The Quizeum


It is hard to get quiz shows right. Often they end up being cheap, tacky, and full of constants who are unaware that Britain once took part in something called World War II. The Quizeum is not that. It is in fact almost totally the opposite. It is clearly intellectual, smart and knowing. It is also incredibly dull.

The Quizeum, hosted by Griff Rhys Jones, takes place in a different museum in the UK every week. For example, the first episode takes place in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, and the second in the Wallace Collection in London. All of the questions are connected to exhibits in that week’s museum.

There are two teams of two competitors, and all the competitors are academics: normally art historians and professors. There appear to be two regular team captains: Lars Tharp, an expert on European and Chinese ceramics; and Dr. Janina Ramirez, a medieval art historian. Other people making appearances include art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon and mathematician Marcus du Sautoy.

There are several rounds, which include a treasure hunt in which each team is given a cryptic clue to one particular exhibit in the museum; a “Call My Bluff” style game in which one team gives a pair of explanations about an exhibit and the other team have to figure out which is the correct one; and another round in which they have to figure out how two seemingly unrelated exhibits are actually connected.

It is hard to figure out how to describe The Quizeum. It is not your standard quiz because all the contestants are academics, historians and professors. Therefore it would be more accurate to say it is a panel show: except it is not the sort of panel show that plays the comedy. Apart from Griff Rhys Jones’s attempts to crowbar some comedy into the show, the closest to anything funny that this reviewer has come across was a plate depicting a person’s face, in which the face is constructed using lots of drawings of penises.

The closest thing I can compare it to would be something like the Radio 4 shows Quote Unquote and The Write Stuff – and given that Quote Unquote is the Radio 4 panel show mocked by all the other Radio 4 panel shows, this is not a positive comparison to make. It is a show that tries to be witty, but seems to accidentally exclude people who are looking for something more entertaining and inviting.

There is nothing wrong with a quiz show that is deliberately intellectual, but the best ones are shows that you can still feel that you can take part in. Mastermind is minimalist in terms of setting: just one black chair and a load of questions. Other Radio 4 quiz shows like the long-running Brain of Britain and the cryptic Round Britain Quiz are also helped by being a lot simpler to understand in terms of structure. University Challenge and Only Connect may be a bit hard for most people, but the pace of the former and the quality of the host in the latter help to make it entertaining

The Quizeum was seemingly created by BBC Four to fill the void left by Only Connect when it moved to BBC Two, but if seems to be more akin to another failed BBC Four “panel show”, Never Mind the Full Stops, which was a show for people who liked grammar more than people. The Quizeum fails to entertain and you end of drifting off and wanting to watch something else.

Score: 1.5 / 5