This week celebrated the 60th anniversary of University Challenge when the popular quiz show returned to out screens last Monday with Durham v Bristol.
After this the BBC broadcasted a programme celebrating its 60th anniversary from its inception on Granada when presented by Bamber Gascoigne.
In 1974 I was first reserve on our Magdalene College team and travelled up to and back from the Granada studios in Manchester in a coach of rowdy and drunken revellers from the college.
We lost comprehensively to Trinity College Oxford.
Bamber Gascoigne, who attended Magdalene too, introduced himself. He was a courteous and well-educated man.
I recall him – when asked about silly questions from viewers – replying that one such viewer was certain that the team sitting on top invariably won, believing there was some form of upper and lower couchette train configuration, when in fact then as now the teams were positioned level in the studio.
The celebration programme was presented by Sameira Ahmed and was pretty humourless though it reflected the BBC’s diversity agenda as most of the contestants interviewed were of ethnic origin and there is a new question setter aged 23 who wore a Black Lives Matter T-shirt.
Said gent did not fill me with much optimism when referring to the quiz as “ pretty unique” – a contradiction in terms.
After this series ends, Jeremy Paxman will retire and Sameira Ahmed is in the running to take over.
I still prefer Bamber Gascoigne.
The original format has not changed and the familiar “Starter for ten, no conferring …” at the end continues to this day.
Two elements are vital: the questions and the presenter.
Viewers like such quizzes because it enables them to pit their knowledge against university graduates.
The broadcasting company has a low cost base.
The long-time question setter was interviewed but there was no reference to Bamber Gascoigne doing this.
His successor Jeremy Paxman is less courteous, sometimes exasperated by the wrong answer, and cajoling a team to hurry up. The tactics are that once a team achieves a lead to slow the quiz down.
The contestants are free – which makes the quiz cheap to produce – as opposed to an outside broadcast drama production or buying the rights to a sporting event.
The BBC is not much of a player these days and therefore is promoting the programme in the context of its diversity agenda.
The contestants have a platform and career opportunities to showcase their intelligence and presentability to potential employers.