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Series / Pointless

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The Points Mean Nothing taken to its logical endpoint.

A game show broadcast on BBC One (with reruns on Challenge), hosted by Alexander Armstrong (of The Armstrong and Miller Show), with Richard Osman as his assistant. It has been broadcast since 24 August 2009, making it a Long Runner. Osman announced in April 2022 that he would be stepping down due to other commitments; his final episode aired on 20 July to mark the end of Series 27.

Beginning with the Series 28 premiere in September 2022, he is currently being replaced by a rotating group of guest assistants that changes every 11 episodes (or fewer if they're a returning assistant):

    Past and present assistants 
  • Sally Lindsay (20 September - 4 October 2022)
  • Stephen Mangan (5 - 19 October 2022 and 31 August - 5 September 2023)
  • Lauren Laverne (20 October - 3 November 2022)
  • Konnie Huq (23 January - 6 February 2023 and 6 - 11 September 2023)
  • Alex Brooker (7 - 21 February 2023)
  • Ed Gamble (3 - 14 April 2023)
  • Rose Matefeo (17 April - 1 May 2023)
  • Ria Lina (2 - 5 May, 29 May - 6 June note , 12 - 14 September and 30 October 2023)
  • Lucy Porter (1 - 15 August 2023)
  • Gyles Brandreth (16 - 30 August 2023)
  • Nish Kumar (31 October - 10 November 2023)
  • Andi Oliver (15 - 24 November 2023 note , 8 - 10 January 2024)
  • Sally Phillips (11 - 25 January 2024)
  • Vick Hope (26 January 2024 - 6 February 2024)

Richard continues to co-host on Pointless Celebrities for the time being.

The object of the game is to score as few points as possible by giving correct but obscure answers to survey questions that were asked of the public. The most desirable answers are the "pointless" ones - correct, but not given by any of the survey participants. It works like a reverse version of Family Fortunesnote  right down to asking the questions to 100 people: "We gave 100 people 100 seconds to name..." Each pointless answer given during the main game adds to a cash jackpot, and the last team standing has three chances to win it by giving a pointless answer in the final round.

An Australian version, hosted by Mark Humphries and Dr. Andrew Rochford, began airing on Network Ten in July 2018, but it was cancelled after nine months due to low ratings.

Game Show Tropes in use:

  • All or Nothing:
    • Only the team that reaches the final has a chance to win any money, and they'll either get the whole jackpot or none of it.
    • Softened somewhat by the fact that all teams have had multiple chances to reach the final, but played straight if a team gets there on the first try. (Up through Series 24, teams left the show after being knocked out twice. As of Series 25, which began airing in April 2021, the appearance limit was increased to three owing to the COVID-19 Pandemic.)
  • Bonus Round:
    • Three (later five) categories, pick one, come up with three answers to the question in a minute. Any of them are pointless, win the jackpot.
    • A new format was added in June 2013. Contestants choose one category from a list of four and are given 60 seconds to come up with three answers for any of three questions within that category. If at least one answer turns out to be pointless, they win the jackpot.
    • Series 24 added an extra game between round two and the head-to-head, where the two couples try to find two pointless answers from a list of six in an effort to boost the jackpot by up to £500. The remaining four answers are duds; they are either correct but not pointless or incorrect.
    • Series 28 has changed the Final Round again to a choice of only two sub-categories rather than the old three and also awards a £500 bonus on top of the jackpot for giving three pointless answers.
  • Celebrity Edition: The amusingly named Pointless Celebrities.
  • Confetti Drop: Averted except in one Christmas episode of the French version, where all the contestants from the episode and host Cyril Féraud set off small Confetti and Streamer Cannons at the end of the episode.
  • Consolation Prize: Every team that reaches the final round wins a crystal trophy, whether or not they take home the jackpot. For celebrity episodes, all of the contestants get £250 for their chosen charities, regardless of whether they make it to the final round or not.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • The first series had five pairs of contestants, while every subsequent series has four; this was to allow each episode to have more time dedicated to Armstrong and Osman's banter, which had been cut out for length. Each episode also started with a demonstration of the game mechanics. Osman has more of a 'background' role compared to later, sometimes not even making a comment after an answer has been scored and being more generic in his personality. Even weirder is how generic Alexander Armstrong comes across, especially considering that unlike Osman he was already well-known as a comedian.
    • The head-to-head round in the first series required the two remaining teams to take turns naming items that fit a given category. Each team got the same number of turns, and if a pass ended with at least one team going over 100, the lower-scoring team went through to the final. The next series had the more traditional 'X out of Y' scoring, but it was best three out of five instead of best two out of three.
    • All the way until the middle of Series 8, the contestants would introduce themselves and chat with Alexander at the start of the show. Since March 2013, they would introduce themselves first, then chat with Xander during their respective turns in the first round.
      • It's possible that a motivation behind this was that a section of the viewership wasn't tuning in until roughly five minutes into the programme when the quizzing itself would begin.
    • The earlier seasons included more shots of the studio audience. This pretty much stopped altogether after production moved to BBC Elstree. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been no audience, only sound effects. The show moved to a new studio (Versa London Studios) in 2022 and it is not clear that the new set has any provision for a studio audience at all.
    • Pointless Celebrities has also suffered from this during its earlier seasons.
      • The scheduling for the first series was within the show's regular timeslot and only had five episodes. It was also during the show's transition to BBC One from BBC Two, so it was likely to celebrate that. Also for that season, Alexander introduced the contestants with only their first names, like in the standard episodes.
      • The first two seasons did not have any specific themes for the celebrities featured.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Richard will sometimes refer to potential viewers and speculate about what their reactions are. For instance, once a woman got a question about U2 wrong, and he playfully accused her of making The Edge cry, claiming he watched the show. Another time, the question was about butterflies, and he started dissing the person who named wall butterflies, after which he and Alexander started discussing how that persona and their wife would feel if they were watching.
  • Losing Horns: ...which roughly sounds like "BZHOOOoooom."
  • Personnel:
    • Game Show Host: Alexander Armstrong.
    • Lovely Assistant: Alexander's "pointless friend" Richard Osman, a rare male example in the world of game shows.
    • Studio Audience: Unless you count episodes recorded during the Pandemic, where this is averted.
  • Retired Game Show Element: The S1 head-to-head structure (one category, pairs answer alternately until one or both go over 100 points) and the S3-5 "choose from a prepared list of answers" questions are dead and buried, as is the rarely-used style of question in which two linked categories were used in the same round, one on each pass.
    • In Series 23 the "choose from a prepared list of answers" variant was revived and repurposed as a new round before the Head-to-Head; the two teams were given six options, two of which were pointless, two of which were correct but scored points, and two which were wrong. There would be no elimination or penalty for choosing a wrong answer, it was just a way to try and drive the jackpot up a little.
  • Rules Spiel: Shortened after the first series, which included a demonstration of the column decreasing to varying lengths after different answers, using examples from questions from the previous episode.

Let's see how many of our 100 people said "Tropes":

