TV Cream

TV: U is for...

University Challenge

BEND AN EAR TO perhaps the most deceptive theme tune ever. The delightful peal of the bells, the Grappelliesque swagger of the fiddle, indeed the sheer busyness of this up tempo number seems to promise a quiz show of high energy and whimsy. Yet despite BAMBER “ONCE WATCHED A MAN GET A COWPAT OUT OF A TUPPERWARE SANDWICH BOX” GASCOIGNE’s best efforts (most notably trying to use his hair to jolly things along), UNIVERSITY CHALLENGE is still simply just a load of wispy-faced would-be boffins trying to answer lots of reasonably dull questions as quickly as possible. Over the years, the show has brought us any number of moments that are forever repeated in TV clipfests, most notably a curiously cold, dead-eyd Stephen Fry caring too deeply about getting his question right, and that girl with the fringe, waistcoat and Deidre Barlow spectacles getting loads of questions wrong as part of the worst performing team of all time. When the series transferred to the Beeb after a successful one-off edition as part of a night of programmes about Granada Television, the services of the ever smiling BAMBER were dispensed with in favour of JEREMY PAXMAN, then right in the middle of his attempt to carve himself out as the JEREMY CLARKSON of news reporting. Consequently the once oft-used phrase “oh bad luck” has been replaced with various barracking remarks as PAXO tries to look hard by bullying a bunch of speccy kids.



  1. burkesworks

    June 6, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    You appear to be illustrating this entry on University Challenge with a picture of Top Of The Form. While both shows could be filed under “everyday kids with unsettlingly posh speaking voices”, there’s a fair bit of difference.

    Also – no obligatory reference to Clive James being a contestant! Your standards are slipping…

  2. TV Cream

    June 6, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    Oops. Cheers for spotting this, the offending pic has now been moved. On reflection, Bamber would never have sanctioned kids with hair that long.

  3. Glenn Aylett

    June 21, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    The sort of programme the modern ITV wouldn’t go near for fears that its audience wouldn’t understand it, which explains why it is on BBC2 offering the more intelligent viewer an alternative to the second helping of Corrie, which is also in the slot occupied by another Granada institution for over 30 years: World in Action. At its height University Challenge had 12 million viewers, not all of them boffins, I might add.

  4. Paul

    November 5, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    It took me years to work out the the two teams weren’t sitting one team on top of the other so they’d fit in the goggle box.

  5. Arthur Nibble

    November 5, 2009 at 11:45 pm

    I remember an edition where one of the team on the ‘lower tier’ spent much of the programme looking to the ceiling and waving, giving the effect he was waving at the girl above him!

  6. Stuey

    August 20, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    I was on this a couple of years ago.I wasnt wearing glasses but Paxo did try to look hard having a go at me. He was pretty unpleasant backstage too,I had been a fan of his but now I think hes a pranny

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