A critical analysis of Pointless and The Chase
A debate more divisive than Brexit
In a world increasingly divided by Brexit and Trump, TV is a distraction from inevitable nuclear war, the crushing weight of existence, and Walkers wanting to replace Salt & Vinegar with Lime & Black Pepper crisps.
However, one divisive TV question threatens to bubble over and spill into everyday society. That conflict is this – which is better, Pointless or The Chase?
The Chase has a fairly normal format, in which you are chased down a giant LED board by ‘Chasers’ with names such as ‘The Beast’, ‘The Governess’, and ‘The Dark Destroyer’.
When you get an answer right, you move closer to home. Every time you get an answer wrong and they get it right, they move a step closer to you.
Think of The Chase as a metaphor for life. We are the contestants, and the chasers the inevitability of death, debt and another season of The Big Bang Theory. We try to escape them, but they will catch us. Is Bradley Walsh the hand of God, guiding us through life with a smile and cheeky giggle at the name ‘Fanny Chmelar’? Is The Chase the perfect analogy for life itself?
Pointless has an interesting format as it is all about guessing the obscure rather than the obvious. It flips the usual gameshow on its head, in that you are not expected to use general knowledge. It is to gameshows what a lecturer who actually replies to your emails is to university education – innovative. And for that, and because no one wants to think that the true meaning of life is The Chase, it is the winner of this round.
The level of professionalism Armstrong displays when a contestant clearly gives a wrong answer is incredible, the way he toys with the possibility it could be right, and is the first to send his commiserations when it is inevitably wrong. Armstrong is Cambridge University educated, descended from William the Conqueror, and he still knows that Scouting For Girls have never won a Grammy. Yet he is there, a man of the people, willing them to be right. Respect.
The prize on Pointless is pitiful. Imagine putting in the effort to know that ‘Pamper Iris’ is an anagram of Morris Piper, that Wes Brown was in the 2002 England World Cup squad, that Bismuth is a chemical element, only to win £1,000.
I don’t pay TV licence so more money can be spent on increasingly confusing and pretentious episodes of Sherlock; I pay my TV licence so Donald and his daughter can walk away with a decent sum of money to visit family in New Zealand. Fuck Pointless.
Winner: The Chase
There is something uncomfortable about a contestant, let’s say he’s called Pete, pretending to flirt with Anne Hegerty, a Chaser on The Chase. Pete, 32, wearing an orange polo shirt, tells us he would spend his winnings on a ‘new kitchen for the missus’, and tries to flirt with Anne, who in turn is having none of it.
Pete, with his manhood hurt in a way that only a man wearing an orange polo shirt and making low level sexist comments on national television can have his manhood hurt, is obviously going to take the minus offer. This is why The Chase cannot win.
As long as there’s the possibility of a ‘Pete’ taking a minus amount of money after a man called Martin has just won £32,000 with an impressive combination of knowledge and guesswork on a question about Jay-Z (he pronounces it Jay-Zed, of course), The Chase will always be inferior to Pointless.
On an episode of Pointless, a clue read “Assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas”. The answer is of course John F. Kennedy. Alexander Armstrong, Cambridge educated, knew it. Richard Osman, also Cambridge educated, knew it. Even I, Sheffield Hallam educated, knew it. Yet the contestant answered, “JR”. Even Alexander Armstrong found it funny enough to break his usually unbreakable professionalism.
There is, however, something strangely warm and comforting about Bradley Walsh unable to control his laughter over the name ‘Fanny Chmelar’. Therefore, The Chase wins this round.
Winner: The Chase
It’s been hard-fought, but we have a winner, and it is Pointless that has triumphed to become King of the teatime game shows. As if there was ever going to be any other outcome.
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