25th January 2017

A love affair with Pointless: Why daytime TV is totally enriching your mind, honest

Baby brain? Pah! Manisha Ferdinand became a mum AND a genius in the space of a few months, all thanks to one show that’s on at the exact time of day when you’re desperately craving some adult company and brain stimulation…

We all know the feeling when you’ve been crawling around on your hands and knees for two hours, gathering the materials to build yet another tower of sodding wooden blocks only to see your masterpiece of architecture come tumbling down at the hands of a tiny psychopath; or when you’ve sung ’The Wheels on the Bus’ so many times you feel like your own wheels might be coming off. It’s the ‘my brain is about to fall out of my ears’ feeling that all new and new-ish parents recognise at five hundred paces. Let’s face it, there’s not much time for bettering oneself or expanding one’s intellectual and cultural horizons when you’re picking yet another piece of soggy toast out of your hair.

Well, the good news is – all is not lost. You may not have time to read the latest issue of The Week or the mental fortitude to deal with Newsnight after a day with the kid(s); but you absolutely can improve your mind. How? Via the most unlikely of sources: daytime TV. Or actually, early evening time killer TV.

To wit: Pointless. I’m a relatively new convert to the show, considering it’s been going since 2009 and recently celebrated its 1000th episode – it was only during my pregnancy in late 2015 that I really became aware of its majesty. If you’ve never seen it before, the basic premise of the show is this: contestants are given categories, and asked to come up with an obscure answer within that category (for example; artists who had a top 40 album in 2015; or words ending in ‘-are.’). The obscurity is judged against the answers of 100 random people who are surveyed; the lower the number of people who give your answer, the better. And of course, if you come up with an answer that those 100 managed to miss, it’s Pointless, making you the undisputed king or queen of obscure knowledge, and earning the unmitigated respect of hosts Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman.

Now, I’ll be upfront: I am pretty good at a few things – eating cake, trivia relating to 90s pop culture, making up cheese-based puns – but one thing I have ALWAYS been terrible at is world geography. When it came to the humanities at school, my approach to geography was very much ‘er, I’ll take history thanks.’ But that has all changed with my almost zealous passion for Pointless. (Obscure) countries with more than one vowel in its name? TUVALU, pal. Capital cities whose first letter comes after M in the alphabet? PODGORICA, thank you very much. Coastal countries in Africa? All together now: DJIBOUTI!

And it’s not just geography. Through Pointless, I now have a much better grasp of a vast array of general knowledge, including, but not limited to: flags, the periodic table, Premier League footballers, the Royal Family, breeds of duck, bridges around the world, US Presidents, and not forgetting, of course, famous Nigels.

Pointless has struck on a magic formula. The smugness you feel when you get a Pointless answer or even a 1 pointer knows no bounds – I have been known to jump off the sofa punching the air and whooping with delight – and it’s a nice reminder to us mums who want to remember that there was once (and one day, will be again) more to us than nappy bags and purees.

Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman are the perfect hosts too; charming and funny and JUST clever enough to make you feel like you’re in on the joke, but not so clever that you feel like it may have gone over your head. Pointless’ central conceit – the lesser known answer, in order to score the fewest points – is novel enough to feel fresh, interesting enough to feel genuinely improving but simple enough to not feel like hard work. Cause let’s face it, after a day of looking after our beautiful and treasured progeny, the last thing any of us need is more hard work.

So basically, when I said earlier that daytime TV can expand your mind, what I ACTUALLY meant was: WATCH POINTLESS. Trust me. If you haven’t already, give it a week – I guarantee you will learn ten new things. And when your little terror brings home that dreaded geography homework; you’ll look up to the heavens and thank Pointless for Djibouti.

@mushmums @Ferders

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