Last Friday afternoon, at Elstree Studios (where they also film Star Wars), we saw Pointless being filmed. It was the first time I’d been to see any TV/radio show being recorded, and it was amazing.
If you’ve never seen Pointless, you are missing out. It may be a daytime TV light entertainment quiz, but it’s great fun. Here are five things that I learnt from watching it being recorded that I wouldn’t have otherwise known.
1. The laptop is fake.
It remains off throughout the whole show. It’s not even plugged in. I got a good look at it and it’s a Windows 7 laptop — presumably that was modern when it was first purchased, but they’ve never upgraded it because there’s no point. (So glad Richard’s not a Mac user).
2. They rent their shirts and suits.
In each round, one pair of contestants are eliminated, so they need to get rid of a podium. This takes about ten minutes, and during this time the ‘crowd warmer-upper’ (a technical term) invites questions from the audience.
One of the questions was how many spotted shirts Xander had, and Xander told us that both his and Richard’s outfits are rented and that they change into them when they arrive at the studio.
(They joked that they got them from local charity shops — but c’mon, Richard is 6’8″.)
3. The trophy is even less impressive than you think.
Near the end, we all got to have a look at the Pointless trophy. It was even passed around: it’s very heavy, but smaller than a pint glass or a paperback book. Immensely underwhelming. The sequence where it’s shown on the show is very zoomed in.
4. Almost all the colour is from lights, not the set.
If I knew anything about the world of TV this wouldn’t be news to me, but I found it quite disorienting. When we sat down in our (excellent) seats, the set looked really shabby and washed out.
Looking at that photo now looks like there was something wrong with our camera — but no, it really is that drab. Then they flicked a switch, and it all looked more familiar.
I shouldn’t have taken this photo, shhhh:
5. They manually type up the words on the screen in the final round.
When the contestants give answers in the final round that they think are Pointless, everyone assumes the answers go up on screen instantly. I certainly did. Nope: we all wait for a minute or two while they’re typed up by some runner somewhere and beamed up onto the screen. Hi-tech.
Not only that, but the tower that goes down from 100? There’s usually a ten-second wait between people giving their answers and it starting to fall.
Must be nerve-wracking.
So there you have it: TV magic. If nothing else, I can safely say that seeing it being recorded was unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced, and that my Gran will be very proud of me.