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Series / The Weakest Link

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"You are the weakest link... goodbye."

British Game Show (2000-12) with multiple local versions, often with red haired female hosts who insult the contestants. At times, these have been controversial insults.

The show works as follows:

  1. A "team" of 6-9 (depending on the version) contestants are each asked trivia questions in turn.
  2. For each question answered correctly, the amount of money they stand to collect is increased exponentially.
  3. At any time a contestant may "bank" the money they've earned so far to add it to the team's collective pot (the pot then returns to zero).
  4. If the target value in the chain is reached (£1,000 in the normal version, £5,000 in the primetime/celebrity versions, $125,000 on the American NBC version, and $12,500 {later $25,000} on the American syndicated version) and banked, the round immediately ends and is essentially considered a perfect run, though not necessarily flawless. Alternatively, if the target value is accumulated despite not being reached in the chain, it also results in the round being successfully completed. In the final timed round with two contestants left, the banked money in that round is either doubled or tripled (depending on the format, and that's if anything is banked; one half-hour nighttime American version episode would quadruple the final banked total of this round).
  5. The maximum value that could be won on the UK version show was £10,000 (£50,000 in the primetime/celebrity version) if in all rounds the target value is met. On the nighttime American version, the max value was $1,000,000, and the daytime version cut this down to $75,000 and then $100,000. As with a large number of game shows, this is never done, as the rules encourage the contestants to not play perfectly, and anyway, the questions become much harder near the end.
  6. If anyone gets a question wrong, all the team's unbanked money on that chain is lost and they are reset at the start of the chain.
  7. For the UK version, the round ends after between 90 and 180 seconds (ten seconds are taken off the round time after each of the first six rounds and half a minute after the seventh) and any unbanked money is discarded. On some versions, the round ends after 5 minutes and the pot is "banked" automatically.
  8. The team then votes off whomever they feel is "the weakest link" (or whoever might be cleverer than them). They write their votes on elliptical handheld dry-erase boards, then announce them, one at a time, by flipping over their boards. (In the primetime version {and both American versions}, the dry-erase boards are replaced by digitizer screens similar to the ones used on Jeopardy!, with the contestants' votes displayed on another screen on the front of the name posts. When it's time to reveal them, they just push a button to light up the front screen.) Whoever gets the most votes is told "You are the weakest link. Goodbye!" and is eliminated from the game. A tie in the voting gives the deciding vote to the "strongest link" in the round. The next round begins with the "strongest link" from the previous round, or the second-strongest if the strongest had been voted off.
  9. When there are only two contestants left, they compete to win the banked money in an elimination round. They are asked questions alternately and if no winner is decided after the sets of questions, a "Sudden Death" round is played, and the first player to correctly answer a question when their opponent does not is declared the victor.

It made Anne Robinson very famous and gave her a reputation for nastiness as she took her tough, no-nonsense style (previously seen on consumer-affairs show Watchdog) to new levels. Her popularity made it so that she ended up hosting the American version on NBC; this version lasted a year. George Gray later helmed a syndicated version in the U.S. with its run time cut in half and the contestant pool reduced; it too lasted a year.

There have been numerous celebrity versions, where contestants compete to win money for charity.

The "Hole in the Ring" sketches on That Mitchell and Webb Look are a parody of Link, with a Robinson expy who stumbles over her words and dishes out open and unwarranted abuse to contestants.

The show ended in 2012 as Anne Robinson decided to step down and was not replaced; the final new episodes were quietly demoted to an early afternoon slot on BBC2, with Pointless taking over the prime teatime BBC1 slot. In 2017, it was announced that the show would be resurrected, first with a charity special in November with the intention of a full run in 2018, with Anne Robinson returning as host, although these plans appear to have stalled as nothing has been heard about them since.



