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Monday, 27 November, 2000, 10:32 GMT
Are TV quiz shows dumb?

Britain's first quiz-show millionaire was created this week when a housewife from London walked away with the big prize on the hit TV show "Who Wants to be a Millionaire".

The show's format - with contestants doubling their prize money every time they get a correct answer - has become a worldwide hit. It has been licensed in 80 countries and is already on air in 37 of them.

Is this the globalisation of dumbing-down? Are they what people want to watch? Are TV quiz shows in your country crowding out better things? How would you spend a million pounds?

HAVE YOUR SAY I have two young children and they both enjoy watching and learning from quiz shows on TV, as do my wife and I. The people who say the shows are boring and should be banned must have an IQ of 50 or 500! One end will not be able to answer or learn from the show while the "Intelligent" end can answer the questions so easily it makes them tired, poor things! Have these people never heard of the ON/OFF switch?
John C, Warwick, England

My main objection is that the really difficult quizzes such as, University Challenge, Mastermind or Krypton Factor, only gain the winner an old glass bowl or some ornament while the facile competitions with questions on the level of "who won World War Two?" are rewarded with large amounts of cash or high value prizes.
Steve Foley, Reading, England

Perhaps it is a reflection on the mediocre social life and physical surroundings

Michael Carr, Nürnberg, Germany
Almost alone, (look at the research figures for European countries) the British seem to spend such a high percentage of their free time sat in front of the TV. It also speaks volumes on the state of the media generally in the UK that journalists have to constantly fill columns and air-time with such trivial tripe. Perhaps it is a reflection on the mediocre social life and physical surroundings in which most Brits. find themselves living that they prefer to draw the living room curtains and envelope themselves in "never-never land"!
Michael Carr, Nürnberg, Germany

Quiz programmes are a waste of licence payers' money. Unfortunately I seem to be in a minority on this one so if the mass who want to watch this are happy, then I'll just exercise my right of choice and not watch them. If we all did this then they wouldn't get made!
Trevor H, Devon, UK

If Communism had had television in general, not to mention game shows and sitcoms, to consider, religion might not have been their namesake for the opiate of the masses.
Martha Taylor, Coudersport, USA

This kind of programming has invaded my home country (Canada) as well as the country in which I spend the winter. It is another version of Marie Antoinette's "Let Them Eat Cake" - indeed it IS the "dumbing down" mentioned; what saddens me, is that so many people find it riveting!
J. Clark, Bradenton USA

These shows help in enhancing one's general knowledge

Somi, Manchester,UK
Either the majority of people that have contributed to this page are Einsteins in the making and rightly so scoff at pathetic quiz shows, but as a teenager I think that these shows help in enhancing one's general knowledge. I love Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, I don't know half the answers to the question's asked, but believe that when I walk away I have learnt a few things, and surely that is good.
Somi, Manchester,UK

I think some quiz shows distort the value of money. For example, Ann Robinson on The Weakest Link can often be heard to say "You have earned a PATHETIC 500 pounds." Some of us would be rather excited to earn that much in a week, Ms Robinson, let alone in half an hour on a TV quiz! Such programmes emphasise the way in which success in life can be a matter of chance rather than hard work and application, and as such they can be rather depressing. I particularly don't like the idea of making entertainment out of people's desperateness for money - I haven't seen the student debt quiz, but it sounds quite grim.
LJ, Oxford, UK

Quiz shows are great, they give people the opportunity to win things that you could only ever dream of

Carol, UK
I think quiz shows are great, they give people the opportunity to win things that you could only ever dream of. I think the people who go on them are great and let's face it, don't we all sit at home guessing the answers and shouting them out at the TV? Keep quiz shows, and let's start complaining and campaigning about issues that matter.
Carol, UK

I don't particularly enjoy these programmes but if some people enjoy them then great. I don't particularly think trainspotting is a worthwhile endeavour but it keeps some people happy¿go forth and do what you enjoy for life is too short to be miserable.
Mark Holley, Ely, Uk

I see little difference between these shows and Mastermind. The ability to retain fairly useless pieces of information is not really of much practical value. I guess in time the genre will need to be revised as people lose interest. However, it is obviously 'good' entertainment and perhaps as good as soaps and better than Jerry Springer-type shows.
Richard Stott, Aberdeen, Scotland

