Since the start of the year I have been thinking even more than usual about trivia, quizzes and game shows. I posted a round-up of recent trivia in February and have now become a regular watcher of “The Chase”, to accompany the long-standing slots in my viewing habits taken by “Pointless”, “Only Connect”, “Mastermind” and “University Challenge”. I seldom watch any of them live. Al five shows are on series record on our multi-channel box. I occasionally catch “Eggheads” and have also caught the odd few minutes of “Fifteen to One”, now hosted by Sandi Toksvig.
The Saturday evening quiz show “Who Dares Wins” is currently back on BBC1. It has come and gone over the last three years (without much of a pattern to its comings and goings, as far as I can see) and, like the shows mentioned in the previous paragraph, is also on series record for anytime it returns. In theory it could provide the largest payout of any UK quiz show. Two couples compete to take part in a jackpot round of up to £50,000. There are usually two jackpot rounds per show. Unlike most quiz shows, the defending champions can return week after week if they remain unbeaten, and they could win up to £100,000 every time.
If you’ve seen the show you’ll know how it works. If you haven’t I won’t recount the full format here, just the way the jackpot round works. To win £50,000 the champions have to supply 15 answers to a question such as “Name any country beginning with the letter B” or “Name any of the home grounds for Premiership teams in the 2015/16 football season”. Earlier this year a couple of guys won 50k on the latter question. The jackpot round builds up as follows: 3 correct answers will win the contestants 5k; 6 answers will win 10k; 9 correct answers wins 15k; they get 25k for 12 correct answers, and 50k if they get 15 correct answers. However, if the contestants give an incorrect answer they lose all the money they might have won so far on that jackpot round. (If they are defending champions and have won money in previous jackpot rounds, they still get to keep those earlier winnings.) The least favourable outcome is for a team to get 14 correct answers, and then get the 15th answer wrong. Had they stopped after 12 answers they would have won 25k. By giving a 13th and then a 14th correct answer they are literally one answer away from 50k. But a wrong answer means they effectively lose that 50k.
It happened recently when the contestants were asked to name any of the 100 most popular sandwich fillings in the UK. “Just to clarify,” as the host Nick Knowles often says, this was based on sales of pre-made sandwiches, typically the kind sold in supermarkets. It didn’t include items made to order in sandwich shops. The two chaps got as far as 14 correct answers and then went for “peri-peri chicken”. I was shouting at the TV, “Peri-peri chicken? In a sandwich? Are you kidding me?” I wanted them to win the 50k and took no pleasure in hearing (in the usual elaborately drawn-out few seconds before we find out if the answer is right or not), “Peri-peri chicken is not on the list”. I didn’t even know you could get sandwiches with that filling.
Watching “Who Dares Wins” has made me think in 15s, broken down into batches of 3. Can I name 15 countries beginning with B? Benin Bahrain Bhutan; Bolivia Belize Brazil; Barbados Bahamas Bulgaria; Belgium Belarus Bosnia-Herzegovina; Bangladesh Botswana Burkina Faso. Yes, there we go, without having to look any of them up. And how about those Premiership football grounds? Emirates, Stamford Bridge, Etihad; Old Trafford, Anfield, Goodison Park; Villa Park, St James’s Park, Carrow Road (this was before Villa, Newcastle and Norwich were relegated; I couldn’t name the grounds for the teams that replaced them: Middlesbrough, Burnley, Hull); St Mary’s, Selhurst Park, Stadium of Light; now, can I get the last 3? The Liberty Stadium (Swansea), Vicarage Road (Watford) and for now all I can remember is old names for other teams: Bournemouth used to play at Dean Court, is it still called that? Do West Brom still play at the Hawthorns? Is Stoke City’s stadium still called The Brtiannia? Not sure, but I know that Leicester City play at the King Power, so there’s my 15.
For the question about sandwiches I figured you’d start with simple fillings and build them up: ham, cheese, ham and cheese; ham salad, cheese salad, cheese and pickle; chicken, chicken salad, BLT; chicken and sweetcorn, tuna and sweetcorn, tuna mayonnaise; beef, prawn, salmon. That’s my 15 answers, for a jackpot of £50,000. No doubt it’s different playing in the studio. I might have risked coronation chicken (as an answer, I’d rather not eat the stuff), but there’s no way I’d be staking 50k on a peri-peri chicken sandwich.