A genuinely surprising moment occurred at the beginning of Harry Potter: Hogwarts Tournament of Houses (Sky Max). Dame Helen Mirren – who, in the weirdest role of her career, is now a quiz show host – introduced the programme by mentioning She Who Must Not Be Named.
“Why are we all here tonight? Because JK Rowling’s novels about a young wizard named Harry have become a global phenomenon,” she said. So there is still one corner of the Potter universe where his creator isn’t cancelled.
That’s all the good news I can bring you. This is a Harry Potter-themed quiz that will have you cringing to your toes. Partly that’s because Dame Helen is wildly miscast as a quizmaster. What she’s doing here, I have no idea. She wasn’t in any of the films. And Dame Helen has many talents, but appearing natural while chatting to game show contestants is not one of them.
The other terrible thing is the sheer American-ness of the show. If you are American and reading this, please don’t take it as a personal slight. It’s just that Harry Potter was an English boy wizard, and all the whooping and hollering and “yes, ma’am” answers feel very off-brand. The youngest contestant explained that she is a sophomore in high school. She had also “read all the books by myself when I was six”.
This is a Warner Bros show, and the questions are very much based on the films. One contestant garnered sympathy by explaining that he had to start with Rowling’s books because as a child his family was too poor to afford cinema visits; reading the books is clearly seen as the subpar option. A few actors from the franchise popped up via pre-recorded video to pose the questions – Matthew Lewis, who played Neville Longbottom, and Shirley Henderson, aka Moaning Myrtle – alongside some extremely random cameos. It’s Harry Potter fan Jay Leno! And Pete Davidson, a comedian and actor who has a Harry Potter tattoo!
The teams – representing Hogwarts houses, and selected from the audience in the style of The Price Is Right – are made up of superfans. This means that they get almost every answer right and the tension is non-existent. The whole thing is a misfire. Dame Helen may be wishing she had an invisibility cloak.