Tuesday, 12 February 2013

BBC TV Pointless - game show or social comment

It has finally dawned on me, in a flash of inspiration, the purpose behind BBC TV's "Pointless" TV show...

Perhaps you think it's just a bit of fluff - a trivial entertainment to obviate the need for conversation when eating supper in the living room. I used to think that, but I now realise it's a very clever piece of social comment containing veiled criticism of our political leaders every bit as acerbic as the satire of Jonathan Swift.

It does this by exposing, on a daily basis, just how ineffectual the British education system has been in instilling into the general public even the most rudimentary knowledge of British history, the arts (especially literature), foreign languages or science.

Give the contestants questions about which celebrity is currently bonking whom, or about football or TV and, it seems, they have little problem but anything even remotely academic seems to throw them all into a blue funk.

Today, for example, it was revealed that only 6% of the British public know that Gladstone's political opponents included Disraeli. In the past, similarly low numbers have known that Carroll wrote "Through the Looking Glass" or been able to ascribe an author to the most common quotations from the likes of Wordsworth or Eliot.

Having exposed the politicians' failure as custodians of our education system, the programme goes on to demonstrate how politicians have also failed to promote themselves or generate any interest in their activities. We have seen contestants who believe Boris Johnson to be a member of the labour party and a general and pervasive ignorance of who is in the cabinet.

I should therefore like to congratulate the BBC on this perceptive and entertaining piece of social commentary. I only hope that politicians in general, and the Secretary of State for Education in particular (how many of the 100 people could name him, I wonder) are paying attention to Auntie's subtle use of what is, ostensibly, simply entertainment to highlight a worrying social problem.

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