The Weakest Link (UK game show)

Infobox Television
show_name = The Weakest Link

caption =
format = Game Show
picture_format = 16:9
runtime = 45 minutes
creator = Fintan Coyle & Cathy Dunning
starring = Anne Robinson
channel = BBC Two (14 August, 2000 - 8 February, 2008) BBC One (Primetime: 31 October, 2000 - present) (Daytime: 11 February, 2008 - present)
first_aired = 14 August, 2000
last_aired = present
num_series =
num_episodes = 1000+
country = UK
producer =
related =
imdb_id =

"The Weakest Link" is a British television game show that is broadcast on BBC One. It was devised by doctor and situation comedy writer Fintan Coyle and the comedian Cathy Dunning, and developed for television by the BBC Entertainment Department. It has since been replicated around the world (see The Weakest Link). It may also be called a reality game show because of competition similar to present-day reality shows and has been the basis of academic studies. The UK version is hosted by Anne Robinson, and voiced by Jon Briggs.


The original format featured a team of nine contestants who take turns answering general knowledge questions. The object of each round is to answer a chain of consecutive correct answers to earn an increasing amount for a single communal pot within a certain time limit. Just one incorrect answer wipes out any money earned in that chain. However, before their question is asked, a contestant can say "BANK" and the money earned thus far is safely stored and a new chain is initiated from scratch.

Banking money is the safe option, however, "not" banking, in anticipation that one 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 (and on certain versions, gives the correct answer whether or not the contestant is able to answer the question correctly). 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".

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 (via an announcer's narration) exactly who the "strongest link" and sometimes the "weakest link" are statistically. While the contestants work as a team, they are encouraged at this point to be ruthless to each other. Voting presents somewhat of a tactical challenge for canny players seeking to maximise their chances of winning, and maximising the payoffs if they do. Voting off weaker players is likely to increase the payoff for the winner, but stronger players may be more difficult to beat in a playoff. After the revealing of the votes, the host will interrogate the players on their choice of voting, reasons behind their choice, and as well, insult the players on their lack of intelligence, 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 say on who goes. If they voted for a tied player, they may have the option of sticking with their vote, or changing their mind. If the Strongest Link is part of a two-way tie, for mocking purposes, the Strongest Link is still asked who they wish to rid.

End of the Game

Final Round

When two contestants remain, they work together in one final round, identical to previous rounds in all but two details: first, all money banked at the end of the round is tripled before being added to the current money pool to make the final total for the game. Also, there is no elimination; the game moves to the Head to Head round instead.

Head to Head

For the Head to Head round, the remaining two players will each be required to answer five questions each in a football shootout format. The strongest link from the previous round chooses who goes first. Whoever has the most correct answers at the end of the Head to Head wins the game.

The winner of the game takes home all of the money accumulated in the prize pool for the game, and the loser goes home with nothing like all previous eliminated players.

In the event of a tie, the game goes to Sudden Death. Each player is continued to be asked questions as usual, until one person gets a question right and the other wrong. This can go on for as long as it takes, though the Sudden Death may be edited to only one round for broadcasting reasons.

In all regular episodes the maximum possible winnings in the British shows is £10,000; in special celebrity charity episodes the maximum is £50,000.


Some players may consider incorrectly answering some questions so as not to appear so much of a threat — however, such a strategy is risky. One studyFact|date=March 2007 suggested that the optimal percentage of questions to answer correctly is 60%. If you do worse, you risk being voted off for being too weak; if you do better, you are perceived as a threat in the final showdown. Mathematical analysis of the expected payoffs provided by various banking strategies suggest that the optimum strategies are to either attempt to go for the highest payoff, or bank after every question. Few teams adopt either — most choose to bank after three or four questions.


Part of the show's success is due to the presenter, Anne Robinson. Already well-known in the UK for her sarcastic tone while presenting the BBC's consumer programme "Watchdog", she found here a new outlet in her taunts to the 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!" quickly became a catch phrase. (Originally, the devisors suggested the equally acerbic Jeremy Paxman, host of "University Challenge".)

With elements inspired by "Big Brother" and "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?", the show differed from virtually all games shows before it by inviting open conflict between players, and using a host who is openly hostile to the competitors rather than a positive figure like Chris Tarrant of "Millionaire" (though this feature of the show tends to be played for laughs, especially in the prime time version, where there is a studio audience for Robinson — and the contestants — to play to). Heavily criticised by the television press in some countries for its Hobbesian overtones, the show has nevertheless been a ratings success in most countries.

In fall 2001, for the first time ever, "The Weakest Link" went directly head-to-head with "Millionaire". Between the two, "Millionaire" emerged on top. []

Initially there was outcry by national newspapers and some viewers, that the licence fee be used for such a potentially high jackpot. However, when it became apparent that contestants seldom came close to winning anywhere near the maximum jackpot, these criticisms generally disappearedFact|date=September 2008.

Variant versions

With the huge success of the show in its early evening BBC Two slot, there was soon a version made for prime-time BBC One, typically, but not always, shown on Wednesday evenings.

First off, The Weakest Link: Champions League, which featured eight players who won games on the daytime edition, battled off once again for £20,000. This time, electronic podiums were installed, as well as a studio audience. The Champions format wasn't a success, and so regular players played for the money. About a year later, the contestants were cut down to seven, as well as the time from 45 minutes to 30, however, the prize money stayed the same.

