Wonderland – I won University Challenge ?
It was on last night. What a brilliant idea for a documentary, I thought. Last year, the day after the final of UC was broadcast, when the nation was gripped for all of 24 hours by Trimblemania, I was interviewed by a journalist from the Times for an article titled “Is there Life After Quiz Shows ? “ Come to think of it, I wonder if they stole the title from LAM ? The article did pretty much what it said on the tin, and they also interviewed many former UC contestants, two of whom won the show. None of them were made out to be particularly eccentric at all, and came out of the article rather well, I thought.
Last night’s show announced that there have been 156 winners of University Challenge, and this was the story of some of them.Yes, and somehow I don't think this was anything like a random choice o which winners they chose to interview either. It focused particularly, it seemed to me, on pointing out what makes a UC winner different from the rest of us ordinary mortals, and IMHO it didn’t do it in a particularly flattering way. The winners focused upon described a variety of experiences,amongst them, being viewed suspiciously when applying for jobs, being bullied for being a swot at school, being unable to form lasting relationships, and suffering from alcoholism and drug abuse. A significant number of them were shown as being very obviously on their own, and with several of them the director seemed to go out of his or her way to point up certain eccentricities.
The show was peppered with quotations, the first of which was John Major’s observation that Britain is the only country where a person can be criticised for being ‘too clever by half’. Yet it seemed to me that the whole thrust of the show was to suggest something very close to this – that anyone clever enough to win UC would of necessity be, or become, a slightly odd, introverted misfit, some of whom may even have a dependency on harmful substances.
The show wasn’t totally lacking in its lighter moments. I expect that one of the 2007 champions quite possibly cringed when he saw himself grabbing hold of Anne Widdecombe and kissing her when she was about to present him with the trophy. But overall this show left a slightly sour taste in the mouth. I’m sure that there are many UC winners who are gregarious, happy and successful, and have lives that have been enriched by the experience. Ah, but then if they’d interviewed them, then it wouldn’t have allowed them to make the points they wanted to make, would it ?