Weaver's Week 2014-04-27

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Ninety-six contenders. A hundred and thirty two specialist subjects. And no questions. Except one, or two, or a hundred.



The 2014 final

"Luck has nothing to do with it," remarks host John Humphrys. It's a test of nerve, knowledge, and - well, yes - a bit of luck in getting questions to which you know the answer and avoiding the ones you don't.

Hamish Cameron is taking Scottish Lighthouses as his specialist subject tonight. As is traditional, he's been asked to make a film to illustrate his subject, and his is at the Kinnaid Head lighthouse; he's allowed to wind up the chain and throw the switch to start the night's illuminations. This is the sixth year Hamish has applied for Mastermind, and the first time he's made the final - he keeps coming back because he keeps getting so close. The actual questions discuss a lighthouse in Egyptian style, and a dispute between Robert Stephenson and John Rennie. The final score is 11 points (and 1 pass).

Mastermind Hamish Cameron.

Daniel Adler offers the Life and Work of Richard Wagner. On the stage at Bayreuth, he tells us how Wagner wrote for the stage, how he might today be an ostentatious film director. About the programme, he tells us how Mastermind tests the common CV claim "good under pressure". The questions go on to ask about the plots of the opera, and the composer's patrons and his influences. An interesting guess on the final question (why take a pass after the buzzer?) leaves him on 10 (0).

Brian Chesney has plumped for The Italian Front in the First World War. His film is at Redepuglia, the largest monument to Italian dead in the conflict. At this site, Italians tried to storm up a hill that was being defended by Austrian forces, who could shoot down at them; the memorial includes a reproduction trench. The subject combines two of Brian's favourite subject areas, and his presence here is thanks to Mrs. Chesney suggesting he have a go. We don't pretend to understand the questions, and only recognise a couple of the answers, but we do recognise a superlative performance when we see it - 13 (0).

Mastermind Brian Chesney.

Clive Dunning will tell us about the Life and Poetry of Philip Larkin. Some contenders get to go to exotic places - Italy, Germany, in previous years Azerbaijan and Washington DC. Other contenders go to Hull, because that's where Philip Larkin wrote his work in the second half of the 20th century. Breathe the same air, leaf through the manuscripts and jottings bequeathed by Larkin. He's thought about applying for many years, and now he's done so, he feels like he's a hand on the trophy. That feels like tempting fate, but fate doesn't bite back in the questions: there appears to be a hole in the contender's knowledge about Larkin's love life, but that's not a major gap. He scores 12 (0).

Roderick Cromar opted for French Cinema 1895-1945. His destination is the Institut Lumière in Lyon, home to the brothers who popularised cinema, and built on the location of the first feature (people leaving a factory). He reckons this is a large subject, with a lot to cover, and that he's only just scratched the surface. The questions cover the initial screenings, the accidental invention of stop-motion cinema when a camera jammed, and while there are a good number of correct answers, quite a few passes will hurt him. 9 (4).

Mastermind Roderick Cromar.

Michael McPartland has the Salem Witch Trials. Already, he's won the Nicest Place to Film a Mastermind Film contest, sitting in a garden on the most glorious early autumn day. It's a memorial garden to the 23 people killed in the moral panic about witchcraft in colonial Massachusetts, and Michael tells us some of the remarkable stories. In preparation, Michael's sat in a chair and had his sister act as John Humphrys. The questions asked by the real John Humphrys cover the people, the legal terminology, and some of the famed quotations. After a perfect round, he scores 14 (0).

So, with scores in strictly ascending order, it's Roderick Cromar back for his general knowledge round. He yields five points to the leader, and after getting three questions right here he falls into a pass spiral. Roderick won his earlier rounds taking Sun Records and Clement Attlee, and this time it appears his general knowledge has found its limit. A decent rally at the end leaves him on 18 (6).

Mastermind Daniel Adler.

Nine for Daniel Adler to take the lead, and visibly winces when he confuses Rob Brydon (Ken Bruce-master) with Max Boyce (older Welsh comedian). He qualified with Puccini and the Philip Marlowe novels, and attacks the general knowledge round with his usual flair, guessing "Amen Corner" from the description of monks on their way to cathedral. A score of 22 (0) doesn't feel like a winning proposition.

It leaves eleven for Hamish Cameron to take a share of the lead, and a pass on the first question makes his task a little more difficult. In the earlier stages this year, Hamish took Ramsey McDonald and Paolo Veronese, and this time he's always just a little too far behind the clock to emerge as the winner. A final score of 20 (3) is scant reward for his efforts.

Mastermind Clive Dunning.

Clive Dunning needs ten for the lead, and cannot quite remember the cabinet minister Norman Fowler. This is a trait shared with all but one other person in the country. Clive's earlier victories were with Blackadder and John Lennon, and in both cases his general knowledge was strong. So it proves here, knocking his score up to 25 (1).

