Only Connect (BBC4, 2008-2014, BBC2, 2014-present)
When BBC4 launched, it made sure that its programming was distinctive from BBC2 and other various channels, so when they launched a game show it was clear that it was going to be something different. Only Connect was the show where teams had to make the connections between what appeared at first to be seemingly unrelated items, and it was hosted by Victoria Coren, who was taking some time off from winning millions of pounds in poker tournaments.
Two teams of three took part. In the first round, there were six connections to choose from and 40 seconds to confer. The team picked one, and then the first clue was revealed, but at this point they were so vague the the answer really could be anything. If they could make the connection though they scored five points. But if they didn’t know, they could ask for the next clue, but they would now score three points for getting it right, two points if they needed the third clue, and one point if they needed all four. If they still didn’t know, it would be offered to their opponents for one point.
Also among the choices were one visual connection and one audio connection. The second round was slightly different. Teams picked from six choices again, but this time they had to find the sequence. They would not be given the fourth clue because they would be expected to have worked it out by then and know what comes next, although again the clues were very tough.
The next round was the wall. A 4×4 grid appeared and teams had 150 seconds to press their buttons and make the four connections. This was also tough, and it was made even more difficult by some connections offering five or six answers, so they had to choose the right four. Once they had the first two connections, they had three chances to make the third which would reveal the fourth. But remember you must deselect before you reselect. After this, they would be asked to explain the connections for more points.
The final round was on the buzzer. There were four clues connected by a various category, but they had all their vowels removed. Teams had to buzz in, with a correct answer scoring one point. This meant that the game was kept alive, and teams were tested on how quickly they could work out the phrases, with the winning team progressing to the next round, until the final where there is an overall series winner.
Only Connect features some of the toughest questions that have ever appeared in a game show, and the teams had to put a lot of thought into the choices before they answered. This does help the gameplay element though because if viewers watching at home can work out the connection at the same time as the contestants, or even before them, then they should be very pleased with themselves.
I didn’t see much of the early days of Only Connect, but the first series was repeated on Dave a while ago. The show ended up being so popular on BBC4 that it was moved to BBC2 where it continues to do well. The next series which starts soon will have 37 editions, which is the longest yet, and there seems to be a qualifying system that has been designed to be as deliberately difficult as some of the questions, with teams playing endless games before progressing to the next round. I feel that the success might be beginning to be milked a little, but it is a good example of a show that has grown through word of mouth and a clever idea.