Tuesday, 21 December 2010

TV Watch - University Challenge

University Challenge – Round 2 – Match 8 – Newnham , Cambridge v. Bristol

At last I get to review a match featuring this Newnham team. Last time out I was in Spain, I think, and therefore missed their first round win over Southampton. Never mind. Tonight we saw Claire Greenwell, Lucy Andrews, Caroline Tanner and captain Elizabeth Coker face something of a big ask , bearing in mind they squeaked through in one of the lowest scoring matches of the first round. Mind you, first round form is a notoriously poor guide to eventual outcome, as we’ve already seen in this and previous series. Favoured to win tonight were the Bristol team of Ario Brunet, Lucinda Critchley, Georgia Malcolm and captain James Williams. They too had a very narrow win, although their win against a good St. Andrews team saw them almost make 200 points. Well, on with the show.

If it’s a book of travels, and its called the Million, then its famous Croatian ( well, he was born in part of what is now Croatia ) Marco Polo. James Williams began what was to prove a very fruitful evening with a correct buzz, and his team posted their intent with a full set of bonuses on academic fields. However he was incorrect when he suggested the longest word in the first verse of God Save the Queen is gracious. Claire Greenwell knew that it was victorious. The Newnham team took their own couple of bonuses on the Arts. Lucinda Critchley took the next for Bristol, recognising a group of Celias. This was added to with a single bonus on the climate change debate. Not for the last time tonight Georgia Malcolm showed decisiveness on the buzzer, taking the third starter on thermodynamics. Again, the team managed one bonus on human anatomy. The fourth starter was the first set of pictures. Skipper Williams buzzed in early , recognising Western Australia. The team didn’t quite manage any of the other autonomous regions of various countries which followed as bonuses. Lucy Andrews pulled back a little of the deficit for Newnham when she buzzed in to identify a pigment being described as Sienna, after an early miscue from Georgia Malcolm. James Williams though buzzed in impressively early on the next starter to explain that the film Agony concerns events leading up to the execution of Grigory Rasputin. 2 bonuses on chefs ensured that Bristol had a healthy lead of 80 points to 35 over Newnham at the 10 minute mark.

There was a great buzz from Georgia Malcolm on the next starter, identifying Enron as the company being described. No bonuses were taken. No matter, as James Williams himself scored a highly impressive early buzz on the term Bildungs roman. This time the team took all three bonuses on pairs of words differing by one letter – morse and morose, for example. Then came the first starter which could not be taken by either team, and Georgia Malcolm earned herself a bit of a telling off. More about that later. Maybe this gave a little heart to Newnham, who’d been buzzed out of the contest for a while, since Caroline Tanner correctly identified the temple complex of Angkor Wat from its description. Unfortunately the team failed to take any of a set of bonuses on roman provinces. The next starter, the music starter, saw a brilliant early buzz from skipper Williams. He couldn’t have heard more than a couple of bars before he had buzzed into correctly identify the band playing as the Sex Pistols. With the help of Lucinda Critchley he went on to identify a set of banned records for a full set of bonuses. She obviously enjoyed this so much that she buzzed in with the next starter, identifying the son of Odysseus as Telemachus. 3 bonuses on literary figures followed, and even though there was still plenty of time left on the clock you really couldn’t see Newnham getting back into the contest at this point. Ario Brunet took a starter identifying Lorelei as the siren of the Rhine, which meant that each member of the Bristol team had claimed at least one starter. 1 bonus on wine followed. Did you know that the phrase ‘blinking idiot’ is used in Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice “ ? I did ( because I teach the play some years ) , and so did Lucinda Critchley. One bonus followed on film music. Captain Elizabeth Coker earned herself a huge beaming smile from JP when she got crème fraiche for the next starter. 1 bonus was taken on years. With time for one more starter before the 20 minute mark was reached, the 2nd set of pictures almost inevitably fell to James Williams, who recognised a painting of the Battle of Trafalgar. With one bonus this took the scores to 200 to Bristol, as opposed to 60 for Newnham.

