The Weakest Link
Weakest Link (formerly titled The Weakest Link) is a television game show which first appeared in the United Kingdom on BBC Two on 14 August 2000. It was devised by doctor and situation comedy writer Fintan Coyle and the comedian Cathy Dunning, and developed for television by the BBC Entertainment department. It has since been replicated around the world. It may also be called a "reality game show" because of competition similar to present-day reality shows and has been the basis of academic studies. The UK version, hosted by Anne Robinson, reached its 1,000th episode on the 18th December 2006.
The original format featured a team of nine contestants who take turns answering general knowledge questions. The object of each round is to answer a chain of consecutive correct answers to earn an increasing amount for a single communal pot. However, just one incorrect answer wipes out any money earned in that chain. But, before their question is asked, a contestant can say "BANK" and the money earned thus far is safely stored and a new chain is initiated from scratch.
Banking money is the safe option, however not banking, in anticipation that one will be able to correctly answer the upcoming question, allows the money to grow as each successive correct answer earns proportionally more money.
When the allotted time for each round ends, any money not banked is lost, and if the host is in the middle of asking a question, or has asked a question but the contestant has yet to answer, the question is abandoned.
Each player is then required to vote for which contestant they thought was the "weakest link," for whatever reason. Whoever gets the most votes at the end of the round is eliminated from the game, and leaves with no money. If there is a tie in the voting, the statistically strongest link gets to choose which of the tied players is eliminated. If they voted for one of the tied players, they are given the opportunity to change their mind.
Whenever a contestant is eliminated, 10 seconds are taken away from the clock for the following round. On the eighth round, the clocked is reduced to 90 seconds.
At the end of each round, contestants must vote off one player whom they consider to be "The Weakest Link": the one they believe wasted the most time, failed to bank judiciously or gave too many wrong answers. Until the beginning of the next round, only the television audience knows (via an announcer's narration) exactly who the "strongest link" and "weakest link" are statistically. While the contestants work as a team, they are encouraged at this point to be ruthless to each other. Voting presents somewhat of a tactical challenge for canny players seeking to maximise their chances of winning, and maximizing the payoffs if they do. Voting off weaker players is likely to increase the payoff for the winner, but stronger players may be more difficult to beat in a playoff.
Some players may consider incorrectly answering some questions so as not to appear so much of a threat — however, such a strategy is risky. One study suggested that the optimal percentage of questions to answer correctly is 60%. If you do worse, you risk being voted off for being too weak; if you do better, you are perceived as a threat in the final showdown. Mathematical analysis of the expected payoffs provided by various banking strategies suggest that the optimum strategies are to either attempt to go for the highest payoff, or bank after every question. Few teams adopt either — most choose to bank after three or four questions.
When two contestants remain, they work together in one final round, identical to previous rounds in all but two details: First, all money banked at the end of the round is tripled (or doubled in some versions), before added to the current money pool to make the final total of the game. And second, there is no elimination. Instead, the game moves to the Head to Head Round.
For the Head to Head round, the remaining two players will each be required to answer five questions each. The strongest link from the previous round chooses who goes first. Whoever has the most correct answers out of five at the end of the Head to Head wins the game.
The winner of the game takes home all of the money accumulated in the prize pool for the game, and the loser goes home with nothing like all previous eliminated players.
In the event of a tie, the game goes to Sudden Death. Each player is continued to be asked questions as usual, until one person gets a question right and the other wrong. This can go on for as long as it takes, though in some countries, the Sudden Death is edited to only one round for airtime reasons.
In most episodes the maximum possible winnings in the British shows is £10,000; in special celebrity and charity episodes the maximum is £50,000.
Part of the show's success was due to the presenter, Anne Robinson. Already well-known in the UK for her sarcastic tone while presenting the BBC's consumer programme Watchdog, she found here a new outlet in her taunts to the contestants. Her sardonic summary to the "team", usually berating them for their lack of intelligence for not achieving the target, became a trademark of the show, and her call of "You are the weakest link — goodbye!" quickly became a catchphrase. (Originally, the devisors suggested the equally acerbic Jeremy Paxman, host of University Challenge.) The voice-over in the UK version is by Jon Briggs.
