Tuesday, 28 April 2009

CIU Final - Some you Lose

- But on the other hand, some you win.

What a couple of days its been since my last entry. Allow me to try to explain. On Sunday I wrote that I was seriously considering going back to Newport on Monday evening. It transpires that I had my dates wrong for the CIU South Wales final, and actually that took place on Monday - last night. The first I knew was when Barry rang me up on Sunday evening just before I left for the quiz in the Pheasant.

On paper, it wasn't difficult to predict how we would do. Yes, my club in Port Talbot have actually won the CIU Welsh final before, but I wasn't on the team that night, as it clashed with the grand final of the much missed South Wales Echo League. However since then we have always featured in the top 3, and gone on to qualify for the Grand Final in Derby - apart from last year when we missed out on the third place by one point. In all the years I've been playing, though, we haven't won.

You see, what has happened is that since we won the title previously, the South Wales final has been designated the South Wales and West of England final. This has meant that the superb Ashford Road A and B teams from Swindon have also contested it too, which has meant that four teams who are potentially good enough to win the Grand final have been playing for three qualification places for that Grand Final. Last year for example, after several consecutive years' qualification, we lost out on 3rd spot by a single point, and didn't qualify for Derby. However I believe that Swindon must have been reclassified somehow and assigned to another area, since they weren't there last night.

So, on paper, qualification for the Grand Final seemed probable. However the win seemed far less likely. Maesglas A from Newport were still there, and we always , and I mean always, seem to lose to Maesglas A by one or two points - just by changing one right answer for a wrong one, or by making a wrong judgement call. Then put that together with the fact that the four of us haven't all played together since the last time that I went to Newport back in February, and you can see good reasons why I didn't think we were favourites to cause an upset. Add to that the fact that the second Maesglas team and the team from Loughor are fine teams in their own right, and you can see the reason why I was steeling myself for another evening of disappointment.

We started unusually well. The only question we failed on in the first round was this
- according to their website, Marks and Spencer now sell bras up to which size ?
The answer is apparently 'J'. No further comment necessary. The first handout round involved naming the 10 largest islands of the Mediterranean. Each correct answer gains half a point, but each wrong answer loses half a point. So theoretically you can get 5 right and end up with no points. We ventured 9, of which 8 were right, and thus gained 3 and a half points. Would that half point prove crucial ? It looked like it as Maesglas A led us by that half a point at the interval, with Loughor and the second Maesglas team neck and neck with us. However Sport, TV and Film, and the picture round saw us eke out a lead of a point and a half.

With the final ten questions to go, we could afford to let Maesglas A outscore us by one correct answer, but not two. We had 1 answer we just didn't know, and one we were uncertain on. We didn't know the correct term for a photographic memory - they did. Lead cut to one point. So it all hinged on one question. -
Who was the first British Prime Minister who was born in the 20th century ?
We discussed Harold Wilson.After the rounds were handed in, but before the answers were given Maesglas A told us that they had opted for Harold Wilson. However we knew that Jim Callaghan was the oldest person to become Prime Minister , and he was 64 when he did. Sir Alec Douglas - Home became PM in 1963 - so surely, surely even if he was 63 at the time he must have been born in 1900 or after. We waited with baited breath - Douglas - Home for glory , and Wilson for another disappointment. Wonder of wonders, this time it was glory !

I know they must have been gutted, because no serious quizzer likes to lose a quiz they might have won, but Mark, Richie, Gordon and Trevor from the Maesglas A, Herbie and the team from Maesglas B, and others all congratulated us like the good eggs they are, and I think they appreciated how much it meant with us being so close before, but always managing somehow to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Having said that, I bet that Maesglas A beat us in Derby.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Reading about Brain of Britain -

- Is actually harder than you might think .

I know that I haven't posted in a week. Forgive me father for I have sinned - it has been 8 days since my last blog entry. First week back at work , which has been extremely busy due to
a) Being the start of a new term which is always fraught
b) Being the week before the start of the KS3 exams, so only having a week to prepare
c) Being the week in which I had 9 pupils involved in the Crime Prevention initiative - which is good fun but needs a hell of a lot of organising
d) Being the week in which my year group had their parents evening , the organisation of which is my responsibility
Mitigating circumstances ? Well, its the best that I can come up with.

You may have noticed that there was no weekend mini quiz last week, and hasn't been one this week so far. To be honest, I'm finding it a bit of a chore to manage this punctually every week, so what I think I'll do, if you have no objections, is switch from ten questions once a week, to 40 questions once a month.

So how are things chez moi ? Good of you to ask. Well the quest for a new Sunday evening quiz to attend is not bearing fruit at the moment, I'm afraid. We're stuck with The Pheasant, and vice versa, and in the long run this is not going to do either us or them any good at all.

I have another confession to make. I am seriously considering going back to the Monday night quiz in Newport for a while, and seeing how it goes. There, I've said it. I would be overstating the case if I said that I've missed it, but now that the evenings are getting lighter - now that the coursework is long gone at work, I can't help admitting that the thought has crossed my mind that I wouldn't necessarily mind giving it a shot. My good friend Barry rang me up about the CIU quiz , and inadvertantly asked if I had changed my mind about Newport. Well, I wasn't interested last week, but then I had work to do, but tomorrow as they say is another day, and we've tentatively said that if either of us fancy it we'll ring the other and take it from there. At least I've proven that I can live without it, and if it pees me off too much, then I can always stop again.

Here's a point that you may or may not find interesting. Last week I read Robert Robinson's autobiography, "Skip All That" . Very good it is too. Robert Robinson is a dry old sort, and he writes in a similar fashion to the way that he talks, which makes for an entertaining, jolly read. However, why I mention this is the fact that he barely mentions Call My Bluff or Ask The Family, and doesn't even once mention Brain of Britain.

Is it a big deal ? No, not really. After all, they are his memoirs, and its only natural that he'd select and highlight what he most wants to share with readers like myself. Its a shame, though. After all, it can't be that he doesn't like the show, since he's been doing it for more than 30 years, and he wouldn't keep coming back to it after illnesses that have prevented him from hosting two series in the last decade.

I'm not complaining about Mr. Robinson. Its just that it highlights something I find rather strange, that is, the dearth of printed material written about Brain of Britain. A few months ago you may recall that I read "The Bandsman's Daughter", the autobiography of Irene Thomas, the 1962 Brain of Britain. Now, Irene Thomas had a very interesting life before she ever applied to go on Brain of Britain, I grant you. But what she actually tells you about her experiences on the show would fill slightly less than half of one page. She does go into considerably more detail about Round Britain Quiz, I grant you. Yet it strikes me as strange that she says so little about what it was that first propelled her into the national spotlight.

