Pointless

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A game show shown on BBC One, hosted by Alexander Armstrong (of The Armstrong And Miller Show), with Richard Osman as assistant. It has been broadcast since 24 August 2009.

The object of the game is to score as few points as possible by giving correct answers that the public have not given, or scoring lower than other contestants. The contestants try to look for answers which score no points, which are known as "Pointless" answers. It works like a reverse version of Family Fortunes[1] right down to asking the questions to 100 people: "We gave 100 people 100 seconds to name..."

Tropes used in Pointless include:
  • All or Nothing: This is softened by the fact that, unusually, all teams have two opportunities to reach the final. Played dead straight if they make the final round first time however.
  • Aside Glance: Richard, occasionally.
  • Bonus Round: 3 (later 5) categories, pick one, come up with three answers to the question in a minute. Any of them are Pointless, win the jackpot.
  • Born Unlucky: The show broadcast on 30th May 2012 had one pair who managed to talk themselves out of a winning answer every time they faced a question on the head-to-head, and they got through to it the day before as well, so four times in all. And then the pair that beat them the second time managed to talk themselves out of two pointless answers in the final.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: Richard admonishing Alexander for "spoil[ing] the jeopardy" by giving away that Barbara Cartland was a correct answer before it was revealed.
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Richard: You know, "let's see if it's right, and if so, how many people said it", yeah?

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  • Brian Blessed: Guest on one of the celebrity specials (with his daughter Rosalind). And it was glorious.
  • Captain Obvious: Richard plays this sort of role in a self-aware and typically deadpan style when asked to explain a simple answer (perhaps taken to its extreme when the round was on "nationalities ending in -ian", and even worse when the round was on "countries that have no repeated letters").
  • Catch Phrase: "Let's see if it's right, and how many people said it"; "I'm afraid you didn't have that pointless [theme of round] knowledge", "he's my pointless friend, he's Richard", and many more.
    • Richard also has a few: "Hiya!" to both the home audience and Studio Audience when first introduced; "By country, we mean a sovereign state of the UN in its own right" and "We're looking for any feature film made for cinematic release in which (name of actor) is given an acting credit. No TV films, short films or documentaries - but voice credits do count" to name but three.
    • "Our old friend the Central African Republic" (regularly Pointless in geography rounds) is another one.
  • Celebrity Edition: The amusingly named Pointless Celebrities.
  • Consolation Prize: The Pointless Trophy is yours regardless of your performance in the final round.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Alexander and Richard both.
  • Damned By Faint Praise: On the subject of Billie Piper;
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Richard: More famous as an actor now than a singer.
Alexander: She's a very good actor, actually.
Richard: Are you implying she wasn't a very good singer?
Alexander: ...She's a very good actor.

