There's no answer to 500 Questions.

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There's no answer to 500 Questions.

August 22, 2016 - 23:05
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As with the Dimbleby clan, the Corens --- Giles and Victoria – owe much of their upwardly mobile careers to the name bestowed on them by their famous father. Following in the large footsteps of the late and lamented humourist Alan, the ultra-competitive siblings started off writing columns in national newspapers—like Dad--- before sliding effortlessly into television and radio---like Dad.

Giles Coren in 500 Questions

By Walter White

As with the Dimbleby clan, the Corens --- Giles and Victoria – owe much of their upwardly mobile careers to the name bestowed on them by their famous father. Following in the large footsteps of the late and lamented humourist Alan, the ultra-competitive siblings started off writing columns in national newspapers—like Dad--- before sliding effortlessly into television and radio---like Dad.

It’s been a cosy, well-connected media club. En route, younger sister Victoria picked up a husband in the shape of comedian and ubiquitous game show panellist David Mitchell. She herself fronts the cerebral BBC quiz show Only Connect. Giles’s brother-in-law Alexander Armstrong co-hosts the popular BBC teatime quiz Pointless.

Now it’s Giles’s turn to play with his own train set, 500 Questions, which launched on primetime ITV last night, and continues tonight.

Whereas Alexander Armstrong personifies smoothie-chops charm, and Victoria is blessed with the twin attributes of being very brainy and very busty (as well as owning a nice line in witty one-liners and excelling in world championship poker games), Giles revels in his notorious reputation for being an obnoxious, charmless ,petty, vicious and childishly rude brat.

And sneeringly boastful. Only a few days ago the 47-year old kidult with the straggly teenage beard was crowing how he got the ‘best’ first –class honours degree in his scholastic year at Oxford, the crucible of TV executives.

He would like to be seen as the natural successor to Jeremy Paxman as telly’s most bellicose broadcaster, believing – probably rightly – it can only lead to greater things in a world where rudeness garners riches. Coren himself shamelessly recalls the bullying e-mail he sent to a hapless colleague on The Times which secured him a six-figure book advance after the menacing message was publicly exposed in the press.

So how did Giles, this modern-day Flashman ( Westminster and Oxford), rate on the Paxometer? In his debut hosting 500 Questions last night, he was about as threatening as a toothless, geriatric poodle. No sharp Anne Robinson-style slapdowns, no acerbic ad-libs, no hint of the infamous Giles glower. Instead we got Giles oozing sweaty, false charm, a bewildered figure lost amidst a vast Millionaire-style set of pulsating, multi-coloured laser beams and throbbing drumbeat music.

Whereas Chris Tarrant’s charm lay in his relaxed interplay with the contestants, Coren’s demeanour seemed forced and unnatural.

Because you knew, deep down, that this patronising Oxford alumnus really believes he does know more than most people, that he is – in his own words ---‘really quite clever.’

500 Questions originated in the US. Each contestant can call on 10 general knowledge categories in rounds of 50 questions. If three consecutive wrong answers are given, the contestant is eliminated. Then a second player – the ‘challenger’ – scoops the money already accrued by their rival and steps into the hot seat.

But it breaks the first rule of game shows: keep it simple (just like the contestants, Coren might have muttered to himself). 500 Questions, with its three ‘traps’ primed to snare the contestant, is complicated, as are many of the questions, making the viewer yearn for the simplicity of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. It also lacks tension. Viewers at home will not be screaming at their TV sets.

Mickie, an elderly lady with a mission to prove ‘wrinklies have brains’, took first honours with a £12,000 jackpot. Her challenger, blind Liam, winner of a ‘positive disability role model award,’ didn’t get a look in.

Throughout the hour-long show, the audience appeared strangely listless. Applause was muted, few cheers of encouragement could be heard. Which comes as no surprise as the set is bizarrely located in Cologne -- and the audience is made up of stolid Germans, most of whom couldn’t understand a word being said.

Mein Gott! You joke, ja? Nein! TV rights to 500 questions are owned by German broadcaster RTL, which had already built the futuristic set, so ITV decided it was not economic to build their own. Instead Giles and the contestants are dispatched to film in the spiritual home of schnitzel and sauerkraut.

At least the prize money isn’t in euros. With sterling getting weaker by the day, maybe it should be.

There are 4 Comments

Kevin O'Sullivan's picture

By Bobalice24

This weirdly scheduled new  game show, 9pm Monday night?, started with host Giles Coren stating that the premise is 500 questions for one contestant who just has to not get 3 in a row wrong to win. That's it. Simple right?

The reality is anything but simple. It turns out that this is one of the most confusing quiz format's I have ever encountered.

I turns out that the 'only' contestant has an opponent in the studio waiting to jump in and take the money that the original contestant has already won if the original contestant gets 3 questions wrong and then takes over their game (keep up !)

In addition there are categories to chose from and some questions might involve random 'traps' like Battles!, Triple threat! and a Lightening round!

Its really hectic and the constant deployment of rules make this start/stop show devoid of tension.

Giles Coren as host is wooden and free from charisma unlike his sister Victoria (Only Connect) and his brother in law Alexander Armstrong (Pointless). But to be fair he has difficult material to work with.

Confusing format, minimal conversation with host and guests and lack of  back story plus the show's identity crisis, is it teatime?, should it be better and primetime?, why the pointless (sorry!) studio audience make this a non starter for ten for me

PhilipStar's picture

1000 questions to me from looking like a cheap daytime show that does not cost mush to make, ITV is really penny pitching now even in primetime. Times like this I fear for TV if there is no BBC.

This sounds like a show that should be on at 09:25 not primetime. Primetime should be much higher budget then this. Don't use the summer excuse ITV either as that is actually coming to a end soon. Plus it's dark at 21:00 actually. Wasn't a month ago but it is now.

