Tuesday, 13 July 2010

TV Watch - University Challenge

First Round Match 2 – Cardiff University v. Oxford Brookes University

If you read last week’s review, and the comments readers were kind enough to contribute, you’ll have noticed the speculation that the BBC specifically picked last week’s match to open the series since it was dashed exciting. By implication, those that followed might be expected to be a little less nail biting. Well . . .

First to incur the full horror of the curse of the Clark sofa this year were the University of Cardiff. Founded in 1883, it apparently has 27,000 students, which I thought was remarkable. Cardiff being just half an hour down the road, I’m afraid they had to put up with my support tonight.

Oxford Brookes University has actually been going longer than Cardiff in one form or another, the previous being Oxford Polytechnic. JP mentioned a number of famous alumni, although he didn’t mention that lecturing in the University is Ian Bayley, the reigning champion of Brain of Britain. If Ian had any hand in preparing the team for the show, then they were going to be good.

The first starter involved identifying which African country has a thriving film industry nicknamed Nollywood. Greg Rees of Cardiff buzzed in with the first of many correct starters to offer Nigeria. Two out of three bonuses on TS Eliot – whose name is an anagram of toilets, incidentally – were taken by Cardiff. As were the next two starters. It was interesting to hear that Asquith described being the Chancellor as the easiest job in the Cabinet. Try telling that to George Osborne. After an incorrect interruption by Oxford Brookes, whom I will now abbreviate to Brookes, Cardiff led by 65 to – 5. However Austin Sherlaw-Johnson of Brookes stopped the rot, taking the next starter by identifying the burning bush as the plant through which God spoke to Moses.

The first picture starter invited the teams to correctly identify a type of pasta. It was the bow tie shaped ones, which are called farfalle – incidentally that comes from the Italian for butterfly. Rosie Howarth of Cardiff was the first in with that one, and they greedily slurped up the bonuses on other types of pasta. Greg Rees of Cardiff was certainly looking something of a star in this first part of the competition. Not only did he identify William Herschel as the astronomer who also fancied himself a bit as a conductor – orchestral rather than bus – but he also identified John Stuart Mill with a superb early buzz after being told hardly any more than that he was born in 1806. JP was rather impressed with that.

After ten minutes the score was 105 – 15 in Cardiff’s favour, and they looked to be in cruise control. In this next part of the show, though, Brookes as a whole and Sara Johnson in particular began to find buzzer form. Sherlaw-Johnson also showed impressive form after identifying a music starter as being by Bizet from what can’t have been more than a couple of bars. What I noticed about Brookes in this period was that when they got a starter, they tended to pick up more bonuses than Cardiff were picking up with theirs. Cardiff were still picking up starters, though, but not cleaning up on bonuses. I particularly enjoyed a set of questions where pairs of answers where only the first letter was different. Hence Geek and Leek. Incidentally I noticed that one of the definitions given of geek was someone interested in quizzes. Does he mean us ? What a bloomin’ liberty ! They are a cultured lot, this Brookes team, and Sara Johnson correctly identified a mythological character in a painting as Leda, hence the matching swan accessory. This starter took Brookes through the 100 point barrier, and cut Cardiff’s lead to 40 points. The lead lengthened again as Henry Pickup of Cardiff correctly identified the OVRA as a former secret police service of Italy. Good answer that. So at the 20 minute mark Cardiff were still comfortably in the driving seat, leading 170 – 110. Last year the 170 Cardiff had already scored would have guaranteed them a repechage spot at least.

The last few minutes saw the whole dynamic of the game change. Brookes needed starters, and they needed bonuses, and they got them too. Sara Johnson took the next two starters, and the team between them took all 6 bonuses. The gap was down to just 10 points, and for the first time since the first 5 minutes it really was anybody’s game. The next starter took them into the lead, and this was the cue for some rather unseemly raucous shouting from Brookes’ supporters. It was an exciting show, and I can understand it to some extent, but come on, guys. This is University Challenge ! Brookes took all 3 bonuses again. That man Greg Rees from Cardiff came galloping to the rescue, correctly defining a fathom as six feet. Story of the show – Cardiff failed to take bonuses. Cardiff, then, still 5 points behind. How much time was left? Just enough, apparently, as Rosie Howarth took the next starter, identifying the novel Emil and The Detectives from a brief description. Only 1 bonus was taken. Another starter, and Greg Rees again swooped in, identifying Louis XIV. Only 1 bonus on baseball was taken. Richard Williams of Brookes recognised a terawatt. As we headed towards the gong, Cardiff led by 10. The final starter was snapped up by Sara Johnson, recognising a definition of two anagrams as martial and marital – GONG !

