2008/9 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Television
|Presented by|| Bamber Gascoigne
(1962 – 1987)
(1994 – present)
|Narrated by||Roger Tilling|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Original channel||BBC Two|
|Original run|| 1962 – 1987
1994 – Present
|Related shows||College Bowl|
University Challenge is a long-running British television quiz show, licensed and produced by Granada Television. The format is based on the American show College Bowl, which ran on NBC radio from 1953 to 1957, and on NBC TV from 1959 to 1970. College Bowl is credited in the end title.
At its inception in 1962 it was hosted by Bamber Gascoigne. When audience figures began to fall, partly thanks to less auspicious broadcast slots, 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 (e.g., sport, literature, science).
This added complexity did nothing to halt declining viewer figures, and it was taken off the air in 1987. It was eventually revived in 1994 by the BBC (although still produced by Granada), using the original format (with minor differences) and presented by Jeremy Paxman.
The original announcer was Jim Pope, who stayed with the programme from 1963 until his death in 2001. Since then, the announcer has been Roger Tilling.
The current tournament format used for a 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 exceeded winning scores in other first round matches, fill the remaining places in the last 16.
"Starter" questions are answered individually "on the buzzer" without conferring and are worth 10 points. "Your starter for 10" became its most famous catchphrase & inspired a novel & a 2006 movie. The team answering a starter correctly gets a set of "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. Generally there are three separate bonus questions worth 5 points each, but occasionally a bonus will require the enumeration of a given list with 5, 10 or 15 points given for correctly giving a certain number of items from the list (e.g., "there are six fundamental SI units. Give 4 for 5 points, 5 for 10 points or all 6 for 15 points"). An incorrect interruption of a starter results in a 5 point penalty.
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!"
While the starter questions are being read out, the teams are shown on screen one above the other by means of a split-screen effect. When a player buzzes in, the shot zooms in to that player, accompanied by a voice-over identifying the player by team and surname, for example "Nottingham, Smith". The voiceovers are performed live in the studio by Roger Tilling and become noticeably more energetic towards the end of the programme.
The fact that the Oxford and Cambridge universities can enter each of their colleges as a separate team despite not being universities in the conventional sense was the ostensible inspiration for an unusual 1975 protest. A team from the University of Manchester (which included David Aaronovitch) who were appearing on the show answered every question "Che Guevara", "Marx", "Trotsky" or "Lenin", possibly in the hope of making the resulting show unbroadcastable. It did, however, get broadcast, although only portions of the episode still exist in the archives of Granada TV.
The University of Essex is the only institution to have been banned from the show. They allegedly "trashed" the set after an appearance.
Although the show has since its revival in 1994 featured a number of very high-standard teams with members of a student age, one trend has been an increasing number of teams which have featured mature students, who are thought to have the advantage of a greater breadth of general knowledge. The Open University won the 1999 series with a team whose age averaged 46, which included three of the four team members who were former Brain of Britain and Mastermind finalists or otherwise professional quiz show contestants, and who had only joined the OU specifically in order to appear on the show. In the quarter-final they beat a slightly younger team from part-time and mature student specialist Birkbeck, University of London by only one question. Host Jeremy Paxman openly criticised the OU team as not being in the spirit of the competition. The 2003 final was contested between two teams of mature students, with Birkbeck, University of London defeating Cranfield University.
- David Aaronovitch - University of Manchester, 1975
- Sebastian Faulks - Emmanuel College, Cambridge, 1972
- Julian Fellowes - Magdalene College, Cambridge, 1969
- Stephen Fry - Queens' College, Cambridge, 1980
- Clive James - Pembroke College, Cambridge
- David Lidington - Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, 1978
- Miriam Margolyes - Newnham College, Cambridge, 1963
- David Mellor - Christ's College, Cambridge
- Charles Moore - Trinity College, Cambridge
- Malcolm Rifkind - University of Edinburgh, 1967
- John Simpson - Magdalene College, Cambridge, 1964
- David Starkey - Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge
- June Tabor - St Hugh's College, Oxford, 1968
The producers of the programme have taken the more recent inclusion of mature students to its logical conclusion by making two series without any student participants: University Challenge Reunited (2002) brought former teams back together, while University Challenge: The Professionals (from 2003) matched occupational groups such as civil servants, architects and doctors against each other. In 2003, the former was won by the 1979 team from Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, the latter by a team from the Inland Revenue. The 2004 Professionals series was won by the British Library, and the 2005 series by the Privy Council Office. In 2006, Professionals was won by staff of the Bodleian Library of Oxford.
