestant winning Hit Rate on his last life on "The Cube". In my country, Poland, we've only got Minute To Win It, which is, in my opinion, a poor gameshow but a lot of us don't know there's any alternative to it like The Cube. That moment convinced all of my friends that The Cube is supreme."

Thanks very much everybody, I think that is a good spread - sorry if we didn't include yours. See you next... oh hang on? We've missed something, you say?

  • "Fanny Schmelar.... I was there when it was recorded :)"
  • "Bradley Walsh trying not to laugh at certain questions on The Chase. I'm sure the question writers will be thinking of new ways to stop Bradley Walsh from laughing come the new series."
  • "My vote would probably go to the "Fanny Chmelar" question which appeared on The Chase and subsequently became a viral hit. The only thing more unnerving than this unfortunate name was Bradley Walsh's cringe-worthy response that suggested he was about to throw up. Hardly a classy moment, but sticks out to me as being the best UK moment."
  • "The best moment of 2011 for me would have to be the 'Fanny Chmelar' question from The Chase. I was watching that particular episode with my dad at the time, and watching Bradley crease up with Anne following suit, it was hilarious! I can only wonder if the question setters throw these kinds of questions in now and again just to get Bradders to laugh like a drain..."
  • "The Chase: Fanny Schmeler."
  • "The Chase - Fanny Chmelar...enough said, really."
  • "Fanny Chemelar - Surely this is of no debate."
  • "Bradley Walsh corpsing over Fanny Chmelar on The Chase. - Let's keep more outtakes in shows please."

How immature.

That was 2011

Thanks very much for voting and your comments everyone, let's hope 2012 is a better year for the genre.

Turn over to Bother's Bar now for the afterparty including percentages of all the main votes and inevitable whinging.

See you next year!


To correct something on this page or post an addition, please complete this form and press "Send":
If you are asking us a question, please read our contact us page and FAQ first.

Name: E-mail:   
A Labyrinth Games site.
Design by Thomas.
Printable version
Editors: Log in