With elements inspired by Big Brother and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, the show differed from virtually all games shows before it by inviting open conflict between players, and using a host who is openly hostile to the competitors rather than a positive figure (though this feature of the show tends to be played for laughs, especially in the prime time version, where there is a studio audience for Robinson — and the contestants — to play to). Heavily criticised by the television press in some countries for its Hobbesian overtones, the show has nevertheless been a ratings success in most countries.
The original British version of the show airs around the world on BBC Prime and BBC America. The format has been licensed across the world, with many countries producing their own series of Weakest Link. Internationally, the show has taken off airing in at least over 80 countries world-wide, some with red haired, female presenters, some without, and some with male presenters such as the US syndicated edition as mentioned below. Others include the Irish version hosted by Eamon Dunphy, the Italian version presented by Enrico Papi, the Chilean version (broadcast on Canal 13) hosted by local actress Catalina Pulido, the South African (broadcast on SABC3) with Fiona Coyne, the Polish version with Kazimiera Szczuka on TVN, the Filipino version with Edu Manzano, the Hong Kong version hosted by Dodo Cheng, the Indian version hosted by Nina Gupta, the Japanese version with Shiro Ito and the Australian version hosted by Cornelia Frances broadcast on Seven Network. The version in Mexico, El Rival Mas Débil, has been a success for two years and is still running with its host Montserrat Ontiveros. The Norwegian version, hosted by Anne Grosvold, was aired by the state-owned NRK, but lasted only one season.
There are also other (confirmed) versions from Belgium, China, Taiwan, the Middle East, Israel, Czech Republic, Greece, Finland, France, Hungary, Russia, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, Brazil, the Netherlands, Ireland and Denmark.
The American version of Weakest Link (without the "the" in the title) premiered on April 16, 2001 on NBC, with Anne Robinson hosting. In this version, there was a team of eight contestants vying for a cash pot of up to one million dollars. Earning respectable ratings, even topping Who Wants to Be a Millionaire a few times, the show had garnered itself a place on the 2001-02 fall schedule. After the 9/11 attacks, the ratings went down. In an effort to revive interest in the show, episodes now featured celebrities, rather than ordinary civilians. There were a few episodes with ordinary people in between, but they usually had themes (such as Halloween costumes, Christmas costumes, or contestants that looked like Anne Robinson). The show aired its last episode on July 14, 2002. A set of unaired episodes was shown later that year on the PAX Network. The last set of taped episodes remained unaired until the show ended up on the GSN schedule in 2003.
A syndicated version ran from January 2002 through September 2003. It was hosted by George Gray. In this version there was a team of only six contestants and each episode is only 30 minutes long. In the first syndicated season, the maximum pot was $75,000 and there were five rounds, while increasing to $100,000 (and the rounds decreased to only four all with a $25 000 top prize) in the final syndicated season. In contrast to Robinson's "dominatrix" tone, Gray was more playful and humorous to the contestants, although arguably more sarcastic. Also in contrast, the second season had no doubling round; the final two players headed straight to the Head to Head (with the Strongest Link from the last round, or the second Strongest Link starting off the round). The Head to Head consisted of only 3 questions each, rather than the usual 5. GSN began airing the syndicated version in January 2006.
Both U.S. versions were produced by The Gurin Company, BBC Worldwide and NBC Studios.
The Mexican version of the Weakest Link, called El Rival Más Débil, airs on the Mexican network TV Azteca The program premiered on August 2, 2003, and is quite a success along with its hostess, Montserrat Ontiveros. In each episode, eight contestants have the chance to win 200,000 Mexican pesos. The Mexican version remains on the air after three years of success.
