Well, I’ve little doubt that the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Slebs were on standby last night, after the ordeals we’ve seen being meted out to 3 of the celebrities in the last two shows. Was their vigilance necessary, though? Well . . .
Prime candidate for a rough ride was last night’s first celebrity Andy day. I say this because Andy was the seemingly obligatory CBBC/CBeebies presenter. Andy is apparently one of the main men on CBeebies. Well done! For his specialist subject he answered on the Back to the Future trilogy of films. Very well he did too, just narrowly failing to get into double figures. But then the specialist rounds are rarely a problem for CBBC/CBeebies/BBC Radio presenters. The GK, on the other hand. . .
Long before we cross that, bridge, min, let us pause for a minute to consider Ann Cleeve’s round on the Shetland Islands. Ann Cleeves is a crime writer, who, among other works, created the character Vera Stanhope, the main character in the TV series Vera. Her round was a wide ranging one – basically anything and everything connected with the islands was fair game. Now, having been one answer away from a perfect round myself in my semi final SS, I know just how frustrating that is. At least mine wasn’t the last question of the round, as was Ann’s. Nonetheless, a very fine round it was, and she finished on 11.
Now, I did know that Tom Rosenthal plays one of the sons in Friday Night Dinner – the one who isn’t played by Simon Bird. What I didn’t know was that he is also the son of Jim Rosenthal. I haven’t personally seen Jim on TV that much since ITV started to give up on all sport except the Champions League, but he really was the face and voice of ITV sport back in the 80s and 90s. That’s the dad, though. The son, Tom, was answering on Flags of the World. Now, that was tempting fate. This was Jesse’s specialist subject when he set the all time 2 minute round record – well, all time record for a round length of any duration actually, unless I am very much mistaken. In his first round heat of the 2010 Champion of Champion’s series Jesse scored 23. Now, Tom didn’t actually do very badly at all, but he levelled out at 7, which put him some way off the lead.
Finally Robert Peston – in celebrity terms probably the biggest gun in this particular heat. People from BBC Current Affairs, or from the ITN equivalent often tend to do well in Sleb Mastermind, and I quite fancied that Robert Peston would continue this record. His specialist – on David Bowie from 1966 – 1976 – certainly gave him a decent platform upon which to launch his bid for victory. He didn’t quite match Ann’s round, but it wasn’t far off, and with 10 it meant that all he had to do would be to set a target which was a couple of points more than Ann could match.
In the meantime, though, Tom Rosenthal returned to the chair. The chances that he would be able to overhaul such a substantial lead looked unlikely, and every time he gave a correct answer he sounded as if he couldn’t quite believe it was right. Nonetheless the points kept racking up steadily, and by the end of the round he had managed 11 to take his score to 18. Would it win? Well, in terms of what we’ve already seen in this series nothing was impossible, but it still looked unlikely.
And so to Andy day. I doubt that much pressure needed to be put on Andy to take part. He looked as if he was taking it all in good spirit, and you can see the appeal of appearing. It’s all in aid of a good cause, it’s something to eventually tell your grandkids, and in the case of a children’s TV presenter it gets your face seen by people who would probably never have seen you before. Only – the thing is, if you’re not a quizzer, and don’t have a great general knowledge – well, just check out some of the less temperate comments around the web to get an idea about what you can be letting yourself in for. OK, then, let’s cut a long story slightly shorter. Andy scored 4.
The two horses still in the race, then, took their places in the stalls. First out of the starting gate was Robert Peston. He didn’t do as well as I thought he would, scoring 11 and 6 points. I wasn’t that impressed with his talking over John’s attempts to give him the answers to his passes at the end, although let’s be charitable and say that this was due to his annoyance with himself for getting things wrong that he knew. But Robert, that’s the point – that’s what the chair does to you. It’s not just about what you actually know – it’s about what you can recall when you need to under those conditions.
Coming up on the rails, then, was Ann Cleeves. Her round was an interesting contrast to Robert’s. Robert , basically, if an answer didn’t come within a second, then he passed. Ann just kept answering, even if it meant that she had to take a couple of seconds to think before she gave an answer. This meant that she got through fewer questions, and only scored 10. However, it also meant that she only accrued one pass, and when the contest was revealed as a 21 – all tie, the countback went clearly in her favour.