De Slimste Mens Ter Wereld (The Smartest Person in the World) has been one of Belgium’s top quizzes over the past ten years, and really we can think of only one country it’s exported to – the Dutch had a version on John de Mol’s Tien network hosted by the ever fabulous Linda de Mol which ran to at least two series. Each episode runs to about 50 minutes.
Some jazz flute seranades us through the titles, a kind of flat egg with a hole in it, and through the hole is the barely lit studio where tonight’s three contestants are introduced and then this. The title is kind of a funny Belgian joke, it’s often remarked than Belgians are the world’s smartest people, so the winner of this competition must therefore be the smartest person in the world. There’s a proper game here, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
I probably ought to have taken this one slightly later. Anyway, the audience sit in the round in a very square studio. The contestants sit on comfortable looking seats on the raised floor. Host off to the left, judges off to the right.
This is our host Eric Van Looy, Flemish film director and TV host. He was a contestant on the very first series of the show.
Our judges, although they don’t so much judge as throw in funny stories and facts after each question.
Our three contestants. The contestants are Belgian celebrities. A series lasts for two months where it’s on weeknightly, on each episode the smartest player gets a free pass to the next episode, the other two must battle it out for the right to stay on. The final week is finals week and the five best contestants battle it out ladder-style to decide the series champion.
Each contestant is given 60 points to start the game. In this game points are time and whilst knowledge gets you a long way smart play will get you further. The current champion always sits on the right, the new player on the left.
Each round in introduced with a little graphic. The first round is 3-6-9.
3-6-9 is the show’s only real general knowledge round. Starting with the player sitting on the left seat, a question is asked. If they get it right they keep control, if they get it wrong then the next person sitting along gets to answer it to steal it. And if they get it wrong, the third person gets to have a try. The object is to be in control and to answer correctly every third question because those are where the points are given out – 10 seconds each. The rest are mainly for position jostling.
This round normally takes a while because the judges get involved with many of the questions. This is very much the warm-up round.
Round two is Open Door. Three famous people here have set the subjects up and this is where the game starts properly. In all cases, the player currently in the worst position in terms of score and newness gets first pick of one of the celebrities on offer. The celebrity on film introduces the subject of the question.
In each case, there are four “hot” words or things. The contestant must talk about the subject asked and try and hit those hot words – every time they do, they earn 20 seconds. However, all the time they’re talking, their score is counting down at one point per second. At any time, the player can stay “stop!” and end their go.
Once stopped, the other players get a chance to complete the lists, always starting with the person with the lowest score at the time. Again, their clock counts down whilst they think aloud. Julio Iglesias is the subject here.
All three contestants get to have first crack at a subject.
Round three is the Connecting Wa… it’s the Puzzle round. Here the players must try and work out the three different things the twelve clues are hinting at, each thing having four clues. The contestant doesn’t have to reveal which clue fits which thing, they just have to work their way through the jumble. Each correct answer is worth 30 seconds, but once again their score is counting down while they think. Unresolved answers can be passed on to your opponents (a rule only introduced a few years ago, I understand).
Here are the colour coded answers.
Round four is the Gallery. Each contestant is going to see ten related pictures, all they have to do is name them for 15 seconds an answer, whilst their clock counts down. It doesn’t look like you can return to a passed picture, but when the other contestants finish off they don’t get to see the pictures again either.
This round replaced a round in earlier series called “Framed”, where contestants take it in turn to give correct answers that form a list.
The final round is Collective Memory. Each contestant is shown a short piece of film which could be about anything – then they must talk about it, revealing as much as they know. For each piece there are five hot words. The first one hit is worth 10 seconds, the second twenty and so on with the final hot word worth a whopping fifty seconds.
The risk/reward mechanic in this round is greater than ever thereofre, because if you stop early you potentially let other people into some big points. But if you keep talking and fail to hit, you could lose loads.
And at the end of the contest we can see that Linda is our winner with 340 seconds! That means she will definitely be returning tomorrow night to play again. Els and BEnt however aren’t so lucky, as they must now fight for survival in The Final.
Our two finalists sit at their podium. Each one has a monitor showing the current scores, but nothing else.
The finalists take the scores they had from the main game through to the final. The final is a war of attrition, the scores only go down, the first one to hit zero is the loser.
To begin the host reads out the subject. Once again there are five hot words. The person in the worst position always begins, and whilst their clock counts down they must try and hit the hot words. Each time they do, 20 seconds are knocked off the opponent’s score. When they stop, the oppoenet gets a chance to finish the list.
They may start with several hundred points, but really much of the round is spent jockeying to get into a position where you can knock your opponent out and as such smart decisions in terms of deciding whether it’s better to let the clock run down so you get to speak first are crucial. As we can see, Bent has just won here, so he will come back tomorrow.
And here is the current celebrity leaderboard, most appearances and then most wins. During finals week, the bottom three of the finals leaderboard play with the loser being replaced next episode with the person above, thusly the best person of the series only has to play in the Grand final. If my understanding is correct, the Grand Final has two final rounds: one for the losing two of the episode, the winner getting to play the main winner for the title of Smartest Person In the World.