As far as I know there have been two Brain of Britain quizbooks, one written by the show's creator and original compiler of questions, John P. Wynn in 1972, and the other written by Ian Gillies - 'Mycroft' to devotees of the show in years gone by - in 1986. Both of these have forewords. The 1972 book has one written by John Fawcett Wilson, the show's second producer, and the 1986 book has a foreword by Joan Clark, ( no relation ) who was the first producer of the show, and also I believe John P. Wynn's widow. The 1986 book also had a very interesting introduction by Ian Gillies, concerning the methods he used to compile the sets of questions for the shows. Yet none of the information given in either foreword, or the introduction really goes beyond the general information you can find on, lets say, wikipedia's entry for the Brain of Britain - which probably took their information from just these same sources.

Lets take the other broadcast quizzes with a similar prestige to BOB. With "University Challenge", for instance, there is the book
"University Challenge - the first 40 years " by Peter Gwyn, published for the show's 40th anniversary in 2002. Its a good general overview of the history of the show, with plenty of anecdotes, even if it does cover very much of the same ground as a BBC documentary of around the same time.

With "Mastermind" there is Magnus Magnusson's excellent history of the 25 year first incarnation of the show - which tells you all you could possibly want to know, in a style that is affectionate and engaging. If that's not enough, there is also "And No Passes . . . " which is 1989 champion Mary - Elizabeth Raw's account of her successful appearences in the 1989 series, and what happened to her in the year that followed.

Even with the sadly missed 15 to 1, although I don't know of any book devoted specifically to the show, a good section of Marcus Berkman's excellent "Brain Men" describes in detail his two appearences in the show.

Yet I haven't found anything out there going into any kind of detail about BOB. Why not ? Is it just because its on the radio, rather than the television ? Answers on a postcard to the usual address, please.

Coming back to the 2 quiz books, its interesting to see which shows spawn the most spin off books, and its not necessarily the shows you might think. I do collect TV and Radio tie-in quiz books, and here's an edited highlights guide to how many tie ins were/are associated with each show : -

Starting with the ones we've already mentioned

University Challenge -
I have 2 - the 1978 Arrow paperbacks book, and the 1995 BBC Books one. There may be another more recent one too, but this is rather elusive.

Mastermind -
3 paperbacks, Mastermind 1, 2 and 3 ( 1973, 1975, 1978 ) all collected as one hardback version ( 1984 ) and the Mastermind Winners Quiz book ( 1992 )

15 to 1 -
I have 6 books - 3 published by Boxtree 1989 - 91, 15 to 1, 15 to 1 Super Challenge , 15 to 1 the Ultimate Challenge, and then three published by Channel 4 books , 15 to 1 - 2000 for 2000, 2001 for 2001 and 2002 for 2002 .

Then selected others : -

The Weakest Link - 2 books
Winning Lines - 2 books
Ask the Family - 4 books
Blockbusters - 6 books, and there may well be more

then the granddaddy of them all : -

TV Top of the Form - 8 books !

Just out of interest, I also have in my collection a 1951 Top of the Form quiz book from the radio show. This book is actually remarkable in that it has questions you could hear being asked at any pub quiz you might go to, and then it also has questions so desperately un-PC you would never hear them asked anywhere - for example , it honestly asks
"Why do savages hold their ears to the ground ? "

You couldn't make it up.

Unexpected Bonus from the Mastermind Win

Being a Mastermind winner might not now lead to the media interest it did in days gone by, but it can still lead to some wonderful experiences.

Case in point. After the Grand Final had been filmed I emailed the London Bridge Museum and Educational Trust to let them know that I had done the subject in the final, wondering if they could possibly make any use of it publicity wise when the final was actually shown. Well, we maintained our correspondence, and after the final was shown I was asked if I would be prepared to act as a resident 'expert' ( their words, not mine ) and answer queries by email from members of the public, and visitors to the website. This is something that has given me a lot of pleasure in the 12 months or so that I have been doing it.

Those who know about the history of London Bridge will be aware that 2009 is actually the 800th anniversary of the completion of the first stone London Bridge, which lasted 622 years until it was finally demolished. Through my work for the London Bridge Museum and Educational Trust I was invited as a guest, on Friday 24th April, to attend a Gala Luncheon for members of the Bridge Ward Club, hosted in Fishmonger's Hall, to celebrate the 800th Anniversary in the presence of The Lord Mayor of London ( that's the Lord Mayor - not Boris Johnson ) .

What an occasion ! We waited at the top of the grand staircase, and then our names were announced in turn to the assembled guests as we entered . I checked the seating plan to find that I had been placed on the top table , no less, right next to the Prime Warden of the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers. To say I felt a little daunted would be an understatement, but he was so charming and put me right at my ease, and I rather think we hit it off. Then, to cap it all, after coffee he invited me into the court room, where many fine paintings of the Bridge were on display. Just as we were about to leave there was a knock on the door, and one of the Company officials announced that Mr. Fox would like to say goodbye . The next thing I knew, in walked none other than Edward Fox, the celebrated actor !

It was just that kind of day. Each successive stage of the experience was so fantastic, and so far removed from my previous experience that I wouldn't have been surprised if Prince Phillip had turned up ( he is a past Prime Warden of the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers himself ) and had invited us all back for gin and tonics at Buck House, and then we'd pop in the royal train off to Sandringham to go shoot things !

In case you're wondering, he didn't - but that made no difference. All in all it was just a wonderful, wonderful day, and I can't say that I would possibly ever have been involved in it if it weren't for Mastermind.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Answers to weekend mini quiz 11

Round One : - Cheats , Hoaxes and Forgeries

1) What was the real name of the famous Edwardian hoaxer who dressed up Virginia Woolf amongst others as Abyssinian Princes, and took them on a tour of HMS Dreadnought ?
Answer - Horace de Vere Cole

2) What was the name of the forger who created the Hitler Diaries ?
Answer - Konrad Kujau

3) Who was the coughing lecturer who allegedly aided and abetted Major Charles Ingram in his notorious appearance on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire “ ?
Answer - Tecwen Whittock

4) What was the subject of the Surgeon’s Photograph in 1933 ?
Answer - The Loch Ness Monster

5) Who hitched a lift to the finish of the 1904 St. Louis Olympic Marathon, and posed as the winner for which he received a lifetime ban from athletics, which was later rescinded ?
Answer - Fred Lorz

Round Two – General Knowledge

1) In Australia, what date is Anzac Day ?
Answer - 25th April

2) Who wrote the novel “Brothers and Sisters “ ?
Answer - Ivy Compton - Burnett

3) Which SI unit is equal to 1 Newton per square meter ?
Answer - Pascal

4) Into which 2 periods is the Stone Age divided ?
Paleolithic and neolithic

5) Which artist created the Dan Dare strip in the Eagle comic ?
Frank Hampson

Friday, 17 April 2009

Mastermind Semi Final 1 / 6

Mastermind - Semi Final 1/6

At last the semi finals begin. Tonight we got a fair spread of contenders, leading off with Richard Smyth - who I apologise for calling Smith last week. Yes, it was Richard who won the last heat , and here he is back again tonight. Last week he scored a superb 17 on British birds. This week's round on Scott's last expedition wasn't quite so high scoring, but an impressive 15 put him into a great position, and gave the other three contenders something to think about.

