Lights! Camera! Action! My appearance on BBC1’s ‘Pointless’

Do you watch the quiz show, Pointless, weekdays on BBC 1 at 5.15 p.m? Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes, and how you get to appear on it?

I love this show, and I’ve always thought I’d like to take part. Not that I’m a perennial TV quiz addict, far from it, but there’s something about this one that really hooks me. Also, I think Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman are staggeringly brilliant and funny, and I really wanted to meet them!


So I downloaded the entry form, all 12 pages of it, and asked my oldest friend Christine if she would enter with me as a pair. Sent it off on a Tuesday, and got the call from Pointless two days later, asking us if we would go for an audition!

Off we went to our audition, along with 6 other pairs, to a conference room in a London hotel. There, we had to fill in another form and complete a general knowledge paper. Blimey, I thought, I’m not applying for the position of chairman of ICI, it’s just a TV quiz show. But apparently they are inundated with entries, and only take 1 in 30 of the pairs that apply. This was followed by a mini-game of Pointless with the production team, and then individual interviews on camera.

By the time we left, we were all fired up with enthusiasm and very keen to be chosen to be on the show. 2 weeks later we had the email – we’d been shortlisted! And a few weeks after that – yes, yes, the phone call, we’re going to be on the show, yippee!

And the rules and regulations! We had to take 5 different outfits so that Wardrobe could decide what looked best on screen, and were told to turn up with no make-up on at all, because that would be done by their make-up artists. Yikes! I said that Joan Collins does her own make-up, why couldn’t I, but apparently they won’t let you. Here are my before and after make-up shots.


We spent the first day hanging around in the green room, awaiting our turn, which depended on which pair got eliminated when. As it turned out, we wouldn’t be on until the next day, so we were packed off to spend the night at a nearby hotel. We were a strange mixture of excited, mentally exhausted, and scared stiff of making idiots of ourselves by freezing in front of the cameras the next day. Did we have an early night after a light dinner with no alcohol? Alas no, dear reader, we were drinking in the bar with a couple of other contestants (identical twins from Glasgow – well done for winning the jackpot, Brendan and Paddy!) but still managed to get ourselves to bed at a fairly sensible time.

The next day we were told we were on first, and then taken to have a look at the studio before the audience came in. Very exciting to stand on the podiums and see the score tower and the question board. They let us take a few photos, and here is the (regrettably blurry, but taken with a cheap camera phone in a hurry) one of me sitting at Richard’s desk!

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By this time we were just gagging to get on with it. Alexander and Richard came over and introduced themselves, and a more charming, well-mannered pair of blokes you could not wish to meet.

I must tell you, it’s all very well sitting on the sofa and shouting answers at the TV screen, but when you’re actually on the show, with the cameras, production crew and audience all around you, and knowing that this is going to be televised nationwide, it’s very hard not to get complete brain freeze! My mental processes went like this: ‘I can only think of one answer, at least I think it’s right, what will I do if someone says it before me, OMG, Alexander’s coming to me next, what if I say something stupid like Blackadder sticking a pencil up his nose and saying ‘Wibble’, I can’t remember anyone who ever starred in any film ever, what’s a film, what’s my name, I don’t like what I’m wearing, do I look like a rabbit caught in the headlights, I bet this make-up makes me look like a drag queen, whose stupid idea was this anyway?’

Christine and I were reasonably pleased with our performance, and we felt we acquitted ourselves well, as we got through to the head to head on our second show. Alas, no coveted Pointless trophy for us, we just missed out on the final! I’m so glad we did it, it was such fun.

64 thoughts on “Lights! Camera! Action! My appearance on BBC1’s ‘Pointless’

  1. I’m going to have to show my other half this – he loves it! He keeps nagging for us to apply but I’m like, No! I’d need to lose weight first. I’m actually okay at quizzes, and he’s good at football and other sports. It’s REALLY hard to win the jackpot though. That’s my main incentive; basically I think he just wants to be on telly! We will look out for your episode.


    • Ha ha, Crimeworm, that is the thing that would make me say no, too – I’m not thin enough! 20 years ago I appeared on a long forgotten BBC2 show called Today’s the Day with Martyn Lewis (I went on with my mother), and to this day I haven’t seen myself on it – I wouldn’t watch it at the time in case I looked fat and ugly on it, in which case I would have to kill myself at the thought of all those people seeing me!!!


      • It’s the thought of the WHOLE COUNTRY saying, “She needs to lose weight, definitely” that puts me off! Can you imagine? The mortification! And Mr C is crap at anything bar sport. He thinks I’m great at it, but, as Julia says, the mind has a tendency to go blank in certain situations! I don’t make a habit of watching Countdown, but that clock noise is really distracting! As would all the lights, crew etc be on Pointless.


  2. ps, J, I love the ‘I can’t remember anyone who starred in any film ever’!!!!! Pics are great, and I bow with respect re the SLEEVELESS orange dress! You look very think and Joan-ish in the ‘after’ make-up shot!


  3. Fascinating to hear what it’s like to be a contestant! I was in the audience with my wife for one show and were treated like sheep. We were told when and how to laugh, cheer and clap, and Alexander didn’t acknowledge us once. But then he’s playing to the camera and the home audience, not the one in the studio!. Having said that, it was great fun and we actually saw ourselves on the screen for a fleeting second when it was aired.


  4. Wow, Julia! TT has been announcing this from the rooftops, so I had to come and see. I am ashamed to say I missed this post when you originally did it, so I’m late, but I do have a question. Why is it so long before they screen the episodes? You must have the patience of a saint after waiting all these months for it to go out! I wish I could see it, but I don’t have a TV and the Beeb don’t let us watch programmes online here.


  5. Thank you for your kind remarks, and I really hope I do look wonderful, but fear that may be the triumph of optimism over experience! In answer to your question, they tape 4 episodes every day, Monday to Friday, over 3 months so that they have enough for the autumn schedules. Then you just have to wait for yours to be on, but to be fair they do let us know when our episodes will be. Laters, Val!


  6. I became addicted to Pointless when I was in the UK last year. How fantastic to actually go on the show. It’s something I miss watching now I’m back in Canada, and I’m quite disappointed I’ll miss your episodes!


  7. My husband’s an avid fan of “Pointless” and watched both nights. I saw the second night and thought you did extremely well. There was no “Wibbling” at all – you didn’t even look phased by the questions. Nice to know that Richard is just as nice in person as he seems on telly!


  8. Pingback: Interview with Julia Gibbs | A Lover of Books

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