An Australian version premiered in February 2001, on Seven Network. Presented by Cornelia Frances, the show featured 9 contestants vying for $100,000. It aired twice weekly in primetime. At the beginning, the show received a lot of feedback from angry people, complaining how rude Cornelia was, some even saying she was worse than Anne Robinson. After toning the show down, it continued to receive modest ratings until its cancellation in April 2002. There was even a special version where it was linked with the Mole where the Mole contestants were part of the show. In this episode, Bob Young won the playoff over Thao Nguyen and became the winner of this episode, where the prize was a free pass to the next episode on the Mole (aka immunity) and all money won went to the kitty. According to Cornelia Frances, they won $14,100, the lowest amount won in any Australian episode of the Weakest Link. However, Grant Bowler, the host of the Mole rounded up to $15,000 since all kitties of the Mole have been rounded by $1,000. In one episode, one contestant was so angry because he was "The Weakest Link", he threw his sign down on the floor where it bounced and hit Cornelia Frances in the leg. This scene was edited out before going to air.
China also had its own version, hosted by Chen Lu Yu, then Shen Bing, and last Xia Qing. It has been reported that much of the cues been taken away during the Xia Qing years. The top prize was ¥200,000 (Chinese yuan). It aired on CCTV.
The Hong Kong version of the show was licensed and started quickly by TVB to air on TVB Jade, after rival ATV took the lion's share of ratings with the Chinese (Cantonese) language version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. The top prize was HK$3,000,000. It premiered in August 2001. Per the licensing agreement, Carol "Dodo" Cheng initially had to act just like Anne Robinson — complete with the same "cold" style of voice and facial expressions. Since Chinese culture typically does not value this kind of attitude toward people, TVB received complaints about the show. Bowing to public pressure, the broadcaster changed the style of the show, softening Carol Cheng's "character". As a result, the show became more acceptable to the viewers and the ratings went up. Since TVB ordered 108 daily weekday shows, the series finale aired sometime in January 2002.
Trying to follow up on the success of Who Wants to be A Millionaire, Star TV launched Kamzor Kadii Kaun, the Hindi version of Weakest Link. Hosted by soap opera actress Neena Gupta, it aired on STAR Plus weekly in primetime beginning in December 2001. The top prize was 2,500,000 (25,00,000 [25 lakh] in Indian writing) rupees. Unfortunately, the show barely lasted a year before it was cancelled.
Israel also had its own version hosted by Pnina Dvorin (2002-2004) and then Hana Laszlo. The show aired on Channel 10. It started out with 9 players and then it went to an 8-player format later in the run. The top prize was ₪100,000.
The show started in April 2002. It was hosted by Shiro Ito, who uses English phrases such as "Lets play Weakest Link", "Time up" and "Welcome to Weakest Link". The top prize is ¥16,000,000, but because of Japanese laws prohibiting a single person to win more than ¥2,000,000, the winning contestant would be capped at ¥2,000,000, and share the rest of the money with a relative. It aired on Fuji TV. However, the show was quickly cancelled.
The Lebanese version called Al-Halqa al-Ad'af was hosted by a former radio presenter Rita Khoury and drew contestants from many Arab speaking countries. It was soon cancelled; apparently due to its lack of popularity. It aired on Future TV.
The Philippine version of the show is produced by VIVA Entertainment and ECM Productions. The show premiered on September 2001 on the television network Intercontinental Broadcasting Corporation as a follow-up to the success of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire in the country. It was initially hosted by actor Edu Manzano. Known for his villainy roles and serious acting styles, Manzano made a good and fitting host of the show (contributing to its popularity). He was later replaced by comedian/singer Allan K. His humorous hosting stint (along with the fire that razed the original studio the show was taped) led its show to its demise on October 2002.
The show followed the eight-player primetime format with the money tree as follows: P1,000, P2,000, P5,000, P10,000, P20,000, P50,000, P80,000, P125,000. If the highest amount was banked successfully in all seven rounds, the highest amount possible would be 1,000,000 Philippine pesos, which is close to the maximum price of £10,000 in BBC2's version of the game.