Gillian Taylor scored the highest individual round in her round on the Romney Marsh novels in the first round. Like Mr. Smyth, she couldn't quite match this tonight, but also like Mr. Smyth, 15 and 0 passes on her round on Blakes 7 was an impressive performance.

Shrirang Raddi won heat 17 in February, answering on The Kashmir War. Tonight saw him offer a good traditional type Mastermind subject, the School Stories of PG Wodehouse. In the first round heat Mr. Raddi achieved the rare feat of scoring 100% correct answers . He looked set fair to repeat this, but one pass just caught him out. It did seem to me that John Humphrys was repeating back a lot of his correct answers in this round, and may well have cost Shrirang another point, as he might well have squeezed another question in. Still, 13 and 1 pass meant that he was only two points behind at the halfway stage.

Edward Pearce won heat 15 back in January, on the life and work of A.E.Houseman. Tonight he gave us The Popish Plot, another more traditional subject. 14 points was a good score , although interestingly, like all tonight's contenders his specialist subject score was just a couple of points less than his score in the first round heat.

John Humphrys seemed surprised when Shrirang told him that P.G.Wodehouse is very popular in India, and wondered why Wodehouse is not more popular in Britain today. I think it may have something to do with the way that Wodehouse was persona non grata as far as a level of British society was concerned following some of his broadcasts made during world war II. However I digress. Following his successful appearence in the first round heat, Shrirang told me this: -
"One problem is that if you were not brought up/ schooled in the UK, there are some questions that you would just have no clue about, and wouldn't even be able to make a guess. Things like British geography, 70s TV shows, 60s hit songs and so on.
But the show is great fun overall and the BBC organisers are friendly and professional. Participating in UK Mastermind was a very enjoyable experience for me. "
Well said, Sir.
Shrirang's GK round was nothing to be ashamed of, and as much as he enjoyed taking part, I'm sure we'd all congratulate him for reaching the semis, and thank him for the enjoyment he and the others have given us.

John Humphrys allowed Edward Pearce to just get on with talking about Titus Oates, and very interesting he was too. I had no idea that the infamous Oates lived on into William III's reign, and had a comfortable old age, being particularly fond of watching trials, of all things ! 12 points and 1 pass put him on the brink of the final, and gave Richard Smyth and Gillian Taylor the task of requiring 12 points of their own to beat him.

Richard Smyth had the first go, but before he did he gave a very balanced assessment of Captain Scott as being in reality something between the Edwardian portrayal of him as a Boy's Own Hero , and the revisionist view of him as a bumbling amateur buffoon. Apparently Scott never viewed it as a race to the Pole against Amundsen, and in fact did the best he could to put Amundsen from his mind. I could have listened to more of this. However the serious business of the General Knowledge round began, and Mr. Smyth's tactic was just to blaze away. This meant that he got a few wrong, but he kept pushing his score on. Unbeknownst to him, I'm sure, he had 26 and no passes , which would have been enough, as John Humphrys began to ask the last question. This he knew the answer to, and finished with 27 .

Gillian Taylor is apparently a writer of western stories, and she let it slip that in one of the stories two of her characters were named Darrow and Keating, after the actors who played Avon and Vila in Blakes 7. Gillian won a tie break in her heat, and to avoid another one she needed to score 14 on General Knowledge. She had scored 9 in her heat, so this did look a bit of a tall order. 8 brought her to 23.

So well played everyone, and congratulations to Richard Smyth, first finalist of the 2008 series.

The Details

Richard Smyth Scott's Last Expedition15 - 0 12 - 0 27 - 0
Gillian TaylorBlakes 7 15 - 0 8-023 - 0
Shrirang RaddiThe School Stories of P.G.Wodehouse13 - 1 8 - 321 - 4
Edward PearceThe Popish Plot of 167814 - 012 - 126 - 1

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Where Do The Answers Come From Some Times ?

Funny the way that memory works sometimes, isn’t it ?

Don’t worry, this particular entry isn’t about Mastermind. If I do happen to mention it then it will only be in passing.

This school holiday has been an unusual one for me, in the sense that I normally go to more quizzes in a week when I haven’t got to worry about what time I’ll be getting home on a school night, not fewer, as seems to have been the case in the last fortnight. Since we broke up a week ago last Friday I’ve been to only 3 quizzes. One of those doesn’t really count either, since I was the question master.

So this will hopefully explain to you how pleased I was to get out to the Duke of Wellington in Cowbridge last night. The Duke of Wellington is a quiz that John and I, and often my eldest daughter Phillippa tend to frequent every other week. Its not through any fault of the quiz itself that we don’t go every week, but simply that we think we’re probably more welcome limiting ourselves to once a fortnight. We’ve got a pretty good strike rate in the quiz – winning on 7 out of 8 visits, and the one time we didn’t win we scooped the jackpot, so its really not through boastfulness that I say we’re giving a chance for some other team to win every other week by doing this.

A couple of interesting questions stopped us from winning the jackpot as well as the quiz this week. Question 1 of the Lucky 7 was : -
By what name is the South African province formerly known as Northern Transvaal now known ?
John knew that he didn’t know it. I knew that it couldn’t be Kwazulu, which was once Natal, so I plumped for Gauteng. Actually that’s not a stupid answer since Gauteng does comprise of part of the former Transvaal. Not the right part though. No, in 2003 Northern Transvaal, which had been renamed Northern Province, was renamed Limpopo, for fairly obvious reasons. Good question.
The other one which flummoxed us was : -
Which is the only city in the UK to be wholly situated on an island ?
I’ll admit that we went totally the wrong way on this one. Working on the premise that I didn’t know, I speculated that city means with a cathedral, and went for Kirkwall on Orkney, which is home to St. Magnus’ Cathedral ( which incidentally was the setting for the last ever of the original incarnation of a certain black chair based television quiz show ) The answer is actually Portsmouth, which is based on the island of Portsea. Again, good question.

The other thing of interest was the fact that a couple of “name the year questions” were asked. One of these was : -
Name the year in which Chesney Hawkes had his only UK number 1 single , The One and Only ?
Now, the fact that I knew that the answer was 1991 was not that much to write home about ( or in my blog about ). What was interesting was the way that I came up with the answer.
I distinctly remember listening to the song on the radio of my first car , as I was driving my two eldest children back home after a trip out to visit Kidwelly Castle. Yes, but how did I know that was 1991 ? Well, I knew that it was the first school holiday after I passed my driving test. But how did I remember which year that was ? Well, a couple of the lads from my Year 11 class gave me a card to congratulate me on passing my test . With me so far ? Ok. Well going back to the song, you might remember that it was taken from the film “Buddy’s Song”. The film was based on the book by Nigel Hinton. It was the sequel to “Buddy “, which I had actually read with my year 8 class the year I started in the school, 1987/88. The two lads who gave me the card had been in that class. Which meant that the song came out 3 years later – hence 1991 !

Funny thing, memory, isn’t it ?

