Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Michael has gone for a Burton

I see that yesterday and today the national papers have caught up with what happened on Mastermind on Friday. If you haven’t read any of the articles, well, just think of the sort of things that were written a couple of months ago when Michael Burton equalled the previous lowest score. To be fair a couple of the articles at least showed a modicum of sympathy to Kajen Thuraaisingham . I send a large raspberry to the Daily Mail for describing his score as ‘a paltry five points’.

I may well be alone in thinking this, but while I feel huge sympathy towards Mr. Thuraaisingham, I can’t help feeling just a little gladdened that Michael Burton has been wiped out of the record books with this performance. In case you’ve forgotten, Michael Burton was the chap from Peckham who scored 2 points on his specialist round on Angels earlier this series. He finished with a record equalling total of 7, and then went on to claim that it had all been a practical joke.

By all means feel free to disagree with me on this. But I have to say that I find Mr. Thuraaisingham’s statement , “ I tried my best but it wasn’t my night” somehow a lot more dignified and honest. As it happens I have read comments from the first and second placed contenders in this heat, David Buckle and Andy Crane, and both of them have stated that beforehand Mr. Thuraaisingham came across as relaxed and knowledgeable. They were there, and they are convinced it was nerves from sitting in the chair. Nothing more or less, and I’m afraid that if it happens to you there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.

Kajen, if you ever read this, you earn a vote of thanks from me for removing Michael Burton from the record books, as unwanted as this record may be. As for yourself, well, nobody loves Mastermind more than I do, but it honestly is only a game. You gave it a lash, and that takes a hell of a lot more guts than many people have got. Don’t let it get you down.


andy c said...

Completely agree with the sentiments about Kajen & Michael Burton's scores.

You might be pleased to know that Michael's heat was recorded on the same day & one hour AFTER Kajen's, so, despite his protestations / excuses, Michael was never the holder of this 'record'.

All in all, not a good day to sit on the black chair.

joe said...

I've said it before, but the Mastermind production team have a lot to answer for in selecting candidates who meet certain 'prized' ethnic and demographic profiles, only to come embarrassingly unstuck when faced with the questions. It surely can be no coincidence that both of these disastrous contestants were youthful ethnic minority males. Is the series really so desperate to broaden the multicultural appeal that patently weak players are allowed to humiliate themselves? A little more rigour at the audition stage would be welcome.

Londinius said...

Andy - I can't tell you how happy your revelation has made me ! Thanks so much for that !

Joe - you are as entitled to your opinion as I am. Yet I have to take issue with your comment, and would like to make it clear to readers that the view that you express is yours, and does not reflect mine at all.

For all I know you may have been through the selection process yourself for the show at some time. Well and good. I definitely have been through the selection process– twice as it happens. I have also got to know some of the production team on the show. The selection process was perfectly rigorous enough when I took part, not so long ago. If you’re asking me to believe that the team lower the requirements for members of specific demographics, then I have to tell you that you’re wrong. Plain and simple.

Still, I don’t necessarily expect anyone to take my word for it. So lets look at the facts. The 2008 series featured only 4 people from Asia, or of Asian extraction. That’s out of a total of 96 contenders selected for the show. Surely there’d have been a few more if the production team were making it so easy . Then there’s the 4 contenders themselves. How do you explain Mr. Shrirang Raddi’s fine win in the first round of 2008, if he was not selected on merit ? Or Paul Sinha’s fine 25 in one of the highest scoring first round shows of the series ?
For that matter, if such blatant favouritism is shown towards people from ethnic minorities in the selection process, then how the hell did a 40- something professional white boy like me get on the show two years in a row ?

It may well be that you make your comment in all innocence, in which case I just think you are wrong, and that’s just my opinion. However I venture to say that people could be forgiven thinking that there is a racist agenda behind your argument. If that’s not your intention, I do think you might have expressed yourself in other terms. I’m not trying to be PC here. Just trying to be right.

