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The quiz show has been a staple of the television diet since almost the beginning of its time. Despite falling out of favour numerous times over the decades, it's always bounced back, revamped and reinvented for a new generation. Only the cockroach has a greater capacity for survival.

Whether you're talking about University Challenge, Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, The £64,000 Question, Fifteen to One, Family Fortunes, Jeopardy, The Weakest Link, Mastermind, QI or any of the hundreds of other quiz shows that have come and gone, and sometimes come again, the basic principles underpinning the format remain the same.

You have a host; you have some contestants, either individually or in teams; you have questions; sometimes you have a prize, sometimes not. Gimmicks are allowed now and then.

The most famous gimmicky quiz show of them all is probably ITV's Bullseye, which somehow managed to mix general knowledge questions with darts, an unlikely marriage that lasted 14 successful years.

Part of the appeal of Bullseye was the fun of seeing two tubby blokes from some dreary city in the English Midlands ending up with a speedboat.

Television bosses love quiz shows, and with good reason. High-overhead exceptions like Millionaire aside, they're generally cheap and easy to make. Which begs the question: why, when quiz shows are the basic meat and potatoes of television, does RTE find it spectacularly difficult to make good ones?

The latest example of this is the truly dire sports quiz Put 'Em Under Pressure. Nothing could be simpler to get right; yet the virtual absence of any clips or a picture round -- essentials for a sports quiz -- makes watching it as tedious as listening to snooker on the radio.

You don't have to look as far back as Jackpot with Gay Byrne or Bunny Carr's pensioners-win-pennies show Quicksilver ("Stop the lights!") to know RTE's quiz record is mediocre.


Eighties monstrosity Murphy's Micro Quiz-M, hosted by an uncommonly humourless Mike Murphy and probably the first quiz show to use computers, was as lumbering as its title, and about as much fun as watching someone else playing an Atari console.

The risible Where In the World?, presented by Teresa Lowe, was arguably the most convoluted and mean-spirited quiz in TV history. Even if a player was lucky enough to make it to the end, they were given a ridiculously short time to answer a raft of difficult questions.

If Where In the World? is remembered for anything, it's the cheesy opening credits featuring Lowe, in a variety of national costumes, playing with an inflatable globe -- a sequence that plays like a bizarre homage to the famous scene in Chaplin's The Great Dictator.

There has, it's true, been the very odd exception. RTE2's Blackboard Jungle, a secondary schools quiz with questions set by The Blades' Paul Cleary and George Byrne of this parish, was a rare example of a programme aimed at young people that also attracted adult viewers.

But if you want an indication of just how low RTE's aspirations run, look no further than "new" musical quiz, Sing! Far from being new, it's actually a junior rehash of The Lyrics Board, note for boring note. Stop the lights indeed.