Of course, with some questions you don’t even need your memory to help you get the right answer . We were also asked
The oldest recorded elephant lived to which age – 72, 82 or 92 ?
Here I applied my principle – If you’re given a multiple choice question in a quiz, an indifferent or inexperienced question master will nearly always put the correct answer in the middle – or at number 3 if the choice is out of 4. I’m not asking you to believe me on this one – just apply it yourself and see what your results are like.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Weekend Mni Quiz 11

Weekend Mini Quiz 11 -

Round One : - Cheats , Hoaxes and Forgeries

1) What was the real name of the famous Edwardian hoaxer who dressed up Virginia Woolf amongst others as Abyssinian Princes, and took them on a tour of HMS Dreadnought ?

2) What was the name of the forger who created the Hitler Diaries ?

3) Who was the coughing lecturer who allegedly aided and abetted Major Charles Ingram in his notorious appearance on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire “ ?

4) What was the subject of the Surgeon’s Photograph in 1933 ?

5) Who hitched a lift to the finish of the 1904 St. Louis Olympic Marathon, and posed as the winner for which he received a lifetime ban from athletics, which was later rescinded ?

Round Two – General Knowledge

1) In Australia, what date is Anzac Day ?

2) Who wrote the novel “Brothers and Sisters “ ?

3) Which SI unit is equal to 1 Newton per square inch ?

4) Into which 2 periods is the Stone Age divided ?

5) Which artist created the Dan Dare strip in the Eagle comic ?

Another Mastermind non-story

Here we go again -

Mastermind I see has once more attracted the wrong kind of headlines. You may remember the non-story back in January which was prompted by the comments of celebrity ? Victoria Derbyshire ( who ? ) over her offer of a ‘crib sheet’ – her words, not mine – if she would agree to take part in Celebrity Mastermind. Well both today’s Mail and Telegraph carried a story this morning trying, so it seems, to generate a similar amount of controversy.

If you haven’t seen the story, here it is in a nutshell.
Gareth Kingston won heat 16 of the current series which was shown on the 6th February.Gareth had opted to answer questions on Northampton Town FC as his specialist subject in the semi final.
The BBC uses 21st Century Quiz to set the questions for the series. 2003 champion Andy Page works for 21st Century, and he was asked to research the questions for this round. Knowing a particular book to be a very good source, Andy tried to get hold of a copy of it. Andy had no idea that it was Gareth who was answering the questions. The two know each other through the quiz circuit, and so Andy, knowing that Gareth is a fan and hugely knowledgable about Northampton Town, contacted Gareth to ask him if he had the book. Gareth informed Andy that he was actually the contender taking the subject, and that was where communication between them ended. More than that, both Andy and Gareth independently informed the BBC production team right away.

Please tell me , if you can, who has not acted 100% honourably , openly and honestly in this incident. Andy and Gareth have acted with great integrity. 21st Century Quiz are a hugely respected outfit, who set the questions for quite a number of quizzes on television, and certainly have acted in a way that is beyond reproach.

So why on earth are the newspapers writing about this ? Especially when you consider that all of this must have happened months ago. Well, if you read the reports, its fairly clear that the writers’ real intentions were to resurrect the old chestnut about whether the show is dumbing down or not. All of this seems to have been a pretext to allow them to throw their hands up in mock horror at he thought of anyone daring to take a humble football team for their specialist subject. If you’re a regular reader, then you’ll know that we’ve considered the question of specialist subjects in more depth and detail than practically anyone else has, and will have seen my conclusions, that the show is most definitely not dumbing down, and that supposedly ‘soft’ subjects are in fact no easier than any other are backed up by statistical analysis.

Some of the comments about the story on the Mail’s website do show that unfortunately the slurs against the show may be hitting home. More than one contributor suggested that subjects today are too easy. If I could have one Easter wish come true, it would be for everyone who ever makes a comment such as this to actually try a so-called ‘soft’ specialist subject on Mastermind for themselves.

Why does a section of the national press have it in for Mastermind ? Who knows ? I do have one suggestion, however. If you’ve never read Marcus Berkman’s book “Brain Men” ( updated version – “A Matter of Facts”) , then I can heartily recommend it. In the book, the author makes the point that in Britain, we are the only country where you are ever likely to be called “Too Clever By Half”. Or put it another way, nobody likes a swot. For whatever reason we have become a society where conspicuous displays of logic or intelligence arouse deep suspicion and hostility among a significant proportion of the population. Don’t take my word for it. Google the names of the Eggheads, for instance, and just read some of the comments about them on internet forums. You might not like the show, which is of course your prerogative as the viewer, but some of the personal comments about the 6 Eggheads are positively vitriolic, and all I am sure by people who have never actually met them. Or, if you want another example closer to home, go to your local pub quiz, and see what happens if the same team wins it four or five times in a row, and the kind of comments that people make about them.

As my good friend Robert once said,
“ You might play in a football match against a man whom you foul deliberately, whom you kick in the shins, the ankles, and even the privates, whose family and parentage you openly and loudly criticise, and after the match in all probability you’ll forget all about it, shake hands, and have a couple of pints. But if you make someone feel stupid . . . “

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Interesting news-

The Return of the Repechage ?

Interesting news about the next series of “Mastermind”. This has yet to be officially confirmed, but one of my quiz friends has just told me that in the next series the 6 highest scoring losers in the first round will all be given places in the semi finals.

I’m not entirely sure whether this means a return to the old ‘ repechage’ semi final, of which more later. I think its more likely that each of the 6 semi finals will be made up of 3 heat winners, and a highest scoring loser. I may be wrong, but I fancy some of the highest scoring losers were given places in the semis in the inaugural Humphrys era series in 2003, but they certainly haven’t been since.

The repechage was a key feature of the Magnus Magnusson years of Mastermind. I believe that in the first series in 1972 one place in the semi finals was set aside for the highest scoring loser in the heats. Then from 1973 until 1996 one of the semi finals was reserved for the four highest losers. In the last Magnus Magnusson series in 1997, it was the shortest ever series, but three highest scoring losers went through to the semi finals.

More than one champion actually took the repechage route to the finals. Working through Magnus Magnusson’s excellent “I’ve Started So I’ll Finish” I’ve compiled a list as follows : -
Champions who reached the semis through being first round highest losers : -
Patricia Owen 1973
Sir David Hunt 1977
Rosemary James 1978
Margaret Harris 1984
David Edwards 1990
Anne Ashurst 1997 – actually Anne Ashurst lost her semi final rather than her heat, but uniquely in 1997 one place in the final was set aside for the highest scoring loser in the semis, which Anne was.

In the interests of fairness I should perhaps also say that there are three champions who lost in an earlier series of the show – who are : -
Kevin Ashman 1995 ( also appeared 1987 )
Geoffrey Thomas 2006 ( also appeared 1994 , Discovery Mastermind, 2003 )
David Clark 2007 ( also appeared 2006 )

I think that its probably only fair to allow a number of highest scoring losers through to the semis. While I would absolutely hate for the show to use the Sports Mastermind system of only the 6 top scoring contenders progressing to the final, I do have friends who missed out on the semis in the last couple of years , when their scores would have seen them through in Magnus’ day.

