Pointless (partially found unaired GSN pilots for rejected American version of British game show; 2017)
Pointless is a BBC game show produced by Remarkable Television. The show's premise involves identifying which correct answers to general knowledge questions are the most obscure, where obscurity is calculated based on how few of the 100 people surveyed for each question gave said answers. Hosted by Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman, it has been broadcast on BBC channels since August 2009, and remains ongoing as of the present day. In 2017, GSN produced two pilots intended for an American spin-off that was ultimately rejected.
Since it first aired on BBC 2 on 24th August 2009, Pointless has become a highly successful game show. Its popularity, in part thanks to the charisma of Armstrong and Osman, has led to it since being aired on prime daytime BBC 1 timeslots, competing against ITV's The Chase, and being exported to other countries like France and the Netherlands. By 2017, the show reached over 1,000 episodes, and as of the present day, has run for 26 series. It has also spawned merchandise, including a few books and a board game.
Episodes of the show are split into four rounds. The first round consists of four teams with two members each, who must find the most obscure correct answers to a given question, e.g. "Countries beginning with C". The more obscure an answer is, the fewer points are scored. Answering incorrectly results in the maximum of 100 points being given. A team is eliminated if they have the highest combined score, with the maximum 200 points obtained if both members answered incorrectly. The second round follows a similar format involving three teams. The head-to-head stage involves a best of three rounds, where contestants must choose the must obscure of five possible answers to a question, with formats including picture board, clues, and anagrams of the right answer. Throughout the first three stages, if a pointless answer is guessed, £500 is added to the jackpot. The final stage has the winning team compete for the cash prize, where the team selects a category and must find a pointless answer among three questions associated to it. They are ultimately given three chances to win the prize.
Rumours of an American spin-off started circulating when Mark Labbett, most known for being a Chaser on The Chase, revealed in a 2015 Twitter post that Pointless was heading to the United States, based on a conversation he was involved in at a power lunch in Los Angeles. However, it was not until March 2017 that it was reported that GSN were seeking to produce a pilot intended for an American spin-off. According to Television Business International, Authentic Entertainment were commissioned to produce the pilot, with Lauren Lexton becoming the show's executive producer. The show was said to have started taping in October 2017, with two pilots known to have been produced. However, the first was only officially recorded in November 2017. However, after GSN went through a board re-shuffle, there were fewer network officials supporting the show, and the proposed American spin-off of Pointless was quietly scrapped. It appears the earliest indication the show was cancelled came during GSN's 2017 Upfront, where it did not mention Pointless alongside other shows being developed.
Because the spin-off proposal was called-off, very little detail of the pilots emerged. But on 14th April 2021, BuzzerBlog reported that they had received access to the November 2017 pilot, and provided extensive detail of the episode. The show was hosted by Alison Sweeney, most known for Days of Our Lives, with Doug Mirabello, GSN's head of content, assuming Osman's role of providing key information about the question and reading out possible answers post-round. As the show was intended to only last 21 minutes rather than the British show's 45, only three teams competed, with the opportunity to earn at least $10,000. The first question asked was "Flavors of Jelly Belly Jelly Beans", with the second being "People With The Most Popular Instagram Accounts". Instead of having the highest-scoring team be eliminated, the team with the lowest score earns $500 in their personal banks, with every pointless answer giving them $250. Teams are also allowed to confer in this round and jointly answer questions, which is not allowed in the British version.
The second round does eliminate the team with the highest score, with the lowest scoring team earning $750. The contestants in the episode were given a list of eight possible answers to the question "Instruments Used In Country Music as listed on the Country Music Hall of Fame", with one being pointless, and another being incorrect. Like the British version, each team member must answer individually with no conferring allowed. The Head-to-Head stage significantly differs from the original; teams simply play for two questions, writing their answers via light pen on an electronic display, with the team earning the lowest score progressing to the Final and earning $1,000. One of the questions involved identifying one of the “For Sale” Categories on Craigslist, with both teams correctly answering with "free".
The final round is familiar, but instead of automatically having three answers, the winning team can only submit answers for every prior round they were victorious in. In this instance, the team won two rounds, and so had two chances to win the jackpot. Even if they ultimately were unsuccessful in winning the cash prize, they collected the money they earned in the previous rounds. BuzzerBlog summarised the pilot, criticising the trivia topics as unengaging, the confusing prize structure, and the Head to Head as being "completely broken". A Twitter post by BuzzerBlog indicated that GSN themselves were unhappy with the episodes, and that the initial cash prize was also lowered considerably, originally being set at $50,000.
Under normal circumstances, both pilot episodes of GSN's Pointless would likely remain locked away with no means of viewing them. However, as previously mentioned, BuzzerBlog were able to view the November 2017 edition of the show. They received an anonymous file transfer request containing the first pilot, with the deal being they were not allowed to share footage or screenshots of it. However a year later on 26th April 2022, the person who made the file transfer gave the website permission to upload the first pilot and as a result, it was uploaded to Vimeo. The second pilot however, remains unseen by the public.
- BBC providing a summary of the first episode of Pointless. Retrieved 28th Jan '22
- Guardian reporting on the show's success and running for 1,000+ episodes by 2017. Retrieved 28th Jan '22
- BBC Studioworks detailing Pointless' success on BBC 1. Retrieved 28th Jan '22
- MyLondon detailing the rivalry between Pointless and The Chase. Retrieved 28th Jan '22
- Television Business International reporting on the announcement of a GSN pilot. Retrieved 28th Jan '22
- BBC listing all series of Pointless. Retrieved 28th Jan '22
- UK Game Shows detailing Pointless, including its formats and merchandise. Retrieved 28th Jan '22
- BuzzerBlog reporting on Labbett's claim an American spin-off of Pointless was being produced in 2015. Retrieved 28th Jan '22
- BuzzerBlog reporting on GSN's Pointless being taped in October 2017. Retrieved 28th Jan '22
- BuzzerBlog noting two pilots were produced, and reviewing the November 2017 edition. Retrieved 28th Jan '22
- BuzzerBlog reporting on GSN not mentioning Pointless during its 2017 Upfront, the first sign of the spin-off being cancelled. Retrieved 28th Jan '22
- BuzzerBlog Twitter post on GSN's Pointless episodes. Retrieved 28th Jan '22
- Twitter post announcing the public release of the first pilot. 26th Apr '22