  • Actor Allusion: This has happened several times:
    • One couple asked Alexander to say "Hi!" to their younger son as they really like Danger Mouse (in which he plays the titular character). Xander obliges, though as he reluctantly points out, it's literally just his own voice.
    • One of the episodes with Rose Matefeo as a guest host has a round where one of the answers was Taskmaster related; Rose had participated in its Ninth series.
  • And Your Reward Is Clothes: Played with. Reach the final and you get a trophy; miss out on the jackpot and that's all you get.
  • Animation Age Ghetto:invoked One suspects Richard's not a fan of it, considering how he often comments how much he enjoys animated films and they are often a good way to get a Pointless answer in film category questions.
  • Arc Number: 100. As Alexander says in every episode, they gave 100 people 100 seconds to come up with answers to each question. Give a wrong answer in the first two rounds, and you take a 100-point penalty.
  • Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?: During their joint appearance on a celebrity edition, Janet Street-Porter tried to influence Christopher Biggs into giving an answer to a question on countries containing certain words, probably hoping to have him say “Papua New Guinea”; an answer she was thinking of. Instead, he incorrectly said “South Pacific”, much to her disbelief.
  • Aside Glance: Richard, occasionally.
  • Audience Participation: Beyond being part of the normal appeal of a game show, it is frequently invoked by Richard with phrases like "There's gonna be twelve in all to have a go at home" and "well done if you got that at home".
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Contestants in the head-to-head who think their opponents have given a wrong answer will sometimes give a different answer to the same question. Unless you're absolutely certain you're right and you don't know any of the other answers, this is an unnecessary risk — best case, they were wrong and get 100 points, so any correct answer would have beaten them. Worst case, they were right and you've thrown away any chance of getting a better score. Once lampshaded on a celebrity edition by Jenny Seagrove.
  • Blatant Lies: According to Alexander, any time a contestant claims they are only on the show for the trophy. This was said in the context of a pair of finalists going for a record-equalling £20,250 jackpot, whose three answers (on the subject of Manic Street Preachers singles) scored 1, 1, and 2 respectively.
  • Born Lucky: The victorious pair on the 12th July 2022, faced with three categories in the final they had no clue aboutnote  became the first pair ever to win the jackpot (at that time £7,500) by just making up three answers and managing to stumble on a correct answer by sheer luck.
  • Born Unlucky: The show 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.
    Richard: You know, "let's see if it's right, and if so, how many people said it", yeah?
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs:
    • The top three answers in the "Papal names" category, in ascending order: Paul, John, and John Paul.
    • Richard's introduction on the 9th January 2015 show was that he liked 'facts, spaghetti and facts about spaghetti'.
  • Call-Back: Competitor Eric's answer "Sebastien Buemi" narrowly missed out on being Pointless when it turned out one person in the survey had given the same answer, prompting Alexander to quip that "I'm afraid Mrs Buemi was in our 100 people." Eric and Keith went on to enter the final, where they faced a question about Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, and missed out on the jackpot — again by a single point. Quoth Keith: "Was that Mrs Chaucer?"
  • The Cameo: Johnny Robinson (from The X Factor) made one in the soap edition of Pointless Celebrities as part of a gag about The Other Darrin.
  • 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").
    • In one January 2015 episode, the category "Capital cities in their native languages" came up, prompting one puzzled contestant to remark, "It all looks like it's written in another language". The gaffe did not go unnoticed or unpunished.
      Alexander: To be fair, it is written is several different languages.
  • Catchphrase: Discussed in one episode when the question was about Game Show catchphrases:
    Alexander: We haven't got a catchphrase!
    Richard: You've got a catchphrase!
    Alexander: I say "Very good indeed!" rather awkwardly - a lot.
    Richard: I say "Well done if you got that at home!", that's like a catchphrase, isn't it?
    Alexander: "As ever, when we say country, we're looking for a sovereign state recognised by the United Nations."
    Richard: One of my catchphrases... "Let's take a look at the pointless answers - Central African Republic!" That's a catchphrase.
    • They briefly tried out a call-and-response one (which got a Call-Back in another episode when the contestants failed to name the sitcom Bread):
      Richard: Here's a catchphrase: 'That ain't bread, that's toast!'
      Alexander: "That ain't bread..."
      Richard: "That's toast!"
    • Their sign-off at the end of the game:
      Alexander: Meanwhile, it's goodbye from Richard...
      Richard: Goodbye.
      Alexander: ...and it's goodbye from me. Goodbye.
    • In addition to his Rules Spiel and the ones discussed above, Xander has "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.
