Chiswick Is The Weakest Link

We speak to creator of the game show phenomenon Fintan Coyle

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Cherry Blossom Boot Polish, Phil Collins, London Pride, Kate Beckinsale, Helen Mirren – the list of people and products born in Chiswick is as eminent as it is endless but did you know that W4 is also the birthplace of tv gameshow phenomenon ‘The Weakest Link’?

Created in the kitchen of his Chiswick home, former GP turned Fintan Coyle and his writing partner Cathy Dunning are responsible for giving Anne Robinson an international platform for her sarcasm and providing us with the catchphrase of the noughties.

“After my back went in the middle of surgery I knew I had to do something to earn some money,” explains Fintan who had dabbled in comedy writing as a medical student. “So Cathy and I decided to come up with a number of ideas for TV game shows to pitch to TV executives.”

“We devised The Weakest Link [initially titled Money Chain, then The Strongest Link] and thought that Jeremy Paxman would make the ideal host. But BBC suggested Anne Robinson even though it was out of her comfort zone having never done a quiz show before but we went with her and it paid off.”

But the acerbic presenter and “You are the weakest link — goodbye!" catchphrase is only part of the show's success. At a time when ‘Millionaire’ was just taking off, The Weakest Link differed from virtually all its games show predecessors because it encouraged open conflict between players who battle to win the jackpot which rarely achieves more than £2,000. “It’s an ‘ego’ show,” says Coyle, “people like to pit their wits against Anne Robinson as much as the other contestants. Most are just grateful when they aren’t the first person to be voted off.”

The show’s huge success meant it quickly moved from its early evening BBC2 slot to prime-time BBC1.

The Weakest Link is not Coyle’s only claim to TV fame. In 2002 BBC2 aired his medical comedy TLC featuring Dr. Flynn who finds himself thrown in at the deep end when he gets his first job after failing his finals and leaving medical school (not autobiographical!).

Combining medical knowledge with his talent for writing situation comedy, Coyle explains why he found his second venture more frustrating. “It took five years from making the pilot to the series being shown on television. In the meantime Scrubs had been released and people started comparing the two shows but I had written mine a few years earlier.”

With no desire to make a move to the other side of the camera, Chiswickians have little hope of recognising the comedy writer.

May 15, 2008