University Challenge

University Challenge



Sad – perhaps – but a day away from Temple Balsall and two rather problematic journeys  down the M40 – rain and snow –  ice and fog sent me to the TV for relaxation!

I was gald to watch University Challenge. I failed to get into the Kings College team in 1980 and so am full of admiration for those clever students!!

Here is a reminder od the harmless ‘deal’:

At its inception in 1962, University Challenge was hosted by Bamber Gascoigne. Whenever audience figures began to fall (for example, due to its less-than-auspicious broadcast slots such as Sunday afternoons, weekday mornings and afternoons and, in some regions, late at night), changes were made to the long-standing format of the programme: initial games were staged over two legs, the second leg involving contestants selecting questions from specific categories such as sport, literature and science.

This added complexity did little to halt declining viewer figures, and after ITV regions started to drop the programme altogether (the final season was not screened at all by LWT) it was taken off the air in 1987. It was eventually revived in 1994 by the BBC, although still produced by Granada Television, using the original format with minor differences and presented by Jeremy Paxman.

 The current tournament format used for each series is that of a direct knockout tournament starting with 28 teams. The 14 first-round winners progress directly to the last 16. Two matches, involving the four highest scoring losing teams from the first round whose losing scores often exceed winning scores in other first-round matches, fill the remaining places in the last 16.

Teams consist of four members and represent either a single university or a college of the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Wales or London.

“Starter” questions are answered individually “on the buzzer” without conferring and are worth 10 points.  The team answering a starter correctly gets a set of three “bonus” questions worth a potential 15 points over which they can confer. Sets of bonus questions are thematically linked, although they rarely share a connection with the preceding starter question. 

It is the team captain’s responsibility to give the answer to the bonus questions, unless he specifically defers to another member of his team with the phrase “Nominate [name]”. The team member so named may then give the answer in place of the captain.

In the course of a game there are two “picture rounds” (occurring roughly one quarter and three quarters of the way through) and one “music round” (at the halfway point), where the subsequent bonuses are connected thematically to the starter; if a picture or music starter is not correctly answered, the accompanying bonus questions are held back until a normal starter is correctly answered.

The pace of questioning gradually increases through the show, becoming almost frantic in the last minute or so before the “gong” which signals the end of the game. In the event of a tied score at the sound of the gong, a “sudden death” question is asked, the first team to answer correctly being deemed the winner; this is repeated until one or other of the teams answer correctly, or a team loses by giving an incorrect interruption. The ending of the programme is signified with Jeremy Paxman saying “It’s goodbye from (name of losing team, who wave and say goodbye), it’s goodbye from (winning team, likewise), and it’s goodbye from me: goodbye!”

The show has, since its revival in 1994, featured a number of very high-standard teams with postgraduate and mature student, who might be thought of as having the advantage of a greater breadth of general knowledge.The Open University(OU) won the 1999 series with a team whose age averaged 46.

One thought on “University Challenge

  1. Some of us are astounded if we manage to answer 5 questions in one show. Usually I don’t even understand the questions!

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