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University Challenge

We Rusters seem to have our own way of getting through the festive period and mine was University Challenge whose celebrity version of alumni appeared as contestants around 8.30 pm every evening.

Following the excellent article on sit-coms I recollect and review that other staple of telly – the quiz show.

These are always popular with money men as they are cheap.

Many start life as a game show like Take Your Pick or Double Your Money. The presenter is key and Michael Miles with his opening of tricking contestants into saying “Yes or no” was so popular that he was paid £20,000 a huge salary for the sixties.

Audience participation and missing out on a bigger prize were also features of these shows.

Hughie Green, a Canadian with a distinguished flying record during the last war, was another popular presenter. He once appeared in an audience expressing extreme right wing views which rather blemished his cheerful avuncular image.

University Challenge has been going for years. Again it had a popular presenter in Bamber Gascoigne, the only person I know who bears this first name.

I have always liked the quiz as the questions are of a level that I feel pleased with myself for answering them correctly.

It also has that requirement of tag lines: “Starter for ten.” A few years ago I was invited to a rented chateau in Provence.

Who should be eating in the same restaurant as our party but Bamber Gascoigne? Of course the banter was “What is your starter for ten?”

The Xmas version had graduates who had done well either academically or in the media.

One such was Richard Coles – once of Leeds University – who appears in humourous radio programmes on a Saturday morning.

He has, as they say, a radio face bearing some resemblance to Mole in Tales of the River.

Wearing his dog collar he exuded smugness and I  found myself taking an instantaneous dislike to him.

He got many questions right but not as many as me!

His Uni (Leeds) won.

Jeremy Paxman is the presenter and  a florid one of face and remarks.

Quizmastership is bit of a last staging post for a BBC career.

Celebrity is a turn-off for me but I recall Stephen Fry – representing Queens College, Cambridge – answering correctly question after question.

In the age of Pointless long live this hardy perennial!




About Bernadette Angell

After cutting her journalistic teeth in Boston USA, Bernadette met and married an Englishman, whom she followed back to London. Two decades and three children later, they divorced. She now occupies herself as a freelance writer (credits include television soaps and radio plays) and occasional amateur gardener. More Posts