The veteran quiz Mastermind (BBC2) is gradually changing into Telly Addicts by Noel Edmonds. That suits me, but it can’t be what Magnus Magnusson had in mind when he launched his quiz for polymaths 50 years ago.
A contestant in this Grand Final chose the sitcom Extras as his specialist subject. That’s hardly classic comedy, even by the hit-and-miss standards of its star, Ricky Gervais.
Another, like mobster Tommy Shelby, wore a waistcoat and flat cap to answer questions about Peaky Blinders in an earlier round. This time, in his general knowledge roundup, he was asked, “Pogo Patterson, Gripper Stebson, and Zammo McGuire were characters in which school children’s TV drama series that ran from 1978 to 2008?”
“Grange Hill!” I yelled at the screen. Noel would be proud of me.
Quiz: The veteran quiz Mastermind (BBC2) is gradually turning into Noel Edmonds’s Telly Addicts
And when an Aberdeen executive was questioned about the life of the Roman Caesar Augustus, television knowledge again saved me.
Inquisitor Clive Myrie asked what fruit the emperor ate shortly before his death. Fans of the 1970s toga drama I, Claudius know it was poisoned figs – with Brian Blessed as Augustus, done by his evil wife Livia (Sian Phillips).
Earlier this year I noted that Clive’s relaxed style doesn’t please some participants, and he hasn’t gotten any better. He dawdles, he chuckles, he jokes. When asked the name of the levy that replaced the purchase tax in 1973, one finalist replied: ‘VAT’. Clive clarified his answer: ‘Vee Ay Tee’, but gave him the punch line anyway.
Either it’s right or it’s wrong – and if it’s right, don’t waste precious seconds trying to correct it.
Two Stars: A contestant in this grand finale chose the sitcom Extras as his specialist subject. That’s hardly classic comedy, even by the hit-and-miss standards of its star, Ricky Gervais
But he really messed up after Stuart Field, a Sheffield clerk, had an overwhelming first round, with 14 correct answers, giving the last one when the beeper signaled he was out of time.
Clive gave a small smile of appreciation – then moved on to the next question. ‘When . . .’ he said, and continued, “I have begun, therefore I shall finish.” Stuart duly scored another run.
There was no ambiguity, no overlap. The round was over, but Clive asked another question.
In the end it didn’t matter as Stuart raced ahead on common knowledge and won the trophy by a three point margin. But such sloppiness threatens to reduce Mastermind to the status of a pub quiz.
How to build a car
Nothing threatens the status of the Bentley, a brand so flamboyant that the late Queen herself traveled in a bespoke model.
How To Build A Motor Car (Yesterday) followed the construction of a Bentley Continental GT in sequin blue, a metallic pigment created to replicate the sequins of a customer’s favorite dress.
Other cars are finished in colors inspired by lipstick, nail polish, or even a Hawaiian shirt — “tricky,” one engineer noted, “because those shirts have lots of different colors.”
Pieces of pleasantly instructive information, not too heavy on the statistics, rolled across the screen, in the form of a factory assembly line. We learned that Bentley’s upholsterers use bull skins, not cow skins, because men’s skins don’t have stretch marks.
Flashy: How To Build A Motor Car (Yesterday) followed the construction of a Bentley Continental GT in sequin blue, a metallic pigment created to copy the sequins of a customer’s favorite dress
Narrator Michael Griffiths, whose voice has the low growling rumble of a luxury vehicle, told us that the stage where the engine is mounted and matched to the car’s body is called the “wedding table.” That sounds reassuringly Victorian and suggests there might be cake involved.
The documentary took an unexpected side road in the last five minutes, when we caught a glimpse of a concept car, the EXP 100GT. Controlled by artificial intelligence, it will be self-driving – unless, one publicist suggested, you want to take the wheel as you ‘cruise through the Alps’.
Yes, on a mountain drop I wouldn’t trust a robot driver.