The show was first aired in May 2002 in Chinese, and was hosted by Cui Lixin. It aired on Channel 8. The top prize was SG$100,000.
In October 2002, an English language version of the show hosted by Asha Gill premiered on Channel 5. The top prize was SG$1,000,000.
Taiwan also had its own version, originally hosted by Belle Yu (first season), then Tseng Yang Qing (second season). Belle Yu later returned as celebrity contestant. This is probably the first Chinese version to have a male host. It aired on STAR Chinese Channel. The top prize was NT$1,000,000.
A Thai version called Kamchad Jud Orn was aired on the Thai Channel 3 from February - December 2002. It was hosted by Krittika Kongsompong. It follows the eight-person format, with a possible payout of 1,000,000 baht.
This version was even criticized by the Thai government because it was said to promote traits that are "unbecoming and contradictory to Thai culture and morality", even to the point that it would be monitored. Like the Hong Kong version, the show was somewhat toned down.
Azerbaijan has a version called Zəif Bənd that airs on Lider TV and is hosted by Kamila Babayeva. The premiere was in September 2004. The top prize was 100,000,000 Azerbaijani manat (=20,000 New Azerbaijani manat). Like many foreign versions, it only lasted for one series.
Belgium had its own version in 2001, hosted by Goedele Liekens, which aired on VTM. The top prize was 2,000,000 Belgian francs. However, the show was quickly cancelled.
The Croatian version is called Najslabija karika, and it's hosted by Nina Violic Daniela Trbović - Vlajki. And Nina Violic(2004) The Croatian version is being shown on the channel HRT 1.
The Czech Republic also has its own version of The Weakest Link. Much like the Hong Kong version of the show, the hostess Zuzana Slavíková toned down similarities to Anne Robinson. The top prize was Kc1,000,000. It aired on TV Nova. Its called Nejslabší! Máte padáka!
Denmark had a version hosted by Trine Gregorius. The show aied on DR1 with a top prize of 200,000KR. When this version was cancelled, they sent their set to Norway.
The Finnish version started on September 6, 2002, and has aired every Friday on MTV3. It is called Heikoin Lenkki and the host is Kirsi Salo. Eight contestants compete for up to €18,000. The Finnish version was cancelled at the beginning of 2005.
The show Le Maillon Faible, hosted by Laurence Boccolini, is aired on TF1. Nine contestants have a chance to win €50,000. Previously it was €20,000, and 150,000 French francs (before the Euro came into use).
In German, The Weakest Link would be Das schwächste Glied, but this could also be read as The Weakest Member (in a sexual sense). Consequently, this may be the reason why the show was called Der Schwächste fliegt!, meaning The Weakest Gets Booted (literally The Weakest Flies).
March 2001 saw the appearance of the first non-English version in Germany on RTL. The show premiered weekdays at 3pm and was hosted by Sonja Zietlow (who was already known for her tough-talking styles on her self-titled talk show from previous years). Just like the British version, the show pitted nine contestants against each other for a pot of DM 50,000. But by September of that year, the show was sinking fast in ratings, so in order to gain ratings, Sonja treated the contestants with more respect. Previously, Sonja bullied the contestants with insults such as "Da wollen wir doch mal sehen, wer unsere kostbare Studioluft lang genug weggeatmet hat!" (Let's take a look, who breathed our valuable studio air too long!)
However the change in Sonja's behaviour did not sufficiently revive the show, and it was cancelled in December. However, in February 2002, the show was given another chance in the late-night Saturday slot, this time with a newly revamped studio, that now featured an audience, and a higher prize of € 50,000. But there have been rumours that after the first few episodes actors were paid to be contestants on the show, in order to attract more viewers. These changes were unsuccessful in boosting the show's ratings, and was cancelled for good in March.
