Daytime BBC quiz show hosted by Anne Robinson that is a strange amalgamation of 15 to 1 (number of contestants), Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? (music and set) and Big Brother/Survivor (contestants are voted out by their peers), with the added bonus of extremely low prize money and a 45 minute running time. A show where it is statistically very likely to go away at a loss (only the winner gets anything at all), with the additional disincentive of making up to nine enemies.

Since I created this writeup, The Weakest Link went on to be a transparently BBC-orchestrated "media phenomenon", the show promoted to a prime-time slot and endless pointless column inches dribbled out about its supposed popularity. Oh, and every fuckwit on God's green earth began to parrot its catchphrases incessantly. Kill your television.

And now there's going to be an American version! Starting on April 15th, 2001, NBC will be airing its own version of 'The Weakest Link' to compete with ABC's Who Wants to be a Millionare and CBS's Survivor. I've come to love the British version, and it was one of the main reasons I was considering staying in Ireland for longer. Now, only the beer keeps me here (which is a mighty strong pulling force I might add). Of course, no host can be as good as Anne Robinson, but I'm very much looking forward to watching the new American version. Oh wait! Anne Robinson is hosting the American version! I'm so happy! She's even hinted that she might be willing to leave the British version in order to make sure that the American version took off. In your face Brits! First we took Hopkins, now we're taking Anne.

According to Robinson, the show has generated a cult following in gay clubs. Off in the corner, they'll play the show, showcasing her dominatrix attitude. Robinson is quoted as saying, "The nuns at my convent boarding school would be horrified."

Now my buddies back home will have some clue what I'm saying when I tell them, "You are the weakest link. Goodbye."

The term the 'weakest link' has its origins in the self-explanatory phrase "A chain is only as strong as its weakest link".

The expression is widely used to allude to the weakest aspect of a given collection. For example: In the context of a team game, the 'weakest link' is the poorest performer, ie the one most likely to 'let the side down'.

Australian The Weakest Link

Hosted by Cornelia Francis, this show is also 45 minutes long, although with the ads the TV company puts in it is stretched out to 1 hour. Cornelia Francis is an excellent host for the show. Although the prizes are still quite low, the show is made quite watchable by Cornelia's sneering attitude and scathing criticisms of the participants.

As for the phrase, "You are the weakest link. Goodbye.", it has become almost as commonplace in Australia as "Not happy Jan!", from the Yellow Pages phone directory ad.

It should perhaps be acknowledged that the deep bogosity of The Weakest Link does not stem uniquely from its infuriating host and her brainless catchphrase.

The Title: If a chain is only as strong as the weakest link, why do the contestants get stronger when the 'weakest link' is removed? All of a sudden, the average available money per head has gone up, and there's one less moron to compete with.

The Rules: Screaming 'bank' before answering your question to harvest the exponentially accreting money belongs in Mao, not a TV quiz show. It makes it unnecessarily difficult to obtain any cash.

The Questions: 'In nature, what is a hornbeam?' Answer: The same as it is in a park, or anywhere else - a tree. Many questions are needlessly or even misleadingly prefixed by the phrase 'In $field_of_knowledge'. They range from the killingly obscure to the insultingly easy, and the contestants' ability to answer them correctly seems to bear no correlation whatsoever to the commonality of the information concerned.

The Voting: We're told after every round that so-and-so was the weakest link 'statistically'. Then the group go and vote for someone different. Why waste our time with all this tedious fake suspense?

The Insults: If I want to be insulted I'll come to E2 :-) - or better still, I'll take the show's questions seriously. Anne Robinson's pathetic quips are principally demeaning to the networks stupid enough to screen this junk.

The 'Team': The contestants are consistently referred to as a team, even though they're there principally to back-stab one another competing for about three months' pay. Teamwork in 'survivor'-mode game-shows just doesn't happen.

And finally...

The winning strategy for 'The Weakest Link': The best strategy is this: Always say 'bank' before answering any question, and always vote for the person who answered the most questions correctly (other than yourself). If everyone follows this strategy, the second most stupid person wins, and that person is the only person with a guaranteed winning strategy in 'The Weakest Link'.
The quote "A chain is only as strong as its weakest link" is attributed to V. I. Lenin who was discussing his reasons why the Bolsheviks were agitating the Russian Proletariat before the Revolution of 1917 (in "What Is To Be Done?" I think).

