Thursday, 22 December 2011

Christmas University Challenge

Christmas UC

Three days down, and three matches played. I’ll put my cards on the table, I love UC, so anything like this is always going to be an extra treat, and always to be encouraged in my view. I haven’t compiled my usual notes on the shows. Although the contests have been carried out under proper UC rules, and I’m sure that the teams on each show have wanted to win, and put up the best showing that they can, it’s still been a lighthearted joust really. I always find it a little bit difficult to know exactly how to pitch a review of celebrity ( for you can say what you like, but this is essentially what Christmas UC is ) versions of shows. After all if you put yourself up to take part in a serious quiz show, then you are open to be criticised – fairly I hope – on your performance. Presumably the UC team actually approached the graduates of the various universities and university colleges participating. So how fair is it to criticise ? I do bear in mind the fact that these people are not setting themselves up as quizzers. So I guess that it’s no surprise to sit and watch these shows, and find myself murmuring from time to time words to the effect of – I’m surprised they didn’t know that. Still , you have to echo JP’s comments at the end of the first show, where he thanked the teams for putting their heads above the parapet. Quite right.

One thing this welcome little series of shows has done is to highlight just how good many of the student teams we see in each series really are. This is just my opinion , and by all means feel free to disagree, but it has seemed to me that the questions in Christmas UC have been a degree or two easier than those in the regular show. I found last night’s a little harder, but nonetheless I’ve found with this series that even with the things you don’t know you can go a long way just by giving the percentage answer, or the most obvious one.

The scores in the first three shows would all have been unlikely to win a regular first round show. I’m not sure whether this is down to the strengths of the teams compared with the student teams, or whether more time is being allowed for answers, or fewer questions are being asked.

Oh , and if the production team is reading – should you ever invite Goldsmiths’ graduates ( imagine a team made of , say for the sake of argument – Damon Albarn – Julian Clary – Mary Quant – Damien Hurst etc. ) to make up a team, then I’m available.


HughTube said...

I'm glad you'd thought they were easier also, in the first show I knew all but one of the questions in the first 15 minutes, (the name of the appellation d’origine contrôlée chicken - Poulet de Bresse apparently) better than my usual record watching and certainly better than when I was on. I was expecting Paxman to be easier on them, as he should be probably, but not for the questions to be easier.

I'd like to see the teams they'd chosen against the student teams from the same institution. I get the feeling that the teams we saw last night for example, Magdalen and UCL, wouldn't have faired too well against either of last year's representatives from those institutions (both of which Sheffield played incidentally).

I am enjoying the show however, and am pleased that they've chosen successful graduates who aren't always on television also. Makes a nice change from other special editions of quiz programmes and is more in keeping with the feel of the show.

Merry Christmas!

Michael said...

I've only watched the first one of these specials, but I definitely got the impression that they spent rather longer on the introductions than on a regular show. That said, I thought it was quite interesting seeing people who are clearly not 'quizzers' in this sort of contest, with there seeming to be very little interest in buzzing early. Entirely possible this will change with the other shows, of course.

I think it would be fun to see the winners of this play the winners of the regular series, but suspect if it did it would be rather one-sided in favour of the young 'uns.

DanielFullard said...

Hi David I have reveiwed the shows over at The quiz addict which you may have seen and I agree with you entirely......questions are easier

Quentin Vole said...

I second (third?) the motion - questions are easier and (it has to be said) contestants are, mostly, well ... let's just say less impressive. I was disappointed with Magdalen's performance, particularly as they brought back former series-winning captain Sarah Healey. Ten years in the Civil Service seems to have removed some of her edge.

Tonight's programme starred Daisy Christodoulou from Warwick - another former winning captain - and she showed them how it should be done with her speed on the button. If anyone wants to beat Warwick, they'll have to step their game up by quite a margin. (Christian Wolmar is a hero of mine, too.)

Des Elmes said...

For what it's worth, here's my attempt at fairly light-hearted mini-summaries of the first three matches:

In match one, York and Chris Dye got off to a flying start, leading 65-0 after the first picture round. (Shakespeare in Esperanto, eh?) But bonuses proved hard to come by - so hard, in fact, that they couldn't even guess knowledgeably, as Paxo told them - and Manchester gradually reeled them in, before racing into the lead at the second picture round.

After that, it was a fight to the finish, with Manchester just prevailing, 125-120.

And this not being a regular match, JP decided to be like Bamber(!) and give Manchester's Liv Boeree all the time in the world when she hesitated on a starter asking for the Pacific countries whose names end in 'u'.

The stats: Manchester picked up seven starters, captain Waldemar Januszczak getting five and Steve Hewlett the other two; their bonus conversion rate was 11/21.

York picked up two starters more - Dye finishing with seven - but the bonuses killed them, just 7/26 with one missignal. And what a coincidence that their last set was on the House of York...

Match two saw Durham and Edinburgh answer the first seven starters between them - but then eight of the remaining 15 were dropped.

