Only Connect – the finest programme on television

The finest programme currently on television is Only Connect. Cunningly scheduled to begin on BBC Four (not ‘BBC4’, note: being the most growed-up BBC channel, ‘Four’ is spelled out in full) just as University Challenge finishes on 2, and heralded by a similar diddle-diddle pseudo-classical theme maintaining the mood of slightly supercilious, peering-over-spectacles, tea-and-scone civility much as one might find at feeding time in the Pump Rooms at Bath (though better than the daytime-ish comfort mush that introduces Fry-fest QI), Only Connect is a brainteaser quiz.

It’s quite tricky, you have to connect stuff like Tube lines if they were translated into the colours of snooker balls. I get more answers than I do on University Challenge these days (those damn students seem to get sharper every year) but I haven’t yet devised a similar drinking game for it.

Only Connect’s contestants are not unlike those on University Challenge only older, fatter and arranged in trios with something nerdish in common. “The Steam Railway Enthusiasts” might take on the “Series 1 to 4 of Red Dwarf Fans”, for example. The team members always look like each other regardless of age or gender though sometimes the connections between them are pretty weak, such as that they all like quizzes containing the sorts of questions that are asked on Only Connect. It cannot be long before the “Only Connect Would-be Contestants” take on the “Victoria Coren Admirers.”

I for one would be proud to join the latter team. Victoria Coren is a lovely poker-player, daughter of the late Alan Coren (witty, likeable columnist and celebrity) and sister of Giles Coren (columnist and celebrity). She is the presenter of Only Connect. In both looks and in the timbre of her voice Victoria is striking in her resemblance to the actress Joan Greenwood (who was, by the way, surely one of the very worst British actresses to have appeared on the silver screen, her mannered delivery wrecking The Importance of Being Earnest and threatening but not quite bringing down Kind Hearts and Coronets).

Also striking is the lack of a studio audience. Only Connect is a clap-free zone. This makes a refreshing change since most shows, such as Celebrity Family Fortunes or Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Plebian Clap-Along consist of little else. The empty studio on Only Connect means that Victoria’s little witticisms and monologues are greeted with nothing but self-conscious chortling and awkward snickering from the Railway Enthusiasts and Red Dwarf Fans. It’s infectious; I find myself self-consciously chortling and awkwardly snickering along often. But then they are unusually good witticisms and monologues.

Well anyway, that’s Only Connect, it’s very British, check it out.

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About Author Profile: Brit

'Brit' is the blogging name of Andrew Nixon, a writer and publisher who lives in Bristol. He is the editor and co-founder of The Dabbler.

9 thoughts on “Only Connect – the finest programme on television

    ian russell
    November 19, 2010 at 13:31

    the only fly is the damn repeats. you think you’re doing well, feeling smug, then …. hold on, wasn’t this one from the last series?!

    they had walls to do online – better than windows’ solitaire.

    there’s a bit of glam going down there but you know underneath Viccy’s tough. Giles appears altogether soft. Mix up in the cradle? You tell me.

    November 19, 2010 at 14:13

    The finest programme currently on television Brit, have you cleared this with Adrian?.
    That is one broad sweep of the brush, what about Strictly? all life is there, participants dipped in Liberon antique pine wood dye, panel made up of two Cockneys and two pooftahs, misc Polish hookers and a Kathy McGowan look alike, a ditzy northern burd, a couple of heavies from the Jason Bourne movies and Ann Widdecombe’s frontage, and, and, during the week you don’t have to watch the crappy BBC Scotland noos.

    Agree though, Only Connect is good entertainment.

    November 19, 2010 at 14:23

    Spot on re the Coren siblings, Ian. Giles is a wimp, Vic a steely poker player.

    In this week’s Sunday Times, AA Gill said of Giles Coren’s restaurant reviews that he admires them, finding them ‘comfortingly familiar’…ouch!

    Malty – if one can’t make absurdly broad brushsweeps on a blog then blogging ain’t what I thought it was, but I’m secretly hoping my superlatives will tempt la Coren over to The Dabbler for some banter…

  4. Gaw
    November 20, 2010 at 07:08

    You’ve sold it to me. I should already have watched it. But, to date, it’s been lost in the thickets of the multi-channel world.

    In a low-level way, Giles seems to be taking over television. He crops up somewhere almost nightly. I have no idea whether I like him or not. What’s he for?

    November 20, 2010 at 11:01

    He is to remind us that the most delightful and blameless people can be cursed with the vilest offspring. As for the daughter, her chairing of Only Connect is just about as bad as chairing can be. She makes no attempt to disguise the fact that she loathes these people and wishes it was all over – and that she was on proper telly, like Giles. Ugh, Meanwhile over on Radio 4, Round Britain Quiz does much the same thing infinitely better and with infinitely nicer people.

    November 20, 2010 at 14:09

    Oof, harsh, Nige. I was going to suggest we enter a Dabbler team…I reckon we’d storm it.

    November 20, 2010 at 14:24

    Watched a bit of your video – seems thoroughly entertaining, Brit, though I’ll have to turn down the sound to avoid the jarring theme tune. Enjoyed hearing Andrew Motion choose the ‘horned viper’ hierogylph in particular.

    November 22, 2010 at 13:26

    Although most of us are happy to give the Tristrams at the Beeb a regular kicking for the junk they bequeath, some sympathy is perhaps in order as we scan the comments above. Nige – contempt for the milf from hell, and Vic’s ‘loathing’ of the geeks; Gaw, behind the game, but puzzled by the very existence of Giles; Brit, with Ian on the manchild, but softening-up with Victoria and her barely concealed grit; Malty, unusually, somewhere in the middle, preferring Widdecombe’s bicycle-slot frontage but, broadly, pro. What is a Tristram to do?

    December 8, 2010 at 12:55


    Victoria Coren presents the fifth series of the popular BBC Four quiz show ONLY CONNECT where, as in life itself, knowledge will only take you so far: patience and lateral thinking are also vital. It’s all about making connections between things which may appear, at first glance, not to be connected at all.

    We’re looking for teams of three players who share a common passion, ability or profession, to pool their combined wits to solve fiendish conundrums and vexing puzzles.

    ONLY CONNECT: the quiz where general knowledge meets lateral thinking.

    To request an application email including a telephone number.
    All entries must be received by no later than Wednesday 26th January 2011 so get your application in as soon as possible.

    If you applied for a previous series, but were unsuccessful, you are welcome to apply again for the new series.
    Auditions will be held in regional centres throughout the UK.
    All applicants must be aged 18+ and U.K. residents

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