Welcome to the penultimate instalment of my chat with Mark Humphries about his tenure hosting the game show Pointless. Last time, Mark told the story of how he was really emotionally affected by one contestant’s story during the taping of the show….
MH: … And then in the very next episode, the winning contestants – two guys in their sixties – had been lifelong friends, and as it turned out, one of them didn’t own a television. They had blitzed through the game, and when they got to the final round, the category was ‘Participants on Gogglebox Australia‘; we were looking for any of the couch people on Gogglebox Australia back then. I was thinking “Good luck with this – this guy doesn’t even own a television!”
So they gave their answer; “We’d like to go with these two names…”
I didn’t know any of the people on the show, so I said “Okay, away we go – let’s see if you’ve got a Pointless answer…”
And sure enough, they did! I was really surprised, and so I asked “How do you know that? You don’t even own a television!”
They said “Well, we actually went to school with that man – ”
“Oh right,” I say. “That’s great!”
” – and sorry to lower the tone for a moment, but last year he took his own life.”
SH: Oh no!
MH: And it just floored me. It’s something you’re just not expecting; you’re not thinking about anything like that, and I just burst into tears. Oh god, even just thinking about it now, I’m getting a bit… Sorry…
SH: Oh, Mark… What a punch in the guts.
MH: Yeah, and so I had a little chat to those guys after the show, and the next day one of them actually found me on LinkedIn and sent me a really lovely message. But in a weird way it was kind of beautiful; the fact that their connection to him ultimately lead to them having this little celebratory moment. But that was something that never aired – because if it had, that would have created all sorts of issues.
SH: Yes, yes – I understand.
MH: But as sad as it was…
SH: It must have been very moving. People can surprise you. And people do surprise you. All the time.
MH: Yeah. And after that happened, Andrew (Rochford, Mark’s co-host) was fantastic.
SH: Right, that’s great to hear. Because I guess it must have felt very much like the two of you were in this together… I imagine the fact that you’re going through all this with a compadre must have been comforting?
MH: Yes. Andrew was a total rock, and those two episodes (this one and the one mentioned in the previous instalment) were the third and fourth episodes that we shot on that five-episode record day. And on top of that, I think it was our second or third record day in a row! So we’d done thirteen or fourteen episodes back-to-back, at that point. And Andrew turned to the producers – and I’ll always love him for this – he turned to the producers and said “you can’t put Mark back on after that. we have to call it a day.” Because I’d burst into tears in Episode Three and Episode Four on this one day! He was great, and everyone on the production was so understanding. And that’s why there are 184 episodes… (LAUGHING)… instead of 185!
MH: Yes! But it’s just something you don’t expect when you sit down to watch a game show, or indeed when you’re presenting one! You don’t expect the real-life elements to slip in like that.
You know, even though the show never had huge prize money, for some winning contestants, it meant the first holiday they were able to take together as a family. Or it meant they could afford the new fridge that they desperately needed. That was really nice; when it really meant something to people. You couldn’t help but be touched by that. It’s easy to dismiss the whole thing as ‘just a commercial game show’, but it was real people with real lives being, in some cases, really improved… even if it’s just in a small way. That’s actually what I miss about it the most. Giving the money away; the joy that that gave people.
I know I’ve said it before, but I just want to reiterate my gratitude to Mark for opening up so much, and being so candid about all the experiences that hosting Pointless brought his way. Very generous of him; thanks again Mark. Next time, we bring the whole thing thundering home, as we discuss how the show ended, how Mark processed all that, and what happened next!
Until then, please stay safe, stay healthy and stay home.