The Weakest Link (UK game show)

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The Weakest Link
Genre Game show
Created by Fintan Coyle
Cathy Dunning
Presented by Anne Robinson
Voices of Jon Briggs
Theme music composer Paul Farrer
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 13
No. of episodes 1,693
Production location(s) BBC Television Centre (2000–1)
Pinewood Studios (2001–9)
BBC Pacific Quay (2009–12)
Running time 45 minutes (daytime)
50 minutes (primetime 2003–12)
Original network BBC Two
(Daytime: 14 August 2000 – 8 February 2008 and 5 September 2011 – 30 March 2012)
(Primetime: 31 October 2000 – 31 March 2012)
(Daytime: 11 February 2008 – 16 June 2011)
Picture format 576i (SDTV)
1080i (HDTV)
Original release 14 August 2000 (2000-08-14) – 31 March 2012 (2012-03-31)
Related shows Weakest Link (U.S. game show)
External links

The Weakest Link is a British television quiz show, mainly broadcast on BBC Two, but also on BBC One. It was devised by Fintan Coyle and Cathy Dunning, and developed for television by the BBC Entertainment Department. The first ever episode went on air on 14 August 2000. It has since been replicated around the world. The UK version was hosted by Anne Robinson and narrated by Jon Briggs. In April 2011, Robinson announced that she would end her role as the show's hostess by the time her contract would expire as she had served longer than she originally intended to. The original run ended on Saturday 31 March 2012 with the 1,693rd episode.[1] The BBC continues to air the show internationally on BBC Entertainment.


The original format features a team of nine contestants who take turns answering general knowledge questions. The object of each round is to create a chain of nine consecutive correct answers and earn an increasing amount for a single communal pot within a certain time limit. An incorrect answer breaks the chain and loses any money earned in that chain. However, before their question is asked, a contestant can choose to bank the current amount of money earned in a chain to a safe pot, after which the chain starts afresh. A contestant's decision not to bank, in anticipation that they will be able to correctly answer the upcoming question allows the money to grow, as each successive correct answer earns proportionally more money.

When the allotted time for each round ends, any money not banked is lost, and if the host is in the middle of asking a question, or has asked a question but the contestant has yet to answer, the question is abandoned. Occasionally, the host gives the correct answer whether the contestant is able to answer the question correctly or not. The round automatically ends if the team successfully reaches the maximum amount for the round before the allotted time expires, and the next person says "Bank". Each round thereafter is reduced by 10 seconds as players are eliminated. The remaining two players have 90 seconds on the clock for the triple stakes round.

The first person to be asked a question in the first round is the player whose name is first alphabetically. Every subsequent round starts with the "strongest link"—the player with the most correct answers—from the previous round, unless that person has been voted off, in which case the second strongest answers first.

Money tree

The money tree was as follows:

Voting and elimination

At the end of each round, contestants must vote one player out of the game. Until the beginning of the next round, only the television audience knows exactly who the strongest and weakest links are statistically due to Briggs' narration. While the contestants work as a team when answering questions, they are at this point encouraged to be ruthless with one another. Players often decide to vote off weaker rivals, but occasionally opt to eliminate stronger players as well, in hope that it then improves their chances of winning the game. After the revealing of the votes, the host will interrogate the players on their choice of voting, the reasons behind their choice, as well as about their background and their interests. After interrogation, the player with the most votes is given a stern "You are the weakest link. Goodbye!" and must walk off the stage in what is called the "Walk of shame." In the event of a tie, the strongest link has the final decision about who is eliminated. If they voted for a tied player, they have the option of sticking with their vote or changing it. The strongest link usually sticks with their original choice, unless another player in the tie has voted for them. Occasionally, the strongest link has voted for someone who is not in the tie, and so is forced to change their decision one way or the other.

End of the game

Final round

The final two contestants work together in a final round identical to the previous ones; however, all money banked at the end of this round is tripled and added to the current money pool, forming the final total for the game. At the end of this round, there is no elimination, with the game instead moving to a head to head round.

Head to head

For the head to head round, the remaining two players are each required to answer five questions each in a penalty shootout format. The strongest link from the previous round chooses who goes first. Whoever has the most correct answers at the end of the round wins the game. In the event of a tie, the game goes to "sudden death". Each player continues to be asked questions as usual, until one person answers a question correctly and the other incorrectly.

The winner of the game is declared "the strongest link" takes home all of the money accumulated in the prize pool for the game, and the loser leaves with nothing, like all previous eliminated players. In daytime episodes, the maximum possible winnings are £10,000; in primetime and special celebrity charity episodes, the maximum is £50,000.

Variant versions

After the huge success of the show in its early evening slot on BBC Two, a prime-time edition was shown on BBC One, usually broadcast on Wednesday evenings.

Originally, The Weakest Link: Champions League, which featured eight players who had won games on the daytime edition, battled off once again for £20,000 (with a money tree of £50-£100-£200-£500-£1,000-£1,500-£2,000-£2,500; with the seventh round being a double round for £5,000). The set was slightly altered, with electronic podiums being installed, as well as the adding of a studio audience. The Champions format was not successful, and instead new players competed for the money. A few months later, the contestants were cut down to seven, as well as the time from 45 minutes to 30, however, the prize money remained the same (with a money tree of £50-£100-£250-£1,000-£1,750-£2,500; the sixth round being a triple round for £7,500).