Greece also created its own version O pio adinamos krikos (Ο ΠΙΟ ΑΔΥΝΑΜΟΣ ΚΡΙΚΟΣ), hosted by Elena Akrita. According to its viewers, Akrita was a nicer host than those of foreign versions-- instead of saying a terse, "You are the Weakest Link-- goodbye," like her foreign counterparts, she would dismiss a player who receives the most votes by saying, "λυπάμαι πολύ," which means "I am very sorry". The show is not airing anymore but it was a huge success with high ratings. The top prize was €15,000. It was broadcasted by major Greek TV station Mega Channel.
In Hungary the show debuted on August 12, 2001 at 7 p.m. on TV2 under the name of Nincs Kegyelem - A Leggyengébb Láncszem (which means No Mercy - The Weakest Link) and was aired three times a week, on Monday, Tuesday Thursday respectively, with a maximum prize of 3 million forints (approx. $12 000 at that time). It was hosted by Krisztina Máté, a News at Night presenter, who took a very extreme turn with accepting this new role. She was probably chosen because of the similarities between her and her American counterpart. The whole show instantly became the most controversial program on TV that time, but couldn't profited with the sudden attention, because of the rude style and manner that the whole game-play was built upon, it shocked people and the hostess' reputation quickly changed into irritating and arrogant. Another wrong decision of TV2 was modifying the airing time to compete with another other quiz show shown on rival channel RTL Klub (namely the Millionaire show and host István Vágó [who is often referred as the "Quiz Professor" by Hungarians]). The popularity of Weakest Link began to fade, and so the management decreased the number of players from 8 to 5, but it didn't help, and finally the show was cancelled on May, 2002. Though she returned to news, Krisztina Máté's reputation was "tarnished" because of her meanness displayed in the Weakest Link.
The independent television station TV3 aired a version of the show in Ireland, presented by radio and TV personality Eamon Dunphy, the first male to host the quiz. The show lasted only one season, due to a lack of sponsor for the second season. The top prize was 10,000 Euro despite the fact that the Irish pound was still in use at the time.
Italy had its own version (called Anello Debole) hosted by Enrico Papi. It aired on Italia 1. The top prize was €15,000. The show did not last long, because of low audience.
Here it is called De Zwakste Schakel and hosted by Chazia Mourali on RTL 4. It had a maximum prize of €10,000 (previously 10,000 Dutch guilden) and nine contestants. Until the summer of 2004, it was the longest running version after the UK. RTL put it out of the schedule in 2004 though, making France the longest running international version. After a couple of years without the show, De Zwakste Schakel will return soon though (and with a new host).
Norway had a version called Det svakeste ledd, hosted by Anne Grosvold. The show started around 2003 and it used the Danish set.
The show is aired in Poland as well, 4 days a week (Monday-Thursday) on Polish network TVN. The local version is titled Najsłabsze ogniwo and features Kazimiera Szczuka as the host. Eight contestants compete to win 27,000 złoty. The money tree goes: 3000, 2400, 1800, 1300, 900, 600, 300, 100 złoty.
The Portuguese version is called O Elo Mais Fraco, and started on June 11, 2002 on RTP 1. It was first hosted by Júlia Pinheiro and then by Luísa Castel-Branco. Nine contestants competed for the €10,000 pot and the money tree was €20, €50, €100, €200, €300, €450, €600, €800, €1000.
The Weakest Link (Lanţul slăbiciunilor) was produced by ProTV, being hosted by Andrei Gheorghe.
Russia has a version called Slaboe Zveno hosted by Maria Kiselyova. It airs on ORT. The top prize is 400,000 rubles. The show has ended in 2005
The show aired on BKTV as Najslabija karika from 2002 until April 2006 when the station's terrestrial licence got revoked by Serbian authorities. It was hosted by Sandra Lalatović. The top prize was RSD3 million, which according to the exchange rate fluctuations in that period came in the range between €37,500 and €50,000.
