The Bar: Jillian's (South Lake Union, 731 Westlake Ave N) rents out the "Mayor's Room" and its eleven television screens every week to All-Star Pop Culture -- even going so far to put a "Section Closed" sign to scare off trivia non-combatants.
The Franchise: In a bit of a false start to Trivia Tuesday's Franchise Round-Up, All-Star Pop Culture has only recently pared its reach back to one location. League Director/Quizmaster Trevor Trifiro's scope used to spread over Jillian's in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland -- all of which hosted the quiz at the same time to prevent interstate shenanigans.Eventually, Trevor simply wasn't comfortable with having his brand on quizzes outside of Washington: "Each city has a completely different feel for pub quizzes. Seattle is different than all of them," Trevor explains, "I'm not going to put a product out there that is sub-par... If it isn't the best I can provide for that area, then I won't do it."
Trevor subsequently pulled back his trivia dominion and now only keeps a small team of people on deck to assist with PR, scorekeeping and question-writing. The one thing that hasn't been scaled back is the integrity of the quiz.
The Quiz: ($10, Thursdays at 7) Trevor says each seven round, multimedia trivia presentation takes a whopping 30 man-hours to create -- and it shows. All-Star uses the aforementioned Mayor's Room to display the quiz's five regular categories as well as a Half-Time Top 10 List round and a special Final Jeopardy-esque point wagering round. The defining unique feature of All-Star Pop Culture is that all team points go towards their score within the league. The team with the most points at the end of a 12-week period wins a huge pot that has accumulated over the "season".
Probably the only quiz night in Seattle to actually start on time, Trevor runs his game like a real sport in some regards. The yelling out of answers (joking or no) is strictly forbidden, banter is kept to the bare minimum and round length is kept rapid and fluid by on-screen timers. The resulting ambience is sort of like a high-stakes backroom card game (appropriate, as Trevor also directs a poker league). With all the screens, fanfare and genuinely difficult questions, you get the feeling of being in a legitimate competition that alot of pub quizzes barely even scrape at.
The high stakes of course lead to high tensions, with several groups of teams crowding around Trevor for some post-quiz question scrutiny, all in pursuit of the few points that could put them in the running for the $500+ season-end pot.
Finally, as suggested by the name, there are no history, sports or geography questions here -- All-Star Pop Culture strictly draws from the wells of music, television, film and gossip. The input of my team's resident history/current affairs expert was pretty much limited to either drinking his beer or scoffing into it, so you bookish trivia nerds might want to stick to The George and Dragon.
Special Effects: Trevor takes much more out of Jillian's screens than an easier question presentation, often bringing in special visual categories that don't require reams of paper to distribute.
This past week's quiz included an "If They Mated.." round, showing quizzers disturbing Photoshop hybrids of two celebrities and challenging them to identify its constituents. The forehead-heavy combination of Tiger Woods and Tom Hanks will haunt my daymares well after this feature is done with.
Drink Specials: One of All-Star Pop Culture's most cruel drawbacks is that it seems to begin right at the end of Jillian's first Happy Hour and end near the beginning of their second one. In their defense, All-Star Pop Culture prides itself on being a premium quiz night experience, so it feels reasonable to pay as such.
The Verdict: I've suggested a lot of pub quizzes for the casual triviagoer, but this one's strictly for the hardcore pencil-chewers. $10 buy-ins, an extremely specialized knowledge of pop culture and a weekly commitment for those interested in the big cash prize will likely scare off pub quiz beginners -- but for the rabid pop culture enthusiast, there's nothing in Seattle that can compare.