Rach Cherryade said...

I've never taken part in Mastermind so couldn't comment on the selection process but I am sure that the production team are keen to choose the best contestants for the show as they're trying to make it as entertaining as possible. I strongly disagree with the sentiment that the two contestants in question were let through, despite having poor general and specialist knowledge, simply because of age and ethnicity, besides, if I remember rightly Michael Burton is in his mid 40s (pedantic point but just worth pointing out that the 2 contestants weren't from the same demographic, even if I believed that contestants were being picked on that basis, which I don't) It may be in the programmes best interest to showcase a range of quizzers of differing genders, ethnicities, ages, etc. to reflect the make-up of the audience and this may be a consideration when picking contestants but I think the primary consideration is picking the very best quizzers for the show and I find it highly unlikely that the programme makers would deliberately let totally unsuitable contestants through because of it, I think it's far more likely that the contestants performed fine in auditions and just came unstuck in the chair. What seems to have been ignored in the press is that somebody has to hold the record for the lowest score just as someone gets the honour of having the highest score, even if most people would prefer to hold the latter title!

Rach Cherryade said...

Oops, sorry David, just noticed you posted a reply, sorry if I said anything incorrect about the selection process as I don't know how it works, was just assuming it worked like the UC one where quiz skill is the primary consideration, glad to see from your comment that I was right!

Unknown said...

A fascinating issue. I have a smidgenette of sympathy with joe's views, as it was evident to me that something was definitely wrong with Michael Burton's selection. I happened to be watching this show with my sister, on a telly walking distance from Peckham, and we pegged Mr Burton before his backside was fully settled on the leather. I simply said to Raliat: 'This guy has come to fumble'. She agreed. If we could see it so clearly, why didn't the production team?

OK, how did we know? because as black Londoners, we know the type. An ultra-religious evangelist, no real understanding of the pressure and difficulty of the quiz, he sincerely believed that God would assist him. His concept of 'angels' would have come strictly from his extensive Bible reading, rather than the wider classical tradition. To him, angels are tangible, and most likely he applied to Mastermind and chose his subject 'for the greater glory of God'. I even understand his later excuses. He had little idea of the social consequences for himself. No doubt he attends a large church, every member of which faithfully tuned into his performance. He probably socialises mainly with people with similar beliefs to his - so his prodigious bible knowledge might pass for good general knowledge in those circles. At the same time, his overwhelming beliefs would prevent him from reading up on angels as they are manifested in other religions, let alone (eeek!) in occultism.

Certainly, he now knows that he became for a short time a talking point for black people across the Smoke. His job brings him into contact with new people daily, at least some of whom would recognise him. A situation that must have become very wearing very quickly. I just hope I would have thought of better excuses if it were me.

To be fair, his nervousness did play some part - but it was not the decisive factor. How did he get through the auditions? Possibly that was where God did deign to step in? The production team should have blocked the over-holy and under-equipped. I hope Joe is wrong, and it wasn't a case of somebody in the chain saying 'We could do with a black contestant, let him through'. If my inbox is anything to go by, the majority of black viewers would take a very dim view of this. Point at issue: Most black people are well aware that it is noticeably harder for them to be accepted as intellectuals rather than as entertainers. Mr Burton won't have improved matters here.

I missed the Thuraaisingham MM episode on iPlayer, any link or upload gratefully received. The Grauni has listed his questions here:
I do feel his case is different, even if the score was lower. Certainly, Kemal Atatürk is not a subject to take on lightly. He was by all accounts extremely hyperactive, during particularly turbulent times in a politically complex region. FWIW, Mr Thuraaisingham also seems to me to have drawn some tougher GK questions than Michael Burton:

BC Syndrome and lack of recomposure time for the second round was surely more of a factor here.

One of Mr T's questions even appears to be wrong: A capacitor stores electrical charge, not electricity. The question describes a device that seems much more like a battery.