After the seven-player edition, the studio was revamped once again to add two more podiums, as well as a much larger prize money of £50,000. Non-celebrities played on the show at first, but now the primetime version usually, if not always, has celebrities playing for charity. Though Robinson states that eight players will leave with "nothing," normally the losing celebrities receive a house amount to give to their charityFact|date=September 2008, as well as their own fee for appearingFact|date=September 2008. In some of these celebrity editions, there have been two celebrities representing one position in the game, with the two conferring before giving their answer. There have also been several editions featuring entirely celebrity couples. The yearly Christmas edition has also become somewhat of a staple in the BBC One holiday schedules in recent years. Some contestants, such as Christopher Biggins and Basil Brush, have appeared several times. Puppets, such as Basil Brush, have also appeared on the show; in fact, a puppet edition was also aired, complete with an Anne puppet introducing the show, and with 12 classic puppets playing for charity.

The standard BBC One version has generally been dropped in the last couple of years, but celebrity editions still sometimes appear. Sometimes they are specially designed episodes, such as the March 2007 edition tying in with the new series of "Doctor Who" that began broadcasting the following day.

The daytime version has also seen its share of variance, as was the case in two particular episodes. An April Fools' Day show in 2003 was aired, with Anne being strangely nice to the contestants, and breaking out of her traditional black wardrobe to wear a metallic pink overcoat. She however did not remain kind to the contestants the whole show, as she came back to her old behaviour after finding the contestants to be "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 other previous contestants also sat in the audience. In the end, Miss Evans (who appeared on the Strong Women special) defeated puppet regular Basil Brush, and won £2,710, which she split with her co-finalist to give to charity; Anne then announced that a bonus of £1,000 would be added to the final total, as it was the 1,000th episode.

International versions

"The Weakest Link" In Other Media

The show's popularity made it a prime target for ridicule, mostly in the form of parodies, in popular culture.

atire Programmes

*Anne Robinson appeared as the voice of the "Anne-Droid" in the "Doctor Who" episode "Bad Wolf", which hosts a version of the show in the year 200,100 that has deadly consequences for its contestants if they are eliminated or try to quit the game. "Anne-Droid" also appeared in the Doctor Who special of the quiz, recorded on November 21, 2006 at Pinewood Studios, which was broadcast on March 30, 2007. The real Anne pulled the plug out of the droid before hosting the show for real.
*"Dead Ringers" (a satire produced by the BBC) made many sketches spoofing "The Weakest Link", such as "The Weakest Disciple" in which the contestants were Christ's disciples (with Judas Iscariot banking the most money - 30 pieces of silver) and "The Weakest Trappist", in which the contestants bank nothing and are silent when Anne Robinson insults them, but they write profanity-laced insults to her.
*An episode of "That Mitchell And Webb Look" includes a parody sketch of "The Weakest Link" called "Hole In The Ring" in which Robert Webb plays an extremely stupid host, introduced only as "Jason". The sketch opens with the host saying "I'm Jason... and welcome to "Hole in the Ring"," before giving the finger to the camera. The rude gesture is a running joke throughout the sketch, with the host giving the finger to a new contestant when she is introduced, the camera when voting commences, and to the losing contestant when they are eliminated. In addition to this, he host is very bad at improvising his lines, constantly mispronounces words, faces the wrong contestant while asking a question and even states that the contestant is wrong when they got the answer right. As well as being stupid, the host is excessively rude, calling one of the contestants a "prick" and suggesting he should be in a zoo, and stating at the end of the round "You scored a pathetic, a gay, one point. Which is shit so... you idiots!" He also asks Anne Robinson-esque rhetoric questions such as "Who's the git amongst the pidgeons?" "Who's three bob short of a ten-queer note?" "Who's the turd in the hamper?" and "Who's...thick?" The host also interviews the contestants, asking them about their voting choice, but again fails to improvise lines well, asking "So... John... you're a zookeeper. Do they have much cause for... getting things wrong? [...] Do zookeepers have much cause for... being bad at quizzes? Oh well. Maybe you should be in a zoo, prick." The sketch ends with "Jason" signing off the programme by saying "Goodbye," and giving the finger with both hands repeatedly.
*There is a sketch on "2DTV" where four contestants on "The Weakest Link" all vote for Anne Robinson and then insult her when she asks them why they voted for her. The insults include "Your air of superiority is totally phoney" and "You've got the IQ of a squirrel, and the looks." She then says "I am the weakest link...goodbye" and marches off the stage.

Other Programmes

The show was also ridiculed without being spoofed in other fictitious settings. For example, in the 2002 "Family Guy" episode "From Method to Madness", Stewie berates his performing arts classmate Olivia after she quotes Anne's "You are the weakest link ... goodbye!" line out of context. Also, in the 2005 "Doctor Who" episode "Bad Wolf", Rose and the Doctor are trapped in the Gamestation, where thousands of TV game shows are played out. Rose gets trapped in a horrific version of The Weakest Link, where losing contestants are vaporised.

ee also

*List of television show franchises

External links

*|id=weakestlink|title="The Weakest Link"
*imdb title|id=0268862|name=Weakest Link
*Funny "Weakest Link" answers: [ US] and [ UK]
* [ The Weakest Link online game]
* [ Official site for Paul Farrer - composer of the music for each show]
* [ UK Gameshows Page: The Weakest Link]
* [ Strongest Strategies for The Weakest Link]
* [ Personal account from a past contestant] including a video and photos
* [ Another personal account from a past contestant] including round-by-round analysis of the game
* [;adv=yes;group=;groupequals=;holdingType=;page=0;parentid=;query=Number%3A532737;querytype=;rec=0;resCount=10 The Weakest Link at the National Film and Sound Archive]

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