Tuesday, 25 August 2009

TV Watch - University Challenge - Only Connect

University Challenge - First Round Heat 7 - University College London v. Cardiff

Well, here we are again. Yes thanks, I had a lovely, albeit almost quiz - free, holiday. Still, enough of such things. Its been a little under four weeks, and it seems like there's an awful lot to catch up on. I do apologise to those teams whose performances in UC and Only Connect I've not been able to review during my absence.

So lets get down to business. Where should we start ? Where else except the finest team quiz on television ? Last night saw a team from Kings College London against a team from Cardiff University. Kings, Jeremy Paxman informed us, was originally founded by George III and the Duke of Wellington as an antidote to that ungodly institution, University College London, before gleefully informing Cardiff that no team from Wales had ever won the series. As for me, well, there were divided loyalties here. If you're a regular reader you'll know that London University is my alma mater, and so colleges from the University tend to receive an undue amount of support from the Clark sofa. All of which, it must be said, does them about as much good as a serious bout of buzzer failure. However Cardiff is just 30 miles or so down the road from me too, and so I have to put my hands up to cheering them on as well. I like to try to spread the jinx around as evenly as I can.

Kings took the first starter, and then two out of three bonuses. Then Cardiff took the next, and managed one out of the three bonuses. In all truth it really was nip and tuck for most of the game. Several starters went begging, and both teams often managed two rather than three correct answers for each set of bonuses. Being fair, Cardiff had slightly the better of the first half, although they only led by 75 points to 70 as we moved into the second half. This is a little off the point, but I have to say that I didn't know that SE20 was the postcode for Penge, as was specified in one of the questions. Here's a little question for you. Which barrister always claimed that the Penge Bungalow Murders was probably his most celebrated case ? Answer at the end of the review. However, I digress.

In one of the cryptic questions without which no game of UC would ever be complete, Kings were given a set of clues to identify Booker Prize winners. For example, the first clue was the first name of the artist responsible for the painting "Whaam ! " and the composer of the song "Oh Pretty Woman. " Both of course were Roy - Liechtenstein and Orbison respectively. So the name wanted was Arundhati Roy - who won the Booker for The God of Small Things. They didn't get this, but I thought that they were very unlucky to come up with Martin rather than Kingsley Amis as the answer to the third bonus, but then that's the way the game is played. Another key feature of the way that the game is played is the way that Jeremy Paxman can be guaranteed to react with apoplectic shock to at least one less than perfect answer during the show. This time we were treated to "Swaziland ? In the EU ? Are you mad ?! " Brilliantly , classically Paxman.

There's something about music bonuses, that can make you feel very old when you get past a certain age. The second music bonus question tonight featured Gary Numan. Now I was never his biggest fan, and for all I know maybe you weren't either, but I think you have to admit that his vocal style was pretty unique. Not only did the callow youths of the Cardiff team, average age 19, not recognise his voice, they showed no sign whatsoever of even recognising the name when given the answer ! To paraphrase Lewis Carroll - You are Old, Father Clarky.

During the third quarter of the game Mr. Clark of Cardiff - no relation I believe - mightily impressed Jeremy Paxman by buzzing in extremely early on a question about a secret society , originating in Bavaria, with the answer 'Illuminati". Indeed Mr. Clark was the pick of the Cardiff team, contributing 5 starters out of the team's total of 8. Kings , though, had their own 'go-to' player who came into his own in the last quarter, as Mr. Willis added three crucial starters in quick succession to take his total to four for the match, and Cardiff, while never out of sight, couldn't manage to bridge the gap. Kings ran out winners by 155 to 140, just shading a tight and absorbing contest. Alas, it looks like Cardiff won't be back , falling just a little short of what might have been expected to bring them a place in the repechage. Very hard lines, but still well played.

As for the barrister - who other than Horace Rumpole ?

