Poll of the Year 2015

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Big Ben has just struck 2016 and we have a Brit in space. But forget Tim Peake, it's time for an A-poll-o mission of our own as we digest the best and worst in new and ongoing formats of the previous twelve months with our annual Poll of the Year, in association with Bother's Bar.

This year has been a record breaker in terms of ballots cast, smashing last year's numbers. About 15% of ballots came from industry insiders, about 15% people who follow Richard Osman and about 70% people like you who have an interest. So without further ado...


Hall of FAME 2015

The voters are positively disposed towards the genre this year with several remarking that they could fill in their lists twice over. The big news is that digital television is well represented in the Top Ten for the first time, and in fact Sky One's One Hundred and Eighty was just one vote away from joint tenth.

As it is 39 different shows got one or more votes (well up on last year) and here are your ten best:

10 - Decimate

8= Ninja Warrior UK, The Almost Impossible Gameshow

6= Rebound, Benchmark

5 - Hive Minds

Mmm, contentious and given much of the material rather pretentious as well but enough people could Do The Thing (in this case finding words hidden in a hexagonal grid) to vote it into the top five. It didn't do much for us personally (and its ratings nosedived quite quickly), but evidently there's enough of a fanbase (and it's made in Northern Ireland so it counts towards regional quotas whilst costing 2p to make) to make it worthwhile bringing back for a second series in 2016. You said:

  • "It's a little awkward at times (I still don't know how I feel about the second round), but it made for a decent high-difficulty quiz. Having the obvious red herring answers in the grid is a neat way of making you think more deeply about each question."
  • "Solid format, still cannot think of it being the next BBC4 sleeper hit. One niggle: if the dominating team solves its Superhive and the other team does not, the final is most of the times just there for the statistics."
  • "BBC Four have managed to gain a reputation in my eyes as purveyors of slightly out-there quiz shows (Only Connect, Hive Minds and The Quizeum; two out of three ain't bad). Hive Minds is rather rough around the hexagonal edges, but hopefully over time it will find it's stride. It's nice to see a show that makes you think a different way as Only Connect did way back when."
  • "There's a lot not to like. The needlessly high difficulty level. The crappy set, and THAT awful final episode. But in there is a show that's both enjoyable to watch, has a nice mechanic at the centre of it. This is a show that should be getting commissioned on BBC 1 over the likes of The Link and The Edge. This was one of the few gameshows this year I found myself iPlayering often, and so just for that, it gets my vote."

4 - Wild Things

Physical shows are very much 'in' right now but this for us was one of the big surprises of the year, wayward genius Gary Monaghan and his record collection challenge people to dress up in animal costumes (for safety) and get guided through challenges by their partners (who are subject to the whims of the forest). It doesn't sound like much but we were hooked the first time someone dressed as a squirrel and somebody dressed as a fox blindly went at each other with baseball bats when they intend to hit something else entirely. also has for our money one of the year's greatest endgames which manages to be funny and oh-so tense. One of the show's biggest bits of ingeniousness is not revealing who's in the costume's until the end of the show so you can be surprised when the voice doesn't match the body. It might not have won our poll but it did win a Rose d'Or. You said:

  • "Genius. Lowbrow comedy in a high concept physical gameshow. Stick one player in a blindfolded 8ft comedy woodland animal costume - and get their playing partner to provide accurate (or not) instructions to finish the tasks. Great games, slick editing, and you don't see the person in the costume until the end - and - we got a unbleeped version as well. Deserves every award Sky put it up for."
  • "If you go out in the woods today, you will see an owl bonking a stag over the head. Surely nothing can be better."
  • "This is effectively the sort of family-friendly silly fare that Don't Scare the Hare wished it could have been. The endgame in particular is mad, yet at the same time really quite tense. Also, I would happily pay to be locked inside Gary Monaghan's record collection. He probably has a walk-in wardrobe thing."
  • "This show absolutely deserves the accolade of being number one, for a number of reasons. It offers things no other show can offer, it was allowed to be brave, weird and different. It has a great end-game, has provided me with some genuine belly laughs and has rightly been recognised internationally, because it was the best UK gameshow this year."