Sixth Form Challenge, hosted by Chris Kelly, appeared briefly in 1965-7. An untelevised equivalent, Schools' Challenge continues to run at junior-high and senior-high school level.
University Challenge ran in New Zealand for 14 seasons, from 1976 until 1989, with international series held between the previous years' British and New Zealand champions in both 1986 and 1987.
University Challenge, hosted by Dr Magnus Clarke, ran in Australia on the ABC from 1987 until 1989.
University Challenge India started in summer 2003, with the season culminating in the finals of March 2004 where Sardar Patel College of Engineering (SPCE), Bombay, beat Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad. The 2004-05 season finale saw a team of undergraduate engineering students from Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology (NSIT), Delhi, beat a team of management students from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Kozhikode.The Indian winners of the 2003-04 season went on to beat the finalists from the UK show, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. UC India is produced by BBC World India, and Synergy communications, co-owned by Siddhartha Basu, who also hosts the show.
The show has seen numerous specials, including those for specific professions and celebrity editions, such as Universe Challenge, where the cast of Red Dwarf challenged a team of their "ultimate fans" to celebrate Red Dwarf's 10th anniversary on the air. The cast was Chris Barrie (captain), Danny John-Jules, Robert Llewellyn, Chloe Annett and Craig Charles. The cast, who at times seemed amazed at the fans' knowledge, lost.
|1965||New College, Oxford|
|1966||Oriel College, Oxford|
|1970||Churchill College, Cambridge|
|1971||Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge|
|1972||University College, Oxford|
|1973||Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge|
|1974||Trinity College, Cambridge|
|1975||Keble College, Oxford|
|1976||University College, Oxford|
|1978||Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge|
|1979||University of Bradford|
|1980||Merton College, Oxford|
|1981||Queen's University of Belfast|
|1984||The Open University|
|1985||Jesus College, Oxford|
|1986||Keble College, Oxford|
|1995||Trinity College, Cambridge||New College, Oxford|
|1996||Imperial College London||London School of Economics|
|1997||Magdalen College, Oxford||Open University|
|1998||Magdalen College, Oxford||Birkbeck, University of London|
|1999||Open University||Oriel College, Oxford|
|2000||University of Durham||Oriel College, Oxford|
|2001||Imperial College London||St John's College, Oxford|
|2002||Somerville College, Oxford||Imperial College London|
|2003||Birkbeck, University of London||Cranfield University|
|2004||Magdalen College, Oxford||Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge|
|2005||Corpus Christi College, Oxford||University College London|
|2006||University of Manchester||Trinity Hall, Cambridge|
|2007||University of Warwick||University of Manchester|
The lowest score during a regular series was by New Hall, Cambridge, who totalled just 35 in 1997, thus taking the title, which had previously been held by Birkbeck, University of London. However, the score would have been lower if all fines for incorrect interruptions had been applied. The University of Bradford also scored 35 in 2004, as did the Royal Naval College in the 2003 Professionals series.
However, the all-time low for the Paxman era was also achieved in the 2003 Professionals series, when the Members of Parliament team scored only 25.
