Monday, 31 August 2009

TV Watch 1 - University Challenge

University Challenge - Round One Heat 8 - Newnham College Cambridge v. University of Sussex

Before we get onto the nitty gritty of tonight's programme let me throw this thought in your direction. Not for the first time this series it struck me that the members of both of tonight's teams were all very young. Is this just coincidence, or is it a consequence of rigidly enforcing the rule that all contestants must still be studying at the same institution by the time their last appearence is filmed, which if you remember caused such a stink in last year's final ? I don't have any figures, and for all I know the average age of last year's contestants may have been lower than this year, but that's not how it seems to me.

Tonight's teams represented Newnham College Cambridge, and the University of Sussex. Jeremy Paxman paid due tribute to Newnham's status as one of the remaining women-only colleges, before favouring Sussex with the backhanded encouragement that they have won the series before, although not for 40 years. Apparently the layout of Sussex is supposed to resemble the outline of a large cat as well. I shall of course be using wikimapia to check on the truth of this observation after the review.

I thought that both teams were a little slow out of the blocks tonight. The first starter went begging, then Newnham were the first team to score. It seemed that they were lacking a literature expert as they failed to score on a bonus set of old chestnuts about novels - eg - Which well known novel , based on Jane Eyre, features the early life of Bertha Mason, who became the first Mrs. Rochester ? The answer being "Wide Sargasso Sea" by Jean Rhys.

Perhaps this was me, but there seemed to be a lot of starters based on Science and related topics tonight. Whatever the case, for the first ten minutes it was all Newnham. In fact Sussex were sporting a score of minus 10 on the 10 minute mark , when they managed their first starter, which led Paxman to wickedly quip,
"You've stormed away to zero. "
On the subject of the great Mr. P. he seemed in strangely Jekyll and Hyde mood tonight, with Newnham seeing more of Jekyll, and Sussex more of Hyde. What smiles he gave out were mostly for Newnham, and indeed he allowed Newnham captain Ms. Cole to change an answer quickly because he had heard the correct answer being given by a team member. Whereas with Sussex, when they struggled with a set of Science bonuses he informed them,
"You either know this stuff or you don't. You don't. "
No edition of University Challenge now is complete without at least a pinch of Paxman indignation, so I was delighted that both teams' failure to identify " A latin phrase, in use in English, which literally translates as 'without which not ' as being sine qua non resulted in an exasperated "I'm astonished !"

Interesting Fact I Didn't Already Know Of The Week.
Apparently Barack Obama had, amongst others, tracks by Kanye West, Marvin Gaye, Bruce Springsteen and Aretha Franklin on his ipod on the day of his election to the presidency. Full marks to whoever came up with that set of questions. The game wound on, and Newnham became more and more at home and confident, and alas, Sussex didn't. In the first 15 minutes or so Newnham seemed a little profligate with their bonuses, converting one or two each time, but this improved significantly as they warmed up. Ms. Pett, Ms. Williams and Ms. Egginton all weighed in with a significant number of starters, with Ms. Pett coming out on top with 6. This was almost matched by Mr. Neasom of Sussex, who managed 5, which was more than half of their total.

The final result was a win for Newnham by 260 points to 120. Jeremy Paxman called this a 'terrific score' and he's of course right. While you wouldn't say that they matched some of the awesome teams we saw in the last series, once they really got into their stride they produced some very good answers, and their challenge should not be totally dismissed. Sussex miss out on a place in the repechage.


In case anyone is wondering, I haven't forgotten about Only Connect tonight. Since its the Grand Final I have decided that it deserves a whole review to itself. Watch this space.

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