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A Day in the Life… Only Connect: What’s it really like to take part in the toughest quiz show on TV?

There are dozens of quiz shows for people to apply for in the world of UK telly – but none are quite as hard as Only Connect.

The series – hosted by Victoria Coren-Mitchell – has earned a fiendishly difficult reputation since it first aired on BBC Four 13 years ago, and it’s gained a dedicated fan base in that time.

In fact, earlier this month, Only Connect overtook EastEnders in the Monday night ratings for the first time with a whopping 2.79million viewers.

It’s settled into the line-up alongside University Challenge and Mastermind on Quizzy Mondays, and it’s here to stay as one of the most popular programmes of its kind on the box.

The programme’s studio in Cardiff has hosted some of the UK’s best quizzers over recent years, but what’s it like to take part in Only Connect?

We spoke to the show’s question master Jack Whaley-Cohen – who was a contestant on the first ever episode of the programme before he became involved behind the scenes – as well as co-creator Chris Stuart to find out.

How do you get on the show in the first place?

What’s it’s really like to star on the show? (Picture: BBC/Parasol/RDF Television/Patrick Olner/Tall and Short Photography)

‘Everyone who applies is sent an application,’ Chris told us. ‘When the application forms go out, they’ve got Only Connect-style questions on them. So as part of the application process they have to answer them, which gives us this sort of idea about them.

‘Obviously, it’s possible to Google things, but with Only Connect questions that’s not necessarily going to get you the answer. It’s more to test lateral thinking rather than to see if they can get a direct answer to a question. So we get some sort of idea from that.’

There’s a rigorous audition process

And what happens if you get through the application phase?

‘Then we audition in different parts of the UK, probably up to about 100 teams,’ Chris said. ‘You get a sense of how good they are not just in terms of question answering but how they work and what the chemistry is within each team. We see how they operate and what sort of impression they convey.

‘On the basis of this and other measures, we settle on a final 16.’

Want to do well? Watch the show over and over again

Reckon you could answer questions like these? (Picture: BBC)

The show’s unique question format, which revolves around identifying cryptic sequences, makes it far more difficult than your standard quiz.

And the best way to practice? Well, watching old episodes of Only Connect is a good place to start.

‘Watching the show a lot really does make a difference,’ Jack said. ‘There is good early Connect technique, and bad early Connect technique. There’ll be teams who during the sequences round won’t quite know what the question is, but they’ll often get there just from knowing the sorts of things that come up on the show.

‘They’ll know that we try and land sequences on an answer that people can be expected to know. They’ll not guess something too obscure, and guess something quite obvious.‘

How do you prepare for an appearance on Only Connect?

‘When I went on as a contestant, we tried to get to know each other as a team,’ Jack added. ‘Two of us knew each other much better, but one person was a colleague of mine. He’s a good quizzer, but we’d never quizzed together before.

‘So we did a lot of difficult questions from a quiz book – just sort of doing puzzle books together, just to try to get used to how we thought.’

His biggest advice: ‘Practice saying things out loud, because a big thing on Only Connect is teamwork.

‘With the very best teams, someone will just say something which might be hopelessly wrong, but it will inspire a thought in someone else. So that’s a big thing: getting used to working together as a team.’

How many episodes a day do they record?

The show whittles down 100 teams to 16 every year (Picture: BBC/Parasol Media/RDF Television/Patrick Olner)

Chris explained that once you’re in the studio environment, you’re an integral part of the series – which records around 32 programmes a year.

‘The actual recording we do in 11 studio days,’ he said, explaining how they shoot three shows a day. We do the final and either the semi final, or one of the specials on the last day.’

Be prepared to move around the studio too

Chris added: ‘Things always take a little bit longer, because after round two, we have to move [for the wall round].’

The third round sees teams leave their positions behind the desk and head to another part of the studio, to join host Victoria.

‘That adds time to the recording process. And you know, you have to light it and make sure everything’s working on the second set.

‘We record it in order. It’s recorded exactly as transmitted.’

Feel like you’re up to the challenge? 

Reckon you could be the next series champion? The show is taking submissions for teams for 2022 right now – get involved here, and happy quizzing!

Only Connect airs on Mondays at 8pm on BBC One.

 


Credit: Original article published here.

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