Weaver's Week 2005-05-15

Weaver's Week Index


The University Challenge Final - 15 May 2005

'Iain Weaver reviews the latest happenings in UK Game Show Land.'

"Congratulations" - Jeremy "Thumper" Paxman.

University Challenge

The Grand Final - Corpus Christi, Oxford -v- University College, London

So it's finally arrived. Thirty-one matches and almost eight months after we first set out on the trek to find this year's University Challenge champions, we're down to the last two. It's hard to argue that we won't have a worthy winner this year, as both sides have been on great form throughout the contest, and both survived semi-finals of almost gladiatorial proportions.

The denouement of the series has been delayed past its normal early-April date. UC didn't air for a week over Christmas, nor did a show go out on Easter Monday. Public service broadcasting insists that coverage of snooker is more important than student quizzers, but the root cause of the delay was the next-night repeat of the 2004 Mastermind final back in December. Had that only gone out the once, we'd have had the UC final two weeks ago.

One of Thumper's famous grimaces.

Since we last met, Thumper has been speaking about his prime public position. He told BBC News's Ray Snoddy that he's "asking questions the reasonably-intelligent member of the public would like to see asked." He denied putting on an act, saying that he doesn't "consciously adopt a tone or a style," and said that sometimes, in retrospect, he is a bit too harsh on the poor lambs facing his questioning. Mr Thumper also said that he has "more than a modicum of respect" for his victims - "they're doing something that neither you nor I have done." And he's thinking far too hard about whether the answer is correct, and handling the producers shouting down his earpiece, to care about his posture, deportment, or cast of face, which probably explains some of the grimaces (right). In spite of all this attention we lavish on the host, he expects the contestants to be the star of the show - if the viewers aren't thinking about the answers (or lack thereof), there's a problem.

Enough preamble, let's get on with the show. Thumper reminds us that we'll be crowning a new champion this year, as neither institution has previously won the series. The first question is a long set of definitions of "composite"; the first bonuses are on 21 September, the date of UC's first transmission in 1962. There's a set of bonuses on Question Time, in which we learn the most popular guest has been Shirley Williams. By the first picture round - Name That City From Its Art - UCL has yet to trouble the buzzers, and CCO leads 55-0.

It's a very self-referential quiz this week, one question asking about chapter headings from the UC-related novel Starter For Ten. UCL does buzz, but disaster! It's a mis-signal, and they're falling further behind with the minute. Corpus Christi haven't been that strong on their bonuses, but UCL haven't had any bonuses to be strong on. They finally get their chance just before the audio round, on a starter asking for (effectively) 1+2+3+4. The audio is Name That Composer And City, but the Oxford side's lead is 105-25.

The third stanza sees Corpus Christi pick up the charge once more, including the first complete set of bonuses in the game. Quite why Thumper is moving at 30 points per minute just before the final picture round is not obvious, and would he please remember to go so quickly next September. The pictures are Name That Balkan State From the Map of Europe, and surely Corpus Christi's 145 point lead will see them home.

The winning Corpus Christi team: Nick Sharp, Stefano Mariani, David Whitley, and captain Charles Oakley.

UCL pull back to respectability, passing 100 points with three minutes to go, and race away in the final moments. Corpus's lead is good enough to see them home, though, and they receive the trophy from the actor Pete Postelthwaite.

CCO 55 50 105 40 [250]
UCL  0 25  40 85 [140]

The stats from the night: Corpus Christi finished on 20/45 bonuses, UCL on 13/23 with that missignal. UCL's best buzzer on the night, and best for the series, was Ivan Polancec; they made a 57% bonus conversion rate. Stefano Mariani led for CCO once more, ably supported by Nick Sharp, and the side's 68.6% bonus conversion rate over the series is one of the best we've seen.

This Corpus Christi Oxford side is amongst the best winning sides we've seen on the revival, raising their game at each round just enough to beat their opponents, culminating in that revenge match against Balliol.

