Friday, 20 February 2009

TV Watch - Mastermind - Battle of the Brains

Mastermind - First Round Heat 18 of 24

A check on my list of past contenders reveals that once again we have four newcomers. Bearing in mind my piece earlier this week on the performance of women in Mastermind, and the fact that we are overdue another woman champion, it was interesting that there were two women in the heat this week.

First up was Anne South. Her interestingly different specialist subject was Chester Zoo. Apparently Chester Zoo was one of the first devoted to moving away from the concept of a zoo as being animals in cages. I thought that she had some nasty questions, in particular there was one where she had to take a deep breath before giving an answer which required her to use a quadruple-barrelled surname ! That's below the belt. So in the circumstances a score of 9 was something of a triumph over adversity.
Christopher Boote offered us a specialist subject that would not have looked out of place in any Mastermind series since 1972, the Father Brown stories of G.K. Chesterton. He too had a lot of long questions, but dealt with them well to score 12, so he was still very much in the running at the half way stage. Hugh Brady took on The Life and Career of Sir Edward Carson, and made a pretty good job of if too. This despite the fact that John Humphrys fell back into his annoying habit of repeating back some of the correct answer, instead of getting on with asking the next question.
Finishing off the first round, Caroline Fitzsimons gave us Tony Hancock, our popular culture subject for this week, albeit one more suitable for the over 50's than the under 40's. She maybe was expecting to be asked quite a bit more about his life, and less about nitpicking details of individual shows, and this was reflected in her score of 7.

So Caroline Fitzsimons returned to the chair first of all for General Knowledge. I don't think that our John can be much of a Hancock fan, since he spent his couple of minutes discussing the contender's profession as a District Nurse. Her progress through the round was slow, but steady, and she had some good answers. She reached the magical double figures, scoring a pretty decent 10 , for 17 overall.
Anne South was drawn by John Humphrys into a spirited defence of modern zoos, and forced from him the statement that old style zoos were horrible places. Her round too was a slow and steady one, but she reached the magical 10 as well, pushing the target up to 19. John Humphrys expressed the opinion that Father Brown was a rather unusual detective. I thought that was the point. Novels about very mundane, everyday detectives don't tend to sell that well. Apparently, he was based on father John O'Connor, a friend of Chesterton. After this revelation, unfortunately Christopher Boote fell in the middle of his round into a pass spiral, after starting quickly. He managed to pull out of the death dive in the last 30 seconds to score a respectable 9 for 21, but this didn't look like it was going to be enough.
So Hugh Brady brought the round to a close. It was interesting that in their talk about Sir Edward Carson, John Humphrys concentrated almost entirely on the salacious trial of Oscar Wilde, and avoided the still politically sensitive issue of Home Rule. Mr. Brady's general knowledge round was an interesting round. IMHO he had a lot of very hard questions right, but missed some points on what looked like easier questions. Still, he scored 11 to win with a little bit to spare, on 24.

Everybody please repeat after me - anything can happen in the semi finals -Still, I will be interested to watch Mr. Brady's progress. I think he can do better in his GK round, and you never know, with an even better specialist round he could , just could, mount a serious challenge in the semis.

The Details

Anne South Chester Zoo9 - 410 - 4 19 - 8
Christopher BooteThe Father Brown Stories of GK Chesterton12 - 49 - 421 - 8
Hugh Brady Sir Edward Carson13 - 111 - 424 - 5
Caroline FitzsimonsTony Hancock7 -510 - 317 - 8

Battle of the Brains - BBC 2 - 6pm - Monday - Friday

Maybe its just because I post on the same internet forum as the members of this week's top team, the Quizzee Rascals, but I did enjoy this week's shows. I don't think that's the only reason , though. If you read my post about the show last week you'll know that I outlined some of the criticisms which were made of the show's first series, and the ways in which some of these criticisms seemed to be addressed, giving the show a cautious endorsement. I'm pleased to say that I've continued to enjoy it this week, thanks in no small part to the presence of the Quizzee Rascals.

The Quizzee Rascals have a pedigree which matches that of the fine teams we saw in the first series. What's more, as well as being a first class quizzer, Will Jones is also a regular reader of this blog, which makes him a man of rare wit and discretion. Captain Craig, and Andrew are fine quizzers. Viewers of the series "Are You An Egghead ? " may remember both Rob and Danielle as contestants. As for my internet friend Andy Page - well he was none other than the first Mastermind champion of the John Humphrys era, in 2003. As for Darren, well, Darren was also a finalist in 2003, and in Discovery Mastermind in 2001 as well. So it came as a relief to see the team debut on Tuesday, after the two teams on Monday's show failed to make an impression.

Leaving out the guess the numbers round is a huge plus. I do agree with people who say that it still works out that one person on each team only has the chance to answer one question, but at least it is the Who Am I question, where you may actually get several bites of the cherry. What a pleasure to see the team win £7000 on Wednesday for their pains. I think its a good idea to let the money roll over, a la Eggheads. A thousand quid each seems like a decent payday for the team. Having said that, the questions in the money round did become noticeably harder on Thursday and Friday. Whether this was deliberate or not I wouldn't like to say, but it certainly appeared like a conscious decision to allow the team only the one pay day.

I may be wrong, but I don't think Nicky is shouting quite so much now, either. I'm also delighted to report that Rob of Quizzee Rascals has told me that the team felt they were treated very well, and so the legitimate complaints aired by some of last year's teams seem to have been addressed.

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