After the seven-player edition, the studio was revamped once again to add two more podiums, and the potential prize money was raised to £50,000. Non-celebrities played on the show at first, however, at present, the primetime version features celebrities playing for charity. Although Briggs and Robinson state that eight players will leave with nothing, normally the losing celebrities receive a "house" amount to give to their chosen charity[citation needed], as well as their own fee for appearing on the show[citation needed]. In some celebrity editions, two celebrities have represented one position in the game, with the two conferring before giving their answer. There have also been several editions featuring entirely celebrity couples. A Christmas edition of the programme has also regularly featured in the schedules in recent years. Some contestants, such as Christopher Biggins, Peter Duncan and Basil Brush, have appeared several times. A puppet edition also aired, which included a Robinson puppet introducing the show before twelve famous puppets played for charity.

The daytime version has also seen its share of variance, as was the case in two particular episodes. An April Fools' Day show which aired in 2003 featured Robinson being strangely nice to the contestants, and abandoning her traditional black wardrobe in favour of a metallic pink overcoat. However, she did not remain kind to the contestants for the entire episode, resuming her old behaviour after declaring the winner and contestants as "so stupid".

Another variant of the daytime show was the 1,000th episode, complete with an audience, a departure from the normally spectator-free background. Fan-favourites played again for £10,000, and some previous contestants also sat in the audience. The show's first winner, David Bloomfield was one of the returning contestants, and was asked the question: If there have been a thousand episodes of The Weakest Link, each with nine players, how many contestants in total have appeared on the show? He answered the question correctly (9,000) but banked prior to it being asked. He did not win any money on the 1,000th episode, and was voted off in only the third round, despite having been the statistical strongest link in the first two rounds. In the end, Miss Evans (who had previously appeared on the Strong Women special but had lost out to curate Emma Langley) defeated Basil Brush, winning £2,710, which she split with her co-finalist to give to charity. Robinson then announced that a bonus of £1,000 would be added to the final total, as it was the 1,000th episode, resulting in a final total of £3,710, or both contestants receiving £1,855 each. It also marked the first time that Anne Robinson did not say the phrase " leave with nothing." to the losing contestant.

Two fictional television shows, Doctor Who and My Family, have depicted their own versions of Weakest Link in their episodes. The Doctor Who edition, broadcast in 2005, showed a futuristic version of the show in the year 200,100, with only six contestants, and presented by an 'Anne Droid' (voiced by Anne Robinson) who disintegrates the contestants being voted off (it is later revealed that she actually shoots a transmat beam that transports the contestants to a Dalek ship for extermination or be converted into Daleks). The My Family version was broadcast in 2007, and was essentially portraying all of the main characters on an ordinary episode of the show, except for the fact that it was a 'family special'. Comedy series That Mitchell and Webb Look broadcast a sketch based on Weakest Link called Hole in the Ring, featuring Robert Webb as an overly harsh presenter who makes mistakes whilst reading questions.

A later special edition of Weakest Link featured nine cast members of Doctor Who playing the game, and the show was introduced by the Anne Droid. The real Anne walked on stage almost instantly as the droid began the show, unplugged it, and said, "I don't think so. I think we'll do that again." She then began the show herself and proceeded as normal.

The final edition

The final episode was titled "You Are The Weakest Link - Goodbye" and was aired on BBC One on 31 March 2012. Filming for the final edition took place on 11 December 2011. It was the 1,693rd edition of The Weakest Link in the United Kingdom. The ending of the show was the only special part to the final edition.

A normal daytime edition of the show was made, with some of Anne's favourite contestants from over the years taking part, and with no audience present during filming or changes to the money tree (see above). The first round of questions was notably different and was mainly about The Weakest Link and the host, Anne Robinson. The last question asked was "If the Roman numeral 'X' is halved, the result can be represented by which other Roman numeral?", the answer being "V". The last ever UK winner was Archie Bland, the editor of The Independent newspaper's Saturday edition.[2]

A short montage of clips from the show was shown at the end of the game. After saying goodbye, all of the lights turned off with Anne being the only person left in the studio. The programme was eventually replaced by the Alexander Armstrong-fronted Pointless as the big BBC teatime quiz (it had aired on BBC One for some years previously).


Much of the show's success has been attributed to its host, Anne Robinson. She was already famous in the UK for her sarcasm while presenting the consumer programme Watchdog, and The Weakest Link saw her develop this further, particularly in her taunting of contestants. Her sardonic summary to the team, usually berating them for their lack of intelligence for not achieving the target became a trademark of the show, and her call of "You are the weakest link—goodbye!" became a popular catchphrase.

The presence of elements inspired by Big Brother and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? differentiated the programme from most previous quiz shows, as it invites open conflict between players, and uses a host who is openly hostile to the competitors, rather than a positive figure.

In autumn 2001, for the first time ever, The Weakest Link was placed directly head-to-head with Millionaire in the television schedules. Between the two, Millionaire ultimately emerged on top, attracting 10.2m viewers compared to The Weakest Link's 3.8m.[3]

From 9 to 13 August 2010, five "10th Anniversary Specials" aired at the usual time on BBC One.[4]

Notable celebrities and contestants

International versions

The format has been licensed across the world, with many countries producing their own series of the programme. As with the original British version, all of the hosts wear dark, usually black clothing. Most versions also have disciplinarian female hosts, similar in attitude and appearance to Robinson in the British version.

See also


  1. "Anne Robinson to quit 'Weakest Link'". Digital Spy. 22 April 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Peck, Tom (2 April 2012). "As Robinson says 'Goodbye', our man Archie wins the last Weakest Link". The Independent. London.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Gibson, Owen (15 November 2001). "Robinson is weakest link". The Guardian. London.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. [1][dead link]

External links

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