Tuesday, 12 October 2010

TV Watch - University Challenge

University Challenge – Round 1 Match 14 – Merton, Oxford v. St. John’s Cambridge

Here we are then, after golf – stopped – play , at the end of the first round. For our two teams the stakes were clear, anything over 155, and you’re in the next round. Mind you, both teams were keen to cement their place as of right, by winning the show. Lets start with Merton. One of the more venerable colleges in England’s green and pleasant land, Merton was founded in 1264. Considerably younger were the four team members, Tim Coleman, Verity Parkinson, Kim Al-Hourani and captain Tom Hudson. St. John’s College, who reached the semis a couple of years ago as I recall, began life as a hospital. Tonight’s team were Elliott Bennett-Spragg, Caroline Tecks, Barratt Wilson and captain James Orr. On with the show, then, and let the devil take the hindmost.

The first question was a tricky - how many British Prime Ministers were there between the outbreak of world war II, and the surrender of Japan . Ah, yes, don’t forget Clement Atlee . Tom Hudson remembered him, and took first blood. 2 out of 3 bonuses followed. James Orr of St. John’s took the next starter, identifying a battlefield description as belonging to Bosworth. Bonuses on the state of Nevada gave them a clean sweep, and a slight lead. Neither team managed the next starter. Apparently 1 joule = 10 million ergs. Fair enough. I didn’t know it, neither did Barratt Wilson or Tom Hudson, who both chanced their arms on this one. Worth a shot, anyway. There was a lovely starter on Shakespeare next. Which is the highest ordinal number to appear in the title of a Shakespeare play ? Henry VIII I yelled, quite forgetting that he wrote a popular little number called Twelfth Night as well. Tim Coleman took that one. One out of 3 bonuses on the mistresses of French kings was taken. The picture starter followed. This showed a representation of part of a London Underground map drawn to scale, and nobody managed to identify the station shown. Never mind. Neither team knew that it was his depiction of Lenin in Diego Rivera’s Rockefeller Plaza murals that caused them to be removed. Mr. Wilson, who had been flexing his buzzer finger several times so far cut in with the answer to the next starter, knowing that subjunctive, indicative etc are the moods of verbs. Given the 3 tube map bonuses St. John’s swept up the lot. I knew that RKO studios made stars out of King Kong, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, although not in the same film, but neither team got it. Barratt Wilson took the next starter on some thing to do with angles of incidence and angles of reflection. Well, he knew what JP was talking about anyway. 3 bonuses taken thank you very much, and St. John’s led at the 10 minute mark by 65 to 35.

Merton then had a little bit of a deficit to pull back, and Tim Coleman began by taking a starter on the Bad Sex in Fiction Award. I suppose its probably better than bad fiction in sex. 2 bonuses were taken on cricket. Elliot Bennett-Spragg took a good starter by identifying a definition of the word sibyl, and I was able to quote-a-long-a-Paxman with lines spoken by Lady Macbeth. 1 bonus taken. The music starter followed, with a track from a film soundtrack, which required the name of the artist and the film. St. John’s got the film, Trainspotting, but plumped for leathery old insurance salesman Iggy Pop when they should have gone for Underworld. Kim Al-Hourani knew it, and they gratefully took 2 out of the 3 bonuses on the same film soundtrack. They missed Heaven 17, plumping for Human League – from which group I think Heaven 17 had actually split some time earlier. A miscue from Mr. Wilson on a maths/biology starter let in Tom Hudson, and one bonus on the Dambusters gave Merton a slight lead. The skipper followed this up with his knowledge of Japanese Knotweed. A full set of bonus meant they were keeping the pedal to the metal. Still the indefatigable Barratt Wilson struck right back, recognising Hooke’s Law when he heard it. 3 bonuses on Ancient European languages kept them motoring at full speed themselves. James Orr recognised the picture starter as king Edward VII, and 1 bonus on other people who died in 1910 meant that they were back in the lead. At the 20 minute mark St. John’s had a reduced lead of 120 to 110.

Going into the last part of the quiz both teams had an excellent chance of making it past the total needed to progress. Mr. Wilson was too quick for his own good, answering about a statue found on a greek island. Tim Coleman knew it was the Venus di Milo. Bonuses followed on Thomas Hardy. As a coincidence, Thomas Hardy was the answer that St. John’s gave to the picture of Mark Twain in the picture bonuses, but I digress. Another clean sweep of bonuses followed. Neither team got the next starter, but James Orr impressed me by knowing Berlins as the Riga-born British philosopher. 1 bonus followed. Goodness, but this was a good match. Next question, and it was Tom Hudson who buzzed incorrectly, and Barratt Wilson, waiting this time, came in with ‘nicotine’ , which impressed JP, who to be honest seemed to be enjoying this match as much as I was. Only 1 bonus on opera was taken, but it was enough to edge St. John’s into the lead again. However James Orr buzzed too early on the name of a son of Poseidon, and Merton knew it was Triton. 1 out of 3 bonuses put them on the brink of at least the repechage round. James Orr made amends by taking the next starter, and 2 out of 3 bonuses guaranteed them at least one more match in this year’s competition. Barratt Wilson came in too early for the next starter, but Tim Coleman knew John Knox, and so Merton were also through. The small matter of the winning the game remained. Barratt Wilson identified Plaster of Paris, but we were on the very cups of the gong. When it went, as the smoke cleared we could see that Merton had just edged it by 180 to 175.

Congratulations both teams. Not quite the tightest finish this series, but a good contest between two good teams. Well played !

Well, that completes the first round. Watch this space for my now traditional review of the first round, and preview of the second in the next few days.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

My favourite Paxman moment tonight was illustrative of the way he gets awfully protective about people taking liberties with Shakespeare. When St. John’s dithered over the Lady Macbeth lines he snapped
“These are FAMOUS quotes ! You either know them, or YOU don’t – give us an answer !”

