Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

Trivial Pursuit

Saturday, 27 December 2008

I bought a new set, to play with my family at Christmas. Quite excited about new questions - it was the first time I’d ever updated the set that came with the Trivial Pursuit I got for a birthday present in 1981. It’s too easy to keep playing with that ancient box; if by any chance I find a question in there that I don’t remember, I know it’s a 50/50 that the answer will be Red Rum, Muhammad Ali, a bone in the ear, On The Buses or the Great Fire of London.
  But the new questions seem depressingly dumbed down. Here are two of them:

What wedding anniversary did David and Victoria Beckham celebrate in 2005?

Who heckled Madonna at an awards ceremony for supposedly miming?

  I have two problems with these questions.
  One: WHICH wedding anniversary! Not what! Many of these questions are written in car-crash English (try this one: “What novel should you build up your hopes on naming if Miss Havisham has died following a fire?”. Is that translated from the original Martian?). I’d be interested to know if David Bodycombe has any idea how one comes to be hired to work on an updated Trivial Pursuit - identified as knowledgeable enough to select questions, without actually knowing how questions themselves are formulated…

  Two: the first of those questions, about the Beckhams’ wedding anniversary, was in the orange Sport & Leisure category. The second, about heckling Madonna, was a yellow History question. In 1981, surely both of these would be under Entertainment? I know, I know, I’m turning into an elderly high court judge, but I have a horrible feeling that in the 25 years since I last played this game, entertainment has become the only thing that anyone expects anyone to know about.


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David Bodycombe at 4:32 pm on December 28th, 2008

Getting a question setting job involves the use of an intelligence network, subterfuge, undercutting, alcohol and strippers. In the case of Trival Pursuit, the job has been held by Brian Highley - an ex-journo(!) and teacher(!!) in Devon - for umpteen years. Various newspapers have profiled him in the past.

My confidence in a new edition was lost when it claimed that the county cricket team based in Chester-le-Street was Northumberland.

Check this out, which lists all the original questions and revisits what were mistakes back then and which answers are still valid:
...a list based on an intriguing book expertly described here:

Kiern Moran at 6:31 pm on December 28th, 2008

The second one is Jarvis Cocker, I think - he was miffed at Jackson’s impression of the second coming.  It is a family game Victoria.  I was ace on the yellow ones, so im pleased I can still answer the new ones.

Victoria Coren at 6:45 pm on December 28th, 2008

Not Jarvis Cocker! The question was about heckling Madonna, not Michael Jackson…. and IMHO, family game or not, that is still entertainment rather than history…

Kiern Moran at 7:10 pm on December 28th, 2008

Opps, I have no idea then.  Think your probably right.  Do they dock marks for scan reading?

David R at 11:57 am on December 29th, 2008

“Who tickled Madonna at an awards ceremony for supporting miners?”

Hmm. Wasn’t that Arthur Scargill? I’m sure it was. Either him or Elton John.

She didn’t find it very funny though, as she had recently cracked her ribs from falling off her horse.

charlie at 3:05 pm on December 29th, 2008

It was ‘Old King Cole’ who, along with being a bugger for his hole, abhorrs any miming. Only purists get into his band of entertainers and they can be located in ‘Lurid Fantasy’ or at least they can in my version.

John at 4:00 pm on December 29th, 2008

When people read that Nick Knowles earns at least a million a year for appearing in somebodys back garden to chat with the builders, then I think we can all be forgiven for assuming that ‘entertainment’ is more likely to pay the bills these days than learning about Pythagoras.
And wasn’t New Labour’s original war cry going to be, ‘Entertainment, Entertainment, Entertainment’ until Mr Blair realised even he couldn’t get away with that?

LC at 4:48 pm on December 29th, 2008

The second one is definitely Elton John as said previously. Even though this incident wasn’t really heckling, more just an add-on to an acceptance speech or award presentation intro.

I think it was at the Q Awards and Elton said something like “Madonna is Best Live Act? Since when was lip-syncing liiiiiiiiiiiive?!?!?!?”

God, I need to learn some useful things.

victoria Coren at 6:17 pm on December 29th, 2008

Yes yes, Elton John and 5th anniversary. Here’s another one from the new set, to split you into those who’d like to have a go at answering, and those who are happy just to stare at the most mind-boggling sentence construction:

“What, in 2005, swapped its tube and stalwart Blue Peter model-making sessions for a new hexagonal pack?”


Andrew at 6:52 pm on December 29th, 2008

Don’t talk to me about chocolate, I’ve got a poorly (and slightly larger) tummy.

