TV Cream

Pot pourri

“You’re one step closer to that BBC Acorn computer”

The official BBC Beat The Teacher quiz book, published in 1985, contains some uncomfortably difficult questions. Were these really the type of thing fired by Howard Stableford at wide-eyed kids from the likes of Brickhill Middle School, Bedford and Monk’s Walk School, Welwyn Garden City (the eventual champions)?

1) What is the maximum number of similar-sized circular coins, placed flat on a table, that can touch the edge of one other coin of the same size?

2) What is the weight of tuppenny rice and treacle in ounces?

3) Four horses run a race. Bright Star came two places behind All At Sea. Give Us A Kiss was in the first three, and Pottipop wasn’t. Who won?

4) What could ‘HIJKLMNO’ stand for?

That last one in particular is ludicrous.

The thing is, nine times out of ten (well, seven at least) the kids faced with such riddles would fire back the responses with face-punching ease. Sometimes the teachers would upstage the lot (and Stableford, or his decreasingly convincing successors) with a look that screamed of staff-room-superiority the next morning.

Anyway, if the series was back on today, with – say – Adrian Chiles presenting (though in reality it’d be someone like Dermot O’Leary) it’s hard to believe this level of questioning would be present. Ditto the show’s creator and question-setter Clive Doig.

What year did decimalisation take place?

would become something like:

What is the four-letter name beginning with E for the currency used in, among others, France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Luxembourg, the Republic of Ireland and Italy?

And they’d still get it wrong.

(Answers to the four questions above will follow)



  1. Anonymous

    June 28, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    The difference between a possible quiz now and the quiz then is, of course, the fact that now there would not be a prize as cool as a BBC Acorn to motivate the contestant.

  2. James

    June 28, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    I remember question 4 coming up on the show! The answer, of course (*pushes glasses back up bridge of nose, Mr Logic style*) is ‘Water’, i.e. ‘H to O’.

    Whatever happened to children’s gameshows giving fairly piddling prizes to the winners, ‘Plus this computer for your school’, by the way? I was thinking this the other day. That always used to be the case in the 1980s; The kid who’d just spent half an hour answering A-Level questions whilst bobbing for spiders in warm faeces was rewarded for his efforts with a cheaply-printed t-shirt and a colouring-in set. They also won a far more impressive prize ‘For your school’ (usually the aforementioned BBC Acorn, or one of those video-disc players and a copy of the Domesday project).

    Do the schools not get a look-in these days? Was there some sort of rule in place about children’s prizes that’s since been relaxed? Maybe they could bring the idea back.

    <WEAK ‘SATIRE’> “Congratulations Diamonique, you win the complete DVD box-set of Bodger and Badger. And for your school, you’ve won something that they’ll find really useful… It’s a teacher.” </WEAK ‘SATIRE’>

    Unrelated reminiscence: Remember when Ant and Dec played the brilliant ‘Challenge Ant’? The prizes were always the same; The top ten games for a particular console, plus the console itself as the star prize. It was so strange, the way they introduced it. Dec would tell the contestant they could win “The top ten games in the Playstation 2 chart”, but then “This top-of-the-range games console”. It seemed rather awkward, like it was OK to mention the brand name one way but not another. Unless they fancied being bastards by giving the kid ten Playstation 2 games and an Xbox.

    Anyway, I’ve managed to bore myself now so I’ll leave it therrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

  3. P.L.K. Tompkinson-Schoolday (not sitting opposite the boy with the blue scarf)

    July 8, 2008 at 11:46 am

    >3) Four horses run a race. Bright Star came two places behind All At Sea.
    >Give Us A Kiss was in the first three, and Pottipop wasn’t. Who won?

    If Bright Star finishes two behind All at Sea and there are only four horses, that means All at Sea must be first (ie, Bright Star comes third) or second (ie, Bright Star comes fourth). We’re obliquely told Pottipop finishes fourth, so Bright Star must be third, which makes All at Sea the winner. The redundant clue of Give Us a Kiss was obviously a sop to the comprehensive system.

  4. Ian Jones

    July 15, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    The answers, should anyone be interested, are 1) Six; 2) 16; 3) All At Sea and 4) Water. Well done for getting those last two. A bonus question from the same source, if anyone is *still* interested: Which came first, BBC1 or BBC2?

  5. Howard Stableford

    July 24, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    BTT had a fairly dodgey start as I recall. In the first show the teacher won and as we went into the closing credits with me congratulating the teacher and the schoolboy, the boy burst into tears! Years later I met the eventual winner of BTT in the bar at Trinity College Cambridge where she was an undergrad. Sadly even that is a long time ago by now! Thanks for the great memories on this website.

  6. Paul

    April 19, 2011 at 10:23 am

    Just found this….I was the male pupil representing Brickhill Middle School, Bedford. I lost, as we all did. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To Top