Producer rejects Mastermind 'dumbing down' claim

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The Independent Culture

Mastermind programme-makers defended the show against "dumbing down" claims.

Series producer Jon Kelly said it was a "common misconception" that the BBC2 quiz did not use to include popular culture subjects.

The show, which included Jennifer Aniston as a specialist subject in 2007, is spawning a Champion of Champions series pitting older winners against more recent ones.

Kelly told the Radio Times: "The show reflects the interests of modern Britain and they can be popular culture subjects.

"I think there's a common misconception that the previous Mastermind didn't have any popular subjects, but it did.

"Punk rock was once a subject, as was Doctor Who. People like to think that the olden days were better."

Rejected subjects included Routes to Anywhere in Mainland Britain by Road from Letchworth, the Banana Industry and Orthopaedic Bone Cement in Total Hip Replacement.

"They have to be subjects that we can set questions on that are interesting and engaging to the viewers," said Kelly.

"We rule out things that we have done too recently and the subject has to be sufficiently dense that we can write enough questions."

Last autumn Jeremy Paxman was quoted as saying questions on Mastermind became easier, while University Challenge "dumbed up".

Kelly also warned against potential contenders picking subjects that were too broad.

He said: "One man wanted to do The History of the World since Jesus Christ.

"We told him he'd better narrow it down. He came back with The History of Europe Since Jesus Christ.

"We realised then that he wasn't for us."

:: The full interview appears in the latest issue of the Radio Times.