Making a ‘Big Splash’ on TV

Big, and Beautiful

Two of my favourite programmes are the afternoon quizzes, The Chase on ITV1 and Pointless, on BBC1.  The latter is something of an obsession.

In Pointless, contestants are asked to come up with answers that would not be known by the general public.  So, asked to name a film starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, a great answer is Joe versus the Volcano, because only 2% of the public remember, whereas Sleepless in Seattle is less successful since 31% remember it.   So as well as a charming quiz, we get to learn what the public knows and what it doesn’t.

So let’s have a go.  Contestants were asked to name the century that various events happened.

In what century was it that:

Queen Victoria married Prince Albert

Samuel Pepys wrote his diary

Magna Carta was signed

Mark Zuckerberg  founded Facebook

Mussolini came to power in Italy

And for your bonus, who is this wrestler?

Who is this wrestler?


The answers:

Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in the 19th century.   43% knew this

Samuel Pepys wrote his diary in the 17th century.  18%

Magna Carta was signed in the 13th century.   11%

Mark Zuckerberg  founded Facebook in the 21sty century.   31%

Mussolini came to power in Italy in the 20th century.  39% knew this

How many people could name the wrestler?     70% knew that he was Big Daddy

So, a stunning 70% remembered the ring-name of a wrestler who died 15 years ago, and 24 years after his main TV outlet (wrestling on World of Sport) was cancelled.  He was a TV creation (in fact if you google ‘Big Daddy’ now, you get a load of different people entirely).  But fewer than 2 out of 5 people can answer simple history questions.

If you want an example of the power of television on our collective consciousness, there you are.

One other thing.  On the programme, co-host Richard Osman raved about Simon Garfield’s book The Wrestling.  20 hours after this Pointless episode aired, Amazon is ranking this five year old book 13th in its best seller list.  A comment on a daytime quiz has catapaulted a book into the sales stratosphere.

You worry about the British Public’s grasp of history sometimes.  But television’s grasp on the public is deeply impressive.


Big Daddy versus Giant Haystacks:

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