In 2006, Robinson College, Cambridge scored 40 points. Other teams to score only 40 have included Oxford Brookes University (1998); University of St Andrews (2001 and 2004); Keele University (2002) and Queen's University Belfast (2005).
|Year||Special Event||Winners||Runners Up|
|1986||International best of three series||Great Britain ( Jesus College, Oxford, 1985)||New Zealand ( University of Auckland, 1985)|
|1987||International best of three series||Great Britain ( Keble College, Oxford, 1986)||New Zealand ( University of Otago, 1986)|
|1993||Celebrity match||Celebrity Past Contestants ( John Simpson, Charles Moore, Stephen Fry, Alastair Little)||Keble College, Oxford, 1987|
|1997||College Bowl Challenge||University of Michigan||Imperial College London, 1996|
|1998||College Bowl Challenge||USA||UK|
|1998||Mastermind Challenge||Magdalen College, Oxford, 1997||Imperial College London, 1996|
|1998||Universe Challenge||Red Dwarf Fans: (Darryl Ball, Kaley Nichols, Steve Rogers [Chairman of the Official Red Dwarf Fan Club], Pip Swallow, Sharon Burnett [Co-author of The Red Dwarf Quiz Book])||Red Dwarf Cast: ( Robert Llewellyn, Danny John-Jules, Chris Barrie, Chloë Annett, Craig Charles)|
|1999||Challenge||Magdalen College, Oxford, 1998||Leicester, 1963|
|2002||University Challenge: Reunited||Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, 1979||Keele, 1968|
|2003||University Challenge: The Professionals||The Inland Revenue||Royal Meteorological Society|
|2003||Comic Relief match||The Townies: ( Jeremy Beadle, Danny Baker, Johnny Vaughan, Gina Yashere)||The Gownies: ( David Baddiel, Frank Skinner, Stephen Fry, Clive Anderson)|
|2004||International "Grand Final": UK vs India||Sardar Patel College of Engineering (SPCE), Mumbai: (Nirad Inamdar, Bharat Jayakumar, Nishad Manerikar, Shrijit Plappally)||Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge: (Laura Ashe, Darren Khodaverdi, Lameen Souag, Edward Wallace)|
|2004||University Challenge: The Professionals||British Library||Oxford University Press|
|2004||Christmas Special 1||Television ( Monty Don, Martha Kearney, Andrew Neil, Clare Balding)||Radio ( Henry Blofeld, Jenni Murray, Ned Sherrin, Roger Bolton)|
|Christmas Special 2||Critics ( Waldemar Januszczak, Russell Davies, Brian Sewell, Andrew Graham-Dixon)||Theatre|
|Christmas Specials: Final||Critics||Television|
|2005||Comic Relief 2005 Match||The South ( Sarah Alexander, Hugh Grant, Stephen Fry, Omid Djalili)||The North ( Colin Murray, John Thomson, Armando Iannucci, Neil Morrissey)|
|2005||University Challenge: The Professionals||Privy Council Office||Romantic Novelists' Association|
|2006||University Challenge: The Professionals||Bodleian Library||Royal Statistical Society|
University Challenge in popular culture
- David Nicholls's novel Starter for Ten is based around one student's part in a University Challenge team whilst at the University of Bristol (based on Nicholls' own alma mater), The title is of course taken from the programme's catchphrase. The novel has been adapted into a film of the same name, released in 2006 ( November 10 in the UK). Mark Gatiss played Bamber Gascoigne.
- In 1984, an episode of The Young Ones, entitled " Bambi", centred around a spoof of University Challenge with a match between the fictitious teams of Scumbag College and Footlights College, Oxbridge. One of the teams (Scumbag College) in the episode's University Challenge studio were physically above the other team. The Footlights team included Stephen Fry who particpated in the real competition in 1980.
- The song 'My Perfect Cousin' by The Undertones contains the couplet "He thinks that I'm a cabbage / 'Cos I hate University Challenge." It appears on the album Hypnotised.
- A quiz themed around BBC science fiction sitcom Red Dwarf, broadcast in 1998, was entitled Universe Challenge. It opened as if it were a regular episode, but with Chris Barrie imitating Jeremy Paxman. Bamber comes from behind with a blaster gun and blows him out of the chair, so he can host. This was Bamber Gascoigne's last appearance as host.
- In a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000, voted for by industry professionals, University Challenge was placed 34th.
- Not the Nine O'Clock News featured a spoof of University Challenge, pitting contestants from Parkhurst Prison and Wormwood Scrubs against each other. After convict Stephenson, played by Mel Smith, answered the first question, a policeman popped up from behind the counter to take notes, next to Griff Rhys Jones, imitating Bamber Gascoigne.