Tuesday, 2 February 2010

TV Watch - University Challenge

University Challenge Quarter Final Stage – qualification match 1 – st. John’s Oxford v. Manchester

If you’ve been a reader of LAM for any length of time, I hope that you’ll have come to view me as someone who , while I have my favourites like anyone, always tries to be impartial when reviewing a match. Well, stuff that for a game of soldiers today. With all due respect to a great St. John’s team, I was as partial as they come in my vocal support for Manchester. On paper there’s little or nothing to separate these two fine teams. In fact under the old system they would both have qualified with their emphatic victories last time out, and not have met until at least the semis. Well, the fact is that we do have a new system, so we have to all get on with it.

The first starter was highly impressive as Miss Parry of St. John’s identified the titles “The Fish of Maui” and another one which escapes me, as names being considered for Norht and South Island of New Zealand. Damn good interruption. They got two out of 3 bonuses on the number 17. Then our own Rach Cherryade – Neiman for the uninitiated – leapt in with a great interruption to identify the phrase ‘avant garde’as having the original meaning of the foremost division of an army. This time two bonuses out of three fell for Manchester. Nick Daunt then buzzed in for Manchester to identify www as the three letter abbreviation with the most syllables when read aloud. Again, very quick buzzing, great work. Manchester struggled a bit with a set of bonuses on the five good emperors of Rome, but the fact was that they were starting to nose ahead.
Regular LAM reader Jakob Whitfield took his first starter of the night. It wouldn’t be his last. He identified Shockley et. al as the inventor of the transistor. After a useful set of bonuses , St. Johns managed to identify the ingredients of a black velvet cocktail to get their next points on the board. Neither team could identify a heroic couple, so it was down to Jakob to identify the derivation of the word ‘chaplain’. Again, another terrific answer. Unusually Manchester failed to convey any of their set of bonuses, on supporting characters from Shakespeare plays.

Just coming up to the ten minute mark Mr. Townsend of St. John’s, he of the magnificent whiskers, buzzed in with a terrific answer, identifying aureads as the nymphs of mountains in ancient greek mythology. At the ten minute mark Manchester had a lead of 10 points, but St. John’s were on the way back.
Still, it was Jakob who buzzed in to correctly answer that sulphur is added to rubber in the process of vulcanisation. But if Jakob was playing a captain’s innings for Manchester, then so was Andrew Woodhuysen for St. John’s. The moment the word “Fettes” passed JP’s lips he struck like a coiled cobra to identify a list of school’s attended by British Prime Ministers. Then on another starter Rachel was unlucky to buzz in and answer “signature” when the correct term required was ‘attribute’. If it makes you feel any better , Rach, at this point I was bellowing “signature” at the telly myself.

On fifteen minutes, when another starter would have put Manchester through the psychologically important 100 point barrier, Miss Parry buzzed in to answer that alphabetically, zirconium is the last element of the periodic table. Every time Miss Parry buzzed in correctly tonight it happened at what seemed to me a crucial time in the game.
This was a tight game. Manchester, in the last third of the competition buzzed in with failed interruptions a couple of times. In such a tight match, this could be crucial. On 18 minutes all was square at 90 points apiece. St. John’s took back the lead for the first time in over half the game when captain Woodhuysen buzzed in to correctly answer that in the UK and USA K and G can stand for 1000. So despite all of their good work, Manchester had to watch St. John’s become the first of the two teams to pass the 100 barrier. Then, on 20 minutes, came what I fear will be remembered and debated for some time. Miss Parry rang to answer a bonus on a sum expressed in binary. She hesitated. Jeremy said “I’m sorry you lo-“ and then she answered correctly “14. “ Jeremy made a similar call in the first round match where Jenny Harris of Emmanuel made an equally late call, and it was allowed to stand. So at least he was being consistent with decisions made earlier in the series. You pays your money and takes your choice on this one. At the end of the day JP allowed it to stand, and his decision is the only one that matters. The bonuses were not taken.

