Tuesday, 24 August 2010

TV Watch - University Challenge

University Challenge – 1st Round Match 8 – Downing Cambridge v. St. Edmund Hall, Oxford

Little stirs the blood and fires up the imagination like a first round Cambridge v. Oxford match, and this is exactly what we were served up tonight. Downing Cambridge was founded by George Downing, the same George Downing of Downing Street fame. Amongst the obligatory list of famous alumni were John Cleese and from the sublime to . . . Michael Winner. Representing Downing were Will WInzor, Gareth Haslam, Owen Carter, and captain Stefan Liberadzki.

St. Edmund Hall were addressed throughout the show as Teddy Hall by JP. “Teddy Teddy Teddy. “ – “Hall Hall Hall”. You’ll have to watch the show for an explanation of that one, although personally I doubt that it will ever replace “Oggy oggy oggy “. Famous alumni include Sir Robin Day, and Al “The Pub Landlord “ Murray. Tonight’s team were Rhian Price, Roland McFall, Daniel Wilson, and captain Gavin O’Leary.

For the first starter JP gave us a long list of quotations and observations all referring to the same person. The last one, the observation that he has all the best tunes, led Gareth Haslam to kick off the scoring for Downing, proving that it is definitely better the devil you know. A nice set of bonuses followed on royal Margarets, and Downing managed two of the three.

In the next starter, Owen Carter was unlucky to mix up investments with investiture. Teddy Hall were unable to capitalise, so our first missed starter of the day was an early one. The next question called for an American novelist who settled in Britain and became a british citizen the year before his death in 1916. Again, neither team could come up with the correct answer, Henry James. I was more impressed with Mr. Winzor of Downing who correctly answered the next starter, which referred to several constants, beginning with the Archimedes Constant. No, I don’t have a clue myself. This brought Downing 3 bonuses on Shakespeare’s sonnets. Oh well, its just the luck of the draw I suppose. If you knew sonnet 116 you were fine, but unfortunately Downing didn’t.

Following another missed starter we moved to The Controversial Incident Of The Evening. Asked something along the lines of which adjective refers to a vision of society such as “1984” or “Brave New World”, Gareth Haslam buzzed in with “Dystopia”, which was not allowed. This windfall was gladly accepted by Roland McFall, who offered “DystopiaN”. Jezza correctly pointed out that he asked for the adjective, dystopia being the noun. Still, maybe my memory is deceiving me on this one, but I’m sure there have been occasions when I’ve seen him accept answers like this. Strict letter of the question, though, JP was in the right. Mr. McFall continued the good work by identifying the full name of the KGB in Russian. This was proving to be a spirited fightback by Teddy Hall, although neither side had really got into their stride during the first ten minutes. At the end of this first period St. Edmund’s Hall led by 30 to 20.

First blood of the second period was taken by Will Winzor who identified kimono as a Japanese term meaning ‘the thing worn’. Gareth Haslam impressed with good work to earn 2 out of 3 difficult bonuses on microscopes. This put Downing back ahead. He capped this by buzzing early to take the next starter, answering a question referring to The Pirate Bay. I loved that this led to a question about The Black Arrow, written by RL Stevenson, who of course wrote Treasure Island. You see what the question setters did there ? ! Unfortunately Downing didn’t, and didn’t get any of the series of questions on arrows. Neither team managed to fluke an answer to a starter on liver flukes, but then Carter of Downing recognised that a question about a Norwegian dramatist was most likely to be about Henrik Ibsen.

This led us to the most brilliant set of bonuses of the night. Each question gave two terms of reference, lets say Stalin’s head of the KGB, and the west African country which has a capital city called Monrovia. Now to get from one – Beria , to the other – Liberia – you have to add letters. What is their value in roman numerals. That’s a brilliant question. It took Downing three goes to get the hang of it. They got that to turn Brie into Bridle you need to add 550 !
Teddy Hall’s captain Gavin O’Leary impressed me for more than just a rather eye catching Amish-style beard when he began the fightback buzzing in early to identify a term used by John Locke as tabula rasa. Good shout that. They had no joy on plant stems, but it didn’t daunt the skipper as he took the music starter, recognising the theme of the Pink Panther by Henry Mancini. A set of bonuses required the team to identify film themes, and give composer, and the director they are often associated with. Missing out on Elfman and Burton, Teddy Hall took 2.
Will Winzor took the next starter, which was enough to push Downing into a narrow lead of 70 to 60 at the 20 minute mark. With only a frenetic last period to go, neither team was close to a score which would give a fighting chance of a place in the repechage round, so it really was a case of for one team it would be winner takes all, and for the other, you leave with nothing.

