I give you fair warning that this post is only tangentially about quizzing. Now, if you are a long term regular reader you'll know that one of my guilty pleasures is Strictly Come Dancing. Well, I do have another. Since last series, I have very much enjoyed The Great British Bake Off. Well, the twitterati among you will surely be aware of the furore over what has been dubbed 'Bingate'.
For the uninitiated, here is the one minute guide to the Bake Off. This is a knockout competition. Each week a group of amateur bakers are given three baking tasks. These are judged by Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. Every week the baker adjudged to have performed best this week is crowned star baker, and the one adjudged to have performed least well leaves the competition.
In yesterday's heat, the final (and probably most important) baking challenge was to produce a baked alaska - for which the bakers had to make everything they needed, including the ice cream. The epsiode showed one of the bakers, Diana Beard, removing the ice cream of another baker, Iain Watters (nickname - the russet Gandalf), from the freezer to place her own in there. What we, the viewers, were shown then was Iain, in frustration, after his icecream was shown to be melted, crying out in anguish, then a little melodramatically throwing all he had made into the bin, and storming off set. In the climax of the show we saw Iain, like a naughty schoolboy, bringing his bin to the judging table to receive a lecture from Paul and Mary, reddening all the time with embarrassment, after which he was speedily ejected from the show.
The BBC received over 500 complaints after the show, and apparently Twitter exploded with indignation over Iain's treatment, with many sadly typically incendiary comments about Diana. Diana herself went on BBC Radio Shropshire this morning, tearfully saying that she feels she has been 'stitched up' by the programme makers. Judging by her remarks, and those left on Twitter by Paul Hollywood and Sue Perkins, she has a point. According to them, the ice cream was out of the freezer for about 40 seconds before Iain was called over to remove it to his own freezer, since space was limited. I haven't timed it, but it seemed to me that there was a darn sight more than 40 seconds between the programme showing Diana removing Iain's ice cream saying 'hasn't he got his own freezer?' or words to that effect, and Iain crying out in anguish over the state of his ice cream. What the programme also failed to do was to show any words of commiseration or remorse passing between the two, leaving people to draw the impression that even if this was not a deliberate act of sabotage, Diana couldn't have cared less about what had happened.
In my opinion - and as always - feel free to disagree - when you take the king's shilling by applying to go on a TV competition, then you know that you are in the hands of the production team, and if you don't quite come across as well as you'd like, well, sorry, that's part of the risk that you take. However, surely the production team must have realised that they had edited this particular show in such a way as to give people the impression that this perfectly nice lady in her late 60s is actually a heartless cheat, exposing her to abuse and vitriol from the more vocal sectors of the interweb. I am serious about this. Unless the production team actually did think that Diana was totally responsible for Iain's elimination, and heartlessly glad about it, they had a duty towards her not to allow her to come across in this way. I can only think that the team couldn't resist the furore that they must have known this would whip up. However the show doesn't need it - it has a huge and loyal audience anyway. It comes across to me as a cynical move, which shows no regard for the people taking part in the competition - without whom there would be no show in the first place.
Now, you might say, well if there is anything positive about this, it's that it shows something about our innate British sense of fair play. Well, maybe. How many of those people foaming at the keyboard over this, demanding the institution of the death penalty for wanton ice cream removal, I wonder, have ever cheated by using their phones in a pub quiz? Just a thought.
Actually, probably the only positive thing about this whole business was Iain's reaction when called up to face the music from Paul and Mary. He smiled sheepishly, took his verbal beating like a man, and at no point blamed Diana. Iain Watters, you, sir, are a man, and what is more, a gentleman. Sometimes you don't actually have to win to prove yourself a winner.