3 - Beat the Brain

Probably the most unassuming show in the Top 5, John Craven and Josie Lawrence challenging teams in games of mental agility proved very popular with our voters. It's certainly not the first brain-training show to make it to air, but it's one of the more slick and memorable. You said:

  • "Possibly the best puzzle show this year with and end game that makes the teams work for their cash."
  • "Good to see a puzzle show and this worked well. In particular Lawrence being live as the Brain and the amount of different games helped with new games still being introduced about half way through the series. Fitted teatime well and would like to see it back."
  • "While not a revolutionary format, there's nothing to dislike about Beat the Brain. John and Josie fit the tone of the show well, the puzzles are suitably interesting for the play-along aspect and it's refreshing to watch a show that doesn't feel like fifty percent filler."
  • "I love Josie Lawrence, she puts on a great turn in this. The format works well, the questions are easy to play along with."
  • "I hardly think this show caught enough attention to get a win, but I thought the format was interesting, sort of a puzzly Eggheads."

2 - Taskmaster

Well look at this, your second fave show is a show that goes out on Dave. Based on an Alex Horne Edinburgh Festival show, Taskmaster challenges five comics to complete many weird and wonderful tasks (Big Brother meets The Crystal Maze) with the comics given carte blanche to find the best, sometimes most lateral way to complete them whilst comedian Greg Davies acts as withering judge and jury. A show that if it was produced slightly differently could have been a disaster, instead it's a triumph and has had two more series ordered. You said:

  • "The games were clever; the solutions were often cleverer. A cut above most comedy game shows and reaping the rewards for being brave enough to be quite different – physical games, same players every week, proper points scoring."
  • "Taskmaster is fun to watch, has some great challenges, and the banter between the comedians and how they approach challenges both funny and interesting. Well cast, nice idea done well and a great addition to the Dave catalogue."
  • "Oh, how I have looked forward to this since hearing it announced and oh, how it lived up to my expectations. It also makes no attempt to hide its cheapness, which probably means there should be no problem with TM being a regular Dave staple."#
  • "Felt very fresh compared to a lot of things we've seen recently, a really solid idea and the comedians given plenty of room to muck around with the rules. Very funny."
  • "Dave have successfully wedged a Korean Style Variety Show peg into a British Comedy Channel hole with delightful results."
  • "A simple show that is full of charm, funny, entertaining and the show that everybody was discussing at work the next day."

1 - 1000 Heartbeats

Your winner by a considerable distance, 1KHB (as the cool kids call it) has combined style AND substance, the big draw being the live background music (usually way down the list of production priority) matching the tempo of your heart and proving central to the game. A fun quiz that tests knowledge, word and math skills and mental agility it's no wonder it appealed to the pollsters. You said:

  • "The play on/gamble dynamic isn't quite right, and it needs more games, but I like its style. Similar to MPD, the fun often lies in when the contestants do badly.
  • "Hats off to Paul Farrer: developing a ground-breaking format (playing mini-games against your own heart rate) and scoring the music (pre-recorded and live). Few people can say that..."
  • "A bit late to the party as I missed it on its first showing but when I started watching it later in the year I was hooked. Reminded me a lot of the ill-fated Five Minutes to a Fortune (RIP) with the different mini games and the instructions at the beginning of the mini game. Also the cashout at the end I enjoyed too as it involved a bit of tactics."
  • "Quite possibly one of the best quiz formats ever invented - and such a shock that no-one thought of it sooner. You're timed by how quickly your heart beats....GENIUS! Vernon Kay is the perfect host - warm, friendly, full of banter and encouragement. So pleased to see it got a second series and I hope to see a third, fourth and so on....well done ITV!"
  • "By far the best new show this year. Great format, which was improved in the second series."
  • "For all the formats out there that involve keeping one's heart rate down, this is probably the first where the heart gimmick gets out of the way of the action of the game, and it's much better as a result."
  • "A fabulous concept executed very well. The quartet adds something that other shows can’t offer and rather than be a gimmick it suits the whole concept very well. Good to see a wide variety of areas tested – knowledge, maths, memory, language etc. Would be good to see a wider pool of games to prevent a great show from becoming simply good."

