Gareth Malone, Brian Cox, Paul Hollywood… BBC2 has a history of creating improbably heartthrobs, but perhaps the least likely is Richard Osman: the 6ft 7, toothy, bespectacled oracle on Pointless.
A 70s child, he’s too young to remember the channel’s inauspicious birth in 1964 when a fire at Battersea Power Station left the nation’s screens blank. Instead Osman recalls being weaned on snooker, cosy teatime quizzes and – his adolescent favourite – The Young Ones.
Back then, of course, BBC2 was the only alternative to its respectable older sibling and ITV’s noisy cousin.
“BBC1 has to appeal to everybody – hopefully in an intelligent way, but it has to be mainstream. BBC2 is a way of saying: look, these are the values we have as an organization but we’re going to take a few more risks here. You know if you press the 2 button, we might be asking a few more questions of you, and you might be seeing a few things that you wouldn’t see on BBC1.”
Can BBC2 continue to hold its own against the hundreds of alternatives out there nowadays, from niche digital channels to online broadcasters like Netflix? Osman – who, when not supplying the answers on Pointless, is a high-powered producer, having worked on Deal or No Deal, Eight out of Ten Cats and Would I Lie to You? – suspects not.
“In 20 years’ time the landscape will be very, very different and we’ll look back on this period and go: wasn’t it weird that we had these channels that were so important? I don’t think there’ll be a programme marking 100 years of BBC2.”
Osman also frets that the channel has “become slightly safer and slightly older”. “Because of the way the BBC is going now” – a reference to director-general Tony Hall’s pledge to show more arts than ever before – “there’s far les smoney for entertainment and comedy, and I think that’s a shame. Most people get pleasure from Morecambe and Wise than they do from the high arts.”
“Television is an art form that is so important to people. It’s inside people’s living rooms and it’s so democratic.
“That’s why it’s worth sitting down and saying: BBC2 is an extraordinary thing that we’ve created as a country, as programme-makers and as viewers.”
Let the quiz begin…
1. They often front BBC shows, but how are Dave Myers and Si King known?
2. Who wrote the recent First World War comedy drama The Wipers Times?
3. The UK version of The Apprentice first aired on BBC2 in 2005, but who was the original entrepreneur in the US version?
4. In which BBC2 series could you find Don Warrington, Jeremy Clarkson, Will Self, Nigel Havers, AA Gill, Bill Nighy and Bob Geldof?
5. Which BBC2 crime thriller featured future 12 Years a Slave star Chiwetel Ejiofor?
6. Which BBC2 quiz first aired on BBC4 and has its questions verified by “elves”?
7. In which BBC2 sitcom would you find theatrical agent Darren Lamb?
8. What connects the Kumars with author Douglas Adams?
9. The theme music of which BBC2 quiz is called Approaching Menace?
10. Which BBC2 show did reviewer Iain Hollingshead once dismiss being “like a budget X Factor for diabetics”?
11. In which 90s BBC2 drama would you find Miles, Milly and Egg?
12. What was the name of Nigel Planer’s pompous and patronising thespian who made his BBC2 debut in The Naked Actor?
13. Which BBC2 sitcom (debuting in 1992) introduced us to Edina Monsoon?
14. Who adapted her own novel for the BBC2 series Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit?
15. Who was the original host of comedy show Room 101 when it first aired on BBC2 in 1994?
16. Who played the oversized baby George Dawes in BBC2’s anarchic game show Shooting Stars?
17. Which 1990s BBC2 series featured the characters Arthur Atkinson, Bob Fleming and Unlucky Alf?
18. Which BBC2 cookery show was originally hosted by Fern Britton and later by Ainsley Harriott?
19. Which BBC2 sitcom (the first series aired in 1993) was written by Doctor Who’s Steven Moffat and centred on sitcom writer Mark Taylor?
20. What was unusual about the BBC2 show Two Fat Ladies when it was shown in Japan?
21. Who was the dog-training presenter who hosted a show on BBC2 in 1980 and whose shrill cry of “Walkies!” made her a household name?
