TV Listings | Pointless answers are essential viewing

Life without it is like a blunt pencil!

Pick of the week

Pointless (BBC Entertainment, weekdays at 18:00)

My dad, 82, is in a wheelchair. My brother, 47, lives in a comfy chair. Together last year, they clocked up a thousand hours watching their favourite TV programme, the quiz show Pointless. Being British, it’s how they bond when they see each other. They like millions of their countrymen, and increasingly people in countries like France and Germany, have become addicted to a format that rewards obscure knowledge.

The premise is simple. Ask 100 people a question, like name a country beginning with ‘A’, and to give as many answers as possible. Your challenge is to give a correct answer that as few people as possible said. Your ultimate goal is an answer that nobody gave: the pointless answer. There will be heartbreak (no, Andalusia is not a country) and mirth – one of the contestants will inevitably say something like Africa.

The real fun is had playing along at home. Pitted against my father, your money would be on my brother, the quiz fanatic. But then again, my father’s at that age when he can’t remember seeing the episode before, and the odd pointless answer will seep through the ectoplasm.

“The first thought was what about reverse Family Fortunes?” the show’s co-creator David Flynn told The Guardian. “It [became] a quiz which could be highbrow and populist simultaneously, which is quite a rare phenomenon.”

The show’s hosts, Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman, knew each other at Cambridge University and are accordingly pretty knowledgeable. But they’re not peerless presenters. Armstrong, who ironically turned down the chance to be the new Countdown presenter just a year before starting in 2009 because he was worried about being typecast, conceded to the Guardian that he is “hopeless”.

But this, contends Osman, is what gives it charm, and why an average of 3.6 million people tune in to watch it and its aptly-named spin-off Pointless Celebrities. “I think it has a real Britishness to it,” he said.

Ben Hamilton

Coming Soon

True Detective

This self-assured detective drama stars Matthew McConaughey as old-school investigator Rust Cohle and Woody Harrelson as his partner Martin Hart.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the series created by novelist Nic Pizzolatto, “undulates from effectively brash soliloquies to penetratingly nuanced moments carried by sparse prose”.

Over the course of eight episodes that move deftly between 1995, when the pair begin work on an infamous serial-killer case, and 2012, when the duo are interviewed in relation to a remarkably similar killing, the nature of the relationship between the two disparate detectives is gradually revealed.

Tour de force performances by the leads, set against a beautiful, sprawling Louisiana backdrop captured by director Cary Fukunaga, ensure that the bar has been set very high for the year ahead.

Chris Jones

Also New

Playing catch-up this week with three recommendations that should have  been run last week had there been a newspaper.

The Tunnel (DR2, Sun 21:00), an English-French remake of The Bridge, started splendidly on Sunday starring Stephen Dillane (Games of Thrones).

Quirke (DR1, Mon 22:30 ),  a 2013 three-part crime drama set in Ireland in the 1950s starring Gabriel Byrne and Michael Gambon, has scored 7.7 on IMDB. It started on Monday.

And there’s another chance to see the first of the 2013 episodes of Sherlock (DR3, Fri 22:40 & 21:00), followed by the second, to find out how he cheated death.

Elsewhere, the Swedish channels are marking 50 years of the Beatles this weekend; the three-part The dark charisma of Adolph Hitler: Leading millions into the abyss (DRK, Mon 19:00) will be a hit with Lars von Trier; and don’t miss the Golden Globes (TV2 Zulu, Sun 02:00), which will be shown again on January 17 at 21:00. (BH)

Sport of the week

(Photo: wikipedia)

The annual highlight of the BDO darts (Eurosport, Sun 18:30) (the inferior one) until 2007 was watching the number one, Martin ‘Wolfie’ Adams, bottle it every year under the lights. But then he ruined it by winning … three times, and I wouldn’t bet against the soppy sod adding another (18s as of Tuesday!). Not sure Caroline Wozniacki is worth a punt in the Australian Open, but she might be competitive come March. And in the English PL(K6, Sat 13:45), Chelsea’s title credentials will be examined at Hull City, a team that won its last home game 6-0. (BH)

Film of the week

It’s funny, but despite all the messiah claims in the 1980s, Kenneth Branagh still hasn’t made a film that is universally revered. They all tend to end up in the shadow of other similar movies – a bit like Norse mythology itself, which could never raise a candle to the Greek/Roman variety. Thor (SVT4, Fri 21:30) is a solid offering, but like the disappointing Burlesque (TV3 Puls, Fri 21:00 ), I guess you need to like the subject matter to enjoy it. Still, The Murder of Princess Diana (TV3, Sat 09:30) proves that enjoying the end result is no guarantee you’ll enjoy the film. (BH)