Series / Only Connect

"Oh look. It's us, again. Yes, like a bad case of glandular fever Only Connect is back. Our connections are still so obtuse you could put them in a railway station and call them a help desk. Our wall still as messed up as a sensitive teenage lover dumped in public. And our final round still has as many missing vowels as the text messages they send pleading to be taken back."
—Victoria Coren Mitchell, introducing Series 8

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/p02l7xz8.jpg
"Now please choose an Egyptian hieroglyph."
Only Connect (2008-) is a BBC Game Show hosted by Victoria Coren Mitchell. Two teams of three players, who come up with a team name based on their common link, must figure out what connects four apparently random clues. The quiz is unapologetically difficult and tests both knowledge and lateral thinking, each to a high standard. Teams compete throughout the each series in a tournament set up, with recent series taking a cue from University Challenge to have a double-knockout tournament, the complexities of which confuse Victoria from time to time. The quiz is split up into the following rounds:
  • Round 1: Connections: Teams are presented with up to four apparently random clues and must figure out what connects them within 40 seconds. Each time the team asks for the next clue, the possible score drops from a maximum of 5 to a minimum of 1, with the other team getting a chance at 1 bonus point if the first team cannot guess the answer. Generally, the fourth and final clue is a the final clue is set up to be one that is a giveaway for the answer. One question in the round will have pictures as its clues, and another one will be music, signified by a special sound cue. An example question (from the 2014 Sports Relief special):
    £10 in Monopoly > 18 points in Formula One > Blue Crufts rosette > Silver medal
    Answer: Prizes awarded for second place.note 
  • Round 2: Sequences: This time, all of the apparently random clues are in a sequence, and teams must figure out what the connection is and say what the fourth clue would be, with up to 3 clues revealed for a maximum of 5 to a minimum of 2 points awarded; if the question is passed over to the other team they have the chance at 1 bonus point. This round also always features a picture sequence, and starting in 2014 some episodes feature a music sequence, after which Victoria asks all of the contestants to sing what the fourth clue would have been. An example question (from Series 13):
    Humperdinck > Quackmore > Donald > ???
    Answer: Huey, Dewey, or Louie are all acceptable answers, as they're all members of the youngest generation of Donald Duck's family.note 
  • Round 3: Connecting Wall: Teams are presented with sixteen jumbled up clues and must sort them into four connected groups of four in a two-and-a-half minute time limit. There is only one correct solution to the Wall, and peppered amongst the clues are several Red Herrings that may fit into another category, or even a whole set of clues that are part of a whole Red Herring category that is not part of the correct solution.
  • Round 4: Missing Vowels: In the final round, the teams are presented with well known names, phrases, or sayings but all of the vowels have been removed and all the consonants have been "squidged" up (spaces arbitrarily inserted or deleted) and must guess what the clue originally was, but are told the Category beforehand. Teams are awarded a point for buzzing in with the correct answer, and are penalized a point for guessing wrong or buzzing in and not being able to provide the answer. Example:
    Category: British Quiz Shows
    NL YCN NCT
    Answer: ONLY CONNECT
  • In the case of a tie at the end of the Missing Vowels round, the teams are presented with one final Missing Vowels question for a tiebreaker, but they are not told the categorynote  and only the team captains can buzz in with the answer. If they are correct, their team wins, but if they are incorrect or run out of time, the other team is automatically declared the winner.


This show provides examples of:

  • 13 Is Unlucky: Noted by Victoria in the first opening monologue of the thirteenth series, kicking off a Running Gag of the opening monologues in that series having some kind of spooky element.
  • Author Appeal:
    • Victoria is a professional poker player. Several questions and clues on the show have been related to poker.
    • One Missing Vowels round had "Presidents of Footlights" as a category, seemingly just so that one of the answers could be David Mitchell , who is, of course, Victoria's husband.
    • Victoria's father, Alan Coren, has also been a clue on the show; one set of clues in the 2011 Children in Need special was "Lemon, Coren, Muggeridge, Bird":
    Victoria: All editors of Punch: Mark Lemon was the first editor of Punch, Alan Coren the best.
    • Victoria's brother, Giles Coren, has also been a clue in a couple of episodes.
    • Victoria herself has appeared in a few clues: "People named Victoria", "People whose names are capital cities", the sequence "6" > "Connecticut" > "Heraldic gold" > "(e.g.) Iowa" (spells out "VICTORIA"), and when "OC trivia" was used as an anagram as part of a cryptic crossword clue (the connection was that all four clues had "Victoria" as their answers).