Traditional Marxist thought held that places like Britain and Germany would be most likely to undergo a Socialist Revolution because the working classes in those countries were larger, better educated and more politically aware.

Lenin argued that although Russia till had an agrarian/peasant based economy and its working class was small and centred around the cities, because its government (the autocracy of Nicholas II) was so much weaker than that of the other capitalist countries, a well motivated vanguard could create a revolution more quickly than anywhere else.

It is this principle that forms the basis of Bolshevism.
In a blatantly obvious attempt to cash in on the whole phenomenon, a half-hour syndicated version of "Weakest Link" debuted in the United States in early 2002.

Host: George Gray, a former stand-up comedian, who's not nearly as cruel as Anne Robinson.

The rules are substantially the same as the longer version, with the following "minor" changes:

  • There are six players, not eight.
  • Chains start at a meager $250, reaching a maximum of $12,500.
  • Consequently, the maximum possible prize is $75,000 (a decent chunk of change, to be sure, but not nearly as exciting as a cool million)

Absurdly, I just filmed an episode of this god-awful quiz show. I am absolutely not a fan - but there was an ad in the student newspaper, and I thought it sounded like it might be quite an entertaining way to kill a few hours (auditioning, that is) and next thing you know the ginger witch has her beady eye assessing just how much she can verbally rough me up.

I got to the final four, which isn't bad, I suppose, though I was mildly irritated with myself for fucking up pretty badly in my last round - having been the strongest link a couple of times, I had an absolute shocker and got three of four questions wrong. And £2850 would have come in handy. (The giant wanted to grind up Jack's BONES! Not his thumbs! Not his fucking, fucking thumbs!) Never mind.

Slightly interesting things about The Weakest Link:

  • Anne Robinson is not any nicer when the camera is off. I'm sure she's a fairly ordinary woman at home, but between takes, she keeps the bitch persona up absolutely.
  • The reason people do lame little drawings on the boards they have to write the names on is that you have to keep writing for fucking ages so they can get shots of all of you, and if you stop the floor manager shouts at you. The alternative is to write over the name again and again, as I did - which makes you look like a psychopath.
  • If you're standing on the edge of the semi-circle, as I was - they do it by height - there's a terrifying moment when the crane camera sweeps in from far away and sits about six inches from your nose, looking for all the world like it's assessing whether to reveal its hidden machine guns or not; then a little red light flashes and you have to introduce yourself, or, later on, say who you've voted for. The camera does rather seem to be alive: it's hard to put into words just how ridiculously disconcerting this is.
  • You hang out with your fellow contestants for a while before hand, which makes it significantly harder to vote them off.
  • If there is ANYTHING you don't want to reveal about yourself which ANYONE else in the world knows about, it's probably best not to go on the show. I live in quite a big house, which I'm certainly not ashamed of, but, equally, don't bang on about either: though I didn't make any reference to this when the researcher called my up, mrs robinson knew, and found great comic potential in it. And I bet they edit out my witty retorts. Oh, God, I'm going to look like such a twat...
  • When they interview you afterwards, they really really really pressure you to say bitchy things you don't really mean. Which doesn't make it any less my fault, admittedly, but the nation's going to hate me. Well, the one sixtieth of the nation that watches The Weakest Link is going to hate me, anyway. For about thirty seconds.
  • You must bring three possible outfits. These must not include t-shirts or jeans and should be in a variety of bright colours. Women, no dresses, as these tend to be restricting. Got that?
  • Voting for the person standing next to you is a Bad Idea. Between rounds you stand about a fair bit and it's pretty excruciating when, to all intents and purposes, you've just suggested that you think he/she is as thick as shit. (But she voted me off in the end, so she had her revenge.)
  • There is a lot of standing around. This isn't that much fun. But hey, you get free sandwiches, and they put you up in a hotel the night before...

I am certainly not telling you when it's going to be on. Well, actually, perhaps I will nearer the time if my inner rampant egotist gets the better of me, but I doubt it: quite enough people are going to be taking the piss out of me at university, thanks very much.

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