In its 70 year history University Challenge has only had 3 quizmasters: Bamber Gascoigne, Jeremy Paxman and now the BBC’s media editor Amol Rajan.
He made his debut last night in a contest between Trinity College and the University of Manchester which ended in a tie with 175 points respectively.
Rajan played an unassuming rôle – not as courteous as Bamber Gascoigne, not as acerbic as Jeremy Paxman.
When one contestant successfully interrupted he reacted with a ‘Wow’ and sometimes goaded a team for a quicker answer but he was generally unobtrusive.
The success of the programme is its format and of course – as the contestants are unpaid – it’s cheap fodder.
I also enjoyed a recording I made of Simon Sebag Montefiore’s history of Vienna. I enjoyed his book on Jerusalem.
He is a popular historian and – although I do not care for the cut away shot as he leaves a monument – he knows his stuff. I was interested to learn that Adolf Hitler – as a painter of postcards – and Josef Stalin, sent by Lenin, were both in Vienna at the same time.
Around 1910 when Hitler was there, Vienna had a virulently anti-semitic mayor called Lüge who shaped his views.
Ironically, at the same time Vienna had an extraordinary period of intellectual, musical and literary achievement – epitomised by such Jews as Sigismund Freud, Gustav Mahler and Stefan Zweig.