Hall of SHAME 2015

But it can't be all rainbows and caviar and for every good show there's its dark opposite (and a bit more in this case, 41 different shows received votes this year, up from 34 last year). Sometimes they just go wrong, sometimes they just weren't a very good idea to start with, all of them have attracted your ire:

9= You're Back in the Room, The Quizeum

7= Benchmark, The Edge

6 - 5-Star Family Reunion

5 - Decimate

A strange quiz where the jeopardy (and interest) seems to decrease as it goes along, a giant visually striking wall and a visually striking Shane Richie couldn't save it from the Hall of Shame. You said:

  • "I tried to watch the show, I don't even survive the first question."
  • "Changes in series 2 show the producers recognise that Decimate was underdeveloped, but although improved in its later run, sadly the voiceover shouting the programme's title when the team gets a question wrong is still the best thing about it."
  • "Still think this was Shane Richie's pill to ease the blow of Reflex getting canned - before Win Your Wish List was offered to him. Far too derivative, way too pedestrian in pace. In fact without the huge LED wall (or was it a rear projection screen) this really would be nothing."
  • "I just don't get what's fun to watch about a car crash in slow motion. Had none of the sudden shocks that made modern formats good."

4 - Stars in Their Eyes

For some people a fun updating of an old format, for most others it manages to urinate over the legacy of both the original Stars in Their Eyes and Harry Hill's TV Burp, this was one of the highest profile flops of the year.

  • "I enjoyed Harry Hill's style of comedy on TV Burp, but it didn't suit Stars in Their Eyes one bit."
  • "It was all an elaborate scripted spoof - or was it? Or was it only partial parody? That was the problem. You could never quite tell. Result- as a viewer you were confused. Laughing at the contestants - or with them? "Tonight Harry..I'm going to switch over, and see what's on Discovery Sheds and Landmines +1"."
  • "Stars In Their Eyes upset the people who love TV Burp by adding singing, and upset the people who love Stars In Their Eyes by adding TV Burp. Definitely the least successful relaunch of the year."
  • "Didn't like the comedy bits and even though some of the singers were OK Harry Hill put me off."

2 = Prized Apart, Pick Me!

From one high-profile flop to another, more expensive high-profile flop, Prized Apart felt like a half decent concept that played much too safe and managed to bore everybody for weeks on end.

  • "The kind of show that could have been so much more. Challenges felt somewhat uninteresting and pacing throughout was slow."
  • "A vague I'm a Celebrity-esque boondoggle. It felt like there was more chat than game, but I felt like the games themselves had been done before, not to mention it had a huge studio set that was mostly redundant."
  • "Unfortunately, this show was done in possibly the worst way it could have been done. The team challenges were insipid, and although the solo tasks might have been exciting and nerve-wracking to do, the production for TV was just limp. The quiz elimination part felt overly long and an unsatisfactory climax, too."
  • "Considering the many avenues you can take with an adventure themed show, this was incredibly dull. Most bewildering was the choice to finish each episode with a dragging multiple choice quiz."
  • "The kind of show that could have been so much more. Challenges felt somewhat uninteresting and pacing throughout was slow."
  • "Prized Apart was the biggest flop in BBC Saturday Night history so has to be recongised for that. The format was boring, the set was awful, the challenge completely killed by health and safety, and just when you thought nothing else could go wrong, even the carbon footprint of the show was brought into question. The idea itself sounds loud on paper, but the reality is very, very dull, and if anyone survived the full run they probably dserve to be flown to Morocco themselves. A high profile plane crash of a show."