    • And Richard has "We're looking for any feature film made for cinematic release for which [name of actor] has received an acting credit. (As ever) no TV films, short films, documentaries, or anything in which he's played himself — but voice performances do count", and "by country, we mean a sovereign state that is a member of the U.N. in its own right."
  • Cool Old Guy: Tim Rice was a contestant in an episode of Pointless Celebrities; some of the other contestants were in such awe of him that they didn't mind losing to him because... well, it's Sir Tim Freakin' Rice!
  • Continuity Nod: In Series 26, an episode featured a couple where one half mentioned that they'd made her own South African patterned dress and that it was reversible, and multiple jokes throughout the episode are about not wanting them to win the money so they could all see the reversed design. They do eventually get knocked out, and come the following episode, Alexander giddily mentions that the dress they're wearing is reversible and mentions how good it was for this Brick Joke to pay off.
  • Crazy Enough to Work: Comes into play when people can only win by getting a very low-scoring, if not pointless answer, 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 taking the 100-point penalty for a wrong answer.
    • For the category "British MPs named David, Nick or Ed" (the first names of the leaders of the three main political parties at the time), one contestant admitted she had no idea and picked an answer by randomly picking one of the names and a colour. Her answer - Nick Brown - was Pointless. Especially lucky given that Richard revealed it was the only name with that tactic that would even have been correct. They went on to win the jackpot — an impressive £12,750.
    • Another contestant guessed that James Brown might have been an actor in The Dirty Dozen. Armstrong made fun of it, joking that the film could've done with a bit more funk... and then the column started going down! Jim Brown note  played a prisoner in the movie, and he was a pointless answer. This contestant had scored 100 with a correct answer in the previous round.
    • One contestant was stuck and chose to guess the name of the founder of the Church of Latter-Day Saints as Joseph Smith, which is very much correct (and got a low score of 9).
    • One pair, having chosen Japan as their jackpot subject in the hope of getting a geography question, instead found themselves struggling to come up with surnames of Japanese Prime Ministers since 1900. They threw in Yamamoto, admitting that their choice was based purely on the fact that they knew someone named Yamamoto commanded the Japanese navy during WW2, and lampshading that he couldn't possibly have gone on to become Prime Minister since he didn't survive the war. They were correct about that...but an unrelated Yamamoto did have short spells as Prime Minister in 1913-4 and 1923-4, and was a pointless answer, winning the contestants £3000.
  • Crazy-Prepared: The category "Rare Breeds of Poultry" was in the rotation for the jackpot round for so long that one contestant specifically studied the subject before his appearance on the show just in case it came up. It did, and his preparation won him and his wife £2750.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Alexander and Richard both have their moments.
  • Damned by Faint Praise: On the subject of Billie Piper;
    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.
  • Dissimile: In a round on British Soap Award winners, in which the first five answers all scored 100 points.
    Alexander: This is just like...whatever the opposite of shooting fish in a barrel is...
  • Double-Meaning Title: Besides the usual meaning of "Pointless", the idea is to get answers that are worth literally no points.
  • 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.
  • Epic Fail:
    • Every now and again, a team will get two wrong answers in one round, thus "joining the 200 Club". If they manage it on two appearances, they "join the 400 Club". Now that teams can appear on up to three shows (as of series 25), they have two ways to do even worse: the "600 Club" (three consecutive double wipeouts), or the "900 Club" (three double wipeouts, plus another wrong answer in a tiebreaker on each show). No one has yet reached such heights of failure, though.
    • The most epic opening round (up until that point) was the category U2 singles. All four teams got incorrect answers on the first pass. They then made the ultimate comeback, as on the second pass all four teams got correct — and good! — answers. In fact, the highest score of the second pass was only 19, and that team lost the round by exactly 1 point.
    • This was then surpassed in a March 2012 episode, when the category for the opening round was Robert Redford films, and only 3 of the 8 contestants had even heard of him. Seven Samurai and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time 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 contestants that they actually were supposed to be aiming for low scores.
    • Zigzagged in a series 11 round on winners of the Best Actor/Actress at the British Soap Awards, which was another extremely high-scoring round, though more through incredibly bad luck than ignorance. The first five answers all scored 100, as did the 7th, but the 6th and 8th scored four. This made the round the first in the show's history where only two different scores were achieved. Unlike previous cases where the contestants knew nothing of the subject, every answer given was a prominent soap star who just happened not to have won the award. Perhaps deservedly, the round delivered the first-ever pointless answer given in a tiebreak.