Two starters went begging. Time was rapidly running into the bottom of the glass for Manchester. Cometh the hour, cometh the quizzer. Rach Cherryade, take a bow ! Her starter on the first letter of the letter h – a – took Manchester back into the game. Alas, no bonuses. Jakob Whitfield kept his nerve to buzz in with a correct identification of the Sermon on the Mount. No bonuses taken. Andrew Woodhuysen was keeping his nerve as well, as he buzzed in to identify the French writer Chretien de Troyes. Tom Whyman buzzed in. This put Manchester 20 points behind. Could they still do it ? Yes they could ! Jakob identified the Queen as the Lord of Man. All square. No time for another starter – any one bonus could do it ! It was just sheer bad luck that the set in question were what seemed to me to be obscure quotes from Francis Bacon. No bonuses. Cue the gong. All square at 140 apiece.

Neither team deserved this. Both had supplied some brilliant answers during the contest. Yet it all came down to this one question. Not exactly sudden death, since the team which don’t go through straight away still live to fight another battle. JP asks, the Viking settlement at L’Anse Aux Meadows is situated on which Canadian island ? “Newfoundland !” I scream, hoping against hope that my efforts can somehow effect a match which was probably recorded weeks and weeks ago . It is to no avail. Oliver Chen, who has had a quiet match starter-wise buzzes in, and the game is over.

Congratulations St. Johns. You are a fine team, and you thoroughly deserve your place in the semis. But Manchester, you too are a fine team, and you deserve a place in the semis too. I still think that there’s room for a Cherryade in the semis.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

JP introduced Manchester tonight by saying that their ability to text the word ‘pint’ was surely reassuring to taxpayers everywhere.
When giving a set of bonuses on famous Belgians, after Maurice Maeterlinck he sniffed “Hmm, not very famous these Belgians after all. “
When captain woodhuysen asked Oliver Chen one of the binary bonuses
“Oliver, come on, I need an answer” , JP, with admittedly a smile on his face, interjected with “You need an answer ! We all need an answer !” in atone of voice not a million miles removed from that of rabbi turned stand up comedian Jackie Mason.

Interesting Fact Of The Week That I Didn’t Already Know

Mark Twain was born in Missouri . Why on earth did I think he was born in Mississippi ?


Des Elmes said...

I too fear that that second picture starter will have left quite a number of sour tastes in the mouth.

It's always a shame when something like that may end up swinging the result of an otherwise brilliant and very close match...

Rach Cherryade said...

Thanks as always for the lovely write-up David, it was indeed a very close match and St. Johns were great opponents, and lovely people too! Although playing the match was pretty stressful I do think that it probably made for much better TV than any of ours or St. Johns earlier matches which were all a little one-sided, tie-breaks make for nail-biting viewing, just wish we were watching someone else stuck in one! Anyway, at least we get another go, not sure of the date at the moment but it shouldn't be far off!

Thanks so much again for your support, sorry we couldn't quite manage to pull it off this time!

Take care,

Londinius said...

Hello Des,

It was a split second decision, and rightly or wrongly it was the decision made at the time, so that's it. I jst hope that it doesn't obscure the fact that we had a brilliant match, as you say. Who knows, this macth could still be replayed as the grand final .


What can I say ? Very, very hard lines, but what a terrific match ! Don't apologise to me - you guys were fabulous, and had some terrible luck in the last couple of minutes with a couple of sets of bonuses, and tie break question that just didn't fall your way. Full credit to St. Johns - they deserve to be in the semis. So do you ! Well played to all of you.

Unknown said...

St. John's were a lovely bunch, ad we had a good time in the green room afterwards with a beer and watching the next match, so there were no hard feelings there. I felt we were a bit unlucky in the sets of bonuses we got, with none of them playing to our strengths, but St. John's no doubt felt the same - it was a cracker of a match. Still, we have a third quarter-final to see if we can go through...

Anonymous said...

Hey hey, it's Rach Cherryade in the South Manchester Reporter: Blind Rachael’s new Challenge

Rach Cherryade said...

Hi Jen, I appreciate you posting this as I didn't realise it was online but I'd just like to distance myself from the article in the MEN and South Manchester Reporter. The article was totally unrepresentative of what I told the interviewer and they put a spin on it which I had specifically asked them not to. I am really very very angry about it but unfortunately it is too late as it has already been published, just making my strong views known whenever I have the chance. The reporter interviewed all of us (not that you'd know it!) and I can only say that had I known that this was the article they had in mind (rather than a piece on the whole team as was originally pitched to us) I would have refused to take part. The content, quality of writing and general feel of the piece are all awful and I think reflects badly on the journalist who wrote the piece and the editor who allowed it to be published in this format.

