Ten to the Top


Vernon Kay

(and various stand-ins including Gary Davies)


BBC Radio 2, 6 March 2023 to present


The cosy world of Radio 2 was shaken to its foundations when Ken Bruce left the station for commercial radio. He took Popmaster with him, the show-within-a-show had been on air for a quarter of a century and left a hole.

Ten to the Top fills the 10.30 quiz itch, some counter-programming against the other side. A contestant gets ten questions about pop music from the rock 'n' roll era - mostly from the 80s, 90s, and 2000s. Two questions have musical cues attached. The player has five seconds to give their answer, late answers will be marked wrong without mercy. Answers must be precise, no wiggle room, they won't take "Ant and Dec" for "PJ and Duncan".

Scores are kept in an unusual way. The first question's worth one point. Get it right, and the next question is for two points. Get that right, and the next question's for three points, and so on. But get a question wrong, and the chain breaks, the next question is for just one point. Each player has a joker that they can play before hearing a question to double the points.

Ten to the Top was born in a bit of a hurry, something had to be on air when Popmaster popped off. Gary Davies hosted the first ten weeks, during which time many of the quirks were ironed out.

After some months listening to this feature, we've concluded that this scoring system is much too complex to play along with. Contestants know if they've got the question right or wrong, and in spite of Vernon Kay giving the score for each question, you really need pen and paper to keep score. Treat it as a stream of questions, answer what's in front of you, and it's much more fun. The joker is also a bit of a wasted feature: almost everyone leaves it to the very last question.

Ten to the Top has a wide brief, seven decades of pop music fits Radio 2's broad and inclusive music policy. It's pre-recorded and edited to sound slick and professional, and perhaps that's a point in its favour compared with Popmaster.

And though some people will switch station just for the quiz, most listeners will treat it as part of the programme they're already hearing. To that effect, Ten to the Top fits in perfectly. It is one of many regular features on The Vernon Kay Show, and it fits in well alongside the archive clips and Tracks of My Years conversation and listener interaction. Vernon hosts a big and expansive show, he brings energy and showmanship to the radio, and that's reflected in this loud and in-yer-face quiz.


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