Well, another sleb show, and after this one the production team must be worrying that they’ll be getting a knock on the door from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Slebs. I’ll say more about that later on.
The show often invites broadcasters from BBC Radio, CBBC and CBeebies to take part, and first into the lists last night was Mary Anne Hobbs. I wasn’t previously aware of her work, but a quick google revealed her to be a BBC Radio 6 broadcaster. It also revealed that we were born in the same year – and I have to say that she is, without wishing to appear ungallant, wearing a hell of a lot better than I am. Mary Anne’s specialist subject was the late great Barry Sheene. By jingo she knew her stuff as well. 9 points, and only a stumble kept her away from the magical double figure barrier. A good round.
Neil Fitzmaurice is one of those people whose name you might not know, but whose face you probably recognize straightaway. Well, anyone who had a hand in writing Phoenix Nights has my respect. Neil was answering on the films of Robert De Niro, and that’s a hell of a wide subject when you consider that he’s made getting on for 100 of them. All of which probably goes some way towards explaining why Neil was unable to squeeze his way past 6 points. Not by any means a score to be ashamed of, but there was a rueful look on his face as he left the chair, and he surely thought that his chance of taking home a piece of glassware had just disappeared.
Katie Thistleton was the seemingly obligatory CBBC presenter in this particular show. Her subject was The Life and Times of Rachel Green. If that name doesn’t mean anything to you, well, basically Rachel Green was the character played by Jennifer Aniston in Friends. Now, I can already hear the naysayers preparaing their green biros for this one. My 2007 heat of regular Mastermind was leapt upon as an example of the show’s so-called dumbing down because Stacy Mitchell on the same heat chose the Life and Career of Jennifer Aniston. Well, here we a contender not only taking Friends – but only one of the main characters. All I can say is that things change for the Sleb shows. Leeway has to be given with specialist subjects – with good reason too, as we would see later. Having picked what I found to be the easiest of last night’s specialists, at least Katie did justice to it, scoring 11.
Finishing the round was dear old Johnny Ball. Johnny’s position in the pantheon of Children’s TV greats was secured with his brilliant Think of a Number TV series, and its successors. Later on in the show Johnny would reflect ruefully that nobody has come along to make such programmes for children since. He’s probably right, but then who else could do it? His specialist round was on Michael Faraday. He struggled manfully with it, but a misfiring recall system didn’t help, and he levelled out with 6.
Neil Fitzmaurice, freed from the pressure of being in a position where it was realistic that he might actually win the show, gradually relaxed into his round. Picking up speed in the second minute he managed to break through the double figure barrier to notch up a decent round of 11, to finish on 16. Johnny Ball’s misfiring recall did him no more favours in the GK than it had in the specialist round, and indeed he did confess to being in panic mode. He fought his way to 5 points for 11.
Now for the cruelty to slebs. At the halfway stage it really was a two horse race between Mary Anne and Katie, who were way ahead of two gents. Mary Anne returned to the chair, and . . . well, there’s no nice way of saying it. She got one right in her GK round. So now the worst that Neil could come was 2nd. Katie returned to the chair, and she actually did better than Mary Anne. She scored 2 points.
Look, at the end of the day I know little more about how this has worked out than any other viewer. I don’t know whether Mary Anne and Katie volunteered to go on the show – I don’t know whether they were invited and agreed immediately and enthusiastically – I don’t know whether they were invited and were a little reluctant but allowed themselves to be persuaded because its for a good cause – I don’t know whether they were put under pressure to appear by their BBC superiors. We don’t know, and we can’t know. I don’t know whether both or either suffered dreadfully from brain freeze because of the pressure of being in the chair, or whether they just don’t have a huge amount in the way of general knowledge. So anything I say must be viewed in that light. Still – IF pressure was put onto either or both to appear, it’s a pretty sad thing. Yes, I know it’s only a bit of fun, but doing badly on Sleb Mastermind, I would imagine, is still a lot worse than being first out on Sleb Pointless, or being caught by the Chaser in a couple of steps on Sleb Chase, to name but two. I really don’t know that it’s that entertaining watching a couple of perfectly nice minor celebrities squirming and suffering their way through a GK round which they maybe just aren’t suited to. Pah. Humbug.
|Mary Anne Hobbs||Shelter||Barry Sheene||9 - 1||1 - 7||10 - 8|
|Neil Fitzmaurice||Zoe’s Place||The Films of Robert De Niro||5 - 7||11 - 2||16 - 9|
|Katie Thistleton||FOP Friends||The Life and Times of Rachel Green||11 - 1||2 - 7||13 - 8|
|Johnny Ball||Action for Children||Michael Faraday||6 - 4||5 - 7||11 – 11|