And poor Durham could only manage a missignal after the music round, thus allowing Edinburgh - captained by Sally Magnusson, whom Paxo doubtless remembers working alongside on the newsed-up Breakfast Time in the late 80s - to romp to victory, 135-60.

Also on the Scottish team was former MP David Steel, who wasn't too impressed with the pictures of authors' houses during the second picture round.

It was, however, the other two members, Kirsty McCabe and George McGavin, who were best on the buzzers with three starters each. Baron Steel (for he is just that) got two, and Ms Magnusson picked up the last one. Durham's five starters were split between James Wilby (three) and captain Richard Adams (two).

It's probably fair to say, though, that the bonus conversion rates were Not Good: Edinburgh 9/25, Durham just 3/15 with that missignal.

And it's probably fair to say that the overall conversion rate (covering all the questions asked over the course of the show) was also Not Good: 26/62.

Finally, match three saw another coincidence - there had been bonuses on UCL graduates the previous night, and now we had a team of them.

Like with Edinburgh, their captain was a fiftysomething female journalist, in the form of Fiona Armstrong.

And had they seen Jamie Karran and co in action? Because, just like them, they knew how to provide high-quality entertainment - and they even tended to be very, very wrong on the bonuses, when they were wrong (which was often).

Magdalen, on the other hand, rather took things too seriously - hardly coming up with any nonsensical answers, hardly making Paxo laugh, and hardly even cracking smiles when the gong sounded with them well in front, 130-85.

Quite why they were like this is, in layman's language, "blinking well baffling".

Could it have had something to do with the fact that Magdalen has won the regular series four times, all in JP's era - and that this particular team featured one of the victorious captains (who's obviously now married)? We'll probably never know for sure.

Anyway, Harry Mount picked up five starters for the Oxford side, who were correct on 11/24 bonuses with one missignal. For UCL, Michael "As Jeremy reminded you, I still work for the Guardian" White had three starters - but, once again, it's probably fair to say that their bonus conversion rate was Not Good (5/18).

And I'll sign off by wishing you and yours a very Happy Christmas, Dave. ;)

Jack said...

These Xmas specials have been enjoyable so far. Paxo is clearly enjoying them, as he can really have a go at the players if they give a really silly answer, unlike with the students, who he tries to be kind to, allegedly.

I do think it is a bit unfair that both Magdalen yesterday and Warwick tonight had an ex-player on their teams. Yesterday was fine, as Sarah Healey (or Fitzpatrick as she was known as, when she captained Magdalen to victory in '98) hardly said anything.

But tonight, I felt that Daisy Christodoulou was just a bit too dominant. She was really good though; I lost track of how many starters she got right, but it must be in double figures, I'd of thought.

Ewan M said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ewan M said...

Watching the student version of UC I am often surprised by how much the contestants know. In an era of so-called "declining educational standards", UC restores my faith in the younger generation. Unfortunately, the current series of Christmas UC has eroded my faith in the older generation. I'm amazed by how little most of these veterans seem to know. With the notable exception of recent graduate, Daisy Christodoulou of Warwick, the bemused countenances of this series' contestants, even when confronted with relatively straighforward questions, is painful to watch. Fair play to the "oldies" for taking part, but it's alarming to witness just how quickly the mental faculties deteriorate after leaving further education.

Des Elmes said...

Well, here's my fairly light-hearted mini-summary of match four...

I have to admit, I rather fell in love with Daisy Christodoulou when she and Prakash Patel, Harold Wyber and Rory Gill pulled off one of the all-time comebacks against the University of East Anglia - and was delighted when they went on from there to be champions.

They took far more comfortable victories over Aberystwyth and UCL before stunning a highly-fancied Manchester in the final - and in all three matches, Daisy was brilliant on the buzzer.

(I do hope nobody minds me using only her Christian name - after all, I still like her a lot.)

Of course, she and Prakash went on to feature in the Wonderland documentary I Won University Challenge.

I doubt, though, that she imagined that she'd be a UC contestant again...

But when that became a reality, well, there was no question that her touch was very much still intact.

More often than not, Paxo hadn't finished asking a starter when she buzzed - and, of course, any on English Literature were like taking candy from a baby.

And she didn't appear to find it one bit strange that she wasn't sitting in the captain's seat this time - or that she had the pretty Carla Mendonça as a team-mate.

Wonder if she likes My Parents Are Aliens?

When the gong sounded, Warwick had a whopping 225 points - at least 90 more than any of the three previous winning teams in this mini-tournament.

And just how many starters did Daisy have to her name? Eleven.

In fact, none of her team-mates buzzed correctly until about two minutes before the gong, when Vadim Jean picked up a starter about the Tour de France that, no doubt, the cynics will argue was "so easy, anyone could get it - even if you have no interest in cycling!"