We were so excited about Possessed's first commission and ended disspiritedly thinking "...oh." Pick Me! was loud, brash and occasionally quite clever and funny but felt misjudged for its potential audience. Probably also had the largest prize budget to viewer ratio this side of 2015 Deal or No Deal. You said:

  • "A repetitive game with minimal variety where the game play boiled down to “that is the right answer, believe me”/”I wouldn’t lie to you”/”I swear on [someone’s] life” 90% of the time. Would have perhaps worked better in an early Saturday slot."
  • "I can't think of many worse things on a game show than being asked to dress up, draw attention to oneself and then possibly forced to make up answers. I therefore found Pick Me! especially awkward viewing. The final round can easily be gamed by the producers."
  • "Us poor Brits just aren't really cut out for this kind of thing."
  • "It's a simple bluffing game that outstays it's welcome quite quickly, and the ridiculous costumes aren't amusing for long. Not even Roy Walker could save it."
  • "Didn't understand the show and just felt weird despite Stephen Mulhern's best effort."
  • "I profoundly disagree with the philosophical concept that underpins this show, namely we should reward the most attention-seeking members of society with more attention. That's how we got Katie Hopkins."

1 - Freeze Out

Well you lot really didn't like this (we mainly thought it had issues but was basically forgettable enough) and although it was out in front it didn't win (lose) by a huge amount. Those ten episodes left a lasting impression on you all however, making it the worst show of 2015.

  • "Rather Freeze In. Mark Durden-Smith, a rather bland presenter, and Uriah Rennie, a rather wooden adjudicator, is just a heavily-diluted variant of Bradley Walsh and Shaun Wallace. And oh, winning £10,000 in the final proved to be more difficult than winning a shell game."
  • "The potential for fun was squeezed out of this one for a variety of reasons. The rules for adjudications seemed to change in each round, the middle rounds were quite lengthy and the jackpot was virtually unwinnable. Was also surprised to see how easily the sliders broke or flipped over when they smashed into one another considering that was the whole point."
  • "Freeze Out is what happens when experimenting with the teatime slot over the summer goes spectacularly wrong. I quite like watching curling once every 4 years during the Winter Olympics, but Uriah Rennie as the umpire is simply cringeworthy."
  • "I feel bad for them. Its heart was in the right place, but BY GOD this has got to be one of the greatest car crashes in gameshow history. You can see what they were TRYING TO DO, make it a sport, and hide the fact they were just copying the Tipping Point formula (which lets be honest, isn't ALL that great ANYWAY) of 'answer a question, do a thing'. What turned out was incredible woeful catchphrases, a referee who is so bad he makes the Darth Vader NOOOOOO seem like serious drama, and a format that is both ill-thought out and totally uncompelling. This was the worst execution of a gameshow of 2015, but ends up lower down my list only because it was SO BAD, at times it was good."
  • "This would have been a nice middling show if it wasn't for the fact that the jackpot was never going to be won, or The Ice Judge being forced to be "a thing". As every other hall of shame slip shall inevtiably say this year, Slide Off."
  • "Memo to ITV: a Ice Hockey table, the son of Judith Chalmers and a former football referee do not a great game show make. Even if this weren't a summer replacement for The Chase, it would still have sucked!"
  • "Unlike Rebound which was a summer show I did like this one I thought was terrible."

The UKGameshows.com Golden Five for 2015

When we started the Golden Five little did we know we were going to go through a Golden Age of long-running quizzes so the same shows are up the top every year. We're aware that this is quite boring but you'll thank us in twenty years time when you want to know exactly when Pointless fell off the cliff. Anyway, as ever this award is open to any show with new episodes broadcast in 2015 made primarily for a UK audience.

5 - The Great British Bake Off

Last year's best performing skills challenge show (this is a thing now apparently) matches last year's position, and what a brilliant show it is. Lovely.

  • "Bake Off very gently told a story: that it's not just enough to make excellent cakes, but to improve as each week goes. A parable for our times, there are rewards for pushing yourself a bit further."
  • "Bake Off just got it all right this year - the casting for the finalists was pretty much perfect, you wanted all of them to do well and the last few minutes were genuinely moving."
  • "Sometimes you just get the ingredients right it just works, and Bake Off just works."
  • "Hmmm..cakes. Actually, I'm including this, not because of its production values - which are very high indeed, but because of one minor thing that is rare these days. The show is pre-recorded, and at no time did the winners name slip out in the run up to the final episode. That's something production teams of other shows that feel the need to 'drip feed' information to the papers could well do to copy every now and then."

