Friday, 14 April 2017

University Challenge 2016-17: Series Highlights

OK, my coverage of this year's UC ends tonight, with my usual end of series review. It's been a great series to watch, and to cover on here, but despite that, this could be quite hard to write.

First off, my pick for best match of each round:
  • First Round + Play-Offs: Definitely Wolfson vs SOAS, with Edinburgh vs Durham the week before a close second, and Corpus Christi vs Jesus third.
  • Second Round: Definitely Open vs Edinburgh.
  • Quarter-Finals: Wolfson vs Balliol was excellent, but for pure drama, it has to be Warwick vs Bristol.
  • The Final Three: To be honest, all were excellent, but the first final that was genuinely close throughout for a while has to get my vote.
After a few series where close matches were hard to come by, we had a good few this time then, and that has added to the excellent high standard of this series. Most of them were in the first round, and after a middle-of-the-road second round, the group stage carried on the pace, as did the final matches of the series.

In terms of teams, we were well spread again this year, though Wales was not represented. Cambridge just outranked Oxford, with six to five, while SOAS carried the flag solely for the University of London; Imperial and East London also popped in from the capital, with the latter bringing the post-'92 unis back to the show after a one series absence.

The highest score of the series was 270, achieved by SOAS in their thumping play-off victory over Durham. The biggest winning margin was 200, from Balliol's 265-65 thumping of Birmingham in the QF eliminator stage, with Bristol also scoring the same score and winning by just five less against Oriel in the second round. No more teams joined the Sub-50 club this year, the lowest score being 55, achieved by Imperial in the first round, East London in the second, and Corpus Christi in the QF qualifier stage.

Now for the highlights reel:
  • Mr Venturini's 'special interest in X-raying cheese'!
  • Oriel suggesting a Mr D Trump was involved in the Miner's Strike! Also, 'COLE PORTER?!'
  • Mr Monkman has given us too much to list! Special mention to 'Tom Bombadil!', 'Sneezy?' and 'Volfgang Pauli!', the latter of which caused me some embarrassment when, thinking about the show, I accidentally blurted it out loud at work!
  • 'Silicanes'. A harbinger of what would later happen with Open and 'Bulrich'.
  • Ms Jardine nominating a different person to give the same answer to two different questions.
  • GONG 'Monosodium glutonate.' 'That was after the gong I'm afraid!' 'Nooooooo!'
  • The return of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, and this time they were correctly identified!
  • 'Laurence Olivier?!' Also, Mr Goldman's absolutely correct justification for having a wild guess!
  • 'The Avengers?'
  • 'Oodle-oodle?'
  • 'Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging?!'
  • 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand and She Loves Me? Yeah yeah yeah?' Also, Noddy the self-employed taxi driver!
  • 'He Who Lives By The Sword Shall Perish By The Sword!' ('You'd have made a wonderful revivalist preacher!')
Can't recall anything in particular from the final five matches; that's how good and watchable they were!

If anyone can think of any more highlights, do let me know!

Now for a few serious words.

I am going to do another series on here, but one thing I'm not going to do is go online the day after and look up what the papers are saying about the match.

I'm sure some of you will be aware that the Daily Mail tried to get in touch with Messrs Potts and Pope on Twitter and requested an interview, only for both to politely refuse while at the same time insulting the publication.

The same paper published an article asking why there aren't more women on the show, in the light of yet another all-male final. Of course, this is the same paper that, not long ago, asked whether Miss Johnson of Corpus Christi 'the hottest University Challenge contestant of all time?'.

Kudos to Miss Woods of last year's winning Peterhouse team for her excellent article in the New Statesman calling it and other papers out on this appalling hypocrisy; thoroughly worth a read.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, even if I am repeating what others elsewhere say: women need to be encouraged to appear on UC, not forced to do so via some sort of quota. Unfortunately, as long as the papers/Twitterers keep objectifying them, they will remain reluctant. Kudos to those who are prepared to appear on the show, showing the papers/Twitterers they don't care what they say.

The other issue that remains at the forefront this series is the continuing presence of 'non-interruptions' on the show. Weaver's Week appear to have, rightly, stopped counting them towards the final score in their reviews, and I will continue to call them out when they come up for as long as they remain.

In response to those who may ask me what I'd do to change it, I'd make the rule 'If a contestant buzzes wrongly, and part of the question does not get read out as a result, it's a penalty', rather than the current rule which appears to be 'If a contestant buzzes wrongly while Paxo is talking, no matter whether he is literally just finishing the question, it's a penalty'.

Overall, though, it was an excellent series, I found myself enjoying it throughout, even the low scoring/one sided matches. Kudos to the teams who took part, and on Paxo, Roger Tilling and TPTB for keeping us entertained for the past nine months or so! Bring on the next series, Paxo's 24th! Correct me if I'm wrong, but does that now make him the longest serving host?

That's it for UC this series then folks. Like last year, I'll be putting this blog on the sidelines for a while, occasionally posting when I feel the need to. See yous around!


  1. Thanks for great reviews of a great series, even if it fizzled out a bit at the end (with Wolfson's unfortunate penalties affecting the result!). Good plan on remaining objective and taking less notice of the media hype, I am pretty sure though that this year has had many notable personalities hence more attention than any year I think, and I think they will be fondly remembered for years to come, even if they weren't the series winners. And I thought last year's Peterhouse Cambridge team had enough attention!

    I think SOAS' HSL match was the highest score, 270 to 85 against Durham. This was a truly impressive match, especially coming from a specialist institution and they certainly deserve some recognition despite not making it further, and we must remember the late Mr Bostock. RIP.

    Bamber Gascoigne was the presenter from 1962-87, so 25 years. Therefore Jeremy must stay till 2018-19 to match this, (he's been at the helm since 1994), and I hope he does, this is one of the few programmes which has had just 2 presenters over it's time. Future host? I personally think Mr Monkman needs to come back to this side of the Atlantic again!

    Thanks again for your stats and reviews, enjoy your break till next series!

    1. Thank you, and yes, you are quite right about SOAS's high score, will amend now.