Here’s a question which has just occurred to me after reading a recent post on Jenny Turner’s excellent Quizzlestick. Namely, considering there have been some excellent parodies of University Challenge during the latter days of the Bamber Gascoigne era, why have I never seen a parody of Jeremy Paxman’s University Challenge ?
Without even trying I can name three from Bamber’s days.
1) Firstly we have the Not the Nine O’Clock News sketch, H.M. Prison Challenge, where prisoners were asked to supply answers to unsolved crimes in order to secure remission rather than points ( er – was it Reggie ‘The Dog’ Trubshawe ? ) . Trust me, it was a lot funnier than I made it sound. This provided Griff Rhys Jones with his first opportunity to play Bamber, which he so memorably reprised in the second of our list .
2) The classic episode of The Young Ones, where our heroes from Scumbag College take on Messrs Fry , Laurie, Thompson and Elton – or to give them their characters names, Lord Monty, Lord Snot, Miss Money Sterling, and Kendal Mintcake – from Footlights College Oxbridge.(“Whose last words were “Lawks a Lordy, my bottom’s on fire ?” “Lenin ? “ “No, it was Joan of Ark. “ ) So much has already been written in different places about this episode that I can’t add anything original to it, and so will move on to the third.
3) The film “Starter for Ten” based on the novel by David Nicholls. OK, so this isn’t a parody. The episode of University Challenge is actually central to the plot of both film and book, and no attempt is made to parody or mock. In fact Mark Gatiss ( ahh, the League of Gentlemen ) makes rather a good job of playing dear old Bamber.
Well, alright, Bamber presented the show for 25 years, so there was certainly plenty of time for him to become a target for some gentle mockery. But be fair, Jeremy Paxman has actually been presenting the show for 16 years, unless I’m very much mistaken. If you’ve been a LAM regular for any length of time you’ll know how much of a fan of him I am, but even I can admit that he has a style which, lets be honest , would be fairly easy to send up. So why hasn’t anyone ? Unless, of course someone has and I have just missed it, in which case I look for some kind reader to help me out with this.
I should probably mention a couple of clips on YouTube. There’s a highly amusing one which has manipulated footage of the 2010 Grand Final to consider what might have happened if the great Alex Guttenplan hadn’t known so many answers. Also there’s a good clip from Armando Ianucci’s Time Trumpet. This looks like genuine footage from the show, over which different voices have been dubbed. I think that if you go to YouTube and search University Challenge spoof you should find both of these quite easily.
While on the subject of spoofs and send ups of quizzes, I recall that some time ago I posted about my favourite depictions of pub quizzes in sitcoms. I mention this because I caught part of another one a week or so ago. There's a BBC sitcom on a Saturday evening I think, called The Old Guys. Now, the fact that it was on a Saturday evening didn't fill me with any great hopes, and I'll be honest, considering it was created by the same people who created the excellent Peep show it didn't really do it for me. As for the quiz, well basically the two protagonists - Roger Lloyd Pack and CLive Swift want to improve on a dismal performance in their local pub quiz in order to impress Jane Asher, who is actually worse than they are. Cherie Lunghi came into it somewhere as a librarian, but I'm afraid that I was losing the will to live , and so I switched the set off and went and took my pleasures elsewhere.