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • From the end of the 100th episode:
    Victoria: And teams, to mark our hundredth, we've got seven lovely glasses of sherry here. So I'm just going to give out the trophy, and then get on with drinking them.
    • From an episode intro:
    Victoria: Hello, and welcome to Only Connect, the quiz that's like a gym for the mind. Let me explain what I mean by that — for all you hardcore quizzers out there, a gym is a sort of building full of sports equipment...
  • Bait-and-Switch Comparison: Lampshaded and then subverted in an episode outro where Victoria refers to Only Connect by the abbreviation "OC", then says that it's important not to get it confused with The O.C..
    Victoria: One is a drama of life, love, rivalry, and shimmering sexual tension (I genuinely don't know if I'm going to reverse this comparison or not) set in Orange County, California. (No, I'm not.) The other is Only Connect.
  • Bilingual Bonus: In the first appearance of the Celts, a team whose common connection is that they're from Wales, Victoria conducts the pre-game chat with the team captain entirely in Welsh, with no subtitles nor any other concession to audience members who don't know the language. (In the following episode, she attempts the same thing with the captain of the Francophiles, only for him to admit that despite admiring the French he doesn't actually speak their language.)
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: In series 13. "Fourth wall. I've never really understood what that means. Breaking the fourth wall. What even is that?" Victoria asks looking directly at the camera.
  • Buffy Speak: In the fourth series, Victoria is not above referring to the hieroglyphs as 'squiggles'.
  • Christmas Creep: In one of the her opening monologues, Victoria complains that she's been visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come even though it's only September.
  • Crossover:
    • A January 2011 special pitted Only Connect Series 1 and "Champion of Champions" winners the Crossworders with the 2010 University Challenge champions from Emmanuel College, Cambridge. The Crossworders won.
    • A January 2012 special saw the Crossworders facing three former Mastermind champions (Stephen Allen (1991), Gavin Fuller (1993), and Nancy Dickmann (2009)). The Crossworders won again.
    • A January 2013 special set three of the title quiz aces from Eggheads (Chris Hughes, Pat Gibson, and Barry Simmons) against three members of Only Connect series-winning teams, all named David (David Stainer of the Crossworders (Series 1), David Bill of the Gamblers (Series 3), and David Lea of the Analysts (Series 5)). The three Davids won.
    • One team on the 2014/15 series is the 'QI Elves', who are, well, three of the QI elves.
    • Going the other direction, during the 2014 QI "L" series, when Victoria Coren Mitchell appeared on the episode "Literature", Stephen Fry hosted a round modeled after Only Connect.
      • An "N" series episode posed the question, "Name some common Egyptian characters," to which Victoria responded, "The Eye of Horus" to get the Klaxon. New host Sandi Toksvig corrected her, saying Hieroglyphs were used for special occasions in ancient Egypt, and Hieratic was the more common written form. Victoria argued that there were "many special occasions" in ancient Egypt and that it was a "rarefied klaxon", only for Alan Davies to remark that the QI Elves had set up a trap especially for her. She then recalled the story about how viewers of the first few series of the show complained that their original categories of Greek letters were too pretentious, only to switch to the Egyptian hieroglyphs the show is now famous for.
    • When serving as guest presenter for Have I Got News for You in October 2014, Victoria Coren Mitchell introduced a replacement for "Odd One Out" which she called "Simply Link", based on the second round of Only Connect (for Ian Hislop and Katherine Ryan, the sequence was Amal Clooney's causes célèbres, while for Paul Merton and Janet Street-Porter, it was Prime Ministers with moustaches).
  • Couch Gag: VCM's opening piece to camera before introducing the teams.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Victoria Coren Mitchell.
    Victoria Coren Mitchell: Hello, and welcome to Only Connect — the show described by the Daily Mirror as "weird". It is a bit strange — There are two teams; I ask them questions, and if they get the answers right they get points, and at the end of the quiz, whichever team has the most points, they're the winners. It's a revolutionary idea, but someone had to try it.
  • Diegetic Switch: At the beginning of the grand final episode of the 2015/16 series, when the title sequence fades away to show the studio, there's a string quartet set up in the middle of the set, which plays the last bit of the theme music live.
  • Dissimile: From an episode intro:
    Victoria: Our teams will be facing only a series of heavy and exhausting questions, with me as their personal trainer, shouting encouragement and occasionally nipping off to the vending machine in the café. The vending machine is literal, by the way. Only it's not in the café, it's in my dressing room. And it's not a vending machine, it's a varsity rowing team holding its own weight in pork scratchings.
  • The Dreaded: The music questions often get an Oh, Crap! reaction from those unfortunate enough to pick them. During the 2013 Comic Relief special David Mitchell was the only member of his team to know what that little jingle meant.