It leaves Brian Chesney needing twelve for a share of the lead. Quickly, he runs into trouble, with quite a few passes and incorrect answers, and more than a little of "oh, for the clock to expire now". Catherine the Great and the Musketeer novels were his subjects earlier. Suddenly, the rain ceases, Brian starts to answer correctly, and the score doesn't just grow but it rockets up. The final score is 25 (4). Close, but not close enough.

Mastermind Michael McPartland.

So for Michael McPartland to claim the trophy, he'll need eleven correct answers and no passes. He bangs out three points from the first four questions, and things look promising. Michael qualified with the combination of Father Ted and Michael Jordan. Whether it's the nerves, or the questions being more difficult, everyone's general knowledge performance seems to be a little lower tonight: Michael tries each question, which is the right tactic. The answers, though, aren't all there, and his final score is no passes and 23 points.

The new champion is advised to hold the glass bowl carefully. John Humphrys invites applications for future series, and reminds applicants that they don't have to be gentlemen, "in spite of appearances". Cor, remember when they were going to change the name to Mistressmind?

Mastermind Clive Dunning receives his trophy from John Humphrys.

Let us not forget that, after sixteen hours of questions, the Mastermind champion for 2014 is Clive Dunning.

This Week and Next

A special Champions of Champions edition of University Challenge last weekend, pitting four members of teams from Magdalen Oxford against four members of teams from Manchester. The producers recognise their teams as champions of their respective series. Having invited the best four players, rather than the four team captains, Manchester always looked a stronger side, and rather walked away with the match, winning by 230-80.

University Challenge The Manchester representative side: Henry Pertinez, Gareth Aubrey, Tristan Burke, Adam Barr.

We're not sure whether this event marked Paxman's 20 years as host (all of the players have appeared during his tenure) or the 50 years of BBC2. No such confusion for All About Two, a quiz featuring Richard Osman, Brian Cox, and Deborah Meaden, and hosted by Humpty from Play School. Rounds included The Old Grey Whistle Test, in which a group of old men (including Jonny Ball and Denis Taylor) whistled television theme tunes. There was a line-up from Never Mind the Buzzcocks, some clues to a mystery person, and some What Happened Next questions. Only one of those was given away by the sports programme on just before. The show concluded with the almost-inevitable cake decoration homage to Sue And The Squirrel. Nothing addressed a philosophical question: why BBC2 these days?

All About Two Childish things: (l-r) Little Ted, Big Ted, Humpty, Jemima, Dara Ó Briain.

Turning to the press, we read that Miranda Hart has been linked with a revival of The Generation Game. We cannot rule out "been linked with" as a synonym for "her agent has put out feelers". And is there any word from ITV about a revival of 3-2-1?

Only Connect pitted Douglas Thomson, Mark Seager, and Khuram Rashid (that's Europhiles) against Hamish and Davina Galloway and Nick Latham (they're Relatives: husband and wife and son). A low-scoring first round burst into life with the audio question, bands with superfluous umlauts in their name. It's enough for the Europhiles to take a 4-3 lead, extended to 7-6 with good knowledge of Children's Laureates (Europhiles) and expensive footballers from recent years (Relatives).

Walls 423 and 424 proved unhelpful at dividing the teams: neither side was able to get a single group out, and the Relatives fail to recognise a set of Dungeons and Dragons classes, so fell 11-9 behind. Good performances finally arrived on Missing Vowels, and the Europhiles emerged 17-14 winners from an unusually sedate edition.

BARB ratings in the week to 13 April.

  1. Hello to Britain's Got Talent, straight in at number one with 10.05m viewers.
  2. BBC1's Have I Got News for You (5.4m) and Masterchef (5.15m) prove strong competitors, and Pointless Celebrities (4.3m) held up well thanks to some over-running football. Amazing Greys debuted with 4.05m viewers.
  3. The University Challenge final (3.4m) was on a par with Big Star's Little Star and Catchphrase, and beat the final of The Great British Sewing Bee (3.25m).
  4. A Friday edition of The Cube (2.95m) fell just behind The Chase (3m); the Challenge channel's repeats of the latter attracted 130,000 viewers.
  5. Celeb Juice (1.57m) and Britain's Got More Talent (1.18m) led on the new channels; compare with 8 Out of 10 Cats (1.3m on Channel 4).

This week, ITV asks us to sit in the Ejector Seat with Andi Peters (4pm weekdays). An episode of Ludus in Welsh (S4C, 5.30 Monday) might help on Only Connect, and it's the Fifteen-to-One grand final (C4, 4.30 Thursday). Celebrity crime is the subject of Pointless Celebrities (BBC1, 6.50pm Saturday), Britain's Got Talent is at 7.15, and David Walliams is also on The Guess List (BBC1, 9.20). We'll be reviewing that in the next Week, along with ITV's Amazing Greys (8.30).

Photo credits: BBC Salford, Granada, BBC Entertainment London. This week's Week was delayed by lemonade on the line.

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