Hopefully if the series is now made shorter because of this, then the BBC will be a little more considerate, and stop taking it off at the drop of a hat.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Mastermind - Review of Round One - Preview of Semi Finals

Looking Backwards, and Looking Forwards

Firstly a big thank you , and congratulations to all 96 contenders who took part in the first round. You gave us all some terrific entertainment. What the public get to see on the screen really doesn’t tell the whole story of the amount of time, effort and commitment each one of those contenders will have put into their appearance.

So, who caught the eye in the first round ? Well Gillian Taylor’s specialist round was outstanding, and was almost matched in the final heat by Richard Smith’s superb round on British birds. The selection of specialist rounds has been as wide ranging and exotic as ever. I particularly enjoyed rounds on the Trans Siberian Railway, and Rare Breeds of British Farm Animals.

Several excellent GK rounds caught the eye, and I’ve listed all those who managed the top score of 14 later one in this post.

It was interesting to see three former finalists compete. Miriam Collard lost a terrific tussle with the excellent Nancy Dickman by just one pass. However Mel Kinsey and Richard Heller both posted impressive performances to book their spots in the semi finals. A newcomer to Mastermind, but certainly not a newcomer to TV quizzes is Ian Bayley, who looked good value for his 26, and will surely only get stronger as the competition progresses. Probably the biggest shock of the first round was the elimination of former world champion Olav Bjortomt, but then if you have to lose, its better to be beaten by one of the best performers in the first round, John Beynon. One other name to conjur with who didn’t progress to the semi final was John Webley, a former series winner of The Krypton Factor.

So – what can we expect in the semis ? Surprises, if last year is anything to go by. There are several factors which will affect the outcomes. These are : -

As far as I know the production team put together the line up of each semi final by looking at which combinations of specialist subjects will work well together to produce a good and varied show. This can result in some of the highest scoring winners of the first round having to slug it out against each other. Last year two of the semis were noticeably more top heavy than the other 4.

Some contenders have a noticeably weaker second specialist subject, and so perform less well than they did in the first round.

Its just my opinion, but I thought that last year the GK rounds were a little bit harder in the semis than the heats. Few of the 24 contenders scored as well or better on GK than they did in the heats.

I honestly would not like to predict what will happen in any of the semi finals. I’m not just sitting on the fence for the sake of it. The fact is that , given the right specialist subject, and the little bit of luck that we all need from time to time, any 6 of the 24 could do it. Sorry that’s not the most helpful prediction, but in the long run its probably more honest.

The Details

96 contenders took part in the first round.
84 contenders had not taken part in a previous series of Mastermind
6 contenders had taken part in a previous series but not progressed beyond the first round
3 contenders had taken part in a previous series and reached the semis but not the final
3 contenders had taken part in a previous series and reached the grand final.

Highest Specialist Round of First round heats : -

Gillian Taylor on the Romney Marsh novels of Monica Edwards – 18 points no passes

Highest General knowledge Rounds

John Beynon - 14 – 0 passes
* Olav Bjortomt – 14 – 0 passes
Richard Heller – 14 – 0 passes
Nancy Dickman – 14 – 1 pass
* Ray Driscoll – 14 – 1 pass
Frank Minns – 14 – 4 passes
* Christine Adam – 14 – 5 passes
* denotes contender did not win heat

Highest Overall scores

John Beynon – 29 – 0 passes
Richard Smith – 29 – 0 passes
James Corcoran – 29 – 3 passes

Highest Score not to earn a place in the semi finals
Chris Atkins - 27
Miriam Collard - 27- very bad luck.

Mastermind - First Round Heat 24/24

The Last First Round Heat

Its been a long old haul, but we’ve made it at last to the end of the first round. The big question was whether we were going to see our first 30 point haul of the series. Well, the omens were good if the specialist scores were anything to go by. All of the contenders had prepared well, and all of them had decided upon the tactic of answering everything and thus avoiding passes. It’s a good tactic, but it takes a huge concentration.

Writer Christopher Argyle kicked off with two naval battles of 1914. It seemed to me that some of the questions were rather on the technical side, but this was all grist to the contender’s mill. 14 is a good score, and so he was in the running going into the second round.

Richard Smith’s lightning fast round on British birds was one of the finest that we’ve seen this series. A few of the questions were of the kind that might get asked in your local general knowledge quiz, but most of them required detailed knowledge of the subject, and Mr. Smith certainly wasn’t found wanting. 17 in the specialist round put him into a commanding position.

Susan Walker can count herself unlucky to be lagging four points behind the leader at the halfway stage. In many another week 13 would have put her well into contention. One long pause for thought possibly cost her another point, but even so this was still a good performance on a wide subject, Barbara Hepworth.

Last then was Steve Howe. I believe that John Humphrys said that Mr. Howe is from Brentford. I’m an Ealing boy originally myself, so he received fulsome support from the Clark sofa tonight. I studied Anglo Saxon literature as part of my degree, so I was particularly interested in his subject – Anglo Saxon kings 871 – 1016. Believe me that 15 was a good score on this subject.

Susan Walker returned to the chair. John Humphrys stuck to the subjects in all four of the pre- GK chats tonight, so she was able to explain that, in her view , Barbara Hepworth was the most important British sculptor of the 20th century. She may well be right, and she added 7 to her score to finish with 20. Christopher Argyle did slightly better and added 9 to his score, to set the bar at 23. From the moment he left the chair, you never really thought that 23 was going to be enough to win this week. Steve Howe had an interesting chat with John Humphrys, during which he made the point that English history didn’t start with William the Conqueror who was French, but with Alfred the Great, who was German ! Not strictly true on either count , as he well knew, but a funny line. 11 gave him 26, a score which would have been good enough in many other heats, but looked a little too low for this one. So it proved, and at one point it seemed as if Mr. Smith’s lightning reactions would bring him the 13 points he needed to score 30. However a few wrong answers at the wrong point of the round robbed him of a little rhythm, although he easily scored the points required, and then some more, to finish with 29, joint highest score in the first round with John Beynon, and regular “Life After Mastermind” reader James Corcoran.

So, folks, that completes the first round, and very enjoyable its been. We certainly can’t blame Jon Kelly and the production team for the arbitrary way the BBC treat it on the schedules. I’ll be posting a review of the first round, and a preview of the semi finals in the next couple of days.

