Very Hard Questions



Jon Snow


Youngest Media for More4, 19 February to 25 March 2020 (10 episodes in 1 series)


Jon Snow asks questions of expert quiz teams. According to the billing, these are "the most difficult quiz questions ever seen on TV". If they’re stumped and need help then clues are available, but at a cost.

Each episode sees two teams post a score, with the top teams returning for the series final.

When we saw it, we found Very Hard Questions asked difficult pub quiz questions, of the kind that a setter would throw in so you couldn't get the round completely correct. For instance,

The answer's Malawi.

Four points if the team know such an obscure chestnut. A point away for each clue they use. The clues were drawn from:

First letter, Picture clue, Definition, Add words, Related words, Different question, Extra fact, Multiple choice, Audio clue, Redacted text.

(To explain some of these: Add words puts extra information in the question; Related words gives three words with some connection to the answer; Multiple choice offers four possible answers; Redacted text is a quotation containing the answer, but with the answer removed.)

In round one, four questions were asked, and the first seven clues could be used - but only once during the round. "Don't leave yourselves clueless," chortled Jon Snow, making the strongest joke in the show.

The teams saw three questions in round two, and answered them all as once. They could use the last five clues in the list, but again only once. The teams could pass on any question, for an incorrect answer ended the round with a score of zero.

Very Hard Questions got a necessary injection of pace in the final part, beginning with Very Hard Questions Against The Clock. One question at a time, three clues chosen by the setters, and just a minute to buzz in and offer an answer. The show concluded with "The Very Hardest Question", the only occasion when the two teams went head-to-head against each other.

Jon Snow (right) and the prize trophy.

There were a lot of problems with Very Hard Questions. There was an extraordinary amount of waste associated with the show, firstly in the quantity of wasted clues (at least 62 per game), and also the scripted jokes, which Jon Snow simply cannot deliver. The questions themselves were a bit dull. There are interesting stories to tell about how Joyce Banda became president of Malawi, but the format of Very Hard Questions didn't allow the team to explore the subject, and the host proved incapable of delivering additional information without it sounding like he was reading off an autocue. Other hosts of highbrow quizzes - Bamber Gascoigne, Victoria Coren Mitchell, Jeremy Paxman - all sound like they know what they're talking about, even when they're bluffing. Jon Snow exposed the gaps in his knowledge.

The show was painfully slow, with long pauses while we tried to hear the teams confer amongst themselves. It wasn't unusual to spend three minutes on a single question, only for the team to offer an incorrect answer. And, when the question itself is irrelevant to anything outside difficult pub quizzes, that feels a bit of a waste.

It's a shame, really. There are formats to make difficult questions interesting and accessible, in a way Only Connect and Round Britain Quiz have achieved. We'll file Very Hard Questions alongside Hive Minds, an interesting idea that didn't quite work.


Singers on Buzzers (Richard, Pete, Tessa), who had previously won series 11 of Only Connect.


Generally promoted as Jon Snow's Very Hard Questions, to help internet searches find the show.

The first eight episodes bookended the last four episodes of The Great Pottery Throw Down to air on More4, at 8pm and 10pm. The last two aired at 8pm.

Web links

Channel 4 programme page

See also

Weaver's Week review, in the form of a fairytale.


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