Well, here we are again. Back in the world of lockdown with its daily briefings, enforced restrictions and obsessive focus on personal toilet paper levels.
Returning to Level 3 is a bummer. We all know that. We get it. Let's not bang on about it. As the slogan on the mug I've been filling with whisky every night since Tuesday says, 'Keep calm and drink tea'. That's good advice that I'll be sure to try out if we ever escape this recurring horror.
But for now let's talk about what I was going to talk about before covid returned like an unwanted boomerang of infectious disease. Let's talk about something entertaining, something fun. Let's talk about Quiz.
Quiz is a new three-part mini series streaming on Neon that explores how an Army Major may or may not have cheated his way to winning a million pounds on the popular game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire? in 2001.
It's slick and engrossing and I binged through all three hours of it one sitting. I recommend you watch it. It's exceptionally good.
When I first saw Who Wants to be a Millionaire? back when I lived in England in the early noughties it felt radical as it was unlike any game show I'd ever seen.
There was no ticking clock pressuring the contestants, they could um and ahh for as long as they liked, or as long as they could stomach host Chris Tarrant's (mostly) good natured snark.
It was also uncharacteristically generous as it seemingly stacked the odds towards the contestants, giving them three lifelines to use when they didn't have a clue as to the answer.
And, on top of that, they had the answer right in front of them. Yes, it was sitting amongst three wrong ones but still... a lucky guess or the merest hint of a memory could see someone's fortunes rise considerably.
And then there was its outrageous prize money and very premise. Who wants to be a millionaire? Don't we all? You could almost buy a small 3 bedroom house in a modest - but not central - Auckland suburb for that!
All you needed to know was the answers to 15 questions. Simple, right?
Wrong. In the show's original 16 year run only five people were ever able to correctly answer enough questions to become millionaires.
Or, perhaps, six...
In September 2001, a particularly befuddled British Army Major named Charles Ingram blundered his way to the million quid. He would vocalise his bizarre thought processes by cycling through the four possible answers to each question before eventually settling on one and then abruptly changing his mind to go with an entirely different option.
He would say things like, "The answer must be [British boy band] A1 because I've never heard of Craig David," then suddenly pull the handbrake and go with Craig David as his final answer.
His peculiar and long winded method often left Tarrant in a state of showy exasperation. There was seemingly no rhyme nor reason to his mad choices. But no matter how wrong Ingram was he would always miraculously pivot to the correct answer at the very last second to progress to the next question.
But maybe it wasn't a miracle. As Ingram spluttered his way to the million pound prize a sound technician started to notice something fishy; an audience member, or members, with a frog in their throat.
What he noticed was that every time the Major settled on a wrong answer someone would cough and, like a marching soldier dutifully following orders, Ingram would sharply about turn without missing a step and pick a different answer.
Had he and his quiz show crazy wife, herself a former contestant on the show, hatched a daring scheme to successfully scam the show? That's what the producers certainly said during Ingram's court trial.
Far from the bumbling doofus he appeared, Ingram was a member of Mensa with a bachelor of engineering and masters degree in corporate management. He argued that there was no crazy coughing plan and that his stammering befuddlement was all just an act so as to make him an entertaining contestant.
During the trial his lawyer noted that there were 192 coughs the night Ingram won and Tarrant himself testified that nothing had aroused his suspicions during filming.
What makes Quiz so compelling is that it makes the case for both, defense and prosecution, with its Academy Award nominated director Stephen Frears (High Fidelity, Dangerous Liaisons) wrapping events around the high stakes court trial.
Superbly acted, especially Michael Sheen's uncannily accurate performance as Tarrant, Quiz is witty, gripping and thoroughly addictive viewing. But did Ingram do it? Well, that's Quiz's million dollar question.