This monthly round-up of trivia seems to have displaced monthly round-ups with different themes that occupied my mind last year. In 2016 there were light-hearted “Coincidence Corner” pieces for a few months, and regular pieces about Earworms. These days my brain seems to be filled with trivia and quiz questions.
As I noted last month quiz shows constitute a significant amount of our family viewing. We have been fans of “Pointless” for many years and in recent months have taken to watching most episodes of “The Chase”. Both shows are now on series record. During the Easter Holidays I added “Fifteen to One” to the series record list. It was building up to a Grand Final on Friday 21 April. Earlier this year I read Marcus Berkman’s “A Matter of Facts”, which covers pub quizzes and game shows up to 2008. At that point “Who wants to be a millionaire?” and “The Weakest Link” were the top-rated quiz shows but neither has been aired on the main BBC and ITV channels for some years now. At the time of Berkman’s book “Fifteen to One” had been off air for many years but it’s back now with Sandi Toksvig as its host. I rarely watched the show in its previous incarnation, presented by William G Stewart. “Countdown” was the only Channel 4 afternoon show that I caught regularly, as I wrote here, and I guess that the “Fifteen to One” was replaced by “Deal or no Deal”.
During his Easter Holidays my 12-year-old son and I watched the recording of “Fifteen to One” most days, and occasionally we caught some of it live. Having added the show to the regular recordings of “Pointless” and “The Chase” I began to wonder if I had reached Peak Quizzing. I asked him and my 10-year-old daughter if they could work out how many questions a day we were being exposed to if we watched all three shows. I figured it’s around 100 each on “The Chase” and “Fifteen to One” and that there are at least 100 bits of information (much of it unfamiliar) contained in each episode of “Pointless”. So, if we were to watch all three shows on the same day we would be getting 300 chunks of information thrown at us. Multiply that by 5 and then 50 and you have 1500 facts (new or otherwise) in a week and 75,000 in a year. That’s a lot of information, and doesn’t include other formats like “University Challenge”, “Mastermind”, “Only Connect” and “Pointless Celebrities”.
For two of the formats that we watch regularly the total number of questions in the series so far was announced in the final show. In the “Fifteen to One” Grand Final on 21 April Sandi Toksvig told us that there had been 4,370 questions in 49 shows (an average of 89 questions per show). In the Series Final of “University Challenge” on 10 April Jeremy Paxman told us that there had been 2,794 questions so far. Spread out over 37 shows that meant an average of 75.5 questions per show.
I can’t bring myself to watch all of the “University Challenge” final right now because I already know the result. We were at a Passover Meal when it was broadcast and I found out on my phone what had happened. Eric Monkman’s team from Wolfson College Cambridge lost to Balliol Oxford. Neither side had won the title before. It means that 11 different Oxford colleges have been champions compared to 7 different Cambridge colleges. If Wolfson had won, the ratio would be 10:8. I wrote yesterday that this has been a terrible month for the teams and individuals that I follow in various sports (Leeds United FC, Kilkenny hurling, Cambridge in the Boat Race and Ronnie O’Sullivan in the World Snooker Championship). The only quiz competition where I cared about the result has gone the same way as the men’s Boat Race, depriving Cambridge of four “University Challenge” titles in a row. Writing about last year’s final I noted that watching it for a second time had made me feel very happy. I know that watching this month’s final all the way through will not, but I’ll get around to it sometime.