    • One episode involves a Round 2 question involving, 'Wishing Songs', or songs with 'wish(ing/ful)' in their names. Every single one of the six contestants got 100 points, even during lockdown, resulting in every pair having 300 points before another question had to be brought out. The high score ended up being 307.
    • On one of the celebrity specials, Antony Worrall Thompson gave a correct answer that was worth 100 points;note  as in, every single survey participant had gotten it right. The music cue and light show that went with it just made the situation even more hilarious.
    • Sometimes a question with an incredibly obvious answer will show up. At least one person in the 100 people surveyed is likely to still fail to get it. Special mention goes to a question where the answer was clearly "Fish" (as in the clue gave the first and last letters and a definition) yet it somehow failed to get anywhere near 80 points.
    • An episode of the Australian series had a question on anagrams of Michael Jackson singles, one of which was "Dab". Only 66 out of 100 were able to figure out "Bad".
    • In the episode 21.08 (aired Feb 06, 2019) two pairs managed to get three answers about playwrights wrong (scoring each pair 300 points) only to then get a completely new tie-breaking question (about James Bond movies) with final scores of 321 to 304.
  • 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.
  • Genre Blindness:
    • Sometimes affects contestants who are "safe" — someone's scored a higher total than they could possibly get — who will still opt for a high-scoring answer they're confident of rather than taking a risk-free punt and potentially raising the pot.
    • Common in the celebrity shows, where contestants might not be familiar with the programme and make elementary mistakes like picking one-syllable words in the words round or even forgetting they're supposed to score low.
  • Genre Savvy: There are many rounds where it definitely helps to be familiar with the show, and in particular with the sort of answers that tend to score low. Genre-savvy contestants will know which countries, US presidents, and chemical elements generally elude the "hundred people".
  • Gesundheit:
    Richard: This is what I would like to be: I would like to be a Kittitian.note 
    Alexander: Bless you.
  • 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.
  • Humiliation Conga: Alexander gets this when he reveals the word he'd thought of for the round of "Words ending in ...ind" was "befriend". Even one of the contestants inadvertently got in on it.
  • In a World…: The man who does most of the British "In a world..." trailers, Redd Pepper, was a contestant on a "famous voices" edition of Pointless Celebrities and did them a special Pointless-themed example on the spot.
  • 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 (6'7"), but as he never gets up from his desk, all the jokes about his height 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.
    • To be fair, given that Richard sitting is nearly as tall as the certainly not small Xander standing, it's fair to say it's obvious.
  • Insistent Terminology:
    • Right from the start, Xander has always referred to the daily prize as "the Coveted Pointless trophy".
    • Richard invariably refers to the actor Brian Cox as "Brian Cox, not that one". (An English physicist and science programme presenter shares that name and has come up as an answer from time to time.)
  • Interface Spoiler: In older seasons, the rate at which the reflections on the sides of the points column moved would give away approximately how many points were going to be scored.
  • Lame Pun Reaction: Xander will often give a silent display of satisfaction after making a particularly lame pun.
    Alexander: Where are you from?
    Contestant: We're from Halesowen.
    Alexander: Ah, Halesowen. Where the Hale's Ow-angels come from.
    *celebrates with elaborate air-drumming routine*
  • Last-Second Word Swap:
    • Done gloriously by Richard in a Pointless Celebrities special which included Tony Blackburn, a past winner of I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. As that show is known for making its contestants eat disgusting Australian 'bush tucker' as a challenge, Richard got some out and said that any time a contestant got a question wrong and scored 100 points... "Xander has to eat some". Alexander's Double Take reaction has to be seen.
    • In a round of "Words ending in ...air", Alexander was about to describe an incorrect (but worthy) answer as being "unfair" before realising and successfully switching it with "unjust".
  • Line-of-Sight Name:
    • In one round where the contestants had to name authors, one man had no idea and went for "Richard Alexander". (Just for the record, The Other Wiki has a page listing several real Richard Alexanders, none of whom are authors.)
    • One episode was asking for artists who had the 40 best-selling albums in the UK for 2015, and one contestant said Alexander Armstrong. He thought it would be wrong, but was flattered at the thought. To his surprise, the answer turned out to be not only correct but also pointless.note 
  • 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 not.
  • Little "No": Alexander tends to do this when a contestant gets a question wrong.
  • Mission Control: Richard sits at a desk with a computer, giving details on what answers they'll accept, explaining why wrong answers were wrong, etc. The computer is a prop, which was lampshaded when Alexander gave Richard a power cable for it in response to viewer complaints that it isn't plugged in. However, the laptop mysteriously started to work after Richard left the show.
