To fall. Especially off a board, like a surf board or skateboard.
To mess up.
In addition to Woundweavrs writeup:
The term wipeout originated in the american surfer communities during the peak of surfing in the early sixties. Until the skaters started to pick up some old surfer slang, it was only used by surfers. Now the term has been extended to mean a lot more, such as to mess up or the end of something. Even serious newspapers have used the term, e.g. "California Surf Museum Faces Wipeout" (Actual headline)

Wipeout is a gameshow shown on BBC 1 on weekday lunchtimes. The format is, I believe, taken from an American gameshow of the same name.


When the series began in 1995, it was presented by magician and general tacky B-list celebrity, Paul Daniels. He was in many ways perfect for the role and enjoyed informing the contestants of many useless bits of trivia regarding the answers. Wipeout was at this time a prime-time show on Saturday evenings.

Presenting the series was later taken over by Bob Monkhouse, and it was moved to the more housewife friendly daytime slot. Bob Monkhouse manages to have less charisma than even Paul Daniels and spends a lot of time telling his awful jokes.


The show consists of three contestants each situated behind a stand. At the start, they are introduced one by one by Bob Monkhouse and we are told a little about their lives. Bob will at this point make an obviously scripted, incredibly tenuously linked joke about something they have mentioned - their job, hobbies, etc. This practice of spending half the show introducing the contestants seems to be creeping into many gameshows of late and is really quite frustrating. "Hello, my name is Debra and I'm from Lincoln. I'm married to a lovely man called Neil and enjoy having sex with horses" is not the reason people watch gameshows - it's for the questions.

After these introductions, the show proper starts.

The Main Game
A 4x4 grid containing words or phrases pops up on the computer screen and Bob reads out a statement which may or may not be true for the sixteen listed items. The statement holds true for eleven of the sixteen items and is false for the other five (the 'wipeouts'). An example would be (this ridiculously easy example is from my own warped mind, and is in no way associated with the show):

Bob: Eleven of the following famous people are/were American.
|                   |                   |                  |                   |
|     Madonna       |     George W.     |      Henry       |       Puff        |
|                   |       Bush        |       VIII       |       Daddy       |
|                   |                   |                  |                   |
|      Adolf        |       Brad        |     Magic        |       Fred        |
|      Hitler       |       Pitt        |     Johnson      |      Astaire      |
|                   |                   |                  |                   |
|      Hulk         |      Steven       |     Nelson       |      Abraham      |
|      Hogan        |     Spielberg     |     Mandela      |      Lincoln      |
|                   |                   |                  |                   |
|     William       |       Homer       |     Michael      |       Yuri        |
|   Shakespeare     |      Simpson      |     Jackson      |      Gagarin      |

The contestant who won the backstage draw (not shown, but always alluded to) then goes first and chooses one of the items from the grid. Bob makes a quip and either a green tick (if correct) or a red wipeout cross (if incorrect) appears. If correct, the contestant gets £501 in the bank and the chance to guess again or pass to the next player. If a wipeout is selected, the contestant loses all the money in his or her bank and play passes to the next contestant.

The round ends once either all the correct answers or all the wipeouts have been selected. At the end of three rounds of the above, the player with the least money in the bank is sent home (in the case of a tie, the contestant who had the least number of correct answers is selected) and the game goes into the head to head round. Money in the bank is now safe and cannot be lost.

The Head to Head Round
The two remaining contestants are presented with a similar grid to the above but with only 12 options, 8 correct and 4 incorrect. They then take it in turns (with the player with the most money won going first) to bid on the number of correct answers they believe they can name consecutively. The player with the highest bid then starts to name them. If they match their bid without hitting a wipeout, they win that grid. If they make a mistake then play passes to the other contestant and the first contestant to name a correct answer wins that grid. This round is best of three grids and the winner goes on to the end game.

The End Game
The winning contestant is then confronted with four choices of category (vague, generally consisting of things such as film, music, nature etc...) from which to choose their fate. A grid is then brought up consisting of 12 answers, 6 correct, 6 incorrect. The contestant has 30 seconds to run up to the board, select the correct six answers and run back (about 5 metres) to a big button which tells them how many correct answers they currently have. If they get the correct combination within 30 seconds, they win, if not, they lose.

Each contestant goes away with the amount of money they had in their bank at the end. This can very easily be nothing, if the last answer they gave was a wipeout. The second and third contestants each receive a wipeout paperweight and the second contestant receives something else which I only have a vague recollection of (may be a case of champagne, or a hamper or something). The overall winner receives a holiday which is described as 'to anywhere in the world', but I've never seen anyone pick a destination outside Europe, so I remain unconvinced.

This show heavily relies on it's strong format, and is surprisingly good. The rounds are admittedly only engaging if you have a vague knowledge of the subject (lots of opportunities to laugh at the contestants and shout at the screen), but it is entertaining. On the other hand, Bob Monkhouse is good for comedy (and not in a good way) value only and should be replaced.

1 In the good old Paul Daniels days the money won for correct answers was slightly different. The first correct answer was worth £10, the second £20 all the way up to £110 for the eleventh correct answer.

Zerotime says wipeout: It's much the same in Australia, but it's a kids'
gameshow, with the contestants winning prizes for their school and stuff.

sadly, just my own brain

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