Bottom line is that do not waste your time watching this tonight and watch BBC One or BBC Four or Channel 4 or Channel 5 instead. Primetime should be dramas or documentary. Even Celebrity Big Brother is more expensive to produce then 1000 questions.

SCARFMAN_'s picture


At the start of this new quiz show that aired last Monday night on ITV1 at 9pm, host Giles Coren stated how the contestants had "no help, no hints, nowhere to hide". This was an obvious dig at 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire' and an immediate attempt to tell us all how this show was going to be different from it.

The problem with this statement though is that '500 Questions' was like a million other quiz shows that we have already seen on the television before, including 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire'. It was like a poor man's version of 'The Chase' combined with a poor man's 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire'. It was not a disaster of a show but it needed to be more original in terms of it's format, set design and music for it to be given a prime time slot in the schedules like it has. As the ending credits rolled I wrote one word down that best summed up how I felt about this show and that word was......"DULL"!

The format of this show was based around one golden rule, "do not get three questions wrong in a row". Just in case we might forget this fact Giles Coren kept reminding the contestants this, again and again and AGAIN! If the contestants got three questions wrong in a row then they were then eliminated from the game and 'the challenger' took their place. The aim of the game was to be the person there in control of the game once all fifty questions had been asked. This person would be declared the winner and so duly win the cash prize that had been building up throughout the show via correct answers being given.

The questions were blocked into various categories and each had five questions to them, e.g Kings and Queens, Winter Sports, Poetry. The supposed drama in the format was meant to come from the so-called "traps". These consisted of Battle Rounds, Lightning Rounds and Triple Threat Rounds. I guess they did help to break up the monotony of Coren asking the standard regular questions. My only issue was that it took me three quarters of the show before I fully understood what all these traps meant.

Talking of these traps I need to highlight at this point an absolutely ridiculous piece of dialogue that Coren said to contestant Mickie, an elderly woman who was in her seventies. Coren said to her, "step into on your metal". You would have thought with such words that he was preparing Mickie for a fight against Mike Tyson rather than her merely answering a few general knowledge questions. I realise the main purpose of such dramatic language was to try and ramp up the tension as much as possible but for me it was over-the-top and corny!

With regards to the host Giles Coren, I am still puzzled as to why a reasonably famous restaurant critic such as him got given the gig of hosting this general knowledge quiz show on prime time telly? He was not terrible but he was not that great either. In the first half he started to irritate me when slightly mocked the contestants for saying silly things. I am thinking here of when he pulled up Nu for mistakenly saying "Cutty Shark" rather than Cutty Sark. It was harmless fun for Coren but it still grated on me nevertheless.

On the other hand and to be fair to Coren, he did say the odd witty remark and was very supportive towards Mickie at the end. I just think somebody who was more familiar at doing humour and who was also less posh would have been a better fit as host. Sounding as posh as Giles does, for me it made him come across a bit condescending at times as well as a bit like a school prefect. He is obviously a very clever bloke he was about as dull as the overall show was.

The set and lighting were straight out of the 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire' and 'The Chase' manual, e.g screens everywhere as well as darkness contrasted with bright, light colourful lighting in order to try and make the show looks as dramatic as possible. Both of these aspects were way over the top though. I can remember thinking as I watched, crikey there are more lights and colours on show here than you get on a trip to Blackpool Illuminations. It was just all a bit too much, especially if you were watching this with a bad head.

Talking of the set and this is also a negative about format too, I found it utterly bizarre how the contestants were introduced to us. As Coren introduced them three supposedly SPELLBINDING and IMPRESSIVE facts about them flashed up on a screen(that was high up in the air). The problem with this though was that some of the facts about the contestants were not that impressive. Some of the things these people had done such as be a children's author and win a positive role model award are very admirable so don't misunderstand here. However, how is saying somebody was born in Hong Kong or another having one A-level supposed to bowl me over in amazement??? Again, I just found this aspect of the show a tad silly.

Another moan about the format is that I did not understand why challenger Liam could not come back on the next episode to have his eventual go at trying to win the money(the new cash prize). At the end of this first show elderly lady Mickie won the cash prize at the end and so was told by Coren how she would be returning the day after to continue playing the game. I got that but did not get why the challenger had to be changed, i.e seemed harsh on young Liam.

My final issue with this first episode of '500 Questions' was that in light of the big sums of money that we have seen people win in the past on 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire', twelve thousand pounds to the winner Mickie did not seem enough somehow. It did not seem enough for me as a viewer after sticking with this show for an hour. It is good money but it is not a life changing amount. It would have been a far more pulsating dramatic watch if the contestants had stood the chance to have won say at least fifty thousand pounds by the end.

Amidst all my moaning about this show I did find myself enjoying it somewhat towards the end. I found myself rooting for Mickie(who seemed like a sweet old lady) and wanted her to walk away with the cash prize. Her Lightning Round near the end was quite tension filled because she got so close to being eliminated from the game after appearing so close to winning it. When she was declared the winner of the game(with tears in her eyes) I sat there watching it smiling like a Cbeshire cat. Therefore, this quiz show had finally drawn me in but it's just a shame that it took so long to do this.

I didn't dislike this show enough to hate it but at the same time I did not rate it very highly either. It would have been far better being shown at 5pm rather than having a prime time slot. You put a quiz show on at 9pm during the week and it has to be brilliant, which this British version of '500 Questions' simply was not. It needed more tension, more originality and more intrigue........rather than it just being RATHER BORING! 2/5.

Llwynog45's picture

Although I disagree with most comments here (I quite enjoyed this and the format) the original review is excellent, revealing that TV is getting more and more of these rich elitist presenters.