It's Not the Answer



Nadia Sawalha


Announcer: Peter Dickson


Green Inc. in association with Carlton for ITV, 2 January to 9 March 2001 (44 episodes in 1 series)


Imagine you're in a restaurant and you can't decide what you want - what you really, really want - and looking at the menu you see five choices on offer (OK, so imagine you've gone to a bad restaurant). What do you do at this point? Do you flip your magic five-sided coin? Do you just stick a pin in the menu and hope for the best? Or do you hope for divine inspiration from above who'll boom down in the style of popular The Price is Right announcer Peter Dickson saying things like "It's NOT Duck a l'orange! It's NOT Spaghetti Bolognaise!" knowing that the prices are steadily rising with each dish crossed off?

If you picked the third option then congratulations, it just so happens that you're ideal fodder for It's Not The Answer, because we've analogised the show rather neatly there.

It's Not... the set. Oh, yes it is!

It should perhaps be noted that the original version in Ireland was a big success - indeed, it was dubbed "TV's Toughest Quiz Show". If you had watched it, you would have found it was much better over there. It was shown early evening with each edition lasting 30 minutes, and the rounds were arranged more appropriately, with the on-the-buzzer round quite rightly coming last. It ran for four very successful series, the fourth being a "Battle of the Professionals" where the contestants had specific occupations. So where did it all go wrong when Green Inc. - which is Patrick Kielty's production company - brought the format to Britain?

Three absolutely normal people, cajoled/pushed along/irritated by popular Loose Woman Nadia Sawalha (Julia's less successful sister you would, probably very correctly, assume) answer general knowledge multiple choice questions. Or as it's put: "the show where each question has five possible answers but only ONE OF THEM is correct..." So, this is just like any multiple choice quizzer that's ever been produced. That's not an incredibly exciting tagline, I'm afraid.

The main difference is that Pete the Penalizer (known because he will penalize people in one round or if they hesitate after buzzing) will shout down useful advice for each question such as "It's NOT Duck a l'orange! It's NOT Spaghetti Bolognaise!" and for each answer eliminated the points value of the question would go down.

A question in progress.

So with this in mind, and bearing also in mind that this is the format for every flippin' question in the entire game, let's have a look at the many and varied ways they spice the questions up, shall we?

Round One: Every person gets three questions. Questions begin at 100 points and drop by 25 for each answer eliminated.

Round Two: Take a Topic - There are six different categories on the board. The first person to successfully shoplift a popular nougat and nut chocolate bar wins. Not really of course, each category has two possible questions and the players take it in turns to... Take a Topic! The contestants have free run of the board but after two questions from one topic the topic can't be selected any more. Questions are worth 100 and drop by 25 for every wrong answer revealed.

Round Three: Obligatory on-the-buzzer round (our title): Questions start at 100 and lose 25 for each eliminated answer. PLUS! Wrong answers knock fifty of your current score. Because life is like that.

Host Nadia holds the envelopes for Choose a Chain

Round Four: Choose a Chain - Each player gets a choice of one of three envelopes. Each envelope has five questions in it and the answer to one question has some sort of link with the next. Scoring is exactly the same as all the other rounds thus far.

Round Five: A return to the Take a Topic board, this time there are three questions in each category and in the Jeopardy! stylee they come in 100, 200 and 400 point varieties and once a point value and topic have gone then they're gone forever. Not all the questions will get used, when everyone has had a certain amount then that is the end.

The Take a Topic board

The losers go away with nothing, the winner goes away with a nice trip somewhere abroad (but not too abroad) and plays the final round in order to earn the right to play for a round the world trip. The winning player must answer ten questions and begins with a massive 1000 points on the clock. When the questions are asked the points start ticking down, around 10 per second. Every so often Peter will boom down and eliminate wrong answers. Wrong answers given drop 100 points from the clock before the question was started. Whatever's left after ten questions is added to their main score and compared to what's on the leaderboard where they might come back and win that lovely big trip.

The end game in progress

Sudden thought: 40 minutes is an obscure length for a lunchtime ITV show, isn't it?

All in all we find the show not very exciting. The questions aren't very exciting, the cheap set isn't very exciting (looking as it does what the Chain Letters set would have looked like had the hosts of Blue Peter tried making it with cardboard and sticky-back plastic) and the hosts aren't particularly exciting although their banter is quite jolly. All this is something of a shame, since most shows from this production team are usually very good.

In fact, how would we describe the show, Peter? "It's NOT fantastic! It's NOT very clever. It's NOT awful! It's NOT Spaghetti Bolognaise!" which rather neatly leaves us with... it's based on an Irish format. Yep, that sums it up. Now bring back the much more fun Supermarket Sweep please.


Based on a format by Green Inc.


The post-game interview. Not an idea nicked from The Weakest Link. Oh no.


The very first episode.


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