The Details

Christopher Argyle The Battles of Coronel and The Falklands 191414 - 09 - 123 – 1
Richard SmithBritish Birds17 -012 - 029 – 0
Susan WalkerThe Life and Work of Barbara Hepworth13 – 0 7 - 1 20 – 1
Steve HoweAnglo Saxon Kings 871 - 101615 – 0 11 - 426 – 4

Answers to Weekend Mini Quiz 10

Round One – The Grand National

1) In which year was the Grand National first run ?
Answer - 1st running = 1836 – 1st official running = 1839

2) What was name of the first horse to win the Grand National twice in a row ?
Answer – Abd El Kadr

3) Who was the last amateur jockey to win the Grand National ?
Answer – Mr. Marcus Armytage 1990

4) Where was the race held during the First World War ?
On the site now occupied by Gatwick Airport

5) What was the name of the horse that crossed the line first in 1993, although it didn’t win, and who was the jockey on board ?
Answer - Esha Ness – John White

Round Two - General Knowledge

1) What was the name of the world’s first ever space tourist ?
Answer - Dennis Tito

2) Who was the first person to sign the American Declaration of independence ?
Answer – John Hancock

3) What moved from the Strand, to Theobald’s Park in 1878, and from Theobald’s Park to Paternoster Square in 2003 ?
Answer – Temple Bar

4) Whose death was Shakespeare supposedly alluding to with the words “ a great reckoning in a little room “
Answer – Christopher Marlowe

5) Television.Ivan Limmer was the first person to do it. Do what ?
Answer – win a heat of Mastermind

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Weekend Mini Quiz 10

Weekend Mini Quiz 10

Round One – The Grand National

1) In which year was the Grand National first run ?

2) What was name of the first horse to win the Grand National twice in a row ?

3) Who was the last amateur jockey to win the Grand National ?

4) Where was the race held during the First World War ?

5) What was the name of the horse that crossed the line first in 1993, although it didn’t win, and who was the jockey on board ?

Round Two - General Knowledge

1) What was the name of the world’s first ever space tourist ?

2) Who was the first person to sign the American Declaration of independence ?

3) What moved from the Strand, to Theobald’s Park in 1878, and from Theobald’s Park to Paternoster Square in 2003 ?

4) Whose death was Shakespeare supposedly alluding to with the words “ a great reckoning in a little room “

5) Television.Ivan Limmer was the first person to do it. Do what ?

A Little Nepotism

My son, Michael, yesterday asked me if I would give him and his comedy group a name check in “Life After Mastermind”. His group are called “The Plastic Seat Company” and they are fresh from their triumphant appearance in the Sheffield Comedy Festival. If you’d like to know a bit more about them, then follow this link
Sheffield Comedy Festival - Plastic Seat Company
I’m in favour of nepotism as much as the next man, but it was difficult, I explained, considering that the blog is about quizzes and quizzing. He suggested that if they could come up with their own sketch about a quiz, then this would give them a way in.

I’ll be honest, though, its easier said than done. I’ve done a little bit of amateur scripting myself, some of it for the Plastic Seat Company, and some of it for my friend’s amateur dramatic and music group in Colehill, Dorset. Which reminds me of a huge coincidence. One of my opponents in my first round Mastermind heat in 2007 was a member of this same Am Dram group, and knows my friend KD very well, a fact I didn’t know until much later. However , I digress. As I say, I have written quite a large number of sketches for performance, but have never been able to write one about a quiz, quizzers, or quizzing, despite my obsession.

There have been many sketches about quizzes on television over the years, the majority of them being spoofs and send ups of TV quizzes. My favourite is the much loved Two Ronnies Mastermind sketch, scripted by David Renwick, where Ronnie Corbett played Charlie Smithers – specialist subject – answering the previous question. Mastermind is an obvious target for sending up, and another spoof I remember was an Australian one, on the old Paul Hogan show – called Thick’Ead.Others worthy of mention spring to mind as well. Not the nine O’Clock News was the first show on which Griff Rhys Jones impersonated Bamber Gascoigne, although the show he was hosting was actually HM Prison Challenge (very good, I can give you the full five years’ remission for that ). Not the Nine O'Clock News also gave us “Ask the Family” between the Brainees and the Smawt-Asses, two families both consisting of parents Mr. Giles, Mrs. Serena, and children Julian 16 and Nigel 14, all 4 of whom were quantity surveyors.I don’t know if anyone remembers an old ITV show called “End of Part One”, but that had a notable couple of spoofs in it of shows such as The Generation Game ( The Fat Ladies Embarrassment Game ) and Call My Bluff ( Scrape My Barrel ) These usually hit the target spot on. Then there are the spoof quizzes, like Monty Python’s Spot the Braincell ( I’m offering you a punch in the face ).

I’m sure that many people would say that the finest send up of a quiz show was Dick and Dom’s Ask the Family. The only problem was that it wasn’t supposed to be a send up.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Even if you didn't get to be an Egghead last time -

You could still be one this time !

Further to my post last week I think that I now have the answer to at least one of my questions about the forthcoming new series of "Are You An Egghead ? ". I asked whether last year's contestants would be allowed back on the show. Well, apparently the last 16 players in last year's competition ( with the exception of Barry the winner, of course ) will be invited to come back for this new series, and the ones who didn't make it to the last 16 are very welcome to apply.

Thinking about it, this seems to answer the question about how they are going to maintain the quality of the last series - just get the same people in it !

Well, I can't say that I blame the producers for this pragmatic decision, and it shouldn't seriously affect anyone else's decision as to whether they apply or not - after all, if you're not prepared to take on anyone and everyone, you're probably onto a loser before you start. However I have to say that if I do apply this means that my previously miniscule chances of success have now lengthened far beyond those with which Mon Mome won today's Grand National.


Answers to Weekend Quiz 9

Weekend Mini Quiz 9
Round One - Send in the Clowns

1) Which musical features the song "Send in the Clowns " ?
Answer – A Little Night music

2) Which ruling house of Europe shares its name with a famous clown, and what was the name of the clown ?
Answer – the Grimaldis of Monaco – Joey Grimaldi

3) How does a circus clown copyright his own distinctive face make-up ?
Painting his makeup on an egg shell

4) What is the name of the clown in the Shakespeare play "Twelfth Night " ?

5) What was the name of the very famous clown associated with the Blackpool Tower Circus in the 1950s, 60s and 70s ?
Charlie Cairoli

Round Two - General Knowledge

1) Emerald is the distinctive green form of which mineral ?l

2) In computer technology , what does DOS stand for ?
Disk Operating System

3) Who composed the St. Matthew Passion ?
JS Bach

4) If you are an MHR in Australia - what is your business ?
Member of the House of Representatives

5) Which town or village on the Gower Peninsula is famous for its cockles ?

Friday, 3 April 2009

Mastermind - First Round heat 23/24

So here we are, with the penultimate heat of the first round. I've noticed that we have not yet seen a 30 pointer this year, but with 9 shows still to go including this one, there's still plenty of time. Would any of the 4 newcomers making up tonight's contenders manage to oblige ? Time would tell.

First up was Andrew Weston, answering questions on the Novels of George Orwell. According to wikipedia 6 of Orwell’s works are considered to be novels, so the contender had a considerable body of work to swot up. He achieved an even dozen, which left him well in contention at the halfway stage.

Second to go was Tony Black. In a noticeably highbrow heat, Mr. Black provided a little light relief by answering on Gram Parsons. For readers who know as little about Gram Parsons as I do, he was a member of The International Sunshine Band – sorry , never heard of them – The Byrds – definitely heard of them – and the Flying Burrito Brothers – figure it out for yourself. Thankfully Mr. Banks knew considerably more than I did about Gram Parsons, and scored 15. That’s good quizzing.

