Is Richard Osman’s House of Games the perfect teatime quiz show? It’s certainly in contention. Silly, funny and warm, it makes very good company. The armchairs exude a sense of convivial relaxation. There are no flashing-lights podiums or tense burden of cash prizes, making it a wholly gentler experience than, say, The Chase. It keeps the same four contestants all week long, meaning that the kind of rapport other quiz shows try to manufacture in rapid-fire Q&As with the host can naturally develop. The personalities and relationships are almost as important as the rounds and questions, and it’s all done with a sense of humour – from the deliberately naff 1970s gameshow-style fondue sets and carriage clock prizes, to the enjoyable silliness behind almost every round.
To celebrate the new series airing now on weekdays at 6pm on BBC Two, here are a few fun titbits about the show.
James Acaster Smashed His Trophy After Being Menaced by Anne Diamond
Speaking on Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Podcast in 2020, comedian James Acaster described how the other contestants sucked the fun out of his 2018 House of Games appearance, resulting in a drunken trophy-smashing episode.
Proving the common observation that House of Games’ rounds, with their silly formats, comedic wordplay and speed buzzers, are naturally suited to the quick-thinking minds of comedians, Acaster won the first three days on the trot. His prowess irked fellow contestants Anne Diamond and Samantha Womack, who he says turned on him the Green Room after the Wednesday recording. Acaster duly hung back from the buzzer in the final two episodes, allowing Diamond to sweep in and sweep up.
He was still the week’s overall winner, and took home the trophy. Except, it didn’t get home. After drinking with the House of Games crew, Acaster walked his trophy to London’s South Bank (the show is now filmed at BBC Scotland Street, Glasgow but used to be made at The Hospital Club in Covent Garden, London), rattling it along railings and hitting it against walls as he went, before finally smashing it on the ground when he was asked about it by some members of the public, and then leaving the remains in a busker’s collection pot.
All Five Episodes Are Filmed in a Single Day
Well, they’d have to, wouldn’t they? There are well over 500 episodes of House of Games – they’d be taking a pretty lax approach to TV-making if they only recorded half an hour’s worth a day. That means that whenever a contestant mentions having had a good night’s sleep after the previous game, or what they did back at the hotel with yesterday’s prize before that day’s quiz, it’s a fun in-joke. Guests change outfits between episodes so they look different, but not everybody changes everything – keep an eye on any colourful or patterned socks and you’ll often see that they go nowhere all week.
Richard Osman Met His Wife When She Was a Contestant
Actor Ingrid Oliver, who played Tom Baker-scarf-wearing fan-favourite Osgood opposite Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman in Doctor Who, was a House of Games contestant in series five in 2021. She won the Thursday episode, took home the coveted Richard Osman wheelie luggage, and came second overall.
As Richard Osman told This Morning a year later, filming those episodes was the first time he and Oliver had met in person. They hit it off, went for drinks, and were married the following December. (As a wedding gift, her pal made her a bespoke personalised wheelie luggage so the newlyweds could have a matching set). Oliver has since appeared as a contestant in a Champions special week.
The First Series Didn’t Have the Minimalist Avatars
Watch an older episode on Dave or UK TV Play, and you’ll note a few minor differences as the format was being ironed out. One is that instead of the simplified avatars of just hair, eyebrows and (where relevant) glasses frames representing the contestants on the daily leaderboard, it used to be boring old photographs, such as this one from the first ever episode featuring Nish Kumar, Anneka Rice, Clara Amfo and Al Murray.
It’s a Hit With Fellow Quizmasters
Taskmaster’s Alex Horne has been a contestant, as has new University Challenge host Amol Rajan, Impossible’s Rick Edwards, Cheat co-host Ellie Taylor, Blockbusters host Dara O’Briain, Lightning’s Zoe Lyons, Password and Pointless’ Stephen Mangan, and countless others.
Richard’s Pointless Friend Alexander Armstrong Has (Sort Of) Appeared
Another slam dunk of a booking would of course be Richard Osman’s former Pointless co-presenter Alexander Armstrong, but to-date, it’s not yet happened. Armstrong has however appeared on the show in a different capacity, six times. He’s the voice of “Alexander”, House of Games’ proprietary AI Voice-Assistant.
