Saturday, 18 February 2012

Reappearing Contenders - Ageism

Over at Daniel’s Quiz Addict blog I was interested to read a post about Pat Baker, contender in Heat 13 of Mastermind last week. Daniel had linked to an article in Thursday’s Daily Mail. I’m not a devotee of that paper myself, and so I’d missed it. The article was pointing out that Pat had appeared on 3 BBC shows in the space of a week, even though the shows had been recorded months apart. For the record the other two shows were Perfection and Pointless.

Some of the comments afterwards were interesting in themselves, and indeed I noticed one by our own Brian Pendreigh. Despite what one or two of the other comments said, there really isn’t any need to read anything into the fact that Pat appeared in the three shows at virtually the same time. it’s just one of the quirks of scheduling. We already know that BBC schedulers rarely listen to programme makers . Why should anyone be that surprised that Pat was able to get onto the three shows in the first place ? The Mail article, with something of a lack of gallantry, printed Pat’s age, and I have to say that she does look very good for it. She has a certain wit and a confidence on screen that would definitely appeal to those who select contestants . The less money that’s available to be won on a show, the less it seems to matter whether a prospective contestant has ever appeared on TV before. Indeed, in the case of Mastermind it doesn’t even matter whether a prospective contender has appeared on Mastermind before, and thank goodness it doesn’t !

No, there’s no reason to get funny about people getting on to several different quiz shows. Whoever you are you have a right to apply to whichever show you fancy, and good luck to you.

What I think is far more worthy of angry comment is the apparent ban on over 30s appearing on Channel 4 big money quiz shows. Yes, the Bank Job is back for a second series. You might recall that my twins liked this show very much. We watched it later on last night on demand, and I predicted that all the contestants would be under 30, and that there wouldn’t be a ‘minger’ among them, to use the vernacular . Guess what ? I was right ! What were the chances of that happening ? Well, actually, probably 100%. Ah yes, you might say, but that’s only right considering that this 18-30 group are really channel 4’s target audience for this time slot. Let’s put aside the argument that I would have thought that a huge proportion of the target audience would actually have been out at 9pm on a Friday evening. What really annoys me is this. I just wish that they would come clean about their selection policy. I listened to the show fairly carefully, and I never once heard George Lamb refer to it specifically as a show for the under 30’s – yet that’s exactly what it is.

You can apply to get on the show by playing in an online tournament, and winning three games. Pretty much anyone can achieve this, since the vagaries of the online game with it’s £0 boxes, and it’s Steal boxes mean that the winner won’t always be the person who answers most questions. When you apply , there is absolutely NOTHING to tell you that if you’re over 30, then you have NO chance of getting on the show. I rather wish that once you enter your age – and you HAVE to do this when you register – a message box would flash up warning you that you are too old , and you won’t get on the show. Ah, but to come clean like this would leave the makers wide open to the charge of ageism. Yet the evidence of every episode of the show so far is that only the 18 – 30s will be allowed on, and anyone older will not even be considered. Although it seems as if nobody is going to tell you this officially. Which is cowardly , certainly, and some people would be forgiven for thinking this rather deceitful.

Would a show get away without being criticized for excluding either sex ? I doubt it. Would it get away with excluding people of a different race, religion or skin colour ? No.

Yes, but you may argue that it’s not aimed at a wide/family audience. The fact is though that once you take the external trappings away from it, the lights, the set etc. what you’re left with is a fairly standard quiz game show which need be no more exclusive to the 18 – 30s than any other age group. I’ll be interested to see whether a token wrinkly makes it onto the show or not before the end of the series, but I promise you that I won’t be holding my breath. So come on Remarkable Television – who I believe are part of Endemol, who make the show, come clean. Admit that you have no intention of allowing any older contestants on the show, and then take whatever flak you get for it, if any. Confession is supposed to be good for the soul.


Nic said...

Excellent post David, I have also noticed this and think it's ridiculous. The same applies to Million Pound Drop.

Londinius said...

Thanks Nic.

You're absolutely right about Million Pound Drop - although I wouldn't want to go on that show because of old Shouty McGurney who presents it.

HughTube said...

I agree with everything you've said here. I would just say that 'The Bank Job' and 'The Million Pound Drop Live' don't really set themselves up as great tests of general knowledge but rather as entertainment shows and as such I think that they have every right to cast their shows in a way that would be completely unsuitable for 'Mastermind', 'University Challenge' and 'Only Connect' among others. They're trying to draw in a lucrative audience, although that means that you and I won't want to bother with them.

That said I've just looked up the viewing figures for those shows and I can tell you that every episode of University Challenge that I appeared on (and therefore remember the viewing figures) had more viewers than every episode of 'The Million Pound Drop' and 'The Bank Job' ever broadcast. Maybe aiming quiz shows at people who like quizzes isn't necessarily a bad idea after all.

On a completely unrelated point, I don't know if you're aware that Rob Hannah as a new fortnightly quiz on his blog 'Quizzle Puzzles'. I did the last one which was very enjoyable and challenging. Might you be interested?

Londinius said...

Hi Hugh

Thanks for the tip about Rob's blog - I'll certainly check it out.

I agree with your point that these aren't meant to be serious tests of general knowledge. I also agree that the producers can select anyone they want - although that doesn't mean I have to like it. But I just wish they would come clean about it. Admit that you automatically exclude anyone over a certain age, and then it's all out in the open and you can defend your decision if you get any criticism.

I'm not surprised about the viewing figures. UC is one of BBC2's great success stories. It's worth noting that while BBC Wales often play fast and loose with Mastermind around the schedules, they never do it to UC.

contentedofcheltenham said...

Pat Baker was a fellow-contestant on my MM episode and could not have been nicer then and since - a genuinely lovely lady. What annoyed me about the 'Daily Mail' article was the 'third time unlucky' angle; in fact she won her episode of 'Pointless' and of 'Perfection' but was unable to convert her victory into a cash prize. Inaccurate reporting in the 'Mail'? Whatever next? (Some parts of the paper are still good, though.)

davidbod said...

Channel 4 was created to cater for people of different demographics that weren't well served by the other channels.

There are plenty of opportunities for older people to get on other programmes. Indeed, the controller of BBC One has recently said that his channel will be skewing older in the future.

50- and 60-something male WASPs had a good few years on Millionaire, and now it's probably time someone else had a go at winning big cash.

I'm not saying that Channel 4's shows are the best formats or have the best production. Nor am I saying that they wouldn't benefit from mixing up the casting a bit.

But if you ever look in detail at TV demographics, you will understand the huge challenges involved in getting younger people to watch television. And if that requires a younger-skewing channel to put on The Bank Job to get them interested in quiz shows, so be it.