Follow TV Tropes


Series / Only Connect

Go To
"Now please choose an Egyptian hieroglyph."

"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

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 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 Sport 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. Once the teams correctly sort two groups, they only have three chances to sort the other two. Teams earn 1 point for each correctly identified group and 1 point for each connection, with an additional 2 points for a perfect score for a maximum of 10.note  Grand Finals and Champion of Champions matchups will be extra devious and make all 16 clues numbers or 2-3 letter abbreviations.
  • 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
    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.

    List of winners 
  • Series 1 (2008): The Crossworders (Mark Grant, David Stainer, Ian Bayley)
  • Series 2 (2009): The Rugby Boys (Richard Parnell, Gary Dermody, Mark Labbettnote )
  • Series 3 (Spring 2010): The Gamblers (Jenny Ryannote , Dave Bill, Alan Gibbs)
  • Series 4 (Winter 2010): The Epicureans (David Brewis, Katie Bramall-Stainernote , Aaron Bellnote )
  • Series 5 (2011): The Analysts (Paul Steeples, David Lea, William De Ath)
  • Series 6 (2012): The Scribes (Holly Pattenden, Dom Tait, Gareth Price)
  • Series 7 (Summer 2013): The Francophiles (Ian Clark, Mark Walton, Sam Goodyear)
  • Series 8 (Winter 2013): The Board Gamers (Hywel Carver, Jamie Karran, Michael Wallace)
  • Series 9 (2014): The Europhiles (Douglas Thomson,Mark Seager, Khuram Rashid)
  • Series 10 (2014-15): The Orienteers (Paul Beecher, Sean Blanchflower, Simon Spiro)
  • Series 11 (2015-16): The String Section (Tessa North, Richard Aubrey, Pete Sorel-Cameron)
  • Series 12 (2016-17): The Verbivores (Phyl Styles, Graeme Cole, Tom Cappleman)
  • Series 13 (2017-18): The Escapologists (Frank Paul, Lydia Mizon, Tom Rowell)
  • Series 14 (2018-19): The Dicers (George Corfield, Hugh Binnie, Joey Goldmannote )
  • Series 15 (2019-20): The 007s (Frankie Fanko, Andrew Fanko, Andrew Beasley)
  • Series 16 (2020-21): The Puzzle Hunters (Paul Taylor, Katie Steckles, Ali Lloyd)
  • Series 17 (2021-22): The Data Wizards (Claire Turner, Tim Brown, Jonathan Cairns)
  • Series 18 (2022-23): The Strigiformes (Jonathan Taylor, Jonathan Williams, Joshua Mutio)

"What's the connection between these tropes? Here's the first":