So we’d reached tie break time early in the series this year. Neither team managed to get either of two tie break questions, but the third – often meeting in pubs to read their own work, Cs Lewis – was enough to see who else but Sara Johnson buzz in to correctly supply the answer – the Inklings. I don’t know about the teams, but I was shattered. Brilliant fight back by Oxford Brookes. Bonuses really do make the difference. Very hard luck Cardiff, 210 is an incredible score to get and not win with, but as JP said, surely you’ll be back. Well – more exciting than the first show? I think so. One thing strikes me, though. This is setting a hell of a standard for the rest of the series to live up to.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Again, it was best behaviour time for JP , just like it was last week. Still, he did get very excited and amused when Cardiff managed to correctly identify all those types of pasta. Maybe, too, there was just the tiniest hint of exasperation in his comment as he reached for the third tie break question “Come on! This is never ending !”Was he in a rush, for some reason ? Did he have a train to catch, or was he perhaps on a promise ? Answers on a postcard please.

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

Nigeria produces more films every year than any other country except India.


Quentin Vole said...

Ian Bayley can be seen leaping to his feet in the final audience shot (27:45 on iPlayer), following the nail-biting finale.

HughTube said...

Ian Bayley can also be heard cheering throughout, he helped prepare them.


Londinius said...

Hi Guys

Thanks for that - yes indeed, he's actually on his feet cheering at the end - and who shall blame him ? That was some fight back - it must have been even more exciting to have been there in person. Great shot - great show.

Des Elmes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Des Elmes said...

It's very rare these days that a team scores 200+ points and still loses - the last team to do so was Birmingham (200) against Magdalen Oxford (210) in the 2007/8 series, and the last team before that was Ian Bayley's former college, Balliol Oxford (205) against Corpus Christi Oxford (255) in 2004/5.

Cardiff's losing score is also the joint-highest since Downing Cambridge lost 220-230 to Newcastle in 2001/2. This particular match also required a tie-break which, if anyone wants to know, came about after the producers realised that they had incorrectly awarded Newcastle five points for answering a football-related bonus with Dundee when the required answer was Dundee United.

Jack said...

Indeed Des, I don't think many Dundee fans, whichever team they support, would have been happy with that!

Great match though, and brilliant determination by Oxford Brookes in not giving up, even though they were almost 100 behind at one point. One could easily be forgiven for thinking it would be an easy win for Cardiff at that point.

I thought it was all over when Mr Sherlaw-Johnson got that first tie-break wrong. But he hadn't interrupted, so it was OK. At least I now understand how the tiebeak system works.

On a trivial note, the pasta questions happen to be recycled from a second round match in 2004/05, when UCL beat UEA. I was just watching it on YouTube the other day! So I got it right this time!

Another great review Dave! Next week, it's the first Oxbridge match of the series! Unfortunately, I'm going away, so I'll be a bit late with my correspondence next week. Keep up the good work though!

Rach Cherryade said...

Hi Dave, what an amazing match! So lovely to have UC back again, and, if the first couple of matches are anything to go by it's going to be a memorable one! Loving reading your reviews as always!

Also, do you know if Only Connect is back soon? It's just that they're showing the first three series on BBC Four at the moment so I thought they might be building up to the new series, hope so anyway! Do you think they'll keep it in the same slot, straight after UC? Hope they do because that was an inspired bit of scheduling!

All the best,

Londinius said...

Hi Jack and Rach,

Thanks for the compliments both. Have a nice time wherever you're going Jack.

Rach, there is a new series of Only Connect in the pipeline. AFIK filming is taking place very soon, although I'm not entirely sure when it will be shown.

In the quiz in the Rugby Club last night we were asked a question to which the answer was Belle and Sebastian, and I immediately thought of you !

Lovely to hear from you as always.


Londinius said...

Ooh, and Des, sorry I didnt respond to you as well. I love the Dundee/Dundee United comment. Ma Grandy was frae Dundee, so I'm sort of a legacy Dundee United supporter, and Jack's absolutely right, fans of both sides would be rather miffed at being confused with t'other.

HughTube said...

Only Connect is returning in the autumn, I think in the run up to Christmas - the benefits of following it on Facebook.

Also Dave, now that I'm commenting here and there thought I should say how much I enjoy reading your reviews of UC. I'm one of Tristram's (viking_oneil) team-mates/ fellow blog-lurkers and look forward to seeing what you have to say about our match in August.


Londinius said...

Hi Hugh,

Thanks for coming clean. I shall look forward to your apperence hugely. Best of ( retrospective ) luck.


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