  • Mundane Made 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.
    • Similarly, 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, you can 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!"
    • Both Alexander and Richard enjoy announcing that the show has "gone into lockdown" whenever two or more teams of contests face a tiebreaker. (For obvious reasons, this was abandoned in episodes produced from late 2020 onwards.)
  • Narrating the Obvious: Reasonably often, done by both hosts for a joke.
    • Alexander generally makes a comment as the location of the red line that indicates the score a contestant has to beat in the second pass to guarantee their progress to the next round - if the line is nigh-indistinguishable from either the top or bottom of the score indicator (due to the contestant effectively needing only to get the question right or to get a pointless answer respectively), Alexander will note with knowing understatement that the red line is "quite high/low".
    • Richard gives an explanation as to what a given correct answer means, which sometimes, particularly in the Words category, is incredibly obvious, leading to this. He will however occasionally subvert it by giving a random definition, or one that makes fun of a contestant's ridiculous incorrect answer earlier in a round. Such subversions are guaranteed if an answer is legitimate and non-vulgar, but still inappropriate for extended discussion on a tea-time show - such as when the answer "jizz" was given (for 7 points) as a word ending in "zz".
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Alexander is generally very professional and gives nothing away, rendering the most composed and neutral response to even the most ridiculous of answers. Occasionally though an answer is so ridiculous that he can't contain himself.
    • On a board with clues to famous people who were assassinated, a contestant went for "Assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas" (which was supposed to be one of the easy cop-out ones) as "J.R.". Cue Xander: "Oh...I really thought that was gonna be a correct answer!" before bursting into peals of laughter.
    • On a celebrity edition, Sophia Myles was completely stumped on a picture round and randomly guessed that Bill Haley was Justin Bieber, prompting an incredulous "What?!" from Alexander.
    • After an unbroken string of nothing but incorrect answers in the infamous "wishing songs" round, the final contestant to play guessed that "Wishing on a Star" was sung by Val Doonican. Alexander exasperatedly exclaimed, "It's not even a man who sings it!"
    • Richard occasionally too. Unlike Xander, he already knows the questions and answers in advance and avoids making eye contact with the contestants until he formally reveals the status of an answer. He sometimes slips up too though. For example, one pair were given picture clues to signs of the zodiac and chose the weighing scales (which of course is Libra). However, they overlooked the obvious answer and assumed it was a Stealth Pun referring to the scales of a fish, and so gave the answer "Pisces". The contestant noted that since Richard was laughing he guessed the answer was incorrect, and Richard then said "I can honestly say it's one of my favourite answers of all time!", effectively revealing it was wrong in advance.
  • Orphaned Punchline: Invoked in a 2019 episode in which "miniature schnauzer" was given as an answer in a round about dog breeds. Richard notes that it is the punchline to a joke, "which you can look up". Suffice to say that the joke in question is not really suitable for a teatime show.
  • 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.
    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!
  • 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, as seen on the rare occasions when he either stands up from the desk or is seen on-camera from far enough back to one side.
  • Pilot:
    • The final episode of Series 3 had a special "Pointless Celebrities" edition that functioned as a test pilot for a full series to be created, which the BBC commissioned as such a few months later. It functions like a standard test run pilot, with slight changes to what would become the full series, namely the starting jackpot being £5,000 rather than £2,500.
    • The scrapped US version had two pilots, although only the first one has been shown to the public.
  • Phrase Catcher: Alexander often responds to Richard's information spiels with a cordial, "Thank you very much indeed, Richard."
  • Progressive Jackpot: Every pointless answer given before the final round adds £250 to the jackpot. During the regular (non-celebrity) series, it starts at £1,000 after being won and increases by that much every day until someone hits it.
  • 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. The set was completely refreshed with slightly-altered graphics and colour scheme, and some modifications to the question scheme: the first head-to-head question is now always a picture roundnote , 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.
    • In March 2013, a minor alternation significantly cut down the "let's meet the contestants" bit at the beginning, scattering the introductions through the first round instead. This was in order for Alexander and Richard to add in a bit more opening banter before the start of the game.
