Tuesday, 15 September 2009

TV Watch - University Challenge

University Challenge - First Round Heat 10 - St. John's College Oxford v. Durham University

One of the endearing idiosyncrasies of University Challenge is that not all collegiate universities compete as individual colleges. Durham take part as one team from the university, and while you can applaud this in many ways, you can't help wondering if perhaps they are putting all their eggs in one basket. Well, time would tell.

I'm pleased to report that this week all the competitors favoured us with both their first name and their surname. So off we went. St. John's claimed first blood, snatching up the first starter and bonuses. And the next. And the next. I was particularly tickled by the set of bonuses on 19th century novels with a political flavour. Alas, St. John's failed to correctly answer the question about who wrote the Palisser novels, thus proving they don't know a good Trollope when they see one. 6 minutes into the show and I rather think that our Jeremy was beginning to fear that a rout was starting to take shape, so when James Link buzzed in with a correct answer to the next starter he responded with "At last !" Which was a little premature if I might say so.

However, even allowing for this, Durham were finding it extremely difficult to get a look in. Poor James Link kept on buzzing more in hope then expectation with the starters, until captain Nolan managed to answer one, which was followed by a period of greater success for Durham. It didn't phase St. John's though, who continued to pile on the agony. During this period I particularly enjoyed the set of bonuses based on Monty Python's Philosopher's Song ( Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy beggar etc ).

Last week you may recall that I outlined the three most enjoyable types of UC contest, and this, while always watchable wasn't one of those. As a contest it was over before half way really, and while St. John's were very good, they didn't for me quite match the heights of some of the teams we saw last year. I'm a fussy devil I know. Full marks to St. John's though to have the confidence to answer "We just don't know " twice to bonuses on sculpture, an admission which drew an approving "That's commendably frank of you . " from our Jeremy.

In the end St. John's ran out very comfortable winners by 270 points to 90. Jeremy Paxman hailed them as "fearsome opposition" in the same breath as he pointed out to Durham that their own performance was "not terribly good. " Well, no, it wasn't really. Still, at the halfway stage it looked as if they might have difficulty struggling past 50, and so they deserve credit for clawing their was back towards 100 in the second half.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

He opened his account this week with a sharp admonition to James Link, who hesitated too long over a starter ," You buzz, you answer ! " However the finest Paxman moment of the week came when Mr. Chen answered a starter concerning a Virginia Woolf novel with the word "Middlemarch". His eyebrows nearly shot off his face as he delivered the most withering of old fashioned looks I've seen in quite a while, before he delivered the coup de grace by muttering that he bet Mr. Chen wished that he could take it back.

I can't say that I really noticed anything extremely interesting in any of the many facts I didn't already know on tonight's show, so I'll hold this back for next week.

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