Possibly the widest subject of the week was that offered by Frank Minns – Italian politics from 1944 to 1994. That’s fifty turbulent years. Questions about Aldo Moro, Roberto Calvi and the Masonic P2 lodge were the only questions in the round to be attempted from the Clark sofa. Still Mr. Minns was good value for his 13 points.

Richard Griffiths brought the first round to a close with a round on the music of Shostakovitch. This had been a high scoring contest so far, with all of the contenders getting into double figures on their specialist rounds. So Mr. Griffiths can count himself a little unlucky to find himself in fourth place having scored 11.

On with the General Knowledge. Mr. Griffiths returned to the chair, to find out that John Humphrys was not the least bit interested in Shostakovitch, and instead concentrated on Mr. Griffiths’ work in Manchester Royal Infirmary. When the round started he managed to add 6 to his score to finish with 17. George Orwell was no more tempting apparently, as John spent all of his chat with Mr. Weston discussing the latter’s admittedly splendid moustache – a style known as an ‘english moustache ‘ in the moustache championships, you’ll be delighted to learn. He took the lead by pushing his score up to 19.

Italian politics, not surprisingly, must have lit John’s candle, and for the first time tonight he stuck to the contender's subject for the inter round chat. Mr. Minns set off at a cracking pace, and was well into his round before he dropped his first point. He didn’t drop many of these, either. 14 is the highest score in a general knowledge round of this series so far, and this was equalled in an impressive display.

Poor Tony Black must have felt that he was in with a good chance at the halfway stage, but as it was he needed at least 12 to win. After a bad start he never looked as if he was going to make it, and he didn’t, despite a good recovery after a slow start. He finished on 24.

So congratulations to Frank Minns. I felt that his general knowledge round was very impressive. He showed a real width of knowledge, and while its possible that this may just be a flash in the pan, I doubt it. So if he picks the right subject for the semi finals, then he demands to be taken seriously.

The Details

Andrew WestonThe Novels of George Orwell12 - 17 - 419 – 5
Tony BlackLife and Music of Gram Parsons15 - 19 - 524 – 6
Frank MinnsItalian Politics 1944 - 199413 - 314 - 427 – 7
Richard GriffithsThe Music of Shostakovitch11 - 26 - 517 – 7

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Post Mortem Googling

"Count Your Beans" is, of course, a jolly jape to herald the arrival of the month of April, apologies for that. Although to come to think of it I am sure that I have seen sillier shows on TV in the past than "Count Your Beans ". 3 - 2 - 1 comes to mind. I am sure that you needed to be a Bletchley Park level code cracker to unravel some of the rhyming clues on that show. Now, back to reality.

Reality on Tuesday night took the shape of the quiz in The Duke of Wellington in Cowbridge. You may recall that we're currently attending this particular quiz every other week, and that the last time we played there we were beaten by a couple of points, although we won the Lucky Seven jackpot. You know how it works - 7 questions are asked which are seperate from the rest of the quiz. Anyone who gets all seven right gets a share of the rolling jackpot. If nobody gets all seven right, then it rolls on to the next week. If you're the only team who get all seven right, then you scoop the whole lot yourself.

We won the quiz this time, although we didn't win the lucky seven. I am ashamed to say that to the question
"Who won the 2008 British grand Prix ?" I confidently declared that Lewis Hamilton was too obvious, and so we plumped for Felipe Massa. Of course it was Lewis Hamilton. Then I also confidently declared that Framlingham Castle was in Norfolk. Of course its Suffolk. Finally, though, none of us knew the answer to the question
"In December 1993, who became the only act ever to have a number one hit in the UK, with a song which was the same name as the act ? "
In case you don't know, I'll put you out of your misery by telling you that it was that all-time classic, "Mr. Blobby" by , of course, Mr. Blobby.

As I say, we won the quiz, dropping two points in the process, and yet we only had one answer wrong. At the end of round one, there's always a 'lyric question'. Part of the lyric is read out from a pop song old or new, then you have to name the song and the singer - a point for each. Unusually, this time we were even given the year - 1973. Now, unfortunately, this didn't help at all. The words we were given
"25 for speed limit
Motorcycle not allowed in it
You go to the store on Friday
You go to church on Sunday"
might just as well have been read out in Serbo-Croat, or any other language I don't know for all the good it did us. By this time, no doubt many of you will have allowed the words "Nutbush City Limit - Ike and Tina Turner " to have passed your lips, and you are indeed correct to do so. However I mut admit I couldn't help thinking that 1973 seemed a bit late for Ike and Tina. Well, blow me down, when I got home and googled it, 1973 was absolutely spot on.

Apart from my closest quiz friends and my family, you are now the only people to whom I have revealed this dark and shameful secret : I am in fact a post mortem googler. The shame of it. Yes, I am that anal that when I hear an answer that really surprises me, or alternatively, that I think is 'dodgy', I do go home and look it up on google to find out if its true, or if the question master/question setter has dished up a wrong'un.

Not that there's a huge amount you can do if he has dished up a wrong'un, most of the time. The only time that I can recall a post mortem googling session bringing me anything other than a moment or two of fleeting satisfaction was after a jackpot round in the Dynevor Arms. In case you haven't been with me from the start of the blog last summer, the Dynevor Arms is a pub in Groesfaen near Cardiff. They do a nice little Sunday night quiz every other week. John and I stopped going there when we dragged it out of the question master that a number of teams had stopped coming because we kept winning too many times , and so he was going to do a "bingo quiz" format instead ( aaarrrrgggghhhh ! ) Right, well, back to the story. Ralph the question master on this particular night asked 3 jackpot questions, the last of which was "What was the name of Britain's first ever national airline ? " We had the other two correct, and we thought that we had the last one right with our answer " Imperial Airways ". Ralph announced the answers, then said "I'm afraid that you had to have the last one absolutely right. One team got very close, with Imperial Airways, but it was in fact Imperial Airlines."

The only thing is, the correct answer really was Imperial Airways. However instead of the backlash from us, which probably Ralph expected, he was surprised to get a backlash from a few other teams as well about it. To this day I don't know whether
a) Ralph just made an honest cock up - which he really shouldn't have done in a jackpot round
b) He didn't want us to take any more money that night, and so deliberately gave a wrong answer.
Whatever the case, he immediately qualified it with the caveat that if we could prove he was wrong, we would have the jackpot due to us in a fortnight. I printed off the relevant pages from three different sources, and went back to the Dynevor in a fortnight, armed and ready for battle. For battle which never came. Ralph cried off that night, but he cravenly left the jackpot with the landlord to give to us. So either he knew perfectly well that we were right, or he carried out his own post mortem google.

As I recall this was all over a far from princely £10.

Its the Aberavon Rugby Club tonight, and its Clive's quiz. Clive, you may recall, does a good, old-fashioned bread and butter quiz, the kind that you won't win by getting difficult things right, but you do win by not getting easy things wrong. I dropped two sitters last time he did a quiz, on rivers, and we lost by those two points. So tonight I shall do an hour or so's pre-mortem cramming on rivers, just to make sure that I don't do that again. Of course, you can be pretty sure that he won't ask anything about rivers this time round.