4 - 1000 Heartbeats

As is tradition this year's top new show makes it into the Golden Five, but will it stay here? At time of writing we don't know if it's actually got a third series yet (as much as pollsters love it was still ITV's lowest watched show in terms of viewers and share all day last time we saw some figures).

As we didn't get any special quotes for the show in the Golden Five section, this might be a fun time to look at how other high-profile shows did. This year Taskmaster finished 10th and Wild Things joint 13th. Beat the Brain ended up joint 21st despite securing more votes in the Hall of Fame vote. Hive Minds joint 27th. Last year's highest new entry Two Tribes has slipped from fourth down to eighth (actually a relatively small slip as new entries go). Moving on.

3 - The Chase

Solid as a rock, and now Anne and Mark are clocking up the Avios appearing in the Australian version. And there's a new chaser in Jenny Ryan!

  • "Jenny is a good addition and regular close finals keep this a teatime favourite."
  • "Still consistent, still delivers a huge number of questions per show, but the format is so tight there is no room for tweaking it to keep it fresh. Which is what the production team may need to think about in the next year or so. Not sure how many set tweaks, or introduce new chasers with a pre-set character you can have before attacking the gameplay to stop the edges really start to look and feel stale."
  • "It's a quiz, questions are asked, lots of them. Little time is wasted on anything else. Occasionally Bradley corpses, sometimes the Chasers make a great joke. I need little else from my game shows."
  • "The Chase just gets better and better the more you set it. Should be tiring by now but it's as fresh as ever, though the new chaser is yet to really make her mark."
  • "Still the greatest quiz show currently on TV and showing no signs of running out of steam. The questions are pitched just right, the contestants are frequently interesting, the Chasers are complete legends (I met my personal favourite, Mark 'The Beast' Labbett, TWICE in 2015 - SUCH a nice bloke!) and, of course, their trump card - Bradley Walsh, TV's most bankable quiz host. Truly ITV's biggest cult quiz hit and deservedly so - Blockbusters for the new millennium, I dare say (a BIG statement from me as Blockbusters is my ALL-TIME FAVOURITE quiz show!)"

2 - Only Connect

This year featuring a popular recurring singing element that's gone down a storm with viewers and Twitter, Only Connect has been commissioned for two more series, to celebrate it's number two finish in the Golden Five again. We think that was the reasoning anyway.

  • "Still going strong in 2015. I pledge a double vote for 2016 if the production team desist with the forced singalong gag that makes it into every episode."
  • "What can you say about Only Connect, its a quiz fans dream. The questions are amazing, Victoria is fantastic and the teams genuinely appear to love being involved."
  • "Only Connect feels like it's moving back to its last BBC4 series - question quality has gone backwards or things feel a little tenuous or overly obscure."
  • "I think last year I complained about some dodgy questions, but this year the writing has picked back up again."
  • "Yes, a change of set and maybe a new round is probably what it needs soon-ish. Yes, Victoria Coren-Mitchell's opening/closing links swerve between the humorous and unnerving (especially when she glares at the camera) and some of the questions this latest series have been brain scrambling cryptic (including a couple which were impossible to guess with all 4 answers displayed) but it's a regular Monday night feature on my television."
  • "It's survived the move to BBC Two, in spite of a brief spell at 7:30pm - the wrong side of University Challenge for its core audience. Where does the new question editor keep finding such wonderful connections and sequences after this many series?"
  • "Deservedly doing well for itself on BBC2 having previously been the biggest fish in BBC4's small pond. Mrs David Mitchell is as great a host as ever and the format is still sound as a pound - long may OC reign!"

1 - Pointless

Osmaniacs ASSEMBLE! The fun in compiling this list is watching Only Connect start out in front, then watch Richard advertise the poll on Twitter a few days later and see how long it takes to overtake. It's a little bit like the Golden Five is The Wall on Gladiators, Only Connect the contender with their headstart and Pointless is the Gladiator racing up behind them (probably called something exotic like Tallman). In fairness though it's not like it doesn't deserve to be top (with a slightly reduced majority this year as it happens), it's probably the BBC's best value show by a considerable distance and the Saturday night celebrity specials often one of the top performing shows of the entire week. That it's managed this besides being on repeats seemingly at random, and surely they're running on fumes regardling list questions, is incredible, especially considering how other high profile daytime quizzes (such as The Weakest Link and Deal or No Deal) were doing six years after they started, if anything Pointless is getting more popular.

