Monday, 23 November 2009

Angels and Demons

I don’t know if you recall Michael Burton’s appearance on mastermind a couple of weeks ago. He’s the guy who answered questions on Angels, and equalled the lowest ever total score on the show. At the time I said that I thought that his attitude, one of laughing in the face of disaster as he took the seat for his GK round was a commendable one.

An article a couple of days ago in The Daily Mail saw him claim that this was actually deliberate, and that the whole thing was a prank. If you’d like to read the article itself you can follow this link : -

Daily Mail Article

Oh Michael ! I don’t know whether to laugh with you, laugh at you, or just tut in suppressed frustration. I’m not saying that he isn’t telling the truth. However if the man really is telling the truth, I am saying that there’s a couple of things in the article that have just the whiff of the stale pork pie about them. For instance,
“He claimed that when you go on the show you are given three encyclopedia style books to read on your specialist subject and he read just one.”
Well, if he did say such a thing, I’d like to know when they started doing that. In both series when I took part in the show it was me telling them which books I was reading, which you have to disclose in a document they send you along with your contract. They certainly never offered me any help in revision at all, which is the way that it should be.

Then again we had,
“He said: 'I was told by one of the producers on the second round (of preliminaries) that I had scored very highly.'”

I’m sorry, Michael ? Come again ? Second round of preliminaries, you say ? Since when did they do a second round of preliminaries ? I had one audition for 2006, and one audition for 2007. That was it. I don’t recall them telling me how well I had scored on the questions either.

I’m sorry , Michael, but I also recall the look on your face and the sweat on your brow as you were trying to answer those questions. Not the face of a man who is in on the joke, I’m afraid. One other thing while I’m at it as well. You compare yourself to Jeremy Beadle. Well, I’m sorry, but the late great Beadlebum was a great quizzer, who actually won Sleb Mastermind. Yes, he loved a prank. But his pranks weren’t the kind that , after they had been carried out, he’d have to explain that anything had actually happened. You see, Michael, had you answered lets say 7 out of your first 10 questions, and never answered another , or passed on the rest – now THAT’s a prank. Had you deliberately answered all the questions wrong – now THAT’s a prank. Case in point – in 1975 on University Challenge, a team from the University of Manchester answered Trotsky, Lenin , Che Guevara to every starter question. Now THAT’s a prank. Not doing terribly well just doesn’t really register on the prankometer.

Having said that, I really like you for having a go with this, Michael.I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear a bit more about you. Even though you’re trying to make a programme which is very important to me look stupid, and trying to act as if you’ve somehow fooled a team of hardworking and dedicated people, I like you for giving it a lash. I'd like to even see you back on the show, as the article seemed to say that the team have promised you another go. I’d like it even more now if you came out and said that your claim that this was a prank was, in fact, a prank.


Anonymous said...

Reading between the lines (as you have to do with the Daily Mail), I get the impression that what he's actually claiming (rather than what Paul Revoir is claiming he's claiming) is that he messed up on the general knowledge round and THEN decided to go for seven, since he plainly had no chance of winning. And I rather doubt that this apparent promise from the BBC that he can come back in a future series actually amounts to anything at all beyond that he's not actually barred.

Londinius said...

Hi ,
Thanks for leaving a comment. Yes, I understand what you're saying, and of course its possible that this is exactly what he did. I must admit, I tend to agree that its seems unlikely that they'll have him back after this article, but its one I'd love to watch if he did.

Rach Cherryade said...

I'm glad that you blogged about this as I might have missed it otherwise (I tend to avoid the Daily Mail like the plague and so had to read this article with a hefty dose of distrust) but if it's true and he did indeed intend to do badly then I think it's unfair both to the production and research teams who doubtless put a lot of work in to making an excellent show and also to another contestant who might have loved the opportunity to go on the show and compete properly which his 'joke' performance had wasted. I think it's far more likely that he's embarrassed of his performance and is trying to cover it up, I can't help but think that making claims like these is much more embarrassing than just saying that the pressure got to him. After watching the show I didn't come away thinking he was a 'dunce' as some papers unfairly dubbed him, just that he had been nervous, under pressure and had had a tricky round. The kind of thing that could happen to anyone. I agree that it's unlikely he was promised he could return on the next series in fact, if he did set out to make a mockery of the show (which I still can't quite believe) then I don't believe he should be allowed back in case he decides to play another 'joke, which, hilarious as it may be might stop another player from taking part, I'm sure there must be rules about this, Manchester uni was banned from putting forward any UC teams for years after the Marx prank and that was due to the actions of four different students.

Londinius said...

Hi Rachel,
I'm indebted to you for telling me that Manchester Uni were banned after the Trotsky show. Suddenly the prank doesn't seem nearly so funny to me as it did. Its not really fair on the years of students unable to try for a place on the show after that.

With regards to Michael Burton, I agree that I never thought him stupid, or dull, or ignorant, or whatever anyone else might say, just because he had a low score on Mastermind. Until you've sat in that chair you can't really know the way that your mind can start to play funny tricks on you when you're in it. I applauded his gallows humour at the start of the second round.

As I said, I feel that there are a couple of inconsistencies in what he is reported to have said in the article. And to be honest, I think he probably comes worse out of his appearence for having said all of this. I can't help really rather liking the guy, however, although I don't really know why.

joe said...

I suspect that the Mastermind researchers were thrilled that they had a youngish, black candidate for the programme. Their enthusiasm for "widening the demographic" (away from middle aged, middle class, white professional males) may have allowed them to turn a blind eye to what was probably a rather modest audition score. Mr Burton was probably the unwitting (and ultimately, embarrassing) beneficiary of the BBC's multicultural agenda.