Full marks for not keeping score

Share
Related Topics
HAVE you noticed that television and radio quiz shows actually evolve? Clive Anderson, for instance, has been an innovative quizmaster and chat-show host, and I am not just thinking of the way in which he seems to enjoy being more nervous and twitchy than his guests. (Is he the only host who starts his show at the end of a sentence? 'Yes, well . . . anyway, right . . .')

No, I am thinking of the way in which, during the evolution of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, he came to undermine the scoring system by awarding freak points to both sides - adding 1,000 points here, deducting three points there, until the final score, even if believable, made no sense to anyone. A courageous blow for sanity. The bosses of Mastermind should consider adopting it.

But most of the quiz shows I have recently sampled still adhere to the idea of a serious scoring system, even something as anarchistic as Radio 4's News Quiz. This is strange, because it doesn't matter who wins or loses, except to Alan Coren, who is driven to win, and to Richard Ingrams, who is not happy unless he is on the losing side. (In Have I Got News For You, Angus Deayton tries another tactic: he pretends to make light of the scoreline by loading it with silly adjectives - 'And Paul has a luminous four points while Ian can only manage a tremulous three' - but he is only pretending. They all take it more seriously than that.)

It may be that the future lies with quiz shows without any score at all. I took part in one the other day and found it most liberating. This was a Radio 4 programme called Looking Forward to the Past, chaired by the affable Paul Boateng, on which guests are required to fantasise about history - who they would like to have married in history, what group they would be most wary of, and so on.

The absence of all point- awarding does make it less cut- throat. This despite the fact that, apart from me and Ludovic Kennedy, the other two guests were past or present MPs, Edwina Currie and Jeffrey Archer, and I had forgotten how competitive politicians are.

For instance, when asked if we could remember where we had been when we heard some vital piece of news, I said I had been in a remote spot on Madagascar, the port of Toamasina, when I had heard via someone's short-wave radio that Mrs Thatcher had stepped down. I was trying to explain how odd at such a time it was to be in a Franco-African culture where nobody but you cared enough to cheer, when Jeffrey Archer burst in to say that Mrs Thatcher had been a great leader and it was shocking to hear me cheer her downfall, and so on.

He was joking, I am sure. The point is that only a party politician would think of reacting in this way. Any normal person would say: 'Been to Madagascar, have you? What's it like? What sort of a place is Toamasina?' But information to a party politician is ammunition, and useless if not loaded. When pressed for a mate from history, Edwina Currie said she would have liked to marry Alexander the Great, and read out a long list of his achievements. 'So that's what I saw you researching in the House of Commons Library today,' said Paul Boateng mischievously.

This stockpiling of information by MPs is at its most transparent on a game show such as the BBC's Question Time, on which politicians shadow box while pretending they are trying to hurt each other. Out of curiosity, I turned on again the other day to watch Michael Heseltine and Tony Benn in action. Their exchanges were along the lines of 'This comes well from the man who, in 1987, went on record as saying . . . ' and 'If that is so, how do you explain that in 1967, you, as Minister of Power . . . ?' I did not stay to hear the final score.

Except that Question Time does not have a final score. That is maybe what is wrong with it. Maybe whenever MPs are allowed on a programme, there should be a scoring system, on the grounds that all that MPs are interested in is scoring points, off each other. Quiz shows without politicians should, on the other hand, never stoop to a scoring system . . . .

Maybe that is what is wrong with Parliament. It is the only quiz show known to man in which nobody but MPs can take part, and yet for which nobody has ever devised a sensible point-scoring system. No wonder it has never acquired the listening figures people hoped it would get.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Digital Communications Manager

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 6-month part-time contract (24 hours a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Broker

£12000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee Vehicle Broker is req...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Data Capture / Telesales

£12000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: the Labour leadership election hasn’t yet got to grips with why the party lost

John Rentoul
Kennedy campaign for the Lib Dems earlier this year in Bearsden  

Charles Kennedy: A brilliant man whose talents were badly needed

Baroness Williams
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific