11 January 2011

"Vegetable rights and peace..."

Some of you who read this blog are proper clever clogs types, the sort who know that Kevin Ashman from Eggheads isn't amazingly intelligent, he just has a memory for facts. Ask him to explain some complicated scientific theory and he probably can't, but he can tell you where and when that theory was concocted and the person responsible.

So if you really want to be outfoxed by people on quizzes, there is still only University Challenge for that. I'm an avid viewer. I also suspect I'm a typical viewer; someone who a) initially only tuned in because they loathe EastEnders; and b) not only has no idea about the answer to the question, but struggles with following the question in the first place.

But, like all people with a mildly useful education but without the brain to take it to extremes, I get chucked a bone or two from Paxman's pile of cards. Usually they're within the music question (they may know Dvorak and Mozart, but one week I was shouting Thunderclap Newman at the telly while they all looked blank) and something related to wordplay. In last night's episode there was a question asking for the five words that meant five stated definitions, the only difference being the vowel in the middle. I gleefully yelled "BAT BET BIT BOT BUT" before the chap who got it right had managed to press his bell.

Most years, one contestant stands out and they're usually from the winning team. Last year it was that chap called Guttenplan who knew everything, argued with Paxman, ignored his team-mates and all while sporting a total vacancy and immobility in his eyes that suggested he was taking mind-expanding drugs.

The year before it was Gail Trimble, who pretty much single-handedly took her team all the way to glory with a huge brain, while earning many comments about her willowy, girl-next-door looks. Pity her incredible brainpower didn't extend to checking the rule of entry, mind. Her team was disqualified after winning the final as one of her colleagues had already picked up his degree and left university.

Many people hark back to Bamber's era, of course, though the only footage ever dug out of 25 years of the show's original incarnation is that of Stephen Fry umming and aahing over a question when appearing in 1980. There doesn't seem to be any footage online of the famous sabotage episode involving the University of Manchester team in 1975 in which they answered every question with "Trotsky" or some other revolutionary hero of theirs. It did teach me much later, however, why "Lenin" was included as an answer in the joyful spoof episode within The Young Ones.

I do remember a Comic Relief version in which two celebrity teams faced one another, billed as Gownies (graduates) versus Townies (school of life types). The Townies won, courtesy of Danny Baker spending precious extra seconds arguing down the claim that Marc Bolan played guitar on River Deep Mountain High. The Gownies team was introduced by Angus Deayton as "graduates of the nation's most prestigious institutions, and Birmingham Polytechnic", at which point Frank Skinner raised his arms with pride.

It would be too obvious to embed something from that episode of The Young Ones. Instead, something just as delightful.

1 comment:

Simon said...

What depresses me most on the music questions is how little the studes often seem to know/care about anything released before they were born. As a child of 1971 I can happily do 50s and 60s music questions as well as anything up to about 2005 but that attitude does not seem to have passed on.