A necessary tribute to Quizone - an iconic yet forgotten piece of Irish television history
This was Saturday morning television at its very best.
If you were in primary school in the late 2000s, you definitely watched Quizone. Not only did you watch Quizone, but it was probably one of your dreams to actually be a contestant on the show.
Confession: I, Rudi Kinsella, dreamed of appearing on Quizone as a child. I even went as far as to apply, but unfortunately, they had a strict policy of only allowing 9-11-year-olds compete. Even though I was 11 when I filled out the application, I would have been 12 by the time filming would have begun, and thus, my dreams were shattered.
If you're unlucky enough to have been too old or too young to remember Quizone, allow me to explain. Three teams assembled in Playbarn in Kildare; the red team, the yellow team, and the blue team. There were three teams of four, and the aim of the game was simple.
Only joking, it was incredibly complicated.
The three teams would all be asked the same question, while three of the team members were sat in their "searchrooms" armed with a number of seemingly useless books, and a computer. They would do their best (and we use the word 'best' lightly) to find the answer to the question, while the fourth member of the team made their way through an obstacle course of sorts. When they completed the course, they would check in with their team through a pair of headphones, find out the answer, and then run to the finish line.
It gets weirder. One of the routes to the finish line was worth 200 points, one was worth 150, and one was 100. You added those points to how many seconds you had left on the clock at the time of finishing. They had 90 seconds to make their way through, and the guys in the searchroom had the same amount of time to find an answer.
Whoever made it to the finish line first would get to answer first, and if they got it wrong (which happened basically every single time), then the person who came second got a chance. The format of the game led to some iconic moments, such as this:
92. this also on quizone pic.twitter.com/BRPWjL7CAo
— Patrick (@PrayForPatrick) August 22, 2016
Clip via SuperPowers69
Now you might be thinking to yourself "they have a computer right in front of them, why don't they just Google the question?", and that is a perfectly valid question. Apparently, none of the kids thought that would be an effective tactic. Instead they just randomly browsed through massive encyclopedias, trying to find out what the capital of Norway is.
The game was commentated by an unnecessarily serious-sounding narrator, who introduced every episode with the infamous line "Enter the Quizone: the game played on many levels, but there can be only one winning team" which really doesn't make a whole lot of sense when you think about it.
We got to know our contestants, as the narrator would give us a short bio about each of them, so we could really go on the journey with them. This is an actual line from an episode in 2007. The narrator told us that "blue Stephen likes dogs, yellow Margret is a good singer, and red Emmet loves ice cream". And just like that, we were hooked.
The winning team would get prizes like mp3 players, and the team that was top of the league at the end of the season would get a laptop. Not to be sneezed at. Not one bit.
Overseeing it all was referee Jamie Darling, a charming, but commanding figure with a strong New Zealand accent and a friendly face. He never became the global superstar we feel he should have, but here he is sitting on a tractor. What a guy.
— Jamie Darling (@chimplicker) July 13, 2016
Tensions would often run high on the show, with nearly every single episode ending in a scrap between teammates as they fought over what to search on the internet, or what book they should be frantically reading. Before they knew it, they would have fought the entire round and the brave soldier who completed the obstacle course would be stuck without an answer. This all made for extremely exciting television.
Kids at home would judge the contestants, promising that if they were on the show they would win it with ease, but it's not that simple. Not by a long shot. You might know who the Wright brothers are from the comfort of your couch, but when you're in the pressure cooker that is Playbarn, it's not so easy. Can you perform with the eyes of a nation watching, when your classmates are counting on you? There was so much on the line for these kids, they can be forgiven for a little slip up here and there.
Maybe, one day, RTÉ will bring back Quizone, and the youth of today will be tested the same way they were 10 years ago. Something tells us that this generation would be a little bit more capable of Googling things though, so it probably wouldn't work the same way.
All we know is that we feel absolutely blessed to have been born at a time where we got to witness such amazing television. Try as they may, RTE will never reach the heights they did with Quizone.
To be honest, television in general peaked in Playbarn. The Wire? The Sopranos? Game of Thrones? Keep them mate, but if you have a Quizone boxset, send it our way.