Maybe its me, but it seemed to me that the Bristol foot came a little off the accelerator now, the game having been effectively won. Both teams missed the next starter. James Williams took the next two, on the first words of the Origin of Species, and on King Edwards – that’s the royal personages, and not the potatoes or cigars. 2 out of 6 bonuses were taken. Caroline Tanner took Newnham’s last starter when she identified that there are 4 figures in human form in The Birth of Venus and other paintings. Neither team knew starters about Lincoln Cathedral, and the Battle of the Books by Jonathan Swift. Neither did I , for that matter. James Williams added a little gilding to Bristol’s score when he recognised a starter calling for the answer – the speed of sound. Coincidence alert - one of their bonuses now asked them for Dorothy Sayers’ middle name ! Min Lacey answered the same question in Brain of Britain earlier the same day. Just one of those nice little coincidences. . Neither team managed give the answer tMontgomery as a state capital, but on a gimme like the SI Unit of Force James Williams was always going to win the buzzer race. Finally Ario Brunet took the last starter on the three countries that have territory on the island of Borneo. Time for one bonus, and the gong sounded. A comprehensive 275 – 70 win for Bristol. Well played . How far can they go –well, that remains to be seen. If you can hit the buzzer early enough you’ve always got a chance of going a long way. Watch this space for a review of the second round, and a preview of the quarter finals in the next few days.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

- and watch him I did, for I remember how besotted he seemed with last year’s Newnham team. Certainly he seemed on his best behaviour for over half of the match. When Georgia Malcolm of Bristol buzzed in to a starter on Physiology, then gave no answer, then gave an answer after Jeremy P. had already told her it was too late, his rebuke was remarkably mild. In fact he even apologised a little – “I’m sorry , its harsh, but it’s the only way to be fair. “

However the effort of being nice told on him later on. When he asked which event in British history occurred in the year of the 14th prime number he rounded on Ario Brunet who offered the start of the second world war.
“SECOND WORLD WAR !! It’s the start of the Roman Conquest !”
Then he even turned on Newnham. Up to now he had been biting his tongue if they offered an unlikely answer, but when they offered Paraguay incorrectly he expostulated “NO ! PARAGUAY’S over the OTHER SIDE of the country !”

Having said that he tried to be gallant to Newnham , particularly noticeable when he didn’t draw attention to the relatively low score they had achieved, and in fact made a point of pointing out how small the body of students they have to draw upon is. What is it about Newnham’s teams that brings out this gallantry in our Jeremy ? I think we should be told.

Interesting Fact That I Didn’t Already Know Of The Week

The first person to exhibit in the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern was Louise Bourgeois – and as an aside , she died earlier this year.


Des Elmes said...

While I don't disagree that first-round form has been a very poor guide to eventual outcome in this series, I still expected Bristol to win this at least fairly comfortably.

And sure enough they, and Williams in particular, put in a commanding performance - though I too felt they eased off a bit after the second picture round.

Also JP's performance throughout this match was superb. Not only did he raise his voice in response to Brunet's "Second World War" and Newnham's lack of knowledge of the geography of the Americas, but also he said "Virginia?! Good heavens, no!" when Newnham made a guess at a starter asking for a New England state.

The stats: as in their last match, Bristol got roughly half of their bonuses correct (24/49). However, they picked up three penalties. Williams finished with ten starters, the best individual performance so far this series; all his team-mates got at least two each.

And as in their last match, Newnham had a hard time with their bonuses (4/15), though there were no penalties, and everyone got at least one starter correct. Tanner was the only one to pick up a second.

And finally, I can't remember the last time there was a match featuring just two male contestants...

Jack said...

It was a bit unfair on Newnham, but they were a good way below Bristol. Lucy Andrews and Caroline Tanner finish the series with five starters each over two games.

JP clearly likes having Newnahm on the show. In the heat, when Lucy Andrews gave an answer in a very doubtful tone of voice, he replied "don't look so sad!" Bit harsh really.

Mr Williams's brilliant haul of ten starters is certainly impressive for two reasons: A, the team combined for eleven in the heat, and B, he only got two of those eleven! Certainly a brilliant performance from him and Bristol as a whole. Will be very interesting to see how they fare against the likes of Christ's or Sheffield or Magdalen.

Mr Williams has now answered tweleve over two matches, tying with Will Cudmore. Top three buzzers for rounds one and two are Ben Slingo (18 starters), Tris (16) and Mark Jackson (14). I can publish a full list if you want.

Londinius said...

Hi Des and Jack

Des, I thoroughly agree with you about JP - when he is at his most exasperated he is also at his most entertaining.

jack, if you could post that full list on a comment, then I'd love to put it in a full post - with acknowledgements to yourself of course.