Game Show Tropes in use:

  • All or Nothing: The "kitty" ultimately goes to just one player, and that's the person who survives all the votes and then wins the final head-to-head, at which point the bank is theirs to take home. Everyone who gets voted off and the loser in the final head-to-head leave with nothing.
  • Celebrity Edition: Several, including a Doctor Who-themed episode in 2007 and a puppet-edition later that year, as well as two WWE episodes and a hip-hop musicians episodes in the U.S. They're playing for Charity.
    • One episode also parodied this with a B-list celebrity edition.
  • Double The Dollars: The final banking round is played for triple stakes (double in the US).
  • Elimination Catchphrase: "You are the weakest link... goodbye!"
  • Personnel:
    • The Announcer
    • Game Show Host: Anne Robinson. She carried this role over to America, where she hosted the NBC version, with George Gray later helming a syndicated version. Australian and New Zealand had local versions hosted by Cornelia Frances and Louise Wallace respectively.
    • Studio Audience
  • Who Wants to Be "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?": NBC's second attempt to start a Millionaire-type franchise, between the revived 21 and imported Deal or No Deal.

This show provides examples of:

  • April Fools' Plot: One episode had Anne don a pink blazer and adopting a kind demeanor, actually being nice to the contestants. Ultimately subverted in that she dropped the act because the contestants were "just so stupid."
  • Berserk Button: Anne was never amused to see the strongest link voted off. She made sure to let the other contestants know what they've done, even going so far as to sincerely apologize to the contestant about to be voted off. George was in the same boat, telling off contestants that they made a horrible call. One episode even had George beg for the strongest link to come back after the rest of the team struggled the following round.
    • A bigger one was forming a voting block in the green room and taking out contestants in a planned manner, essentially making the skill part of the game meaningless. The one time this happened, Anne did not hold back her feelings about the contestants (Marc Price, Barry Livingston, Danny Bonnaduce and Brandon Cruz)
  • Catch Phrase: "You are the weakest link. Goodbye!"
  • Cutting the Knot: Each round has a maximum cap on what can be earned. Technically, contestants could have just banked values just a little before the top of the chain if they felt like it would be too hard to rattle off a consecutive chain of correct answers and simply accumulate the maximum value, automatically ending the round. Too bad this strategy never really saw use, because a lot of the games ended up being mired down by the contestants' unwillingness to even go past the first few links in the chain without compulsively banking (this by default earns them derision from Anne and George).
  • Deadpan Snarker: Both Anne and George spent the time between rounds making pithy and/or scathing remarks at the contestants.
  • Epic Fail: A select few contestants have proven their ineptitude in unbelievably inexcusable ways, such as the infamous answer to a question asking what is the name of a female sheepnote  being, "BAA??"
    • There have also been rounds where no money at all was banked. These were the instances when Anne really shined with her pithy commentary. George would become a Large Ham in these scenarios. Generally, on the UK version, if the team banked less than £100 in a round, Anne would mock them (this is less than $10,000 on the U.S. nighttime version and less than $1,000 on the U.S. daytime version).
    • One contestant answered a question about Chinese animals with "dragons". Needless to say, they were the weakest link that round.
  • Elimination Houdini:invoked A non-subjective example, and part of the strategy. Usually, the "Weakest link" is sometimes kept as an opponent for the final round(s). However, it is worth noting that sometimes, Statistically Speaking, the "Weakest Link" may have a correct answer rate of 100%, but because they were asked fewer questions is "the weakest link" that round.
  • Flanderization: At the time the series made its debut in the UK, Anne Robinson had been a long-time presenter on Watchdog, the BBC's consumer affairs programme. After this series became established however, the BBC took her off Watchdog because they wanted her to be known solely for her Weakest Link personality (rather than the much more caring persona she displayed on Watchdog). This was eventually reversed in 2009, when Robinson returned to Watchdog and displayed the same personality she had always done on that show.
  • Humiliation Conga: Every contestant voted off is subjected to a dramatic departure where they are scathingly told, "You are the Weakest Link. Goodbye.", their podium is turned off and the lights shine down on them as they are made to walk off the stage.