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  • Dramatic Pause: Used between a contestant giving an answer and the column either starting to scroll down to the number of people who gave that answer, or flashing red with a fail-chord as they've given an incorrect answer.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The first series had five pairs, and started with a demonstration of the game mechanics.
  • Epic Fail: Every now and again, a team will get two wrong answers in one round, thus "joining the 200 Club". If they manage this on both their appearances they "join the 400 Club" (especially if on both appearances they do so in the first round). The "600 Club" (which would be achieved by a 3rd 100 on the "two pairs get the same score" tiebreaker, on both appearances on the show) would be the theoretical apex of this trope, though no one has yet reached such heights of failure.
    • Best opening round ever. And two of those teams managed to get 100 on the next pass as well.
    • This was then surpassed in March 2012. The category was Robert Redford films, and only three of the 8 contestants had even heard of him. Seven Samurai and Prince of Persia were among the 4 incorrect suggestions in the first pass, which were followed by two wrong answers in the second and another in the tie break. To make matters worse, two of the surviving three pairs got wrong answers in the first pass in the second round, causing the hosts to need to remind the constestants that they actually were supposed to be aiming for low scores.
  • Everything Sounds Sexier in French: Whenever a French word or place name comes up in the round, Alexander always enjoys pronouncing it in a fluent but overly enthusiastic manner, sometimes slightly intimidating the contestants who have just said that word in their normal English accent.
  • Game Show Host: Alexander Armstrong
  • Genre Savvy: The Central African Republic was a pointless answer four times in the first series and again in one of the celebrity specials. Finally somebody thought to give it as an answer on the basis it had been pointless so many times before in a 2012 episode.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: An ornithological picture round had the hosts making all the 'tit' gags they could think of, ending with Richard saying, "Think we got away with that."
  • Hidden Depths: Richard will sometimes ask Alexander if he knows the answers after the contestants have had a go, and Alexander sometimes turns out to have unexpectedly detailed knowledge of some subjects (such as comic book heroes and villains).
    • He does have a degree in English literature, and so can normally cover any related round with ease. In general he's normally better at the rounds than most of the contestants.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: All involving working the title into phrases. Guaranteed to happen at least once per episode with Alexander always introducing Richard as "my pointless friend..."
  • Informed Attribute: Richard is very tall, but as he never gets up from his desk, all the jokes about it turn into this for the audience. Richard did get up from his desk twice during the 300th episode - once to present Alexander with a gift, the other to show and hand out cake to the audience.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: In one round where the contestants had to name authors, one man had no idea and went for "Richard Alexander".
  • Little-Known Facts: In the more recent series Richard has taken to mixing some of these into the actual facts about answers he reads out at the end of the round. His deadpan delivery is such that if the joke is subtle enough, sometimes the audience can't tell if they're straight facts or or not.
  • Little No: Alexander tends to do this when a contestant gets a question wrong.
  • Losing Horns: BZHOOOoooom
  • Lovely Assistant: Alexander's "pointless friend", Richard Osman; a rare male example in the world of game shows.
  • Milestone Celebration: For the 200th episode, they had four of the teams who had managed to score 200 in a single round (the maximum possible - two wrong answers) back for another go.
    • For the 300th episode, Richard actually got up from his desk to exchange gifts with Alexander.
  • Mission Control: Richard sits at a desk with a computer, giving detail on what answers they'll accept, explaining why wrong answers were wrong, etc.
  • Overly Long Gag: The hosts painting an exquisitely detailed picture of Sebastian Faulks settling down with a cup of tea to watch Pointless, seeing "Sebastian Faulks novels" come on, pausing the telly and calling his whole family in to watch it... only to see neither team able to think of a single one.
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Richard: Poor old Sebastian Faulks. Sitting at home, nice cup of tea, thinking, "Oh, I like Pointless..."
Alexander: "Oh, I tell you what, I'll have a little bit of a break from my new - what is it, my seventh novel?"
Richard: Eleventh novel!
Alexander: "Eleventh novel - I'll just settle down and watch a little bit of Pointless..."
Richard: Got the whole family sort of upstairs, doing things, and he says "Everyone! Everyone!" - presses pause - "They're doing me on Pointless! They're doing me on Pointless! They're gonna guess my novels! Wonder what they're going to say? Which of my novels do they like best, I wonder?" The whole family coming down the stairs - "What is it, Dad?"
Alexander: "You're on Pointless? Quick! Dad's on Pointless!"
Richard: All fifteen of the Faulks clan now, all sitting on sofas, he's just pressing unpause there, he's on live record - "Everyone, now, absolute quiet, sssh! Dim the lights! Pull the curtains, dim the lights, because there's a reflection on the screen!"
Alexander: "Quickly! Ring everyone we know!"
Richard: "There's a reflection on the screen! I can't see Tony! I can't see Tony's face when he's gonna say my novel!" And then... Look what you did!