I also enjoyed the way that he baited Tom Hudson, asking for more when Tom had already given him a perfectly acceptable answer, then letting him have the point ,
“Yeah , you can have it !”

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

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle only took one wicket in his first class cricket career. Mind you, it was that of Dr. W.G. Grace !


Des Elmes said...

I don't disagree that this was a good contest between two good and evenly matched teams - and well worth the extra week's wait in the end.

(The TV guide in the Irish Times somehow failed to take the postponement into account, though - saying that this week's match would be between Cardiff and Exeter, thus letting it slip that both Merton and St John's would play again! Gaaaaah!!!)

However, if I'm being quite honest, the music starter left a slightly sour taste in my mouth. I don't intend in any way to be mean or disrespectful towards Al-Hourani here, and if I am, I do apologise - but she did say the name of the song before she said the artist and film.

And with Merton going on to win by five, it's all too easy to feel that this moment affected the result...

That aside, there were two other good Paxo moments - the first being when he said something along the lines of "1983? Good heavens, no" in response to Merton's guess as to what year the UK joined the EEC (as it then was), and the second coming during the bonuses on people who died in 1910, when St John's guessed "Tchaikovsky" and he did some showing off: "He died at the end of the 19th century."

And if I could just make a correction as regards the Tube map bonuses Dave - St John's got 2 of the 3, zagging on the last one with Edgware Road instead of zigging with Paddington.

Gruff said...

At the end of the 1st round it is time for me to make my annual comment:

Why are there so many Oxbridge teams?

12 out of the 28 teams were from Oxbridge this year. Not that many of them were special enough to justify preferential treatment, and some were downright poor.

Des Elmes said...

May as well do my own breakdown of this year's 28:

* As Gruff has pointed out, 12 Oxbridge teams (six each from Oxford and Cambridge).

* Two London teams (UCL, Imperial).

* Two Old Scottish universities (Edinburgh, St Andrews).

* One Welsh university (Cardiff).

* Three "traditional" redbrick universities (Bristol, Liverpool, Sheffield) and four other universities established between 1800 and 1960 (Durham, Newcastle, Exeter, Southampton).

* One 1960s university (York).

* Two specialist institutions, both making their UC debuts (Royal College of Music, University of the Arts London).

* And one 1992 university (Oxford Brookes).

There definitely are more Oxbridge teams this year than might be considered usual - most 28-team series since the first one in 1998/9 have featured 10 or 11. However, the 2006/7 series also featured a full dozen.

The total number of teams from C19th and early C20th universities also feels greater than normal, while seeing just the one 1960s university is a big surprise - as is the fact that they've been outnumbered by the specialist institutions.

Two institutions that are or have been part of the University of London is reasonably normal, though. Two Old Scottish universities is definitely normal, though it's the fourth year running that Edinburgh and St Andrews have been the two in question. One Welsh university is also the norm - and, of course, one 1992 university is always the way.

Manchester is of course the biggest name missing; Warwick is also a notable absentee.

And the Open University still hasn't been seen since winning the aforementioned 1998/9 series.

Londinius said...

Hi Des, Hi Gareth,

Des, I was so impressed that they got any of the tube bonuses that I miscalculated !

I know what you mean about JP's Tchaikovsky comment , but then I'm afraid amplifying why an answer is wrong is something I am all too guilty of myself as a quiz master too.

Hi Gareth

As you say, this is something that's always going to draw comment for as long as University Challenge lasts.

I can't claim that I have any greater knowledge about UC's selection criteria than any other person in the street and I don't want to rehash old lines of argument. I do know that collegiate Universities were given the option of entering together or as seperate colleges - hence Oxbridge and London enter as seperate colleges, while Durham as one entity. That's not a choice which is just beneficial to Oxbridge - its also of benefit to London too.

I always feel that the best teams , regardless of where they come from, should be the ones we get to see in the show. Now, for all I know that may be what does happen now. We don't know, because the production team don't make their choices of who gets on the show in public. But then I don't really know any show that does.

Sorry if I seem to be sitting on the fence here, but I can kind of see both sides.


IanJC said...

Hi Dave

Did you get a copy of the new UC quiz book?

I was hoping to look it over last weekend, but couldn't find anyone selling it.

Londinius said...

Hi IanJC

Yes, I did. I preordered it from Amazon and had it delivered the day it was published ! Sad.

Its the biggest UC quiz book of the 4 I know about. Format is very similar to the 2001 book - nothing wrong with that. There are 3,500 questions. I have only skimmed over it so far, but what I've found is that I'm recognising some of the questions that have actually been asked in this year's series - again, nothing wrong with that - it certainly isn't all the questions. I don't think any fans of the series will be disappointed with the book at all.


Jack said...

Sorry, I'm a bit late this week Dave. I went away for the week and I've just got back.

Great match though, one of the best of the first round! The best match of the round would have to be Cardiff vs Oxford Brookes for me, but feel to disagree.

Looks like we won't be seeing Balliol (or hearing their noisy supporters) again then. Ironically, St John's Cambridge is Balliol's sister college.

I was actually able to work out that the losers of the match would beat Balliol's score, when the Cardiff-Exeter draw for Monday came out. I've had a look at the stats, and for the last few years, the highest scoring losers of the first round have played the fourth lowest. This pointed to Merton or St John's making the repechage.

So, if the first round is anything to go by, this should be a great series. I look forward to the rest!

Londinius said...

Hi Jack,

I don't disgree with you at all - Cardiff v. Oxford Brookes was a fantastic match.There's every good chance that the second round should be fascinating.


Faceling said...

If you're going to chat away about the programme it would be lovely if got people's names right. It's MARK Wilson. That is all.