    David: Two reeds.
    [Jingle]
    Victoria: Right.
    David: Oh. Brilliant.
    Rosie Boycott: What does that mean?
    David: It means it's the Music Round.
    Victoria: You'll be pleased to know, it's the Music Question.
  • Fanservice: Sometimes, Victoria dresses like this.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Victoria Coren Mitchell is wonderful at this.note 
    Victoria Coren Mitchell: Now we're into the semi-finals the questions get harder, though because it's only a semi not much harder.
    • and the blink and you'll miss it comment at the end of the first quarter final
    "We have the beginnings of a semi."
  • Heävy Mëtal Ümlaut:
    • The connection in a musical question in series 9, where the answer was Grätüïtöüs Ümläüts.
    • One of the teams in Series 10 was the Nørdiphiles. When they faced a team whose name also contained an o, it proved contagious, with their opponents being listed as the Bibliøphiles in all onscreen graphics.
  • Lady Drunk: Among other things. Victoria Coren Mitchell likes to play up the idea of herself as a drunk in comments during her introductions and asides.
    Victoria Coren Mitchell: Join us again for the quiz with more twists and turns than the route from the bar to the studio. I swear they keep on adding more corners.
    • Occasionally she'll add casual drug use to that. While talking about uses for Amyl Nitrate, she murmured "That's not what I use it for..."
    • The 2016/17 final saw her consume four glasses of champagne over the course of the first two rounds.
  • The Last of These Is Not Like the Others: In the Missing Vowels round, which requires the contestants to decode four phrases related to a given clue, it sometimes happens that the fourth phrase relates to the clue in a different way from the first three. In one case, the clue is ROI, and the first three phrases are expansions of the acronym R.O.I. but the fourth is a definition of the French word roi.
  • Metaphorgotten: Victoria opens a 2015 episode by noting that competitors will need the observational acuity of a hawk and then getting sidetracked into an account of the hypothetical hawk's history of eye trouble. At the end of the episode, the same thing happens when she compares the mental agility of the competitors to the physical agility of a mountain goat.
  • Name's the Same: Invoked in a sequence question in the 2011 Comic Relief special, where the four items in the sequence were Peter Gabriel's first four solo albums: 'Peter Gabriel', 'Peter Gabriel', 'Peter Gabriel', and 'Peter Gabriel'.
    Michael Bywater: 'Peter Gabriel' was the best, though.
    Victoria: I liked that one... By 'Peter Gabriel', he'd kind of gone off.
  • Nerds Are Sexy: Victoria counts herself among those who see University Challenge ace Alex Guttenplan as an example of this; when he and two of his Emmanuel College, Cambridge teammates appear in a 2011 special against Only Connect Champion of Champions winners the Crossworders, Victoria keeps trailing off during her opening interview with Guttenplan.
  • Nintendo Hard: Only Connect prides itself on being the toughest quiz on television.
    • Even within the show, the music questions tend to be notorious for being difficult.
  • Noodle Incident: Most of the things Victoria says about the contestants when introducing them involves some amusing events that are given little or no context.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: The Connecting Wall round is edited to give this impression: Victoria tells the first team their score, turns to say a few words to the audience, and by the time she's turned back the second team is already in position.
  • One Steve Limit: Brilliantly averted with the Davids in the Eggheads vs Davids special - an all-star team comprised of three captains of other champion teams, all of whom were named David.
  • Overly Long Gag: Reading out a list of alternate answers that would have been accepted for a question where the set of acceptable answers amounted to 'Any thing or person with the initials PS'.
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: From the opening of a 2013 episode:
    Victoria Coren Mitchell: Hello, and welcome to Only Connect, BBC 4's hardest quiz. It's also BBC 4's easiest quiz. Not only that, it's BBC 4's only quiz.
  • Red Herring:
    • In the first two rounds, it's not uncommon for the first two clues in a question to suggest a spurious connection that will be utterly demolished by the third clue, to catch out teams who try to answer early.
    • The Connection Wall will almost invariably have a couple of items that could belong to multiple themes but will only be accepted as one.
    • Sometimes, even an entirely non existent category will be included (meaning that some answers could belong in a special category but all have to go someplace else), e.g. in one 2015 episode the actual categories were Places of worship; Famous Benjamins; Forensic dramas; and nationalities with an additional letter. The items included "Kirk", "Chapel", "Spock", "Bones" and "Scott". Naturally, that was the first thing the team spotted.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: It's possible for teams to get credited for an unintentionally valid sequence, or an unintentionally correct Missing Vowels answer.