There is nothing wrong with wallpaper TV as long as it is balanced by programmes that make people think

Gerry, Scotland
Undoubtedly TV is being dumbed down. There is nothing wrong with wallpaper TV as long as this is balanced by programmes that make people think; however, I think people now work so blooming hard that they are exhausted when they collapse in front of the TV and all they can stand is the banal.
Gerry, Scotland

Why do people have to complain about shows, especially quiz shows, that they don't like? Sure, the amount of them in the US, etc may be excessive, but I think here in the UK it's about right. It also seems strange to me that people find some of these shows an insult to their intelligence, but they somehow don't know how to work their remote control. It does have an on/off switch, you know.
Andrew McEwan, Scotland

Quiz shows that demand a modicum of intelligence are OK, I suppose - stuff like Mastermind - but nowadays we get lowest common denominator TV for a lowest common denominator audience... Shudder.
Antony, London

Once again the US takes the blame

Naveen Yalamanchi, USA (from India)
For once, the US should not be bashed for creating a cultural black hole since many of these quiz shows (including "Who wants to be a Millionaire") originated in England. But of course, the passions of the anti-America hysteria (as exhibited by Justin Kumpf and Jay Michalowski) are too much to overcome and once again the US takes the blame. That seems to be the easiest solution to the world's problems: blame the States.
Naveen Yalamanchi, USA (from India)

It appears a lot of people cannot tell the difference between quality quiz programmes such as University Challenge and 15-to-1, and game shows. In the first category, people compete purely for the prestige of winning and stretching their knowledge regardless of the standard of prizes on offer. In the second category, it is simply the chance to win large amounts of money or other major prizes that attracts contestants. There is a distinct difference between the two categories.
Jon Smith, Belper, Derbyshire, England

What about quiz shows where clever people get almost nothing for being much brighter?

Terry, Derby, UK
The questions early on are so moronic! What about quiz shows where clever people get almost nothing for being much brighter? I still watch "Who wants to be a millionaire" though!
Terry, Derby, UK

Shows promising large sums of money promote materialism, and the growing gap between the rich and the poor. I feel that there should be more educational game shows that actually help people, instead of promoting extreme wealth.
Leann Doeg, Leesburg, USA

Yes, yes, yes, they are silly, stupid, nonsense and unbearable. Nothing good about them.
A'hura, Toronto, canada

They are quite silly and anyone who actually sits down day after day and watches them must have a very pathetic life.

I can't stand these sorts of programmes, in my view they are nether entertaining or educational. I can only assume someone out there enjoys them.
caron, England

We are fed this rubbish in an effort to have us purchase cable TV

Mark Schuller, Australia
We get similar tripe on the telly down here as well as stack of boring life style magazine type programmes all hosted by people who look like models rather than average people. Most people feel we are fed this rubbish in an effort to have us purchase cable TV so we can watch a decent movie.
Mark Schuller, Australia

What has always bothered me about these quiz shows is that with few exceptions, they only test pop culture savvy. This is done for two reasons: to attract and captivate a large audience and to suggest that having access to this kind of information is not only exciting, but useful.This is just another mind-numbing cultural cancer America has blessed the world with. If you can't ban them, and I doubt that you can, then at least make the questions so terribly difficult that no one ever walks away with more than a bruised ego and a couple of hundred pounds.
Justin Kumpf, Boston, USA

As an American expat who lived in the UK for 8 years, I can say it was definitely a sign that the Americanisation of England had indeed taken root. Now I live in the states. This place is unbelievable. The American public could not even fathom a show like Question Time, let alone one minute with Jeremy Paxman. You may not approve of these shows either, but at least they usually present their points of view intelligently. You all should be thanking your lucky stars, or more likely, take it while you can. While we can't elect a president, somehow Hollywood produces mind rot for the world.
Jay Michalowski, scottsdale Arizona USA

The UAE is one of the most successful countries in the Middle East. The UAE does not have any quiz-shows. I believe there is a connection there somewhere.
Jamie Evans, Dubai, UAE

Yes, they are dumb. The pub-bore questions are silly and the fake tension is unbearable. Ban them!
dan, UK

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See also:

20 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Questions on the path to £1m
22 Nov 00 | Entertainment
The Millionaires' club
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