And, not surprisingly, Daisy played a huge role during the bonuses too - with the result that her team got at least one in every set, and finished with a rather impressive 22/36, with one missignal.

It all meant that poor Sheffield could only scrape 50 points. Their four starters were shared equally between captain George Ergatoudis and Graham Stringer - but their bonus conversion rate was just 2/10.

Mind you, even if they had got the lot right and Warwick's only points came from Daisy's starters, they'd have still lost by twenty - that's how much she outclassed them.

One wouldn't bet against her keeping up this form - and if indeed she does, then Warwick will simply run away with the Christmas UC title.

And, once again, I'd be delighted... ;)

That said, while that would mostly be because of Daisy, it wouldn't entirely be because of her. Because, in addition, her team aren't taking this competition too seriously - well, certainly not as seriously as Magdalen...

Anonymous said...

Daisy Christodoulou is amazing. Quick on the draw, widely knowledgeable, and usually right with her starters. In the team questions she's always stirring and seeding the discussion. Watching her and Warwick steamroller the opposition is a joy.

Andrew B. said...

Well, it might be a joy for some people. For me, it was more like watching Roger Federer and a friend playing doubles against a couple of casual players - you can admire the skill in it, but it all seems a bit of a waste of time.

Des Elmes said...

Time for my fairly light-hearted summary of match five:

Looks like they saved the big names for this, the last heat - the Trinity Cambridge team being captained by John Lloyd and also featuring Daisy Goodwin and Ed Stourton, and Hazel Irvine captaining the St Andrews team (none of whom were wearing red gowns, sadly).

I had to go for Trinity here - I've always liked Big Ed, and Daisy G (so as not to confuse her with a certain other Daisy)... well, let's just say I've always had something of a crush on her, even though she's more than old enough to be my mum. ;)

The Cambridge side would have started favourites, anyway, as just like Magdalen and Warwick, they had an ex-player - and a notable one at that, in Robin Bhattacharyya, the first series-winning captain of the Paxman Era.

Sure enough he, Big Ed and Daisy G bagged the first three starters. Then Big Ed went for it too early on a classic starter - "Dun, don, din... five" - and that allowed St Andrews to open their account, though Crispin Bonham-Carter also hesitated. If this was a regular match, Paxo would have probably torn him to shreds for that.

Anyway, Hazel and co soon drew level, though it seems that none of them had read the Inspector Wexford novels.

Bhattacharyya then put his side back in front, only for them to earn a set on bonuses on boots in literature. "We're bootless," admitted Lloyd.

The music round went to St Andrews, giving them the lead, before Bonham-Carter stunned JP by correctly interrupting a starter on Shakespeare after only a few words.

Could this have been a turning point in the match?

Well, no. Bonham-Carter undid his good work on the next starter, zigging with Order of the Garter and losing five points. Big Ed zagged with Order of the Thistle, and Trinity led once again.

For the second picture starter, the teams had to give the two-word name of a distinctive place of worship in the US. They didn't get it - making this the first dropped starter of the match, amazingly - but Daisy G suggested 'Crystal Church'. It turned out to be 'Crystal Cathedral'. Paxo: "You were nearly right, Daisy."

Holy moly! He actually addressed her with her Christian name!!!!

Trinity did eventually get the picture bonuses, though, before the next starter fell to Bonham-Carter.

At this point, the Cambridge side led 115-85, and it was still anybody's contest.

But then, quite suddenly - and to my delight, as you may gather - Daisy G went and picked up four starters in a row.

JP addressing her as "Daisy" aside, she had played pretty well up to that point - but, without doubt, this surge brought to mind her namesake on the Warwick team. Could she have been watching Ms Christodoulou beforehand?

And with Trinity doing very well on the bonuses - despite being bootless - the outcome of this match unexpectedly and rapidly went from being in the melting-pot to a complete rout.

For the record, they outscored St Andrews 110-(-5) in those astonishing final minutes - meaning that they even ended up matching Warwick's 225.

And, of course, Daisy G's late burst of brilliance made her the best buzzer with a total of six starters. Bhattacharyya finished with four, and Big Ed two, and the bonus conversion rate was a fantastic 23/36 with two missignals.

For the unlucky St Andrews, Bonham-Carter finished with four starters while James Blitz got two; they managed 6/18 bonuses and also had two missignals.

In fact, we had two unlucky teams - this result meant that Manchester's 125 was the lowest winning score of the heats, and thus they wouldn't get to play again.

But just when one thought that Warwick would run away with this mini-tournament...

You'd still fancy them, but a potential final against Trinity looks mouth-watering.

And it would be Daisy vs Daisy, too... imagine that.

I definitely wouldn't mind who won in that case. ;)

Anonymous said...

I've just been catching up on i player. I've enjoyed the shows although the presence of a good quizzers has rendered a lot of them very one sided. The thing that astounded me most was the failure of the Radio 1 head of music to identify the Boo Radleys. How can someone in that position have such a poor knowledge of recent music?!!!