  • 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.
  • Accent Upon The Wrong Syllable: Victoria sometimes reads clues from the Connecting Walls in this style to try to preserve some ambiguity.
  • Actor Allusion: One sequence question in series 18 was about Taskmaster champions. After the question, Victoria asked who'd want to win that show anyway, in a reference to her last-place finish in series 12.
  • A Rare Sentence: Combined with Real Dreams are Weirder when the Missing Vowels round finishes with a question about soups unanswered:
    Victoria: No need to shout "broth and mulligatawny", as people do so often in my dreams...
  • 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 "VI.CT.OR.IA", 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).
    • In the Champion of Champions of Champions special, the Sequences round included the sequence { Row 1 = Blue ⟶ Row 2 = Green ⟶ Row 3 = Purple ⟶ ??? } completely flummoxing the two returning teams who have already won their own series tournaments and are in the final round of having won against other former winning teams of other series. The answer? "Row 4 = Turquoise", the fourth color on the Only Connect Connecting Wall. This leads to a humourous rant from Victoria:
      Victoria: Do you know? It's like you don't watch the show. You don't care, do you? You won. You took your trophies home. You forgot about us. Nevermind us sitting here playing our Connecting Walls. You didn't even— Space Invaders?! I'm horrified! I can barely bring myself to give the scores. But I must. Otherwise we'll never go home.
    • In one Missing Vowels round, the answers are all members of Only Connect's crew with whom the contestants were all introduced before filming that day.
  • 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.
    • In Series 18 episode 22, Victoria mentions Jonny Lee Miller playing John Major in The Crown.
      Victoria: Amazing. I remember when he was a major heart-throb. Nevertheless, he's being played by Jonny Lee Miller[...].
  • Big Eater: In addition to jokes about herself as a Lady Drunk, Victoria often jokes about her eating habits, particularly during her first pregnancy. In the 200th episode, a special commemorative cake is put on the dais, and while the first team is looking at the first set of clues, Victoria procures a large knife and cuts into it, and proceeds to eat more of the cake during the first round. By the time of Missing Vowels, nearly all the cake has been eaten.
  • 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.)
  • Bragging Rights Reward: The only physical prize is a trophy for the series champions, but such is the show's reputation for difficulty that the bragging rights are considerable.
  • 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.
  • Brick Joke: Sometimes a sequence or a missing vowels question will refer back to things that happened earlier in the show. Once, a second-round sequence was consecutive answers from the first round; on another occasion, it was things mentioned in Victoria's opening monologue. "Previous answers in this show" turned up as a missing vowels category in a 2020 christmas special.
    • Two consecutive shows had the missing vowels category "Impressionists". In the first, it referred to people who do impersonations, in the second it was painters. Since the contestants were different on the two shows, they wouldn't have known about this brick joke until they saw it on TV.
  • Buffy Speak: In the fourth series, Victoria is not above referring to the hieroglyphs as 'squiggles'.
  • Celebrity Edition: There have been various celebrity specials for the Comic/Sport Relief and Children In Need appeals. One featured Victoria's husband David Mitchell as a contestant.
  • 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 Mastermind theme (and that show's time-up signal) was used in the missing vowels round instead of the usual tension music. 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).
  • Congestion Speak: In a Christmas special with a "Cold" theme, one sequence is "Bed, Boulders, Bees, Bows", with the purported connection being that it's the first line of the the song "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" as sung by someone with a bad head cold. (To Victoria's astonishment, the team presented with this puzzler actually figures it out.)
  • Couch Gag: VCM's opening piece to camera before introducing the teams.
  • Creator Provincialism: Unlike most studio-based shows, which you could watch for years and never know where they're made, Only Connect makes a big deal of being filmed in Cardiff. Victoria often asks the teams what they've got up to during their visit and makes other references to the city and to Wales in general, including a Running Gag of insisting that dragons are real.
  • 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. Special mention goes to David Mitchell for the 2013 Comic Relief special:
    David: Two reeds.
    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.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • The first three series featured the lower case Greek letters Alpha (α), Beta (β), Gamma (γ), Delta (δ), Epsilon (ε), and Zeta (ζ), as categories rather than the Egyptian hieroglyphs Two Reeds (𓇌), Lion (𓃭), Twisted Flax (𓎛), Horned Viper (𓆑), Water (𓈗), and the Eye of Horus (𓂀)
    • The style of introducing contestants with Noodle Incident-type factoids also took a few series to develop, and in the first series the teams introduced themselves rather than Victoria doing it.
    • The first series made a big deal of including red herrings to lead teams to incorrect answers (which nowadays only feature in the connecting walls) while the predominant colour of the show was green (which the opening credits, graphics and the set behind Victoria all displaying this) before being changed to blue.
    • The players were originally given notepads and so spent a lot of time scribbling things down. This was dropped after the first series.
    • For the first couple of series, they also tried to pair up connected (or at least complementary) teams in the first round (e.g. Travel Writers vs. Science Writers, Urban Cyclists vs. Country Walkers) although not all of them worked (Lapsed Psychologists vs. Knitters?) and they stopped doing this in S3.
    • Teams did not originally lose a point for an incorrect answer in the missing vowels round; that rule was introduced at the quarter-final stage of S1.
  • Evolving Credits: The hieroglyphs replaced the Greek letters in the title sequence from Episode 4x02 onwards (the hieroglyphs were first used in 4x01, but the opening sequence retained the Greek letters so as not to spoil the surprise.) The colours were also changed after Series 1, with the white-to-very-pale-blue background from S1 replaced with a dark-blue-to-black background from S2 onward.
  • 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 contagiøus, with their opponents being listed as the Bibliøphiles in all onscreen graphics.
