Well, its been a funny old week for one reason or another. Still, here we are again, and at long last its the Mastermind Grand Final. If you read my preview last week you'll know that I thought it was going to be very close , and possibly a great contest. So - how did it work out ?
Nancy Dickmann took to the chair first. She won her heat with the Amelia Peabody novels of Elizabeth Peters, and scored a brilliant 28 in the 2nd semi final with The Life and Films of Fritz Lang. Tonight Nancy was answering on The Lewis and Clark Expedition. In her short film, standing in front of what looked very like The Gateway to The West in St. Louis, Nancy explained that the story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and the key part it played in opening up the West, is a story known by every American schoolchild. I have to say that Nancy must have been an exceptionally good student when she was at school, because she blazed off the starting blocks with a brilliant 17. Standard duly set.
Roger Canwell won his heat with The Late Stuart Age, and his semi final with Norwich City FC. In his short film Roger outlined a Key principle of going through a round on Mastermind, explaining that the trick is not to worry about what you've just got wrong. Absolutely right, but a feat which requires a tremendous amount of concentration. Roger's specialist subject tonight must rank as one of the widest subjects we've seen for a while - Britain between the Wars. Yes, its only a little over 20 years, but theoretically they could ask anything in between those years. Roger proved that he'd put the hours of work into his preparation, and scored 12.
Next was Richard Smyth. Richard , like pretty much all of tonight's finalists has chosen a very diverse group of subjects, winning his heat with British Birds, then his semi-final with the final Antarctic Expedition of Captain Scott. Tonight he answered on Russian Novels between 1831, and 1894. In his film, he gave us a particularly appropriate quote,
"One must have the courage to dare ", even though he did compare himself to a non-league football team reaching a Wembley final. I was impressed with his round. I do actually love the novels of Tolstoy, but it has to be said, most of those he and Dostoevsky wrote are the size of housebricks. 13 was a good score on a tough round.
Richard Heller, who also contested the 1996 final, explained that he had finally given in to years of nagging from his step-children to have another go. Extremely impressive in the first round on W.C.Fields, and in the second round on The Napoleon Dynasty, tonight he again offered something completely different, as they say, in the form of Rodgers and Hart. In his film he explained quite a novel revision technique - playing the songs on the piano until the neighbours banged on the wall. I have no intention of piling on the agony here. The round didn't get off to a good start, and I'm afraid he only managed 9.
Stuart Macdonald won last week's semi final, you'll recall, on the hero Blair "Paddy " Mayne, and his fist round on Genghis Khan. he explained that tonight, having reached the Final, he wanted to do a more popular subject, and there are certainly few events in the sporting calendar much more popular both sides of the Atlantic than the Ryder Cup. Stuart explained his complete shock at even reaching the Final. this wasn't false modesty - Stuart really did only enter the audition out of curiosity, and never thought he would even get selected for the show. As has become customary for him, he posted a brilliant specialist round, and scored 15.
Finally then Ian Bayley. Ian won his first round heat on Tchaikovsky, and his second round heat in Dr. Who in the 1970s. Tonight he was to answer on American Presidents of the 19th Century. Now there's a truly fascinating subject, as he eloquently explained in his short film. I loved the revelation that James Garfield's assassin used a pearl handled revolver since he thought that it would look good in a museum. If you read last week's preview you'll know that Ian has been cursed with the Clark tip, but thankfully it didn't seem to hold him back, as he too scored a blistering 15 and no passes.
There was no nonsense between rounds, it was straight down to business as Richard Heller returned to the chair , and gave a well reasoned and interesting argument as to why Rodgers and Hart should be rated more highly than Rodgers and Hammerstein. Perhaps the first round was still playing on his mind. He has been a very strong performer all series on GK, but tonight he had a bad day at the office, and finished with 16.
Roger Canwell came next. Roger explained how even though the inter war period was one of great hardship , it was also a time that saw women getting the vote, and the formation of the BBC. John Humphrys of course replied that only one of these was a good thing - and you suspected somehow that maybe his tongue wasn't quite as much in his cheek as it seemed. Maybe its just me, but I felt that Roger had a tough set of GK questions, but pushed his score up to 20.
Richard Smyth returned to the chair, and gave John Humphrys a giggle by referring to the Russian novelists of his nominated period as 'barking mad'. Well, the line between genius and madness is sometimes so thin as to be virtually invisible, I suppose. Richard produced his very best GK form in what I thought was a terrific round. There were some tough questions, but Richard ploughed on like an express train, and scored 13 to take his score up to 26. You thought that with three good contenders to come it probably wasn't a winning score, but beating it wouldn't be a picnic either.
Stuart followed, and explained how the addition of the might of Europe to the Great Britain team saved the Ryder Cup at a time when it was dying on its feet. This wasn't Stuart's most successful GK round, but what the hell ? He's delighted with his performance in Mastermind 2008 and so he should be. As a practising doctor, with a young family its a miracle he found the time to learn three subjects. Stuart scored 7, and finished on 22.
Now one of the big questions of the evening. Could even as great a quizzer as Ian Bayley escape the burden of the Curse of being tipped to win from the Clark sofa ? Well, after a round of 13, the jury seemed still out. 13 is a fabulous score to produce in the pressure cooker atmosphere of a Mastermind Grand Final, but was 28 a winning score ? It certainly looked as if we were going to have an outright winner, since we had seen the full chat interludes between the rounds. Regular readers will appreciate that this always seems to mean that there won't be a tie-break.
Nancy, then, needed 12 to win. Certainly enough to bring on an attack of nerves if you're not quite 100% focused. She also revealed that she had been pregnant during the first round, and had the difficulty of learning subjects with a new baby in the house. Which of course I am sure that she didn't mind ! At this stage, in my own self defence, I want to say that I did say last week that if Nancy got out to a lead in the first round, then she is good enough to hold onto it. I also said way back months ago that we were overdue another lady champion. Nancy scored 13, and achieved the highest score of the whole series with 30. We have got our lady champion - and what a good champion too !
Many congratulations and also commiserations to Roger, and Stuart and Ian, all of whom have been good enough to share some of their experiences of the series with me in one form or another, and also to the two Richards. Congratulations also to Jon Kelly and the production team who work so hard to make such a great show, albeit that unsympathetic schedulers don't seem to give a monkeys about them. But above all else, Congratulations to our brand new Mastermind of the United Kingdom - Nancy Dickmann. Fantastic !
| Nancy Dickmann ||The Lewis and Clark Expedition||17 - 0||13 - 1||30 - 1|
|Roger Canwell||Britain between the Wars||12 - 2||8 - 4||20 - 6|
|Richard Smyth||Russian Novels 1831 - 1894||13 - 2||13 - 0||26 - 2|
|Richard Heller||Rodgers and Hart||9 - 1||7 - 3||16 - 4|
|Stuart Macdonald||The Ryder Cup from 1979||15 - 0||7 - 3||22 - 0|
|Ian Bayley||American Presidents of the 19th Century||15 - 0||13 - 0||28 - 0|