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  • Pants-Free: In the category "types of trouser", a beskirted female contestant complained that she was at a disadvantage, being the only one in the room not wearing trousers. Richard reassures her from behind his desk that he isn't, either.
    • This has turned into a bit of a Running Gag with the number of times he's mentioned it. Fortunately he has turned out to be wearing them on the rare occasions a shot is taken from far enough to one side to see.
  • Progressive Jackpot: £1000 is added to the jackpot every episode if it isn't won. £250 is added for every Pointless answer
  • Pungeon Master: Richard.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Richard and Alexander delivered one to both couples in the head-to-head after they failed to remember any Sebastian Faulks novels, asking them to imagine what he'd think if he was watching - see Overly Long Gag.
    • Richard will sometimes give shorter ones to the anonymous 100 people in the surveys, in particular when more of them know something obscure about a frivolous subject like celebrities or reality TV than know something obvious about an important subject such as who's in David Cameron's cabinet.
  • Retool: The show was revamped for HD broadcast in 2012, with a new set, a slightly changed colour scheme and some modifications to the question scheme: the first head-to-head question is now always a picture round, the second is usually a "Clues to Facts about X" round, and the winning pair have a choice of five rather than three categories for the final.
  • Rickroll: "Things That Rick Astley Is 'Never Gonna' Do", with Richard playing the refrain of the song instead of reading off the answers.
  • Running Gag:
    • Richard Osman supposedly being related to The Osmonds.
    • The Central African Republic as an obscure answer for any question involving "Name a country that is X", invariably being Pointless. In a recent episode it actually scored 2 points and Richard joked that it was because they had been raising awareness for the country on Pointless for so long. Such is its infamy on the show, that on the 300th episode Richard gave Alexander a framed picture of the country as a present.
    • Richard offering the opinion that Armstrong's comedy partner Ben Miller is the more talented of the pair, and that Mitchell and Webb are more talented than either of them, to which Armstrong, being the affable chap he is, will invariably meekly agree.
    • After the contestants have been introduced and talked about their interests to Alexander, Richard claiming that the upcoming rounds are themed around one or more of the interests they have mentioned.
  • Rules Spiel: Shortened after the first series, which included a demonstration of the answer bar decreasing to varying lengths after different answers, using examples from questions from the previous episode.
  • The Scottish Trope: Discussed and spoofed in one episode, in which Richard said that he couln't understand the big deal about Macbeth. He proceeded to say it repeatedly, against the warnings of Alexander about all the heavy machinery above their heads, whereupon the studio lights were briefly cut.
  • Shrouded in Myth / Memetic Badass: Alexander has taken to introducing Richard in this way, similar to the Stig from Top Gear, emphasising his credentials in obscure knowledge.
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Alexander: He is our lantern in the twilit world of the half-known and the barely-remembered - he's my Pointless friend, he's Richard.
Richard: Did you say "toilet world"?

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  • Springtime for Hitler: Naturally, trying to score low is encouraged by the format. But this trope comes into play when people can only win by getting a really low score, if not a pointless, so they pick an answer they've never heard of or outright make something up. Winning is spectacular, but it's much more likely you'll end up in the "200 Club".
  • Studio Audience
  • Throw It In: Richard is actually a producer for Endemol, the production company[2]; when they were originally pitching the show idea, he stood in for the role of the Mission Control guy and the directors liked it so much that they asked him to do it for the actual show.
  • Title Drop: They have a lot of fun with it. "You've won our Pointless trophy", "Let's see if you can win our Pointless jackpot", "You won't be surprised to hear there are a lot of Pointless Madonna movies/Cliff Richard songs/[insert category here]", etc.
  • Unexpectedly Obscure Answer:
    • It's always a possibility in a game that revolves around trying to get the unexpected answer.
    • Inverted on several occasions, where all 100 people asked knew the answer:
      • That parmesan was a type of cheese,
      • That the police are one of the emergency services,
      • That one of the characters in The Flintstones was Fred,
      • That "Italia" was the Italian translation of Italy,
      • That the queen is a piece in chess
      • and recognising the Eiffel Tower in a "Sights of Paris" picture round
  • Verbal Tic: "Lovely low score" (Alexander Armstrong).
  • What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome?: Alexander announcing a tie in a 2011 episode in a hammy manner.
    • The dramatic chord that plays when contestants step up to the podium, as well as the manner in which the coveted Pointless trophy is introduced.
    • Similarily, the lights dimming and the set turning red in the Head-to-Head round.
    • Any time Richard makes a point of how many people have been requesting an upcoming round, how much fun it's going to be, how much he's looking forward to it... expect something utterly mundane like "types of trouser" or "varieties of lettuce".
    • Alexander's stock line preceding the head-to-head round: "And this is where things get even more exciting!!"
    • In one of the celebrity specials, Alexander announces the head-to-head as "the athletes versus the Chuckle Brothers!"
  • X Makes Anything Cool: Richard calling Alexander "Xander".
  1. The show called Family Feud in America.
  2. in fact, it is he who script edits the UK version of Total Wipeout, and he also serves as executive producer for 8 Out of 10 Cats and 10 O'Clock Live