Does a win matter ? No, and also yes. No, it doesn't matter, because its all for fun, and if you lose there's always next week anyway - it doesn't cost a penny to enter , and there's no prizes. Yes, it does matter for personal pride. I have only lost one quiz in the rugby club so far this year. Considering its now April, and I have only produced three of the quizzes myself, that's a pretty good batting average, and something I'd like to keep up, especially since on more than one occasion we've won against large teams with only three of us playing.

All of which crowing from the top of my own dungheap will, I'm sure, practically guarantee that we won't win tonight.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

A Brand New Quiz Show

The Quiz Show To Beat All Quiz Shows

In a lesser known Two Ronnies sketch, Ronnie Corbett, playing a diminutive cockney gangster asked Ronnie Barker
"You know what walls have got, don't you, John ? " to which Ronnie Barker replied
"Sausages. "
Of course, the real answer was 'ears', and indeed, events this week seem to bear out the truth of the old saying. My spies are everywhere, and so word has reached me that the BBC are highly excited about a new 'quiz show to beat all quiz shows' that is already in a highly advanced stage of development, with the aim of using it in the National Lottery slot currently being used with "1 v. 100" and "In It To Win It".

The show has been developed under the working title, "Count your Beans", the English translation of the phrase "Comptez Vos Haricots !", this being the title of the popular Belgian show presented by Plastique Bertrand, upon which it is based. Of course the Belgian show itself was based on a Japanese original, entitled, in romaji - "Kazoeageru - ingen " which I am unreliably informed means something like " It is time to audit the baked vegetable products ", but you catch the drift.

As I understand it, the contracts have not been signed with the prospective hosts yet, but the source of my information suggests that the BBC are definitely going to follow their preferred format of using broadcast journalists and news presenters to front their quizzes. The smart money fancies a David and Jonathan Dimbleby tag team for the elimination rounds of each show, then, through the wonders of technology, a hologram of the late Robin Day will ask the questions in the final round - or - Asobigoto-fainaru - to use the original terminology.

Each programme will begin with 57 contestants, in honour of the Heinz Corporation's most excellent baked bean products - Heinz being the sponsors of the original show on Japanese television. Each contestant ( or 'kyo-gisha' ) will face 57 questions, based on their 57 specialist subjects chosen before the show. ( Each contestant has to submit a 2 page essay on each of 57 different subjects before they are even auditioned ) Of these, only eight contestants go through to the next round. Contestants are selected according to the famous "Countdown - Vorderman" selection criteria - that is, the contestants are listed in order of their scores, highest first, lowest last, and the computer randomly selects one from the top, three from the middle, two from the bottom, and another two from anywhere you like. As it stands, the selection round of 57 takes a week or so to complete, so is not included in the broadcast show - although selections of the funniest and silliest answers will be included on the bonus disk of the "Count Your Beans" DVD ( available in all good retailers - the perfect Christmas / Valentines/ Easter / gift - delete where applicable )

The first televised round of the show, the round of eight ( hachi - asobigoto ) will see the first host - hopefully this will be jolly funster Dave Dimbleby - asking the eight contestants a set of questions in turn. For each correct answer the contestants will earn a can of beans. ( Heinz in the original version, but I believe that the BBC will go for unbranded generics ) . The object is to build a pyramid of cans with 4 cans on the bottom row, 3 on the next, and so on. Bottom row questions are proportionately easier than second row, and so on. When a contestant gives a wrong answer to the final question which would have allowed them to place the top can on the pyramid, and thus guarantee safe passage through to the round of four ( shi - asobigoto ) , then Sir Trevor Macdonald ( subject to contract negotiations ) will run onto the set , dressed as a can of beans, and shout
" What has he/she done ? " to which the audience will respond by shouting the show's catchphrase,
" He/she's spilled the beans !" , and the pyramid so carefully constructed by the contestant will topple over, and the contestant will have to start constructing their pyramid all over again. The first four contestants to complete their pyramids without spilling the beans will go through to the next round.

The shi - asobigoto ( round of four ) sees contestants face a different general knowledge challenge. Jonathan Dimbleby ( the man of a thousand quips ! ) takes over the question master's reins, as the contestants undergo a round of akanasu-kawasu (Avoid the Tomato) A starter question is asked, and the first to shout the correct answer is given the opportunity to nominate one of the opponents. They are then given a question, and if they get it wrong, then they are eliminated. Sir Trevor Macdonald (subject to contract negotiations ) , this time in full tomato costume comes out, and shouts to the crowd -
"His/her race is done !" which will be the cue for the crowd to shout the show's second catchphrase
"He/she won't ketchup now ! "
My informant did say that in the original japanese version the contestants were sitting on tilting chairs above a vat of tomato ketchup, which would deposit them into the ketchup for a wrong answer - but the BBC decided against the ketchup on the grounds of expense, and also that their version is supposed to be a serious quiz show.

Excitement builds as two contestants go through to the fainaru asobigoto, where the two Dimblebys will join forces to ask a variety of questions, at speed. The aim of the game is complete the ingurisshuburekkufa (Full English ) , where simpler questions will earn each contender a dollop of scrambled egg, more difficult questions will earn a rasher of bacon and a slice of fried bread, and the most difficult question will earn the beans. When one contender has answered enough questions correctly Sir Trevor Macdonald ( subject to contract negotiations ), this time in the guise of a giant pot of mustard, will run back on and shout,
"That's the Full English !" which will be the cue for the crowd to shout the show's third catchphrase
" Yum yum !"

The losing finalist will be fobbed off with a small consolation prize - the nature of this has yet to be decided, but its a fair bet that it will be a piece of perspex in the shape of a baked bean . Then the kachiuma (winner) will be invited to enter the mikusuto - guriru (mixed grill ) for the geru asobigoto - the cash round. By the magic of modern technology a hologram of the late Robin Day will ask questions of rising difficulty. Each correct answer will add a bean to the giant tin which is the centrepiece of the mixed grill area of the set. Once the tin is full, then the contestant has won, and will receive £1000 pounds for each bean within the can, and the much prised goruden- ingen ( golden bean ) However , a wrong answer will make the lever on the koresutero-meta ( cholesterol-o-meter ) rise higher, and once it reaches the level of kyo-shinsho ( heart attack ) then the buzzer will sound, and the game is over. The amount won is added up, and the Dimblebys present the kachiuma with the goruden-ingen , then Sir Trevor Macdonald ( subject to contract negotiations ) wearing a big smile, will lead the cast of Newsnight, and the studio audience in a rousing chorus of "Beans, Beans, the Musical Fruit !" to end the show.

When I asked my source when the first show is likely to be broadcast, he replied that what with contract negotiations still pending, sets to be built, and contestants to be auditioned, its unlikely to be broadcast before next spring - in all likelihood on the First of April.