Apologies for ranting on your blog David, I'm not usually easily riled but this article has managed to do it! It really is an appalling example of journalism, one of the worst I've seen in ages and I wouldn't want anyone to think I endorse it!

Anyway, rant over,

Rach Cherryade said...

Oops, sorry, Jennifer, not Jen, sorry for the abbreviation! I should read more carefully!

Londinius said...

Hi Rach

I've just read the article, following the link here. I can totally understand your justifiable anger over this article, and please, do feel free to rant away. If you can't rant here, then where can you rant ?

I could tell what it was going to be like from the headline alone, and I am afraid that the rest of the article lived up to it. I think that one of the worst things about it - apart from the actual article itself - is what you have said about the underhand way they went about it. Poor journalism indeed. Do you mind if I comment to this effect in a posting ?

Dave C.

Londinius said...


Sorry I didn't reply to your comment earlier. Your attitude does you credit , sir. What a terrific match - nothing to choose between two terrific teams. In addition, congratulations on your own personal performance. As I think I said, you played a captain's innings. I think the luck did just turn against you in those last couple of minutes. It happens sometimes. But as you say, you have another chance , and you need fear no one. You are as good as any team left in the competition, and after this match you deserve a little bit of the rub of the green. I'm glad that St. John's are as nice as they seem on screen.

Best of luck next time out !


Rach Cherryade said...

Hi David, thanks for replying, and thanks for letting me post this here, it seemed like the natural place for it as I don't trust myself to compose a rational post on this subject on my own blog! So glad you see what I'm annoyed about as I was worried I was being unreasonable, but my anger is as much for the rest of my team as myself as I feel they were duped too and that's just not on! Like I say I'm usually pretty laid back about things but this has really made me mad, especially as the interview was mostly about my experience on UC and a bit about my record label, radio work and of course my PHD and hardly anything about the disability thing, she kept asking about it and I categorically told her that I didn't want her to dwell on it so it was nice of her to ignore that!

Anyway, perfectly happy for you to do a post on it, love the balanced fair nature of your writing and sure you'd be much more coherent and level-headed than I'm being! Also enjoyed your article on the Mastermind press coverage, very fair observations! Shame so many journalists don't seem to be able to demonstrate the same level of fairness!


Des Elmes said...

Oh drat, did it look like I myself had a sour taste in the mouth in that second sentence?

If so, that was totally unintended - I'm more neutral than anything else when it comes to these debatable decisions, and I don't feel at all that St John's aren't deserving of their semi-final spot.

What I should have said in that second sentence was, "It's always a shame when a brilliant and very close match may be remembered more for a debatable decision that may or may not have swung the result, than for the quality and excitement of the quiz itself." Which is true, because it shouldn't be like that. While it is perfectly understandable if a person is not happy that stalling on a starter or an answer contentiously judged wrong (like with many chemistry questions) may have made all the difference in the end, that doesn't necessarily mean that that incident is THE major talking point of the match - after all, these decisions are reasonably commonplace and indeed split-second, and I don't disagree that Paxman is usually consistent in what he decides - I've never seen him not award the ten points when a contestant stalls before correctly answering a starter.

And I don't know how much you are into football David - but these incidents aren't exactly as bad as Thierry Henry's handball against the Republic of Ireland, are they?

It's just pure fortune that they may end up being the difference between the two teams at the end of the day.

As I said, I'm more neutral than anything else when they come about - indeed, it was only after I had got over the excitement of the match that I really thought about this one. I was certainly on the edge of my seat when Jakob got that starter on the Isle of Man to bring the scores level...

Londinius said...

Hello Des

Please, don't worry yourself unduly. Your comment didn't read as a criticism at all, well not to me anyway. I think we're in agreement here, and my reply to you wasn't to imply that I took issue with what you'd sai at all.

Grrr - Thierry Henri ! Grr ! I have a little irish blood in me, and I'm also a spurs supporter. Come to think of it was once cut shaving using one of those bloody razers he used to advertise too !