Well, lets get started shall we ? The first into the chair tonight was Peter Reilly. In the first round he answered on The Grand National, and in the semi, on the TV series “our Friends in the North”. In the final last night he answered on The Life and Career of Frankie Howard. Ooh, no , stop it, don’t. Before his round though we saw the return of the filmed insert. Cards on the table, I was happy to see this return for the final. I think that the series has been better for having longer GK rounds through cutting out the films or the chats, but its nice to keep it in just for the final. The finalists deserve a little treat in the shape of the day out for making the film. Peter , then settled into the chair, and delivered a faultless perfect round of 18 from 18. I had Peter as being an outside chance for the podium, but more likely to finish outside of the places. This round forced me to reassess that prediction.
Ian Bayley came next. Ian was runner up in 2008/9 to Nancy, a fact which he mentioned in his filmed insert. In the first round Ian had answered on The Romanov Dynasty, and in the semi on the life and work of Sibelius. In the final he was answering on the Paintings in The National Gallery. Ian, I take my metaphorical hat off to you for picking such a potentially wide subject for the final. Ian filmed his insert inside the gallery, naturally enough, and you could see his determination to go one better than last time. When he sat in the chair Ian adopted a new tactic that I haven’t seen him use before, that of shutting his eyes while being asked the questions. It certainly must have worked, for he too managed an incredible perfect round of 18 from 18. Tonight, Ian was really going to take some beating.
Diane Hallagan won the third semi final when she answered on “Black Books”, having taken Peter Tinniswood in her heat. In the final she was answering on the life and career of Dame Margot Fonteyn. If Diane was daunted by having witnessed two perfect rounds before hers, she certainly didn’t show it. There was just the one pass in the round, but 16 correct answers certainly put her in with a chance, albeit that nobody wants to be behind Ian going into a General Knowledge round.
Carrying the LAM banner into the final was Paul Steeples, the top scorer from the semi finals. Paul , it seems, had won the filmed insert lottery since he got to take the trip to new York, being as he was answering on The Life and Career of David Byrne. Paul answered on Charles Ives in the heat, and then on Victorian Churches in London in the semi final. Paul made the comment in his film that he had worried his friends and supporters in both the heat and the semi by going behind on specialist , and having to come from behind on GK, and hoping that he wouldn’t have to do so in the final. Being the superstitious soul that I am I worried when I heard him say this. His round of 12 was fine, but being realistic the chances of overhauling a 6 point lead in the GK round were slim. Paul, I can only apologise here and now for scuppering your chances by tipping you as favourite.
Dr. Tim Fenn was one of the surprise packages of the semis. In the heat he had answered on the Life and Works of John Hunter, and in the semi, on the Life and Career of John Adams. Last night Tim offered us the life of William Wilberforce. In his insert Tim earned my respect by facing up to the fact that he was probably an outsider, considering the pedigree of other finalists, and recognised that winning, while nice, wouldn’t be the be all and end all for him. Its vital that, if you get to a final, you set out to enjoy it , come what may, because they don’t come along that often. As it was , Tim produced a brilliant specialist round of his own, scoring a seemingly effortless 17.
Finally, then , Julia Hobbs. In the heat Julia had answered on Armistead Maupin, and in the semi on Calvin and Hobbs. In the filmed insert Julia, like Tim, made it pretty clear that she saw herself as an outsider, and was proud of the achievement of reaching the final. Well she should be as well. When I heard that Julia’s specialist subject was going to be the Life and Career of Eddie Izzard I stunned my nearest and dearest by predicting that the first question would be in which country he was born . Julia knew that it was Yemen, of course. Mind you she knew 12 of the other answers as well, which I didn’t. Her score of 13 was a good one, but only put her into 5th place.
To put the standard of this set of specialist rounds into perspective – the aggregate of 94 compares with 90 in 2010, 81 in 2009, and 85 in 2008. We can compare since these were all two minute rounds.