The Slovenian version is called Najšibkejši člen, and it's hosted by Violeta Tomič. Like many other game shows in Slovenia, it airs on POP TV.
The Spanish version was called El Rival Más Débil and was hosted by Nuria Gonzales (2002-2003) on TVE 1 and Kamele Anaburu (2003-2004) on TVE 2. The show premiered in May 2002. The top prize, at least in the first version, was €7,200.
Its called Слабое звено nothing is known about this version it airs on INTER network. Host is unknown.
Its called Veriga Slabă and its hosted by Andrei Gheorghe, who also hosts the Romania version. It airs on Kanal 1, a Moldovan TV station. Top prize is unknown.
Turkey also had a version called En Zayif Halka hosted by Hülya Uğur Tanrıöver. However, it only lasted one season. It aired on Show TV.
The show was produced by TVNZ and aired on TV ONE in 2001 and hosted by Louise Wallace. She was a blond-haired news anchor who specially dyed her hair Robinson-red for the host part. The show finished in 2002. It had a top prize of NZ$100,000.
Brazilian TV Globo bought The Weakest Link from the BBC in October 2001. It was decided that Fausto Silva would host the two pilots. However, after the pilots were made, the show never made it to the air, and was replaced by the more popular Big Brother. The host was supposed to be Pedro Bial.
Chile also had its own version (El Rival Más Débil) for a 6 month run in 2003 hosted by local actress Catalina Pulido on Canal 13. The top prize was 10,000,000 Chilean pesos.
South Africa has a version called The Weakest Link hosted by Fiona Coyne. The show airs weekly on SABC 3. As of season 4, the top prize is now R100,000 (it was previously R50,000).
Countries with licenses
* Bulgaria (airs the Russian version on the NTV network)
* Canada (aired the NBC USA version on CTV)
* Puerto Rico (Aired the USA version)
* United Kingdom (aired on NBC USA version on BBC first, later on Challenge)
* United States (airs the British version on BBC America)
* Anne Robinson appears as the voice of the "Anne-Droid" in the Doctor Who episode "Bad Wolf", which hosts a version of the show in the year 200,100 that has deadly consequences for its contestants if they are eliminated...or try to quit the game. "Anne-Droid" will also appear in the forthcoming Doctor Who special of the quiz, recorded on Tuesday 21 November 2006 at Pinewood Studios
* The 1000th UK daytime edition was recorded at Pinewood on 1 November 2006 in front of an invited audience of past contestants, and broadcast on 18 December the same year, followed by a half-hour documentary going behind the scenes of the show. The contestants for the 1000th edition included the winner of the very first episode and memorable celebrities who have appeared on previous editions. The show began with Anne bursting from a giant cake to deliver her opening spiel. After a disappointing final with not a single correct answer whatsoever until Sudden Death, eventually the strongest link became Miss Evans, who won £2,710. At her request, the prize money was shared between her and co-finalist Basil Brush, who each donated their respective half of the money to charity - at which point Anne announced that since it was the 1000th edition, £1000 was added to the total prize money.
* Familure face on TV game shows Mark Gardiner (TV) was once a winning contestant.
* There has been a pantomime special in which pantomime actors were questioned, including Basil Brush. Basil Brush has since become the only puppet to win Weakest Link.
* Dead Ringers (a satire produced by the BBC) also made a spoof of the Weakest Link, calling it The Weakest Disciple. The contestants were all disciples of Jesus (with Judas banking the most money - 30 pieces of silver). There has also been the Weakest Trappist Monk, they are all Trappist monks, they bank nothing and are silent when Anne Robinson insults them (due to their vow of silence), although that doesn't stop them from writing profanic insults to her (the weakest Trappist monk has written on his card "F*** you" as he was doing the walk of shame).
* Music is played throughout the show, uninterrupted, from the opening theme to the closing credits.
* All of the hosts wear black clothing (or sometimes dark colors with black).