The YouTube Files – Pointless USA.

Pointless (GSN, 2017)

Pointless is a game show that has been running for almost 14 years now, and if I dare say it, the format might be beginning to run out of steam a little. But at its best this has been hugely enjoyable, and the success has clearly surpassed everybody’s expectations. And this means that there have been versions made for various other countries.

About five years ago, there was an attempt at an American version, although I don’t think that this got any further than an unaired pilot for the GSN channel, although this did leak online, so I just had to take a look. Firstly, this version of Pointless doesn’t run to 45 minutes, having been reduced to 30 minutes (or indeed 22 minutes minus the advert breaks). The host is Alison Sweeney.

Three teams (not four or five) of two take part, with an aim to win the jackpot of $10,000. There is also the co-host Doug Mirabello, who has two computers? In the first round, they are given a question, and they must think of the lowest-scoring answers. They can confer on this. The Pointless-O-Meter (as I like to call it) is a little different looking though, it seems to go out of the screen and spill on to the floor, and moves at a slower pace too.

They then have to give an answer to another question. Whoever has the lowest score at this point wins $500. “Which one of our teams will be a hero and get a zero?”. Well I think that’s an attempt at a catchphrase there. The next round is similar, but instead of being open, there is a list of answers to choose from. Again, there are two questions, and this time the lowest-scoring team wins $750, and the highest-scorers are eliminated.

In the next round, again the search is on for the lowest-scoring answers, and this time the teams have to write them down on a screen in a similar style to Jeopardy! (and they were probably beginning to wish that they really were on Jeopardy! instead by this point). This is because there is more insistence on contestants having their answers “locked in” on American game shows because of some scandal that happened about 60 years ago.

The winners of this round get $1,000, and progress to the final. In this, they have to pick from two categories, and then they confer, and give two answers. If just one is a Pointless answer, they win the jackpot. I don’t know if contestants could come back on the next edition or if the money rolled over, because they didn’t get that far. Why didn’t Pointless succeed in America? It has been said that the type of trivia usually discussed is somehow rather “British”, which might be why the idea didn’t translate so well.


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