During my stay in Belgrade, I was the beneficiary of a very warm Serbian welcome by my cousin and his girlfriend, who much to my delight, are popular game show competitors in Serbia. Yes, I’m pleased to add them to my growing list of fascinating and eclectic relatives. My quest was to discover what the lifestyle of real locals was like, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that these two have been deeply entrenched in the Serbian quiz show world for the last twenty years. They started out in radio quiz shows in the early 90s. As formats evolved, they found themselves competing on national television and even getting to travel for championships around the country.
Hearing all of this, I was curious to see if quiz shows in Serbia were similar to what you’d see in the States. Though a few are modeled after popular British or American shows, the Serbian versions seem to be less gimmicky and more focused on the actual quizzing than their foreign counterparts. The shows are a combination of trivia, general knowledge, and word and numbers puzzles. Their seems to be a group of competitors that see each other again and again at various quiz events, bolstering both healthy competition and camaraderie among the participants. Prizes range from a simple household items like a Turkish coffee pot to more substantial cash checks. These modest prizes are nothing like their American equivalents, proving that these competitors are really in it for the right reasons: intellectual stimulation, fun, learning, and the pursuit of a hobby. Game shows in the states usually have competitors winning incredibly outlandish prizes such as first class vacations to Tahiti, New Luxury Sports Cars, and Cash prizes into the 6 digits. This obsession with over the top, larger than life prizes takes the focus away from the actual game itself as the viewers drool over the latest lucky winner’s new loot. With reality TV taking over the airwaves in the US, and game shows getting more and more outlandish, there is something refreshing about the down to earth authenticity about the Serbian quiz shows.
In the former Yugoslavia, famous host Oliver Mlakar popularized the show, Kviskoteka in the 70s and 80s on TV Zagreb, but now, quiz shows such as Slagalica (The Puzzle) and Veliki Izazov (The Big Challenge) are the mainstays. These quiz shows are professionally filmed, produced with modern studios and on par with Western shows despite an obviously smaller budget.
In a country where unemployment is always a problem and opportunities are less than abundant, quiz shows provide a welcome creative outlet and an escape from the daily grind. Competitors get a chance to use their knowledge, expertise in a field, or mental prowess to travel, make new friends, gain a few small prizes, and even enjoy a little popularity in their local community – breaks that many people don’t have. After all, who wouldn’t be flattered to be recognized as a TV personality when perusing one’s local pijaca?
Try out a fun Serbian mini quiz here.
I got 8 out of 10 correct on this simple Serbian Quiz. Not terrible for a non-Serb, right? What’s your score?