Our viewing habits remain the same. The quiz shows mentioned in last month’s round-up of recent trivia are still on series record, and my children and I watch many of them together. “Pointless” has been part of our family viewing for many years, and now so is “The Chase”. My 12-year-old son has recently become an enthusiastic watcher of “University Challenge” with me, and has become familiar with many of the contestants now that we are past the quarter-final stage. The current format of the show means that each of the last eight teams plays at least two (and sometimes three) quarter-finals, and they have all appeared in at least two earlier rounds to get to this stage. Wolfson College Cambridge are already in the final and Edinburgh will face Balliol College Oxford next Monday for the right to play them. Earlier in the quarter-finals Wolfson beat Balliol but lost to Edinburgh so whatever happens the final will be a re-match from a previous round.
Like many viewers I enjoy watching Eric Monkman, the Wolfson captain, and will be supporting his team in the final, whoever they’re playing. As I wrote in this piece, Peterhouse Cambridge’s victory in last year’s final gave Cambridge three consecutive wins, the first time that any university has managed this. Four in a row would be even better.
During the last month’s episodes of “University Challenge”, “Only Connect”, “The Chase”, “Pointless”, “Who Dares Wins” and even the odd 15-minute burst of “Fifteen to One” (it’s back, I hadn’t realized), there have been so many questions repeated across the different formats that I have lost count. Some years ago Jeremy Paxman asked a question about “a fictional family”, describing their location and some of the things that had happened to them. Neither side buzzed in. The answer was “The Simpsons” and in giving the answer he said, “It’s “The Simpsons”. It’s always “The Simpsons”!” There are other types of question where the same answers come up repeatedly. A question beginning, “Which Tsar …” will often be Nicholas II (last Russian Tsar, last of the Romanovs, Tsar at the time of the Russian Revolution, died in 1918). At least three times in recent weeks it has been the answer to a question on one of these quiz shows. I have turned to one or both of my children and said, echoing Jeremy Paxman, “It’s Nicholas II. It’s always Nicholas II!” If a question begins “What kind of creature is a …” the answer is usually a bird. It if begins “Which English painter …” it’s usually JMW Turner.
In recent weeks there have been questions on episodes of “The Chase” and “Pointless”, while the shows were being broadcast simultaneously on different channels, which had the same answers. One evening (okay, it was 15 March 2017, I made a note of it) the answer was “An Englishman in New York”. In “The Chase” Bradley Walsh read out a line from the lyrics and asked the contestant to name the song, and in “Pointless” the question was about missing place-names: complete this 1987 song: “An Englishman in — —-“ On another occasion Psy was the answer to a picture round in “Pointless” and the answer to the question “Who recorded “Gangnam Style?” on “The Chase”.
Earlier this month I wrote a piece specifically about “Who Dares Wins”, and how it makes me think in 15s (15 countries beginning with B, 15 Premiership football grounds and so on). Last Saturday there was a question about English pub names. (It was in an earlier round, where couples predict how many items in a list they can name; in the jackpot the contestants need to give 15 answers to win £50,000.) A couple believed that they could name 12 of the 246 most common pub names but came unstuck after two. The King’s Head and the Queen Victoria were there but “The Duck and Hound” was not. Not for the first time I was shouting at the TV. “Duck and Hound? Duck and Hound? Really?” The list that they used came “from information provided to the show by The Campaign for Real Ale and What Pub”. I can’t find a list with 246 names, but this one, from pubsgalore.co.uk, has 252, so it must be similar. I knew that there are more Red Lions than any other pub, and knew that the White Hart was high up the list, but beyond that wasn’t certain of what else was in the top 20. How many could you name? (And remember, the Duck and Hound is not one of them.)