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Monday Night really is Quiz Night

For at least 20 years Monday has been Quiz Night. Since the start of this century, when there were far fewer quiz shows on TV than there are now, “University Challenge” on BBC2 was one weekly show that I never missed, either live or recorded. The recordings were always on video. There was no iPlayer, there were no other catch-up services, so you had to plan ahead if you wanted to record a programme for later viewing.

Over 10 years ago, “Only Connect” joined “University Challenge” to become an essential part of Monday night viewing. Initially broadcast on BBC4, it switched to BBC2 in 2014. As I have noted elsewhere, it used to follow on from “University Challenge”, occupying an hour of screen time from 8pm onwards. Since 2018 the programme order has been switched: “Only Connect” at 8pm, “University Challenge” at 8.30pm. Before Christmas I still hadn’t adjusted to this change and would usually watch “University Challenge” live, followed by the recording of “Only Connect”.

These days the recordings are digital, on the multi-channel box beside the TV, but if that should fail we can always catch up on the iPlayer. I say “we”, but it’s usually just me. My wife has always been an occasional rather than committed viewer of Monday night’s entertainment. Our children (now aged 13 and 15) were rather put off by watching whole episodes of both shows where they didn’t know a single answer. They have a much better chance with the questions on early evening shows like “The Chase”, “Pointless” and Richard Osman’s “House of Games”. The last of these currently occupies the 6pm slot on BBC2 which had been home to “Eggheads” for much of the last 15 years.

Since December there has been a further change to BBC2’s quizzing schedule: “Mastermind” has been moved from its Friday night slot to 7.30pm on Monday, immediately before “Only Connect”. This makes for a near-relentless 90 minutes of quiz questions, with a minimum of chat, very little background information, and of course no ad-breaks. I am not entirely comfortable with this, and have yet to remain in place, in front of the TV, for the full hour and a half that John Humphrys, Victoria Coren Mitchell and Jeremy Paxman are firing questions at the contestants. Has anyone managed to do this? Is it advisable? If you’re concentrating on all three programmes, rather than having them on in the background, I don’t believe that it’s possible to watch them back-to-back.

There is another reason why I have not committed to 90 minutes of uninterrupted BBC2 viewing. My son does a dance class on Monday evenings at a remarkably well-resourced local theatre. We return after 7pm and the four of us are usually eating dinner from 7.30pm onwards. Typically, once we’ve finished and my daughter is heading upstairs to bed, I will start watching “Only Connect” live from around 8.20pm, in time for a Connecting Wall or two, the Missing Vowels round, and confirmation of who the winners are. Then it’s “University Challenge” live.

After that, I catch up with the rest of the night’s quizzing, broken down into manageable chunks, before bedtime. This is usually in the form of the general knowledge questions on “Mastermind” (which reveals the winner of the show) followed by the start of “Only Connect” (and most weeks the rest of the show, including the part that I watched live) and finally the start of “Mastermind”, with its special subject rounds. From time to time, if there are topics that I am particularly interested in, I will watch “Mastermind” in conventional linear fashion, from start to finish. This happened last week when one of the contestants chose The Undertones as a special subject. I scored a disappointing 6 points on one of my favourite bands. Naturally I hadn’t done any revision on the subject, but I had hoped to do better.

Last night the quiz catch-up was even later than usual, after Arsenal’s 5th Round FA Cup win at Portsmouth. I was simultaneously keeping an eye on Middlesbrough v Nottingham Forest in the Championship (a 2-2 draw which leaves Forest in fourth place, 8 points behind Leeds in second) so I started watching “Mastermind” just after 10pm. In recent weeks I have considered saving “Mastermind” until Friday evening, because that’s where it belongs. For now, though I am keeping up-to-date with it, along with “University Challenge” and “Only Connect”, at the very start of the week.

Monday night really is Quiz Night.




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