Only Connect - Third Place Play Off - The Mathematicians v. The Chessmen

At least we're still on the first round in University Challenge. In the time I've been away, great things have been happening in the world of Only Connect. The first round has been completed. Semi finals have been played. In fact, after last night, only the Grand Final remains. Which means that last night's show was the third place play off, after the manner of the World Cup Football finals. This is something new for the show, and I think its a very good idea, since it allows two teams who didn't make it to the final to shine for us once more.

So, who did we have ? Well , I remember Ruth Carling, Thomas Cochrane and James O'Driscoll , aka the Mathematicians, very well. They played a fine game in the first round to beat a very good team, the Wordsmiths. The Mathematicians are all embarrassingly young but during the series their efforts seem to have belied their apparent lack of years of experience. Their opposition, the Chessmen, possess this quality in abundance. Regular quiz viewers may well have recognised all of them. Henry Pertinez was one of the star players in last year's brilliant Manchester University team in University Challenge - don't worry, I'm not going to go raking all of that business about the Final up again. Then Stephen Pearson was one of the stars of the first series of Battle of the Brains, and Nick Mills, one of the stars of the same. So in a series that has been notable for the high quality of the teams involved, this was a most formidable line up.

I have to say that there were some extremely difficult connections in round one, yet the only dropped connection was the Mathematicians' failure to spot that all the musical contributions were sung by Marnie Nixon. Yes, that's an old quiz hand's connection, I'm afraid, and just the luck of the draw. Not that luck seemed to be coming into this game at all. The Chessmen were almost flawless through the first two rounds, running up an impressive total while getting all of their own connections, and many of the Mathematicians' as well. The only one that flummoxed them was one on House of Commons Mace Protesters. When handed this as a bonus they knew what the link was, but couldn't remember the name of the next one after Ron Brown. Well, neither could I. To be fair, one of the Mathematicians kindly informed us that when Ron Brown made his famous protest, he was only 2 years old at the time.That's Thomas Cochrane of the Mathematicians who was 2 years old, and not Ron Brown.

"If you like a nice easy wall, " Victoria kindly informed us, " then switch over to a different quiz. " No chance of that happening , I promise you. However these two walls were the sort of thing that would have given a Bletchley Park codebreaker sleepless nights, and when I tell you that of the 8 connections on offer to the two teams, only one was solved, this will give you some sort of idea. Both teams scored two points. However this put the Chessmen onto 17, while the Mathematicians languished with 8. Onto the missing vowels round, and honours were fairly even until the Mathematicians took too long to answer, and were fined a point.

So the final score was 11 to the Mathematicians and 22 to the Chessmen. I never saw the two semi finals, although the Chessmen did pay tribute to their semi final conquerors, South Wales' finest, The Rugby Boys. I'd love to see what happened in that one, because I have to say that the Chessmen were just completely awesome in the first two rounds of this match. It wasn't just that they were picking up all the connections, it was that they were doing it so early. Commiserations to the Mathematicians. They have nothing to be ashamed of in their performances.

So, the Grand Final is next week. Can't wait.


The scheduler giveth and the scheduler taketh away. Blessed be the name of the scheduler. Or to put it another way, last week the scheduler tooketh away the next series of Are You An Egghead ? by postponing it until October, but this week he gaveth back, by scheduling the return of Mastermind for this Friday.Unless of course you live in Wales, in which case God alone knows when they'll get round to showing it. I've said more than enough about Mastermind in the past for you to know how dear to my heart it is, so I'm not going to go on about it, but there's been a few changes made to the show, and I'll be very interested to see what the new season is like. Watch this space.


Richard Bach said...

The semifinal is still on iplayer. Funnily enough I was going to stop watching after the first round because I assumed the Chessmen were going to run away with it; Pearson in particular was awesome. Thanks to your blog I stayed with it! This is your link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00m6n2p/Only_Connect_Series_2_Chessmen_v_Rugby_Boys_SemiFinal/

Londinius said...

Hello Richard, and thanks for taking the time and trouble to stop by.
I couldn't find the semi on the iplayer, but I'll have a look again now. As you say, the Chessmen put in an awesome performance. From what I've seen its ben a great series - only one complaint really. Too short !