'I'm going to do The Weakest Link my own way...' | Romesh Ranganathan on taking over the reins from Anne Robinson © BBC

'I'm going to do The Weakest Link my own way...'

Romesh Ranganathan on taking over the reins from Anne Robinson

The Weakest Link returns to TV this month after a nine-year absence, with Romesh Ranganathan taking over from Anne Robinson. Here the comic talks about the changes to the show, which celebrity contestants surprised him and why you'd never catch him on a quiz show...

How do you feel about becoming a quiz-show host?

It is the first time I’ve presented a quiz show, and if I am being absolutely honest it was never on my list of things I thought I was going to be doing, but then when The Weakest Link came up and I looked at it, I thought it is a great format and you can have fun with it. So it felt like if I was going to do one, this would be the one to do. 

It is probably the most excited my wife has been about a show I’ve done. She doesn’t watch much of what I do but when I told her they were thinking about me for this, she was so excited, she almost questioned whether I was the right booking to be honest! 

So it’s a bit of a blessing and a curse, on the one hand it is a really loved format, but on the other hand I’m slightly bricking it because people do really love it.

 You can write the negative reviews in your head ‘It turns out The Weakest Link is… Romesh Ranganathan!’ or something like that, it terrifies me, I can just see it, I like to catastrophise.

Did you watch the original series?

I did, and I what I liked about it, was it was so funny. When you see somebody who is so bad, and you just know hat the other people are going to turn on them. Also the fact the contestants get the mickey taken out of them, there are lots of elements that are fun to watch. 

I think Anne was great at it, she really was and she is a big reason why the show was so massive but that was a long time ago. What she did was brilliant, but tonally my version will be different, and I’ll be doing it my own way.

If someone answers something ridiculously, or is clearly The Weakest Link, I am definitely going to point that out and have fun with that but I will do it in my own style. I’ll be bringing a comic element to it in terms of how I interact with the contestants, going through the scripts and adding comedy to that.  I am a comedian by nature so that is what I am going to be bringing to it.

Can you tell us any more about the celebrities who are appearing?

I’ll always look forward to seeing comedians come on but actually, when they do come on they give me more hassle than the non-comedian contestants. 

For example, we had Ed Gamble on and he was constantly heckling me and asking me how I thought I was doing, and trying to undermine my confidence, so comedians are good but they are more difficult to wrangle than others. 

The Weakest Link is a show where if you humiliate yourself that’s a short term thing because you're probably going to get voted out at the next round, but occasionally you don’t get voted out and you get found out later on and that happened to Jamie Laing [from Made In Chelsea], who basically made it far enough for him to get more questions, and I don’t think he enjoyed that.

When you start off it’s one in eight, but as it gets whittled down, suddenly you get a higher frequency of questions, so the phrase we kept using to each other was ‘the show’s exposing’. 

You get a real mixed bag in how people behave when they get voted off, some people feel embarrassed and [bradcaster] Nikki Fox decided she was going to throw out as much fire as she could on her way out basically, she was furious that she got voted off and she wanted everyone to know about it, it was great! 

Are  there any format changes you can tell us about?

In order to bank now, you have to press a button and say ‘bank’, and we have picture questions, where a picture will appear on their podiums and I ask them about it which mixes it up a little bit.

Were there any celebrities that were better or worse than you thought they would be?

Well, I don’t want to spoil anything or name any names, but there are certain people who you think ‘I can't imagine you have general certain knowledge’ and they do! And equally there are certain people who carry themselves with a level of intelligence and a level of being well read, and if they just get hit by a certain area enough times, people have black spots in their knowledge.

 For example, Jay Rayner without saying how far he got, food critic, I know him quite well, really smart guy, really well read... pop culture, god help him! So whenever a pop culture question came up you could see his shoulders slump and him think: ‘I’ve got to get through this, and hopefully I’ll do well enough on the other questions to carry me through’.

Can you tease any  highlights from the series?

There was a question about an animal that a celebrity had named their kid after, and Clair Norris from EastEnders said ‘A pig’. Not ‘pig’ which would have been horrendous enough, but ‘a pig’. 

So you have your child and you call them ‘A pig’, so I said to her "What made you think of ‘A pig’ as a name?" and she said ‘It’s not that bad, Peppa Pig is called that’, and I had to explain to her that it isn’t a coincidence that Peppa Pig is called Peppa Pig and she also happens to be a pig, also, her name’s Peppa! So that stood out for me.

Jamie Laing  was asked about Winston Churchill’s wife, named after a fruit and he said ‘Lemon’. So he thought that person was called Lemon Churchill.

If you could go on any quiz show as a contestant, what would it be and why? 

I wouldn’t go on any   because I’ve got too many hidden gaps in my general knowledge so I would just be unmasked as a complete idiot, so I whilst I am happy to ridicule others for not knowing the answers, I’m not happy to have that done to myself. 

What would be your best and worst topic for a quiz question?

My best topic would be hip-hop between the years 1992 and 1999, and my worst topic would be anything that isn’t hip-hop between the years 1992 and 1999.

* The Weakest Link with Romesh Ranganathan starts  on BBC One at 6.10pm on Saturday December 18 with a Strictly Christmas special 

Published: 4 Dec 2021

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