  • "Still doing the business! In part, I think, because of the unique relationship between Xander and Osman. Long may it reign."
  • "Their celeb version must be the BBC's best value primetime show by a country mile and gets over 5 million consistently. Bravo!"
  • "Shame the jackpot goes so often these days and that they seem to be running a “three weeks on, three weeks off” policy of new ones/repeats – longer blocks of new ones before longer blocks of repeats would be better in my opinion."
  • "I actually admit I went off this for a while, and sided with the Chasers on 'the other side'. I came back to it (flicking around when they went to a break) and was drawn back into Alexander and Richard's world. And also here's a show where they try and make the celebrity versions a bit different to the civilian version, so that tips my 1st place towards them."
  • "A show never afraid to experiment with question formats to allow for maximum variety in material, the politest bunch of contestants on ANY quiz show before or since and a FANTASTIC double act Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman (two bona fide national treasures in my eyes) make this always worth watching. Personally, I'd LOVE to see a crossover edition between this and ITV's teatime offering."
  • "Still love the show and try and watch it every day. Even if I have seen the episode once it never gets stale and the celebrity versions still go from strength to strength."
  • "And please tell Richard Osman that no new episodes of Pointless for 8 weeks at the end of the year is again a terrible thing, as it was last year."

Bubbling Under: 6-University Challenge, 7-Tipping Point, 8-Two Tribes, 9-Countdown, 10-Taskmaster

Magic Moments of 2015

Two very clear themes running throughout this catergory, Nadiya Hussain's Bake Off victory and several people blowing 1000 Heartbeats on relatively simple games:

  • "Amanda on 1000 Heartbeats. Even the orchestra felt sorry..."
  • "1000 Heartbeats: Limerick (Good Lord..) - Poor Amanda, stumbling over a simple word that sent the Quartet into overdrive."
  • "The hilarious fails on 1000 Heartbeats, especially Amanda in Season 1."
  • "Amanda on 1000 Heartbeats was quite amusing. We were all shouting at the telly "Step Off!!!""

Here are a few other things you bought up:

  • "So much stuff on Taskmaster - A-Z recipe, making Josh Widdecombe count everything, Alex Horne eating toothpaste pie, Roisin Conarty eating as much melon as she could in a minute."
  • "The entire "Guess What's In The Pies" round of Taskmaster. Already good, made gold when Alex Horne against his own will ate a pie filled with hot toothpaste. Worth it for the facial reaction alone."
  • "Tree Wizard!"
  • "Carrot in a Box on 8 Out Of 10 Cats."
  • "Has everyone said Carrot in a box? Yes? Good."
  • "8 out of 10 Cats' Carrot in a Box *dramatic synth stabs* No explanation needed, just watch the thing."
  • "Angry Bunny."
  • "Wild Things - Episode 1 where the winning contestants actually gave their competitors some of their winnings - I dont thing I have ever seen something like this on a game show in recent years."
  • "Favourite moment has to come from Wild Things. To think you could be entertained by a man arguing loudly with his partner inside an 8 foot squirrel costume in a forest in Northamptonshire, over a failure in a challenge involving throwing buckets of pig swill into a trough."
  • "Much maligned as the show was, Kennedy's victory in Prized Apart was one of the best gameshow reaction shots of recent times, she looked genuinely startled and thrilled to be crowned champion..."

Also several people suggesting Noel playing Deal or No Deal and Ann's £250,000 win but they're surprisingly difficult to source a clip for. I think we'll leave it there. That was just a selection, thanks for everybody who submitted.

Great, we can go to bed now

No not yet! We thank you for voting and hope you enjoyed reading. The fun doesn't have to end there, Bother’s Bar Poll Winner’s Party Backstage The Gossip And Then Some with Melvin Odoom or someone has the percentages and other juicy gossip if you want it. See you next year!


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