Saturday, 27 September 2008

TV Quiz Watch

TV Watch - week of 26th September

The idiot schedulers at BBC Wales again decree that the viewers of Wales shall watch their Mastermind days after the rest of the UK. Thankfully, by the magic of the iplayer I get to see it only a couple of hours after everyone else.

This weeks contestants were, respectively , a retired accountant, a warehouse operative, a dentist and a teaching asistant, so another mixed bag. Once again an exclusively male contest. A quick check on my list of contenders reveal that three of them are defintitely Mastermind-virgins, but a John Webley took part in the epoch making 1980 series, which was won by the most lauded of all Mastermind champions, Fred Housego.

Roger Canwell coped well with one of those traditional Mastermind History subjects - the Late Stuart Age. 14 is highly respectable, and will always give you a chance if you can cut it at General Knowledge.

It began to look an even better score as the three others scored respectively 10, 12 and 11. Amazingly, I managed at home to answer at least one of the specialist questions or each contender, which is all the more remarkable since I have never heard of Robert Parker, let alone his Spencer novels, but a question about who wrote the poem "The Second Coming " - apparently used as the title of one of the novels - saw me home.

It was a pleasure to see heavyweight boxing feature again as Pete Wolstonecroft took on Joe Frazier, and at least managed to go the distance, scoring 11 with some quite obscure questions I thought.

Its all relative, and can only ever be a subjective concept, but I thought that the general knowledge rounds were a little easier than the norm this week, and scores were all fair, but none overly impressive. Roger Canwell scored a decent 13 to cement a comfortable win, and for the second week running I have to say that we have a winner who just might be able to win a semi final as well. time will tell.

For the record here are the details of this week's heat.

NameOccupationSpecialist SubjectSpecialist scoreGeneral Knowledge scoreTotal score
Roger CanwellRetired AccountantThe late Stuart Age 1660 - 171414 and 1 pass13 and 1 pass27 and 2 passes
Jack Pearce Warehouse OperativeSteely Dan10 and 2 passes 11 and 3 passes 21 and 5 passes
John WebleyDentist The Spencer Novels of Robert Parker 12 and 3 passes 11 and 1 pass 23 and 4 passes
Pete Wolstonecraft Teaching Assistant Joe Frazier 11 and 2 passes9 and 4 passes 20 and 6 passes

Only Connect - BBC Four 22nd September

If you haven't seen this, and since is on BBC Four you probably haven't, let me give you an idea what you're missing. This is a quite highbrow, difficult team quiz, and all the better for it.

The idea behind the show is all in the title. Two teams take turns to try to guess a connection between anything up to four clues. Five points are available if you can guess the connection from one clue, three from two clues, two from three clues, and one from all four.

Its all rather reminiscent of Radio 4's evergreen "Round Britain Quiz". Older viewers might also recall a short lived show from the early 80s called Connections. Presented by John Julius Norwich, teams led by Irene Thomas ( Round Britain Quiz - Brain of Britain ) and Christopher Hughes ( Mastermind - and later on Eggheads ) were given a series of clues to connections. It was rather good, too, although all for fun.

This is rather more serious, and the teams are seriously stacked with mental ability. I recognised my quiz acquaintance David Stainer on Monday night's show, and believe me, he knows his way around a quiz.

Gorgeous Victoria Coren presents the show, and she's a little bit stern, but obviously has the intellectual credentials to front a serious quiz show like this.

I really like this show. The connections range from quite difficult to fiendish, but then that's only right given the calibre of the teams who've already featured in the show. Its a highly engaging half hour, but I don't know how accessible it would be to non quizzers. So therefore its at home on BBC Four . We can only hope that it eventually transfers to terrestrial television and gets a chance to find an audience.

University Challenge - BBC Two - Monday 8pm

Kings College Cambridge played the University of Edinburgh. Paxman made a point of saying how long it has been since Kings College Cambridge even entered - at least 20 years. Then he reminded us all that Margaret Mountfield - sir Alan Sugar's female henchperson in "The Apprentice" - observed in the latest series that Edinburgh University isn't what it was.

They're obviously doing something right . though, as Edinburgh streaked off to a good lead. However King's came beck to make it the very best match of this series so far. With no more than a couple of minutes to go, the scores were tied at 180 each. Quite literally it came down to who answered the last starter, and it was Edinburgh's captain who managed it. The match ended 190 to Edinburgh, and 180 to King's.

Paxman sounded absolutely sincere when he said "Well that was a great match - thank you both very much indeed. " Amen to that.

Brain of Brains

OK , so its not television, but last week but one saw the triennial contest between the last three winners of the Brain of Britain. And what a line up. Chris Hughes, Pat Gibson and Mark Bytheway. Funnily enough I have met Chris Hughes during my ill fated Eggheads appearence, I've met Pat Gibson a couple of times - an he's just a smashing bloke, and Mark Bytheway I have played against in a number of quizzes. Mark, the current Brain of Britain, and the current World Champion, won from Chris and then Pat.

I did email the BBC for an application form for the next series of Brain and Britain. They never replied.

I'm sorry that there's no daftest answer of the week - I haven't watched the Weakest Link at all this week. If I can I'll do a bumper double listing next week.

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