After a couple of fairly tepid tournaments, this year's series sprang into life in the knock-out phase, and resulted in a classic set of clashes in the last four. Scoring has increased this year; the median of 365 in the knockout phase is higher than we've seen since the 2001-2 series, and is just about par for the course over the 11 years of the revival. However, scores in the opening round fell beneath the 2003-4 series' record low, and the series as a whole had slightly fewer points than last year. Perhaps the answer is to reduce the number of teams entering the televised phase, and staging a double-elimination tournament. Actually, no, that would be far too confusing to the casual viewer, never mind the host trying to explain it. Or perhaps the answer is to make the questions in early rounds shorter and sharper. This column will be interested to see if the spread of institutions entering the next series of UC is any wider than this year's.

Over the next three weeks, there's another chance to see the Christmas specials, between Television and Radio; then Stage and the Critics, with the winners meeting in a play-off. We understand that a short series of UC: The Professionals will air from June.


First round, show 10

Thomas Dyer is taking the Libretti of W S Gilbert for the Savoy Operas. Mr Dyer has been a Fifteen-to-One champion, and won Brain Of Britain back in 1976. Taking the light comedy of Gilbert and Sullivan is almost his home subject, and he finishes on an excellent 15 (2).

Tony Kelly is a silversmith, so is quite obviously talking about Spirits and Liqueurs. Mr Kelly is not quite as confident, it's a wide subject, and he finishes on 10 (1).

Hamish Cameron has swotted up on Ancient Egypt, 1570-1070 BC. If the name seems familiar, it's because he made the semi-finals through the repechage just two years ago. Another good round, finishing on 11 (0). We don't believe there's a repechage this year.

Chris Barber will introduce Mr Humphrys to The Clash, finishing on 12 (3). He's not to be confused with the jazz player of the same name.

Mr Kelly's second round is a staccato affair, with lots of pauses; he finishes on 14 (3), which won't win.

Mr Cameron's time period was the New Kingdom in Egypt, a well-documented period of history. His general knowledge round starts shakily, but picks up speed. He finishes on 22 (1).

Mr Barber is helped on his course by a question on popular music, and finishes on 22 (6).

Mr Dyer gets a question about Robespierre, which was Mr Cameron's specialist subject two years ago. He has a stunning round, finishing on 30 (5). This is a possible series-winning performance, and ensures that Mr Dyer progresses further than he did on his last appearance in 1980.

There's no adult Mastermind for the next two weeks; the youngsters take their turn next week, while coverage of the Chelsea Flower Show takes over on the 24th.

This Week And Next

Ten years ago, Wayne Garvie was the man behind the tiller when The Krypton Factor came back for an ill-starred spin on ITV. The Super Round threw away most of the programmes' key selling points in favour of a complex and confusing final round involving everything but the Krypton Sink. Reports in the national press that the BBC would be reviving the show turned out to be a little premature, but the extremely favourable reaction generated by the idea proves that there's life in the show yet. Indeed, there's very little that could possibly be improved from the mid-80s heyday. Including the host - Gordon Burns is still the only possible frontsman.

Round Britain Quiz finished on Radio 4 last week-end, and the audio file appeared on the BBC website for about 36 hours. Listeners may have missed the Scotland team completing a clean sweep of four victories, and the final question, set by a listener, Mr David Edwards of Denstone, Staffordshire. He won Masterteam three months ago, did Brain of Britain last year, Grand Slam the year before, Millionaire and Mastermind in the past. Is there no end to this man's talents?

New shows for the coming week include Junior Mastermind (1900 nightly on BBC1, except in Scotland and NI); Celebrity Love Island (2200 most nights on ITV and ITV2); and the annual Eurovision Song Contest (2000 Thursday on BBC3, Saturday on BBC1). More, much more, about some of these over the next two or three weeks.

To have Weaver's Week emailed to you on publication day, receive our exclusive TV roundup of the game shows in the week ahead, and chat to other ukgameshows.com readers sign up to our Yahoo! Group.

Back to Weaver's Week Index

A Labyrinth Games site.
Design by Thomas.
Printable version
Editors: Log in