Gavin O’Leary took the next starter, recognising John Cage from a list of his works. One bonus pushed them into a 5 point lead. On music, though, this Downing team were able to hit back immediately on a set of british album covers which had featured on postage stamps. They took the starter with Coldplay’s A Rush of Blood to the Head, and took the other three as well. Captain Liberadzki took the next starter for Downing, correctly identifying a definition as referring to the german term angst. A set of bonuses on Erasmus saw them add five points to their total. Neither team could identify a mnemonic as belonging to the set of cranial nerves. They missed the starter which referred to Whitworth, and the standardised thread for screws. I didn’t know that either, although my mum did. I loved the speculative answers for the African violet , but this was three unanswered starters in a row. Finally Owen Carter stopped the rot by correctly identifying the Andromeda Galaxy. One bonus on events of 1910 , and Downing were pulling into a winning lead. Roland McFall did his best to try to hall Teddy Hall back into contention, correctly answering that a tondo would be a circular piece of art, and the team managed to take 2 out of 3 bonuses on logarithms. The team were still 25 points behind though, and fell further back as Owen Carter identified Cassandra as the prophetess that Apollo cursed with always telling the truth and never being believed. Neither team recognised a definition of the word synagogue, but Owen Carter, who had really shown his mettle in the last few minutes, recognised a question referring to the term The Great American Novel. Only enough time remained for one bonus, and at the gong Downing had won by 160 to 95.

This was actually another absorbing contest between two teams who were, for most of the show, pretty well matched. JP told Downing that they will need to be quicker in the next round, and there’s some justice in that. However, the main thing is to qualify, and this is what they have managed to do. Hard lines, St. Edmund.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

JP began in splendid form , hailing the contestants as “two teams of infant phenomena “. Was it just me who was disappointed when he revealed he was actually paraphrasing Charles Dickens rather than just being sarky ? It was only the second starter which saw the teams offer TS Eliot and Mark Twain for Henry James. IT wasn’t so much what JP said “No, it was Henry JAMES !” or even the way he said it, although you didn’t have to read between the lines even to see what he thought about those answers. It was the look on his face. JP hates it when they get English Lit questions wrong.

On the set of bonuses where Teddy Hall were given the names of East European Secret Services in their own language, when given the full name of the Romanian Securitate, they offered East Germany. That earned a classic Paxman retort, “Does that LOOK German to you ? “ Well, obviously it did, or they wouldn’t have said it !

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

The Pirate Bay is the 91st most popular website in the world, and was at the centre of a legal case concerning illegal downloads.


Anonymous said...

And I learnt that one of Kim Jong-Il's self-given titles is "Eternal Bosom of Hot Love". I hope that's not just a bad translation.

HughTube said...

In the comments for your first post of this series there was some debate over whether the production had selected the more interesting matches for the first episodes or not. Well this episode was the one filmed directly before our match, which is on next week. That might suggest that it is being shown straight through, or it could just be a coincidence.

That doesn't make things any clearer. Ah well...

Jack said...

This means Cambridge now have FIVE teams safely into Round 2. Glancing at the records on Sean Blanchflower's page, neither Cambridge, nor Oxford have managed this before. Both have got four teams into Round 2 on numerous occasions, but never before have Oxford or Cambridge got FIVE teams into Round 2.

And Hugh, best of luck next week! I'll be looking out for you. It's good to be able to get contestant's views on what happened in the games. That's why I love reading these reviews and the comments people put on them.

Londinius said...

Hi Jenny

Innuendo overload - actually, thinking about it, that's not innuendo, that's just plain worrying ! Also, weren't Eternal Bosom of Hot Love a prog-rock band from the 70's ?

Hi Hugh

THanks for the heads up about next week. You know that LAM must always be strictly neutral, but in your case, I'll make an exception. Tell me which team you're on, and I'll avoid giving you the Curse of the Clark sofa.

Hi Jack

Thanks for the interesting comment re: the Cambridge 5. Never happened before ? Who's to say they won't end up with one or two more, considering there's still several matches to go ?