Only Connect: BBC4, Monday, 8.30pm

Victoria Coren

I suspect we only started watching Only Connect because of my husband’s fondness for Victoria Coren, but now in its fourth series, it’s genuinely one of the TV highlights of the week.

It’s quite a peculiar show. The production values are pretty much non-existent. There’s a very basic studio and no studio audience, so Coren’s (admittedly often pretty feeble) jokes are generally met with resounding silence. It’s a tad on the pretentious side. For the first three series, the questions were chosen by Greek letter. This time following, according to Coren, complaints that this was elitist and indeed pretentious, they’ve changed it. The questions are now chosen by Egyptian hieroglyph. Ha ha.

The show’s title refers to the fact that the teams are given clues and have to find the connections between them. But it’s not quite as simple as it sounds. In round one, they have to find the connection between four clues, which may be words, pictures or pieces of music. As UK Gameshows puts it: “The connections can range from the straightforward (‘Card games’) to the frankly bizarre (‘People with palindromic surnames’)”. Round two, they’re looking for a sequence, for example – and to put it so simply that even I would be able to do it – if the first clue was ‘Do’ and the second ‘Ray’, the third would be ‘Me’ and the fourth ‘Far’. Unless I’ve got that wrong. I felt confident I could do it without Googling, but who knows?

The connecting wall

The third round – the connecting wall – is my favourite. Although, despite it being my favourite, I couldn’t explain it off the top of my head, but fortunately there’s Wikipedia: “Each team receives a wall of 16 clues and must figure out a perfect solution, consisting of four connections for four different items.” Indeed. On Monday, among the clues were Angel, Joey, Frasier and, er, another one I can’t remember. But they were TV characters who got their own spin-off shows. The fiendishness of this round is that often there is a trick, i.e. it would be just as likely that an ‘Angel’ and a ‘Joey’ were collective nouns for something or other and a ‘Frasier’ was a type of train (I’m just picking these examples off the top of my head. Obviously) and so, in flailing about, desperately trying to find a fourth spin-off character and not even considering collective nouns or trains, you would fail the wall. This is generally the point in the show at which I get overexcited and yell random things at the TV. It’s great.

The final round is the easiest. “Ridiculously easy” according to someone on Twitter the other night. I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s definitely the round in which I can guarantee I’ll get an answer right. And this makes me happy. Back to Wikipedia: “In a final buzzer round, the teams are presented with a series of word puzzles. Each puzzle is a word or phrase with the vowels removed and the spaces shifted to disguise the original words.” I can’t find an example and I can’t think of one either, but trust me, it’s fun.

One of the things I love the most about this show is the unashamed dorkiness of the contestants. But then I’m a fine one to talk. I intended to simply summarise it and tell you that I love it, but I felt honour-bound to describe it in detail in the hope it would convince you to watch it. Has it? It’ll take you a while to get into it, but once you do you’ll be hooked. (Oh and you can actually try out the connecting walls on the Only Connect website. But they’re hard.)

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7 thoughts on “Only Connect: BBC4, Monday, 8.30pm

  1. I’ve only seen bits of Only Connect, and wondered why no-one was laughing at anything Coren said — now I know why, no-one was there.
    I’m not really into quiz shows, but when I do watch I don’t like to feel stupid, so this one is probably out… 😉 I enjoyed your write-up though.

    • Also? Her delivery’s not so hot. It used to make me feel stupid when I first started watching it, but you get used to it the more you watch. Now I have a great sense of achievement when I answer something! And thanks!

  2. Oh, I really LOVE this show! It’s very quirky. The contestants are fab! And sometimes now I even know the answers. Woo hoo! My problem – I could never remember when it was on, so I missed lots of eps. I’m sure it used to be on earlier but perhaps that was another channel, in a different hemisphere. I love Victoria too and wish she could be on TV more. YAY!! for Only Connect. (Nobody needs to laugh, really they don’t.)

  3. I’d really enjoy this show if it wasn’t for Victoria Coren. She’s too smug for me. Let me know when it gets a new presenter. 😉

  4. Fab review… looove this show! You can’t beat the University Challenge/Only Connect double bill. I thought she was smug at first too but she is indeed, actually bloody brilliant. Loved the Geocachers this week, that lady putting her head on the desk in mock disgust at their poor performance. Hehe.

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