Paul, then returned to the chair to set a target. He proceeded to do just that. His score of 18 was a fantastic performance. Yes, surely he must have known that the chance of winning was gone, but nonetheless he didn’t let this affect him , and his overall score of 30 will have placed doubts in the others’ minds at the very least.
Julia matched her first round GK performance with 14. You can’t do better than consistently achieve the best that you are capable of, and I think Julia did just that. Still, it meant that Paul had leapfrogged from 6th at halfway, to no worse than 5th.
3rd to go was Diane. Of the remaining contenders I felt that Diane was the most likely to be able to set a score to give Ian a real challenge. For the first half a minute or so it looked as if she was going to do just that. However I’m afraid that one slip seemed to break Diane’s concentration, and the round never quite got back into top gear. Diane’s round was some way short of her first round performance, and she finished with 28.
AT the halfway stage , two of my outsiders were in podium positions. The first of them to go was Tim Fenn. By his own admission Tim was probably the weakest of the finalists in General Knowledge, and he struggled a little to impose himself on this round. By the end he had scored another 10 points, to put him onto 27 points, a score which gives him absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Paul, then , was still in the top spot, with only two contenders still to go. Were we going to see the greatest comeback since Lazarus ? I still thought it was unlikely, but then again . . .
Peter Reilly sat down in the chair, needing to find 13 correct answers to go into the outright lead, and as many more than that as possible to put Ian under pressure. No pressure, then. As it happened, Peter kept his head and his nerve, and kept picking off the answers – and he had some crackers while he was doing it as well. He passed Paul’s total with some time left on the clock, and pushed on. By the end he had scored 15, which pushed his total up to 33.
Now, back in 2008/9 Ian scored 13 in a two minute round on GK. With an extra 30 seconds a similar round last night would be more than good enough. Add this to the fact that Ian scored 17 on GK in the first round heat, and you have to say that he looked like favourite to do it. Yet the fact is that he still had to get into the chair, and still had to do it. Eyes closed in concentration he began, and after two minutes he had produced one of the finest GK rounds we had seen in the whole series. I’ve always said that its impossible to count how many answers you’ve got right when you’re in the chair, and Ian showed the truth of this when he looked apprehensive, and then surprised as John announced that he’d done it ! By some distance as it happened. His 19 and 1 pass was a fantastic performance by anyone’s standards.
It was John himself who presented the trophy, and Ian paid tribute to the people who’d help him learn that mammoth specialist subject – a nice touch that. Many congratulations Ian. You’re a great quizzer, and a most worthy champion. I take satisfaction in the fact that after Ian trounced us in our Brain of Britain final I predicted in this very blog that he would surely join Roger Pritchard, Kevin, Chris, Pat and Geoff as a double champion very soon. More than that, though, Ian is actually a triple champion, since he has also won Only Connect ! Many, many congratulations.
Commiserations to the other finalists. To Peter Reilly, special congratulations on a fabulous performance to make runner up in an extremely strong field. To Paul as well, producing a GK round from the top drawer to make the podium. In fact to all the finalists for producing a great contest. In fact thanks to all 96 contenders for the entertainment you’ve given us this year.
Finally thanks as always to Jon Kelly and the team. This series has been wonderful, and the decision to axe the inserts and lengthen the rounds has produced a leaner, even more exciting and interesting show. Very well done.
|Peter Reilly||The Life and Career of Frankie Howard||18 - 0||15 -4||33 - 4|
|Ian Bayley||Paintings In The National Gallery||18 - 0||19 - 1||37 - 1|
|Diane Hallagan||The Life and Career Of Dame Margot Fonteyn||16 - 1||12 - 5||28 - 6|
|Paul Steeples||The Life and Career of David Byrne||12 - 3||18 - 1||30 - 4|
|Tim Fenn||The Life of William Wilberforce||17 - 0||10 - 5||27 - 5|
|Julia Hobbs||The Life and Career of Eddie Izzard||13 - 0||14 - 3||27 - 3|