Monday, 16 July 2012

The Return of University Challenge

Trinity Laban v. York

Ah, the world never seems quite so daunting when there’s University Challenge to look forward to on the box. The honour of being the first team to be introduced by JP in this series fell to newcomers Trinity Laban. I was interested to hear JP talk about one of their London venues, the Laban Building in Deptford. When I was a student at Goldsmith’s College the Laban Centre shared the site, so I guess that there is a connection there. Trinity Laban were represented by Claire Barton , Diccon Cooper ( sorry if that’s spelt wrongly, but it is how they spelt it on the BBC subtitles ) , Amber Jackson – Bond, and captain Sam Draper. Their opponents were the University of York, finalists in 2011, so they had a lot to live up to. The York team consisted of Alex Leonhardt, Robin Virgo, Edward Haynes, and skipper Rebecca Woods.

First blood fell to York, when Alex Leonhardt was first to recognize a series of clues all pointing towards the word butter. York’s first bonuses were on Oxford – as in the Oxford Movement, the Provisions of Oxford etc. They took just the one. Robin Virgo maintained his side’s momentum with his first correct starter, knowing that the term in parliamentary debate taken from the French Revolution was the guillotine. Again, the team managed one bonus from a set on economics. Clearly emboldened by his early success Robin Virgo buzzed in too early on the next starter, and lost his team 5 , but Trinity Laban couldn’t capitalize on the term meridian. Neither team managed the next starter either, on the actor Sam Riley, known here at LAM Towers as Sam who ? Again, a rush of blood to the head saw Robin Virgo swoop in too early on the next starter, allowing Claire Barton to put her team on the metaphorical map with Zadok the priest. One point on bone morphology bonuses was taken. TL skipper Sam Draper took the picture starter which followed, recognizing a picture of JP on 35 millimetre film – ah, remember the old days before digital cameras ? One bonue on more of the same followed. Which proved the last points that anyone in either team was going to score before the 10 minute mark, as three successive bonuses, on the Baedecker Raids, the superior vena cava, and the term identity crisis went begging. At the 10 minute mark, then , TL had edged into a narrow lead with 30 to 25.

Rebecca Woods identified a reference to Julius Caesar, and once again the team earned a single bonus, on murders in fiction. Neither team could take a mathematics bonus which I couldn’t even write down, let alone understand. Alex Leonhardt realized that the creature referenced in an unflattering name for an old cinema would be a flea . This brought up a set of bonuses on shipwrecks. No points for York, but a full set for Mr. Smug here. Not that I had a great night myself, answer wise, but I was pleased with that set. For the music starter we listened to two bands, and were asked to identify the one member linking both. Crosby Stills and Nash and The Byrds gave me and I suspect many of the other old codgers watching a correct answer. Both teams were codger-less, and so we moved to the next starter. Mr. Cooper knew that Martin Chuzzlewit is partly set in the USA, and this earned the music bonuses. I guessed Alex James for Blur and Fat Les, and I guessed Johnny Marr for the Smiths and another group. Not easy though, and the points went begging for TL. Amber Jackson-Bond took the next starter, correctly offering anode for the electrode being described. One bonus followed on quite a difficult set on Francophone West African countries. After seeing York pull out a lead , TL were making a good fist of reeling it in now, and skipper Sam Draper correctly identified the Arnolfini Gallery as being named after a painting by Van Eyck. This earned the first full set of bonuses of the night, with a full three points on the Pantheon in Rome. Edward Haynes immediately struck back for York, knowing that chimps and bonobos are two of the missing species of hominidae from JP’s list. Two bonuses on insect products just edged York ahead at the 20 minute mark, with 85 to TL’s 80.

These scores weren’t, to be honest, the highest 20 minute scores that I expect we’ll see all series, but let’s be fair, to this point it had been an absorbing contest. However at this point of the contest York began to pull away as Robin Virgo and Rebecca Woods began to find their range. Skipper Woods took the second picture starter, identifying a photo of Dubai from the top of the Burj Khalifa. However the team couldn’t identify any of the bonuses taken from some of the world’ other highest buildings. Diccon Cooper knew that in French, if you reverse the initials of Georges Remy you get Hergé. No bonuses could be taken on political families, though. Robin Virgo knew a description of the Chimera when he heard it, and this brought up tonight’s UC special set on word pairs, where the second word has just one letter added to the first – for example concert and concerto. 2 were taken, and York were pulling away. Robin Virgo took the next, some mathematical thing, and the team took a bonus on barium. Then York snapped the ever stretching elastic binding them to TL by knowing the term Pica – to do with an abnormal craving during pregnancy. No, me neither. A full set of gentle bonuses on geometric angles followed. To make sure Rebecca Woods took the next starter on the colour green in national flags, and York added 2 more bonuses on Spain just to be on the safe side. The contest was all over bar the shouting, albeit that Diccon Cooper took a fine starter on Wellbeck/Houellbeck – more on that later. They didn’t take any of the bonuses on French painters, but the starter itself was enough to push TL through the 100 point barrier. They deserved that. Edward Haynes knew that entemopholous plants are propagated by insects, and that as they say, was that.

In the end a comfortable victory for York – hard lines Trinity Laban. Well done York , good luck in the second round.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Only one comment worthy of note during the contest itself. When Diccon Cooper offered the name Houellbeck , JP started to get on a bit of a high horse , “It’s usually pronounced Wellbeck – “ and then seemed to think better of it – “ – but, Houellbeck, . . . yep, good. “
I think he’s maybe mellowing a bit too far, though. Nobody respects every single contestant who has the guts to put themselves up for a contest like UC more than I do, but to say , “Anything over 100 is a very good score” is rather overegging the pudding, JP. Anything over 100 is certainly respectable, yes. But I’ve seen times in the past when teams have scored 80 odd points – less than one full set of starter and bonuses away from 100 – only to be told by the great man that they didn’t do very well ! Someone needs to start feeding the man some red meat, I think.

Interesting fact of the Week That I Didn’t Already Know

Prior to Queen Elizabeth II ( God Bless ‘ Er ) the longest lived British head of state was Richard Cromwell. Alright, he wasn’t head of state for very long, but he was still head of state. Good ( and guessable from the way that JP said it ) question.


Jack said...

Good to have the show back after all these weeks Dave. It's been quite a wait.

Not a spectacular start to the series, but not a bad match by any means. Both sides gave a respectable performance.

The stats: Robin Virgo was best for York, with five starters; the side made 15/34 bonuses with two penalties. Diccon Cooper's three starters was best for Trinity Laban, who made 7/24 bonuses.

Even though I have my own blog to review the show, I will still post on here, and provide stats, because I enjoy doing it.

Londinius said...

Hi Jack

I'm very grateful that you're staying with us, Jack, and it shouldn't put anyone off reading your own take on events in your Online Writings - the link is among my links.

I enjoyed the show, and it's a shame for Trinity Laban that their score is very unlikely to see them earn a repechage place.

HughTube said...

I wonder if they're just showing them in the order they're filmed now, they usually have an exciting episode to kick of the series, and this one was fairly underwhelming.

Good to have it back anyway.

Oh, I think it's 'Houellebecq', by the way.

Londinius said...

No doubt you're right, Hugh - just busy trying to get it down off the ubtitles without having to pause the show too often, which kills it for me as a viewer