  • Joke Character: K9 was a contestant in the Doctor Who special. He answered all his questions correctly.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: The Australian version used Cornelia Frances, known for her role on Home and Away. The resemblance between her and Anne is striking, to the point where Cornelia displayed a similar abrasive personality to Anne.
  • The Mean Brit: Anne is a Liverpool native who earned a reputation for nastiness as the acerbic hostess. Naturally, this trait was most prominent in the American version.
  • Nonstandard Game Over: This exchange, after a contestant insists repeatedly that the statistical strongest link was the weakest link.
  • Officially Shortened Title: Dropped the "The" after about a year, and the US version never had it at all. Hardly anyone seems to have noticed.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: This is to be expected with a Mean Brit on board. Unless the team got every question right, Anne would find some reason to berate the players. If they did all give right answers, she'd point out they could have taken the top prize if they'd only had the guts to let it ride.
    • Subverted in the case of an episode of the US version where the team got a perfect round. Her response: "A reasonable start, team."
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis: People who have never watched the show are familiar with the catchphrase.
  • Press X to Die: The players must periodically shout "Bank!" throughout the rounds in order to preserve their winnings. Occasionally, they accidentally shout "Pass!" instead. The hostess will accept their pass and move on to the next player, causing the team to lose any unbanked money in the process.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: A few random/lucky guesses have turned out to be correct, such as Denise Crosby on the Star Trek celebrity edition saying " ... Oh ... Canada?" for the Canadian National Anthem.
  • Running Gag: People seem to like trying to make Anne Robinson laugh by cracking jokes or doing something weird.
  • Statistically Speaking: During the voting, the announcer says that Statistically Speaking, so and so is the weakest link and so-and-so is the strongest link and asks if the voting will reflect that. It's interesting to note that a few things alter whether or not someone is the strongest or weakest link, such as a round where everyone got their questions right, but the person who banked was the strongest link. Or where the weakest link actually got all their questions correctly but was merely only asked one or two questions when everyone else was asked two or three.
    • One memorable first round featured a contestent who spent a good twenty seconds figuring out which days of the week began with the letter T. As he went first, he ended up being the only contestant who answered two questions correctly and was technically the strongest link. It didn't stop him being voted off.
  • Tall Poppy Syndrome: When considering factors outside of statistics that would make someone be perceived as the weakest link, an elimination can be driven by a contestant performing too well and being seen as The Ace and the one to look out form. Sometimes, the opposite occurs- if a contestant chokes under the pressure and banks too early, only to find out the team kept answering questions correctly and gypped them out of reaching the target value, it can lead to their elimination. Or moreso, if a contestant chewed up valuable round time stuttering on an answer to a question. But sometimes, the elimination can be driven purely by the fact a contestant is just plain annoying.
  • Unwinnable by Design: The time limit that shrinks with every round, the unpredictability of the question material, and the strategy to not appear too threatening to keep in later rounds makes it essentially impossible that any team would ever reach the maximum prize offered on the show. It's generally considered an impressive accomplishment just to reach the target once. The highest prize awarded on any version of the show was $189,500 of the possible $1,000,000, on a "Tournament of Losers" special edition of the US series. (The UK version once managed to give away £7,750 out of a possible £10,000 in one of the last daytime episodes before the show's cancellation, although that episode was made up of former quiz show champions and hence probably one of the brightest, most Genre Savvy selection of contestants.)
  • What the Hell, Player?: Anne and George would call out the team whenever the strongest link was voted off.
  • Writing Lines: Anne Robinson orders a teacher to do this in one episode after the other contestants vote him off.
  • You Say Tomato: Anne Robinson often poked fun at contestants from Northern England (unless that contestant is from her home city, Liverpool).

"Join us next time on the Weakest Link. Goodbye."

Alternative Title(s): Weakest Link


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