22. Which 1982 BBC2 series followed the fortunes and failures of a Merseyside tarmac gang?
23. Who played the diminutive Mike in The Young Ones?
24. Which 1985 BBC2 series featured Rudolph Walker as a black solicitor in an otherwise all-white London chambers?
25. Which 1985 comedy serial – based on a Tom Sharpe novel – starred David Suchet as a scheming gardener and odd job man?
26. Which writer wrote the BBC sitcoms The Mistress and Solo?
27. What was the name of the android in Red Dwarf?
28. Which 1985 serial (written by Troy Kennedy Martin) introduced viewers to the Yorkshire police detective Ronald Craven?
29. Who played glamorous novelist Mary Fisher in the 1986 BBC2 serial The Life and Loves of a She-Devil?
30. In 1984 Margaret Thatcher wrote a sketch for the characters of which show?
31. Who was the first host of rock music show The Old Grey Whistle Test?
32. What was the name of the sketch series, written by Eric Idle with music by Neil Innes, that first introduced the mock Beatles band the Rutles?
33. What were the names of the two elderly ladies who were permanent residents of Fawlty Towers?
34. Who played the title role in the ancient Rome drama I Claudius, adapted from the book by Robert Graves?
35. Which popular BBC2 sitcom, the first series of which debuted in 1976, starred Ronnie Barker?
36. Which BBC2 comedy programme, starring Michael Palin, featured that episodes Murder at Moorstones Manor an Across the Andes by Frog?
37. Which BBC2 sitcom, debuting in 1978, featured at 17-year-old Nicholas Lyndhurst as Adam Parkinson?
38. Which BBC2 sketch show (beginning in 1979) introduced us to the urbane, Johnny Mathis-loving, talking gorilla Gerald?
39. What was the name of the series, set in a radically mixed community of West Indians and Asians in a suburban street in Birmingham, which starred Norman Beaton as Everton Bennett?
40. Which historical drama series starred the current MP for Hampstead and Kilburn?
41. Why did BBC2 launch a day late?
42. BBC2’s first night included a lavish 95-minute version of which Cole Porter musical?
43. What was the name of the two kangaroo mascots used to promote BBC2?
44. In what year did Match of the Day begin on BBC2?
45. Which 60s BBC2 sitcom featured the characters Bob Ferris and Terry Collier?
46. What was the name of BBC2’s auspicious sci-fi anthology series which ran from 1965-71?
47. Who was the original host of BBC2’s game show Call My Bluff?
48. BBC2 operated on the 625-line system; which system was prevalent until then in the UK?
49. What was the name of Kenneth Clark’s milestone documentary series that aired on BBc2 in 1969?
50. Which Beatle appeared as the doorman of a nightclub based in a men’s lavatory on Peter Cook and Dudley Moore’s 1966 Christmas special?
2000s 1 The Hairy Bikers 2 Ian Hislop & Nick Newman 3 Donald Trump 4 Grumpy Old Men 5 The Shadow Line 6 QI 7 Extras (Stephen Merchant) 8 The number 42. Sanjeev Bhaskar of The Kumars at No 42 chose No 42 as a tribute to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which said the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything was 42. 9 Mastermind 10 The Great British Bake Off 1990s 11 This Life 12 Nicholas Craig 13 Absolutely Fabulous 14 Jeanette Winterson 15 Nick Hancock 16 Matt Lucas 17 The Fast Show 18 Ready Steady Cook 19 Joking Apart 20 The voices of Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Paterson were dubbed by two men 1980s 21 Barbara Woodhouse 22 Boys from the Blackstuff 23 Christopher Ryan 24 Black Silk 25 Blott on the Landscape 26 Carla Lane 27 Kryten 28 Edge of Darkness 29 Patricia Hodge 30 Yes Minister 1970s 31 Ian Whitcomb 32 Rutland Weekend Television 33 Miss Tibbs and Miss Gatsby 34 Derek Jacobi 35 Open All Hours 36 Ripping Yarns 37 Butterflies 38 Not the Nine o’Clock News 39 Empire Road 40 Elizabeth R (Glenda Jackson) 1960s 41 There was a power cut 42 Kiss Me Kate 43 Hullabaloo and Custard 44 1964 45 The Likely Lads 46 Out of the Unknown 47 Robin Ray 48 405 lines 49 Civilisation 50 John Lennon