Three Members of the Same Family Have Played
Comedian-writer-actor Jennifer Saunders appeared on the House of Games Night evening edition in November 2020, while her comedian-writer-actor husband Ade Edmondson and their daughter, actor Beattie Edmondson, appeared on the regular version in series two, three, and again in a Champions special week. (TV presenter Matt Edmondson has also appeared on the show, but is no relation.)
But Richard Osman’s Famous Older Brother Hasn’t (Yet) Been On
Suede bass player and novelist Matt Osman appearing as a contestant on House of Games would surely make for a great week’s TV viewing, wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t it just.
Angela Barnes Is (So Far) the Only Person To Have Won All Five Days
Plenty have come close and then fallen at the final post, but comedian Angela Barnes completed her streak by coming first in every game of her first House of Games appearance. She very nearly managed it again when she returned for the Champions special alongside Ade Edmondson, his daughter Beattie, and Kemah Bob, but wobbled on Wednesday of that week, when Beattie Edmondson took the win in a pretty exciting tie-break with her dad.
Ivo Graham and Scarlett Moffatt Have Done the Triple
The only contestants to have appeared on House of Games three times (loads of people have been on twice) are comedian Ivo Graham and TV personality/former Gogglebox-er Scarlett Moffatt. They’ve each done a regular week, a champions week, and a Christmas-themed festive week. As winners, neither would be eligible for the show’s other variant – Redemption Week, in which contestants who failed to win a daily prize are invited back to try their hand at finally getting that breadbin.
(Unlike Taskmaster) House of Games Booked Women from the Start
Continuing a long and shameful tradition in British TV comedy, the first three series of Taskmaster between 2015 – 2016 booked just one woman per run. (One blonde, white woman to be specific: Roisin Conaty, Katherine Ryan and Sara Pascoe had the honour of being the Smurfette on stage for the 6:1 men-to-women ratio in their respective series).
Of all the lessons House of Games took from Taskmaster after Richard Osman appeared on the Dave/Channel 4 show, that thankfully wasn’t one of them. House of Games has always booked two men and two women per week as contestants, right from the start.
Charity Begins at Home (of Games)
It’s a bit of a show tradition for multiple daily prize-winners to give away a prize or two if they’re particularly coveted by another contestant. Ade Edmondson donated his dart board to Miquita Oliver via Ed Gamble, Angela Barnes gave her dart board to Denise Van Outen, Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall gave Jodie Kidd a decanter… Crime novelist Val McDermid ruffled a few feathers when she stormed her week and won multiple prizes but then chose not to pass on the dartboard that musician Rebecca Lucy Taylor (aka Self Esteem) had been trying to win for her dad, but fair’s fair. Daily prizes have also been donated to charities to be raffled off by Simon Hickson, Ed Balls and more.
The Theme Music is by a Modern Quiz Show Legend
If you want a quiz show theme song, Marc Sylvan is the man to compose it. You name it, he’s done them all – Pointless, The Million Pound Drop, Tipping Point… all the way to Total Wipeout, new versions of Catchphrase and Fifteen to One, and of course, Don’t Scare the Hare. Remember Don’t Scare the Hare? He cites New Order’s combination of synths and guitar as his musical influences, and also has synaesthesia, so hears colours as sounds, which inspire him when composing for quiz show theme songs based on the game formats and images from the opening credits.
Not All Prizes Are Equal
Obviously, the wheelie luggage, dart board, fondue set and decanter are favourites among the 1970s gameshow-style daily prizes contestants can pick after winning an individual episode. Some prizes though, have never been selected. These include, among others: the After Dinner Mints, the perfume Atomiser, the Carriage Clock, the Cheese and Chutney set, the Diary, the Memory Stick, the Salad Spinner, the Tin of Sweets, and the Steering Lock. If you want stats on everything that happens on House of Games, by the way, visit the miraculous online spreadsheet created by Daniel Mark Hurst.
Rufus Hound Flipped His Lid (and a Chair) About Leonardo DiCaprio
After winning the first three episodes of his 2020 week, on the Thursday episode, comedian Rufus Hound wrongly answered “Kings of Leon-ardo DiCaprio” to an Answer Smash instead of the correct answer “Kings of Leon-ardo Da Vinci”. In a faux (or perhaps not faux) rage, he stood up, flipped his chair over and ran around the studio screaming, having blown his chance of a perfect streak. After he won again on the Friday episode, his fellow contestants Jayde Adams, Scott Mills and Josie D’Arby all flipped their chairs in tribute.
New House of Games episodes are airing Monday to Friday at 6 p.m. on BBC Two.