  • Intentionally Awkward Title: After Only Connect began having its broadcasting schedule affected by another programme on BBC Four hosted by television presenter and former Conservative Member of Parliament Michael Portillo, Victoria began ending the show by saying the next show would be a special hosted by Portillo with some ridiculous title. Some examples include a competition program about art gallery curation titled Michael Portillo's Well Hung, an interview show with British expats which that week featured Ben Elton titled Michael Portillo: Ben's Over, or the history of optometry discussing how eyeglass frames used to be made of oak, elm, or ash titled Michael Portillo: Eye Wood.
  • Jump the Shark: Discussed in 4x01, when it came up on the Connection Wall. The contestant jokingly suggested that episode's change from Greek letters to Egyptian hieroglyphs was an example.
  • 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.
  • Lighter and Softer: The charity specials tend to have relatively easier questions.
  • Literary Allusion Title: Taken from a much-quoted line in E.M. Forster's Howards End: "Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted." Explicitly referenced at least Once a Season.
  • Longest Pregnancy Ever: Due to the compressed filming schedule, Victoria was visibly pregnant for all 27 episodes of Series 11. Referenced in a late episode when a question about gestation periods came up.
    Victoria: Of course sometimes, by the magic of television, a person can be in their third trimester for the best part of seven months! On and on, week after week after week! But nine months is when it's all supposed to stop.
  • 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.
  • 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. Subsequent series sometimes feature Victoria professing her love for a quizzer after a particularly impressive correct response.
  • 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.
    • And if that weren't enough, there are the music sequence questions.
  • 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.
    • Also averted by Season 18's champions the Strigiformes, two of whom shared the name Jonathan.
  • Only One Name: Dennis, one of the Crustaceans in Season 18.
  • 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 Four's hardest quiz. It's also BBC Four's easiest quiz. Not only that, it's BBC Four's only quiz.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Victoria insists that question editor David McGaughey looks exactly like the other question editor, Mr. Waley-Cohen, with the exception of his cowboy hat, ginger sideburns, and Texas accent, and always arrives in the studio just after Mr. Waley-Cohen has left.
  • Red Herring:
    • In the first couple of series, it was 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. Nowadays the question setters generally play fair in the first two rounds, though the nature of the quiz means that teams will sometimes spot unintended spurious connections anyway.
    • 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"note , "Chapel", "Spock"note , "Bones" and "Scott". Naturally, the teams went for the red herring first.
  • 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. In fact, because you get the points for providing the fourth answer in a sequence, not for explaining it, it is possible to guess and be right — not merely for the wrong reasons but for no reason at all. It happens surprisingly often.
  • 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.
    • Jokes about Victoria's attraction to Michael Portillo, and the question editor's attraction to Joanna Lumley.
    • Throughout season 14, Victoria repeatedly implies that the two question editors, David McGaughey and Mr. Waley-Cohen, are the same person in a Paper-Thin Disguise.
    • In Season 19, Victoria continually plugs her new murder mystery novel that was in no way influenced by Richard Osman's The Thursday Murder Club.
  • 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!
  • Shaped Like Itself: Occasionally, a clue in the missing vowels round appears undisguised, having contained no vowels in the first place, such as when "V." appeared as a Thomas Pynchon novel, or "PM'' as a Radio 4 programme. (Neither of which was got by the teams - it seems nobody had heard of the former, and time ran out on the latter before anyone could buzz in.)
  • 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 Four after it moved up to BBC Two. 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 Four.
    • 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").
    • Similarly, in a 2018 episode, the first three categories in that round are ""Rod", "Jane" and "Freddie" (and the fourth lampshaded it with "Lists of three", though the round ended after only one clue so we never found out whether "Rod, Jane and Freddie" would have been among them).
    • And a 2020 episode had "They snap", "They crackle", "They pop" and "Cereal mascots".
    • 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.
    • Victoria's opening monologues through the first few episodes of Series 19 are based on the conceit of her writing a mystery novel; one references The Thursday Murder Club by describing her having the idea for the series only for Richard Osman to have already written three of those novels, and a later episode sees her riff on her still being a quiz show host instead of giving it up for writing (as Osman did, stepping down from Pointless to focus on the series).
  • Skewed Priorities: In the semifinals of series 18, Victoria refers to the 3rd-place playoffs as being more prestigious than the finals.
  • 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, types of Pokémon, and the Bristol stool chart. 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".
    Victoria: We're testing two things with the question: one, do you know the pieces? and two, dare you say the answer?
  • 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.
  • Think Music: A soft music bed plays during the questions (except for the music questions, naturally).
  • Tiebreaker Round: In the event of a tie, there is one last missing vowels question with no category provided, for team captains only. A correct answer wins; an incorrect answer automatically forfeits.
  • Troll: The Board Gamers in S8 are so named because of their interest in strategy games like Carcassonne and Settlers of Catan. Throughout the series, Victoria trolls them by introducing them instead with references to Monopoly, Pictionary, Operation, and Kerplunk!.
  • 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".
  • Variations on a Theme Song: Series finals have featured the theme tune played on a barrel organ, and sung live by an a cappella group.
  • 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.

"Thank you for watching. If you enjoyed it, please join us again; or, if you prefer something a little easier to work out, try the Arab-Israeli conflict."