Friday, 5 October 2018

Mastermind 2019 - Heat One

At last. Somewhat later than in recent years, the new series has begun, and the last before we’re likely to see some changes. Mind you, there was something different about this first of the new series, and I’ll come to that very shortly.

In fact, I’ll come to cosmetic change part one now. In recent years we’ve seen John introduce all of the contenders at the top of the show. Now, though, they were conspicuous by their absence from the stage. Instead, once he called for the first contender, she had to walk onto the set via a sort of tunnel of doorways which lighted up as she walked past. Well, look, this sort of thing does nothing to heighten my enjoyment of the show, but it doesn’t detract from it either. I’m not entirely sure what it brings to the party but hey, let’s work with what we have. First up in this series then was Jo Skinner, answering on American TV favourite, The West Wing. Now, as with the other specialists on offer in tonight’s show, my knowledge of this series was minimal at best. So I have no real idea whether these questions were gentle, fair or hard. However, I reckoned Jo’s score of 11 was by no means bad going.

Next up, Roy Smith answering on Bob Marley. Now, I like Bob Marley’s music very much, but . . . well it took just a couple of minutes for this round to show me that I really don’t know very much about it, or him, at all. Not so Roy Smith. No, he didn’t deliver a perfect round, but it was a pretty good one, I’d say. I’ve made this point before, and doubtless I’ll make it again in the future, but I do like to see contenders who’ve prepared themselves well for their specialists. 12 points for Roy put him ahead at this stage of the competition.

I’ve never read the Sanmdan Graphic Novels by Neil Gaiman, but I know that they are extremely popular. This was the specialist being offered us by Eibhlin McMenamin, who I dare say is one of the younger contenders that we’re going to see during the series. Eibhlin’s round was a good illustration of the old adage that a Mastermind round is a marathon and not a sprint. After a rather heistant and uncertain start, Eibhlin found her rhythm in the mid part of the round, and managed to pull herself up to a respectable double figure score of 10. 

Finally, then Derek Caudwell answered questions on the only really traditional , old-stylee specialist subject, in the shape of medieval mercenary John Hawkwood. Derek was another contender who knew his stuff, and he ended up in the lead on pass countback with 12 and 0. So, with the first round complete we were safely headed in the direction of the GK rounds, with no disasters, and none of the contenders failing to reach double figures. Good stuff.

Right, let’s get to cosmetic change part 2. It turned out that each contender had been walked off the set after her or his round. So they were then marched back on, en masse, while John informed us that – they didn’t know each other’s scores. Hmm – okay. This enabled him to tell us that only the viewers at home – who already knew the scores if they had been paying attention – could see the scores, and he didn’t read them out. So none of the contenders knew how the others had done. As I said – Hmmm – interesting. But then, as Eibhlin returned to the chair, he went and ordered her to tell everyone she had scored 10 in the first round. Huh?

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure that I really understand what this is all about. Does it, potentially, make any difference whether you know the other contenders’ scores or not? Well, maybe. I can only go by my own experience, but I think that knowing where I was at half time did help me get my head together and visualise the task ahead of me. But only to a small extent. And once the GK questions start, all that goes out of the window anyway. As I said about format change part one, it doesn’t offend me in the slightest, and it doesn’t take away from my enjoyment of the show. But I don’t really see what it brings to the show, that’s all. 

Speaking of which, let’s discuss the GK rounds. You, know, I really felt for Eibhlin when she was asked about the name linking a detective in Kojak, and Harry Enfield’s kebab shop owner character. I doubt whether she was born when the Enfield character was in his heyday, and I’m dead certain she wasn’t when Kojak was around. Sometimes there are things which give you the idea that it just isn’t your night, and I wouldn’t have blamed Eibhlin for thinking that at this point. In the end she added 7 to take her total to 17. 

Jo’s round, on the other hand, might have led her to believe that this was going to be her night. She answered a lot of questions correctly because she knew them. However there were a number of questions where you could see by her facial expression and the tone of her voice that she didn’t know the answer, but had said the only thing which came into her head which might possibly be true. And don’t knock that, for we’ve all done it in quizzes. Let’s be fair too that this was the kind of round where the obvious answer was nearly always the right one. 16 points for 27 has been a good total in the last few years, and it looked likely to give her at the very least a chance of a win.

Roy gave it a bit of a lash, but in all honesty it never quite looked as if he was going to be able to overtake Jo. A late rally pushed him close, but he was still 3 correct answers away as the blue line of death began its circumnavigation of the score, and had only found two of them by the time it had caught itself. 26 is a perfectly good score for a Mastermind heat, and I dare say some people will win heats with lower scores during this series. Not good enough for a win today, though.  

Only Derek remained. His round was very similar to Jo’s, as was his approach of answer what you know, and try to get as close as you can with the one you don’t know. To put his task into perspective, 15 and 5 passes, or better, would see him through. As it happened, he managed 16, and won by a point. Very well done, sir, and good luck in the semi final. 
Welcome back Mastermind, cosmetic changes and all. I’ve missed you.  

The Details

Jo Skinner
The West Wing
Roy Smith
Bob Marley
Eibhlin McMenamin
The Sandman Series by Neil Gaiman
Derek Caudwell
John Hawkwood


Dan said...

Mastermind is a bit like golf, in that it’s you again the question setter (or course designer), and beyond a bit of gamesmanship you can’t influence the scores of your opponents - you can’t steal bonus points, for example. So not knowing the other contestents’ scores appears to me to make very little difference.

Londinius said...

Hi Dan. Totally agree with you. I don't see the point in it at all. But there we are. I don't find it annoying or irritating - just pointless.

Cwazywabbit said...

The only thing I think that the change does is keep the number of first round passes away from each contestant.
One of the effects of that is to potentially have more guess attempts than passes, but still doesn’t prevent gaming of the pass system by having someone deliberately givea wrong answer in just to get to the next question.
The effect the change in format had was to induce discussion during the programme which detracted from playing along this episode, but I think we’ll get used to it until the new tender changes things again.

Unknown said...

Pete Reilly here (still alive!) I think last night's show proves the adage "If it's not broken, don't fix it".

Martin said...

Agreed on the pointless changes noted. At the end of the last GK round, we also seem to have lost the shot of the current leader being in focus as the final score is announced. I don't think I missed it.

One positive change, in my opinion:

After each contender declared their specialist subject, before beginning the round John introduced the subject to the audience - for example "The West Wing, the television drama that captured the way American politics at the very top works".

In previous series, it was slightly irritating, at least to me, that this introduction was often embedded in the first question of the set. Often I'd be thinking "get on with it!", and annoyed for the contestant.

Anyway it is great to have Mastermind back, with an excellent set of contestants and subjects. Slightly surprising that Roy Smith wasn't also noted as being a possible repechage qualifier - 26 has been enough before.

Stephen Follows said...

Does the two-month delay this time mean that there are going to be fewer heats, and thus fewer contestants?

Dan said...

Website was reporting yesterday’s heat as 1/31, as usual.

Claire Slater said...

I think having the contestants walk on straight to the black chair is a good but oh so terrifying twist, but am so very glad I didn't have to do it last year. We all had the privilege of having a bit of time on contestants' row to get used to the setting and the surrealism of the situation.
With a show with a v simple format: x number of contestants, 2 rounds, a series of questions, any small changes in the format are v noticeable and thus invite lots of comments

Libra said...

I would like to see the 'Score to Beat' visible to viewers throughout the GK Rounds.