Beat the Newsmaker



Stephen Nolan


BBC Radio 5 Live, 25 December 2009


How could Christmas Day possibly get any better? Presents in the morning, a large meal later, Strictly Come Dancing afterwards. All we need is a fat and jolly man in a red suit to fill an hour while the sprouts boil away to an inedible mush. Unfortunately, Mr. Claus was unavailable for this show, he had some sacks of coal to deliver to children in Alaska, and suggested a substitute. Someone who would look a bit similar, if you squint a little.

Stephen Nolan It's Stephen Nolan! Panic!!

The format was tolerably simple, particularly considering it is going out on Christmas morning. Three newsmakers - newsreader and dancer Nicholas Owen, politician and umlaut Lembit Öpik, journalist and mother Jakki Brambles - were drawn against three members of the public, and asked some questions about the news of 2009. A right answer was worth one point, a wrong answer saw the question offered to the opponent for a bonus point and first dibs at the next question. The listener always got the first question, the newsmaker always had question six.

The highest scorer from each side went through to the grand final, where there were more questions. After hearing the question, there was a decision, to play or panic. "Play" gave that player twenty seconds to reach a conclusion and offer an answer, "panic" threw the question over and the opponent had just five seconds to give an answer. The listener was allowed multiple-choice options on questions they faced, an advantage not allowed to the newsmaker.

Listeners who were accustomed to Stephen Nolan's previous work will recognise some elements as being familiar. The music bed played behind every question, the siren when the finalists choose to panic their opponent, even the structure of the final round, all had a certain familiarity. Was this Panic Attack on the national wireless? And why not; a little in-joke for Nolan's fellow Ulsterfolk, and for fans of obscure game shows.


Nick Colfer, who beat Jakki Brambles in the final.

Web links

BBC programme page


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