  • Running Gag:
    • The seventh series, which introduced a new system where teams who lost their first match got a second chance and could still end up in the final, had a running gag about Victoria being unable to get her head around it.
    • Similarly, the move to BBC2 for the 2014/2015 series greatly expanded the field and the length of the series from around 13-15 episodes to a whopping 37. Victoria commented on it several times. In the end, both teams in the final had lost once already.
    • Victoria attempting to get both teams to collectively sing the fourth clue in the musical sequences question. This is because the fourth clue is the answer in this round, therefore no clip exists of it.
  • Self-Deprecation: Victoria often mocks herself as a Lady Drunk but when her husband David Mitchell shows up as a guest in a 2013 celebrity edition, she gives us a two-for-one self-takedown:
    Victoria: David Mitchell. Comedian, actor, writer, one half of the comedy duo Mitchell and Webb, David is famous for living a lonely, sexless existence, eating frozen ready meals and having only the most awkward conversations with women. Honestly, he was happier when he was single!
  • Shout-Out:
    • In the first episode of the twelfth series, one of the categories in the missing vowels round is "What do points mean?", with the four phrases being "driving penalties", "railway line junctions", "fielding positions in cricket", and "prizes".
    • In episode 7 of series 12, the Bardophiles guessed 'Central African Republic' as the answer to a sequence (of former names for the Democratic Republic of Congo). Victoria noted that it's "never as strong a guess here as it is in some other places".
    • In a 2016 episode, the answer to one sequence had to be a TV show hosted by Fiona Bruce, giving Victoria an opportunity to name-check Hive Minds, the show developed to replace Only Connect on BBC 4 after it moved up to BBC 2. Came with a spot of Self-Deprecation, as Victoria asked rhetorically how sad you'd have to be to want to host a quiz show on BBC 4.
    • In a 2017 episode, the first three categories in the final round are "Planes", "Trains", and "Automobiles" (and the fourth is "Films with transportation in the title").
    • One of the spooky-themed intro monologues from Series 13:
    Much of the key work debunking supernatural myth was carried out in the 1970s by American paranormologists Norville Rogers, Frederick Jones, Daphne Blake and Velma Dinkley. And if you didn't get that reference, then shame on you.
  • Small Reference Pools: Inverted. There have been questions involving knowledge of everything from the Kubler-Ross model of grief and the odes of John Keats to the creator of Beavis And Butthead, the Twilight novels, and types of Pokémon. This kind of behaviour is actively encouraged on the website's "Create Your Own Connecting Wall" feature.
  • Speed Round: The Missing Vowels Round.
  • Stuffy Old Songs About the Buttocks: The subject of a Connections music question, playing clips of Nicki Minaj's "Anaconda", Jennifer Lopez' "Booty", Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass" and Destiny's Child's "Bootylicious".
  • Take That, Audience!: Frequent jokes about how incredibly geeky the target audience is. For example:
    • Closing the show on 3rd December, 2012:
      Victoria Coren Mitchell: Watch us next week unless you have a social engagement. If you do have a social engagement, don't worry about it, I'll understand. I'll be surprised, but I'll understand.
    • Closing the show on 18th July 2016:
      Victoria Coren Mitchell: And if you've been watching on your phone, I hope you weren't interrupted by too many calls from friends. Except of course you weren't, because you're the sort of person who watches quizzes on your phone.
  • Take That, Critics!: In the first three series the teams chose from sets of clues identified by Greek letters. At the start of the fourth series Coren said that viewers had complained that the use of Greek letters was snobbish, pretentious and silly. She announced that the Greek letters had therefore been abolished...and invited the first team to choose an Egyptian hieroglyph.
  • Unexpectedly Obscure Answer: For the Sequences Round, it's not uncommon for Victoria to have to accept alternate answers if the team can provide a sound reasoning for the fourth item in the sequence. One recent example is from Series 11 when one team had the sequence: "1.0, 2.0, 3.0" > "95, 98, Me", and answered with "7, 8, 8.1" for successive major releases of Microsoft Windows (the third clue would have been "2000, XP, Vista"), which Victoria said was an acceptable answer, even though their question writers had given the answer as "7, 8, 10".
  • Wiki Walk: Word of God, courtesy of the question editor, is that this is a useful tool for question writing Only Connect questions. Complete with a link to the relevant xkcd strip. That Other Wiki, however, is not accepted as a credible source for OC question writers.
  • Yet Another Christmas Carol: In one of her opening monologues, Victoria says she's been visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come, seeking to make her mend her ways. Apparently they drop by every year but haven't had any effect on her yet.

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