    • As of episode 501, the final round consists of four subjects rather than five, but there are three separate categories within it. Contestants still have 60 seconds to come up with three answers, any of which must be pointless in order to collect the jackpot, but they can give their answers in one or more categories as they see fit. However, they must specify which category they are trying for with each answer. Fundamentally, this format change allows the show to include questions for which there might be only or two pointless answers (so as to avoid forcing contestants to give an incorrect answer, such questions were unusable before this).
    • Beginning with Series 11 of Pointless Celebrities and Series 19 of the regular series in December 2017 and April 2018 respectively, the show was given another major refresh, with a new intro sequence, a dark purple colour-scheme, different shaped podiums, and all-new graphics (including new name tag designs the contestants wear).
    • Beginning with the 2020 Pointless Celebrities Christmas Special and going forward for all episodes recorded during the COVID-19 Pandemic, there were some major social distancing measures. Common to both versions are the lack of a studio audience, and Alexander staying put at the end of the episode instead of going over to shake hands with/hug the contestants. It also had the side-effect of tiebreak situations no longer being referred to as "lockdown" for obvious reasons.
      • On the Celebrity versions, the podiums were redesigned to add perspex shields between the two members of each team. If the winning pair lived together, the perspex would be removed for the jackpot round only.
      • For the regular civilian editions, some rules have been changed, most notably that each pair now has three attempts to reach the final instead of two. Only pairs who are in a bubble are allowed to participate (so that the perspex shields aren't needed), and must live in Englandnote . The second rule isn't officially said, but is indirectly referenced as the two pairs who were on the final episodes of the previous season didn't return for their second attempt until October 2021. During the Head-to-Head, the podiums are also slightly moved further away from each other.
  • Revolving Door Casting: Since Richard Osman left the show to focus on his books and his other series, the show rotated in guest co-hosts to replace him; a list of which is provided at the top of this page, but includes the likes of Gyles Brandreth and Rose Metefeo.
  • Rule of Three: In full effect - three pages of pointless answers will be shown at the end of a round (assuming there are that many) along with the three highest scorers, the head-to-head is a best-of-three competition, and three answers must be given in the final round. Originally, there were three categories to choose from, but a further revamp added three questions to the categories.
  • Running Gag:
    • Richard Osman supposedly being related to The Osmonds.
    • Richard claiming that the element Osmium is named after him because it's "extremely dense and difficult to work with".
    • The Central African Republic as an obscure answer for many questions of the form "Name a country that is X". If it's in the category (countries beginning with C, landlocked countries, countries that drive on the right, etc., etc.) it's almost always Pointless. In a more 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 (the same thing happened in a series 8 episode with another oft-times pointless country, Vanuatu. Richard joked that he'd been given a month's holiday by the country's tourist board, which he enjoyed much more than that of CAR, which was in the middle of a civil war at the time). Such is its infamy on the show, that on the 300th episode, Richard's gift to Alexander was a framed picture of the country, saying it was "the most common pointless answer".
    • 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.
      • Reached new levels on 2 March 2013 Comic Relief special of Pointless Celebrities as Ben Miller himself appeared as a contestant.
    • 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.
    • Richard claiming a particular round is exhilarating, intense, or much-requested - only for it to inevitably be something like "types of trouser" or "varieties of lettuce".
    • The show's catchphrases generally had become this by series 7, including the "That ain't bread! That's toast!" forced attempt at one. The definition of "country" (and by "country," we mean any sovereign state that's a member of the UN in its own right) has become a veritable Overused Running Gag, with Richard visibly sighing when Alexander points out that he forgot to say it.
    • Whenever a contestant mentions being interested in baking, Alexander and Richard will immediately assume that they've brought a cake and talk about how much they're looking forward to eating it. Actually happened in an episode in series 8 - the contestants were knocked out after the second round, and the promised cake was brought to them by one of the production staff at the end of the round.
    • In later series, Alexander and Richard deriding younger contestants for using "it's before my time" as an excuse for not knowing answers on a given subject (such as mid-20th century film or music), frequently pointing out reasons why this isn't acceptable (such as the music still being on sale). Richard told a 93-year-old contestant that he would have no excuse for saying this.
    • If a contestant says they're a civil servant or is otherwise vague about their job, it will be suggested the contestant is actually a spy, which Xander and Richard think is the coolest job in the world.
