Last summer, in this piece, I compared “The New Trivia Season” with the start of the English football season. New series of the following three quiz shows began in July, all screened on BBC2: “University Challenge”, “Only Connect” and “Mastermind”. They all reached their series finales in March and April this year.
First was “Mastermind” (30 March), won by Brian Chesney. You can see his final round here, and this page has clips introducing each of the six finalists. For the show itself the finalists were filmed in places associated with their special subjects, as far afield as the USA and India. This looks like a perk of getting to the grand final: pick a special subject linked to somewhere you are keen to visit and you’ll get a free trip there. Maybe in the future someone will pick “Jazz Clubs of New Orleans” or “Las Vegas Hotels” to take full advantage of this.
The “University Challenge” final was on 23 April, anticipated in this piece from last month. It’s available on this link for the next 12 days. I disclose the winner of the series in the following paragraph, so if you want to watch the show first do so now, and come back when you’re done.
In last year’s final, as I noted in this piece from last year, Wolfson Cambridge lost to Balliol Oxford, and that took the number of different Oxford colleges who have won the competition to 11, compared to 7 from Cambridge. If Wolfson had won, the ratio would have been 10:8. This year a different Cambridge college (St John’s) became champions for the first time, beating Merton Oxford to become the 8th Cambridge team to win. It takes the ratio to 11:8 in favour of Oxford colleges. Overall, teams from Oxford have won 16 series, compared to 11 for Cambridge and 20 for teams outside Oxbridge. It was a close match but Rosie McKeown made the difference for St John’s, with a performance to rival previous Cambridge contestants Ted Loveday (Gonville and Caius 2015) and Oscar Powell (Peterhouse 2016).
For the record, here are the winning teams, ordered by university and the year of a team’s first win:
Non-Oxbridge (20 series, 13 teams): Leicester (1963), Sussex (1967, 1969), Keele (1968), Durham (1977, 2000), Bradford (1979), Queen’s University Belfast (1981), St Andrews (1982), Dundee (1983), Open University (1984, 1999), Imperial College, London (1996, 2001), Birkbeck College, London (2003), Manchester (2006, 2009, 2012, 2013), Warwick (2007)
Oxford (16 series, 11 teams): New College (1965), Oriel (1966), University College (1972, 1976), Keble (1975, 1987), Merton (1980), Jesus (1986), Magdalen (1997, 1998, 2004, 2011), Somerville (2002), Corpus Christi (2005), Christ Church (2008), Balliol (2017)
Cambridge (11 series, 8 teams): Churchill (1970), Sidney Sussex (1971, 1978), Fitzwilliam (1973), Trinity (1974, 1995, 2014), Emmanuel (2010), Gonville and Caius (2015), Peterhouse (2016), St John’s (2018)
(I have taken the basic information from Shaun Blanchflower’s excellent “University Challenge” site and adapted it to produce these lists.)
The final of “Only Connect”, on 30 April, is still available here for the next 19 days. Again, if you want to watch the show before I reveal the result in the next paragraph, do so now and come back when you’re finished.
When the current series of “Only Connect” began last July, it formed part of a Friday evening quizzing double bill with “Mastermind”. This all changed in January when it was shifted to 8pm on a Monday. This bumped “University Challenge” down the schedule by 30 minutes, to 8.30pm. I couldn’t get used to it. Many years ago, when “Only Connect” was on BBC4, it used to follow the 8pm broadcast of “University Challenge”. Even by April it felt like they were being shown the wrong way round. Most weeks I would watch them in the order they used to be shown (“University Challenge” live followed by a recording of “Only Connect”). In this year’s final The Escapologists beat the Belgophiles, with Frank Paul’s knowledge of mountweazels contributing 3 points to their total. His explanation of the term (which is defined by Dictionary.com as “any invented word or name inserted in a reference work by a publisher for the purpose of detecting plagiarism”) prompted Victoria Coren Mitchell to declare, “If I wasn’t married already, Frank, I’m serious…” (It’s at 5:13 here, until 3 June 2018.)
In the nine months that it took for these shows to reach their conclusions, a number of formats have come and gone, including the weekday shows “Tenable” (three series of 20 shows each, and mentioned in many pieces, starting with this one), “Alphabetical” (as noted here) and “Impossible” (mentioned here). “Britain’s Brightest Family” (first mentioned here) aired on Wednesday nights and also produced a series winner, the Curtis family beating the Colliers on 25 April. When the Trivia Season began, “The Chase” was absent from in its regular 5pm slot on ITV (replaced by Bradley Walsh’s “Cash Trapped”) and “Pointless” on BBC1 was showing repeats. Now both of these well-established tea-time quiz shows are broadcasting new episodes, and “Pointless” has had a makeover for its 2018 series. “Eggheads” continues in its 6pm slot weekdays on BBC2.
A new quiz format has been launched on BBC1 this week, “Hardball”, presented by Ore Oduba. The biggest beast of them all, “Who wants to be a millionaire?” returned for a week earlier this month to celebrate its 20th anniversary. Jeremy Clarkson was the host, and “Ask the host” was introduced as a new lifeline for contestants. We learnt that he doesn’t know that Beavers are the youngest members of the Scout Association, or that St Jude is the patron saint of hopeless causes, or that an ibex is a goat. I didn’t know the latter fact either. I thought it was a deer, just like the contestant who lost £15,000 on this answer. (You can see the incident here.)
The football season is also nearly over. I am typing these words a few minutes after Athletico Madrid’s 3-0 win over Marseille in the Europa League Final and by the end of the month we will know the winners of the FA Cup, Champions League and Play-Off Finals. There won’t be much respite before the World Cup begins on 14 June but we have at least two months before the next Trivia Season begins.