Monday, 28 September 2009

TV Watch - University Challenge

University Challenge - First Round Heat 12 - York v. St. George's London

The University of York, Jeremy Paxman informed us at the start of the show, has about 13,000 students, and alumini including Yung Chang of Wild Swans fame. He pointed out that team captain Laura Horton would be taking part in a cheerleading contest immediately after the show, and seemingly by way of explanation offered us the fact that the average age of the team is 19. By way of comparison, St. George's London, founded in 1763, fielded a team whose average age was 30. Which I'm sure led viewers prone to such speculations as myself to wonder which would prove to be decisive, the youth of York, coupled with the wider student population to draw the team from, or the experience of St. George's ?

In all honesty it was never likely to be another nailbiter like last week. However to be fair, York were off to a sprightly start, beating St. George's to the buzzer comfortably for the first question. I'm afraid that it all rather went downhill from there for them. To be fair this St. George's team were a distinctly useful outfit. They began to hoover up the starters, and although they failed to get a few midway through the show , York were unable to take advantage of them lifting their collective foot off the accelerator.

Twenty minutes into the show St. George's led by 130 points to 25. Moved by an unlikely compassionate impulse, our Jeremy geed York on with the encouraging, "York, still plenty of time for you to come back. " Well, that was stretching the truth somewhat, but it seemed to do the trick a little as Tom Emmett took the next starter for them, correctly recognising a pair of hands as belonging to Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa. In truth though it was only ever going to be a rearguard action. In the end St. George's managed to reach 200 points, to York's 55. Particularly impressive tonight was Charlie Tinsley of St. George's. I made it that he answered 7 starters correctly, and that's a more impressive individual performance than we've see for some weeks. In particular I commend St. George's for overcoming the immense handicap of receiving support from the Clark sofa, a curse which has seen quite a few colleges of the University of London fall by the wayside this series.

A surprisingly restrained Jeremy Paxman sounded genuine with his observation to the team from York that its the luck of the draw as to how strong a team you get drawn against. However , he couldn't resist a parting dig at St. George's for failing on a medical question, considering that they are medical students after all. All of which brings me to : -

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Yes, he might have been in a softer, gentler mood tonight, but he's still very far from being anything remotely approaching the adjective 'fluffy'. At the start he issued his traditional refusal to go through the rules, dismissing it as "All that guff about ten points. " An apt description. He was in a rather waggish mood tonight, which probably explains why he referred to the wives of the G20 summit leaders as WAGs, and berated St. George's for failing to recognise any of the individual leaders pictured. "These people are all famous in their own country, you know ."
Later, in a rejoinder worthy of the most cynical old quizzer, when the team failed to identify the American politician who invented the Magic Circle of numbers as Benjamin Franklin, he virtually clucked
"The answer is ALWAYS Benjamin Franklin !" On the whole, though, there was relatively little exasperation to report, although he was rather riled that a team of medical students could mistake their vitreous humour for their aqueous humour. A failure of humour in all senses of the word.

Interesting Fact of the Week that I didn't Already Know

Much as I enjoyed the questions about TV show theme tunes which were based on pieces by classical composers, the prize this week goes to the question that revealed that blue eyes resulted from a gene mutation in neolithic times. I'm keeping that one in my back pocket so I can trot it out in my next visit to Specsavers.

1 comment:

Tom Emmett said...

Only just stumbled upon this blog - I'm the Tom Emmett mentioned above. Thank you for not being too scathing about our performance - we felt we were slightly unlucky, and Charlie Tinsley was indeed especially impressive. I think against just him, we wouldn't have had a much better chance.

I've always thought of my ill-fated appearance on University Challenge as simultaneously my proudest and most humiliating experience - it's quite nice to find this three years on to know that at least some people may have been a bit understanding and/or generous to us while watching - thanks :)