    • Xander's mimes, particularly of eating.
    • Chances are an obvious answer (such as a picture of Big Ben in a round about cities) will not score 100 points. Richard will question what the people who got it wrong were thinking.
    • Richard having Xander pick a word that fits a Words category, and Richard then holding up a card showing the word that Xander just picked.
    • If there's a question about parts of the body in the Australian version, Andrew will take the opportunity to show the people at home where the body parts in question are by using Mark as his reluctant assistant.
    • Since his inauguration as President of the United States, in any round where Donald Trump is a possible answer contestants will only reluctantly give him if they don't know any other possible answer, and will otherwise avoid even saying his name if possible.
  • Schmuck Bait: Many of the wrong answers in the mid-game bonus round are stealth puns which can be worked out with a little lateral thinking. Taken up a level when contestants work out why an answer is schmuck bait, and then decide it's Crazy Enough to Work anyway... which of course it doesn't. You can consider the very rare 100-point answers as this too, since it should be obvious they're obvious (so to speak).
  • The Scottish Trope:
    • Discussed and spoofed in one episode, in which Richard said that he couldn'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.
    • A 2013 episode has a round where the answers are all Shakespeare plays, including Macbeth. Richard and Alexander discuss whether a TV studio is sufficiently un-theatre-like for it to be safe to say, and Alexander glances nervously at the studio lights, but nothing happens — except that Richard announces that his computer (by now well-known to be a non-functional prop) has mysteriously started working.
  • Shout-Out: While eating a cake brought in by one of the contestants in an episode of series 8, both hosts delivered compliments in the style of The Great British Bake Off, quoting catchphrases of the hosts of that show as they did so.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Alexander has taken to introducing Richard in this way, similar to the Stig from Top Gear, emphasising his credentials in obscure knowledge.
    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"?
  • Signature Sound Effect: The pizzicato strings that play while the column is counting down, in two variations. During the main game, they play at a steady tempo but slowly rise in pitch; for the final, they hold the same pitch but slow down as the count gets closer to zero.
  • Small Reference Pools: The format depends on the Small Reference Pools of its "hundred people"; the winners are the contestants who most successfully defy the trope. Frequently discussed, as Richard and/or Xander express surprise at how high an obscure answer, or how low a stupendously obvious one, scores.
  • Swapped Roles: Xander and Richard swapped roles for the 1000th episode.
  • Take That!:
    • Regarding the pointless astronomical phenomenon of "protostars":
      Richard: They're huge gas balls that haven't yet become a fully-fledged star.
      Alexander: Like some of the people on Britain's Got Talent, you mean?
    • Richard actually apologised to the contestants when the category was "Rolf Harris top 40 singles"note .
    • Alexander once introduced Richard as "the only man who spends more time thinking about pointless things than the cast of The Only Way Is Essex".
    • The 16/08/17 episode had a words round where the contestant gave the answer "Chase". Richard then gave the definition as "underperforming in the ratings". The rest of the round had him making fun of The Chase.
  • Tempting Fate: So many times, Alexander will point out how close the Pointless Final answer is getting to zero...only for it to then stop.
  • 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.
  • Unobtainium: Once invoked as an answer to "Elements whose name begins with their chemical symbol". In the jackpot round... as the contestants' most confident answer. Ooops.
  • Verbal Tic: "Lovely low score", "Great contestants", "Wow!" (Alexander Armstrong).
  • Witty Banter: Like Countdown, the presence of a co-host gives the presenter someone to riff off, keeping up the energy of the Filler segments. Unlike Countdown (or most shows utilising Witty Banter, for that matter) the people involved are genuinely witty.
  • "X" Makes Anything Cool: Richard calling Alexander "Xander".
  • Yes-Man: Alexander himself was once one of the possible answers in a round (the round in question being actors to appear in Doctor Who Christmas specials). One of the contestants gave him as an answer, prefacing it with mentions of what a wonderful actor this person was and how much they admired him.


Video Example(s):


100-Point Correct Answer

An answer so correct it might as well have been a WRONG answer! On an episode of Pointless Celebrities, Antony Worrall Thompson has to find the name of a food that appears in the title of a few specific films. However, per the format of the game, it has to be a correct answer that either a small amount or none of a surveyed group of 100 people did not know correctly, getting as few points as possible. He guesses "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" (1989), which turns out to be a correct answer... that EVERYONE knew! Cue an epic music cue and light show for a 100-point correct answer and everyone in the studio bursts into laughter.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / EpicFail

Media sources: