Game Show Memories – Beat The Nation.

Beat The Nation (Channel 4, 2004)

When the long-running Fifteen-To-One came to an end, there was much surprise, even though it did seem that it had run its course. What could possibly take its place? Well this one was the first to try. Beat The Nation had two hosts, who were Graeme Garden and Tim Brooke-Taylor, who of course were already known for starring in sitcom The Goodies, and also for being regulars on the panel of I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue.

The opening sequence featured animated versions of Graeme and Tim (which didn’t look much like them!), along with a sample of some of the questions that might feature, including “in which county is Leeds Castle?”. Now this might just be the oldest of chestnuts, and if you don’t know the answer to that one, then you really shouldn’t be going on a game show, put it that way.

Over 1,000 people from across the country have been surveyed on general knowledge questions. Four contestants took part, and they had to prove that they could answer the questions, which according to the statistics, the average person might not know the answer to. In round one, they are asked questions on the buzzer that over 50% got wrong. They are not told how many points are on offer until they give a correct answer.

This means that every question will be worth at least 51 points. The first three contestants to score 150 points go into the next round. The eliminated contestant does get a chance to win £100 in a quick consolation game though. In round two, six questions are asked, with the same scoring system. If they give a right answer, they can gamble their points on whether a celebrity knew the right answer too (and I’m fairly sure that Graeme and Tim’s old mate Bill Oddie turned up here at least once).

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I think that a similar idea to this was also used in Chris Tarrant’s game show It’s Not What You Know. Again, the highest scorers go through, while the loser plays for a consolation. Going into the break, there is a question for the viewers that 99% got wrong. In round three, both contestants are given three lives, but this isn’t Fifteen-To-One. They are asked questions in turn of increasing difficulty. Get one wrong, they lose a life, and the difficulty level goes back to the start.

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Once one contestant loses all three lives, they are eliminated, but once again they can play for a consolation. In the final, the remaining contestant sits in a Mastermind-style chair. They have to answer ten questions correctly in 90 seconds. Again, they are of increasing difficulty, going from a question up to 10% got wrong, to a question up to 10% got right. If they are successful, they win £500, and the contestants who reached the target in the fastest time could return for the grand final with a star prize of £25,000.

There was only one series of Beat The Nation, it was enjoyable, but unfortunately it was always going to be considered to be second-best when compared to Fifteen-To-One. And if you’re thinking that the idea of contestants being rewarded for being able to answer questions that the vast majority of the public couldn’t is rather familiar, it’s probably no surprise to realise that the producer was Richard Osman, who also went on to co-host Pointless, which has a similar idea, and has been much more successful.