MarkP at 9:15 pm on December 29th, 2008

Not that I care one iota about the Beckhams but Wikipedia suggests they were married in1999, so it should be their sixth anniversary? (my maths might be wrong but surely wiki can’t be wrong).

Colm at 10:02 pm on December 29th, 2008

Smarties! Smarties! Smarties!

Sorry, the answer and the standard response of a friend of mine who used to go hyper on the little blighters. Still she’s (hopefully) recovered now, happily married, lovely son, living the clean life, though occasionally the multi-coloured monkey rears its head.

Still, nice to know that my years in school and college have been wasted and all I needed to get on was an in-depth knowledge of sweet wrappers (I did like the tubes though).

spidermonkey at 10:25 pm on December 29th, 2008

Only Smarties have the answer. And boy am i smart.

John at 8:22 am on December 30th, 2008

As the memories of Blue Peter teatimes begin to cloud my judgement I thought the answer had to be sticky backed plastic… or at the very least a pair of Val’s old camiknickers… or more excitingly a pair of Zoe’s, now sadly gone to pastures new.

David Young at 2:54 pm on December 30th, 2008

It all went wrong with the arrival of ‘Cheggers plays Pop’. Until then there was Ask the Family and Top of the Form.  After Cheggers: ... dumbing down, manufacturing content, child centred learning, all must have prizes, our empire lost, bring back Mary Whitehouse ... zzzz


Andrew at 8:00 pm on December 30th, 2008

I had a similar experience on boxing day.  I struggled with most of the ‘edutainment’ questions, apart from knowing that Clint Eastwood was former Mayor of Carmel.  The previous Xmas we had a ‘pub quiz’ with questions more to my liking ie. what is the medical name of the human skull minus its jawbone? Or who wrote the tarzan books?

I did learn something useful on boxing day though – how to use an iPod, but I will stick to my £3 tesco MP3 player for now

spidermonkey at 3:14 pm on December 31st, 2008

Didn’t the last Mastermind winner win with their specialist subject being Big Brother? Or was it ‘The life and times of Jordan & Peter Andre’ i can’t remember.

R at 3:22 pm on December 31st, 2008

Hey Vicky

A little question: what did you study at university?

And all the best to you, your family & loved ones in ‘09!

Health, love, luck, happiness and delight, inner peace, many fruitful inspirations, a good run at the tables ...

... and may all your dreams come true :-)


Victoria Coren at 4:43 pm on December 31st, 2008

I studied English, I did an English degree. Nice and simple.. Happy New Year to you too.

Creepy Lesbo at 4:50 pm on December 31st, 2008

Personally I’d have put them under ‘culture’, so possibly they may have slipped into ‘Arts and Literature’ under the arts heading (thus being brown) but yes, entertainment seems a more likely choice (unless they’ve recategorised the colours to be ‘Sports, Leisure and Culture’. Although really they should go under popular culture or a ‘Heat Magazine’ heading if there was one.

AndytheDealer at 7:42 pm on December 31st, 2008

‘...turning into an elderly high court judge’, eh?

That begs the question, who would you rather have on the bench, Judge Victoria Coren PQ (Poker Queen) or Judge Cherie Blair QC.

Personally, if I was innocent I’d want Vicky, because I’m sure she’d spot all the holes in the prosecution’s case and subtly point them out to the jury, guaranteeing my release.

If I was guilty, pleading not guilty, I think I’d rather have Cherie Blair and have my Council banging on about my human rights.  There would be the worry if Vicky was trying the case that she’d spot my bluff instantly and give me 25 without the option.

AndytheDealer at 1:53 pm on January 5th, 2009

Shouldn’t that be Counsel? My only excuse was that I was already under the influence and shouldn’t have been in charge of a keyboard.

Chris G at 12:25 pm on January 11th, 2009

I actually considered buying a new trivial pursuits set a couple of weeks ago, I’m rather glad I didn’t now.  Grammar, spelling and punctuation seem to have been long forgotten and it’s now almost acceptable that English is mangled and clumsy.  Last week while visiting my mother in hospital I noticed signs pointing to the “dinning room” and large adverts telling people they should loose weight in the new year.  I’d like to say I blame texting and instant messaging for this but I’m already feeling like a grumpy old man and I’m only 29.

Geoff Patterson at 6:25 am on November 8th, 2009

Hello Vicky,
Just wondering, actually how often do you play poker? do you only play in tournaments or do you have a usual game you play with friends? Have you ever been invited to hold a class where you teach your talents in poker, like any of the poker camps they hold in Vegas?

Victoria Coren

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