2020: the year of the quiz

There was the Zoom quiz, of course: a staple of the first lockdown during which many of us combined video-conferencing technology and general knowledge in order to stay both vaguely sane and in touch with our friends. But also, TV quiz shows seem to have colonised greater chunks of the schedules.

There is an obvious practical element to this: the quiz show is filmed in a controlled and contained environment and was, therefore, from a logistical point of view, easier to bring back under pandemic conditions than drama.

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Feel the buzz: the rise and rise of the quizshow in lockdown

theguardian.com

The quiz is the oldest TV format of them all; the earliest TV shows were quizzes adapted from the radio.

There are probably four rules to a good quizshow:

  • The game’s got to work; there’s got to be something intrinsic about it that sustains itself, day in, day out. 
  • It has to have an element of proper jeopardy: lots of the best ones hinge around a single decision – to play on or not, to take the money or not take the money?
  • The hosts are key.
  • There’s got to be something familiar yet slightly different about them.

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  • Dealing with the anxiety of a global crisis: at a time when many of us have learned to doubt anything claiming to represent objective fact, there is a certain truth about quizzes: you are either right or wrong.
  • The certainty of knowledge: Quizshows are a reminder of something we are in danger of losing. We can all search for an answer on the phone, but having the knowledge of something is affirmation (more necessary than ever because when everything seems uncertain). 

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Nostalgia is an important part of the pandemic. This helps to explain the appeal of Quiz and it helps to explain the appeal of quiz shows, too. 

Pre-internet, there was a premium on knowing things. And there still is. But there was also the reborn sense of television as a collective event; something people did together. Isolation has led to viewers grasping on to any form of connection with others, either virtually or within a domestic unit. Quizshows – the original interactive TV – feed into this perfectly.

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