Clive Anderson turns to cable TV to mastermind his comeback

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The Independent Online

The barrister turned talk-show host Clive Anderson demonstrated a humility to match his famed wit yesterday by revealing that he is turning to the Discovery Channel to resurrect his career, with a remake of Mastermind.

Five years ago, the satellite television schedules would have seemed a galaxy away from Anderson, when his Clive Anderson Talks Back show on Channel 4 pulled in 3.32 million viewers (making it the channel's sixth most popular programme). That was before his most recent BBC series, Clive Anderson Now, slumped. He has not appeared on the television screen since.

His salvation comes in succeeding Magnus Magnusson as the new host of the national institution, which had a 25-year run until it was ended in 1995. The new Mastermind series will be made by the BBC but screened on the Discovery Channel as part of its autumn and winter seasons.

Anderson owes some of his misfortunes to the corporation's former controller Peter Salmon who, after defecting to the BBC from Channel 4, decided that a change from Mr Anderson's All Talk show to Clive Anderson Now, a current affairs-oriented programme, would be a good ratings move.

It was certainly not. Anderson told a newspaper less than a week ago that he was in "netherworld", adding: "It is a bit frustrating. Things come and go in television. At the moment they've gone."

However, the presenter appeared yesterday to be in more positive spirits, saying he was "very much looking forward" to hosting the show, which will retain its original format, with four contestants taking a turn in the spotlight on the famous black chair, with a rounds of specialist and general knowledge questions.

"I've always enjoyed watching it," Anderson said. "I think it really welcomes the viewer by encouraging them to side with one of the contestants. Of course there are always those who think they're the experts after answering one or two specialised questions.

"I think my own specialised subject would be the history of Arsenal FC."

The show will also have an interactive element for viewers who watch the show through Sky Digital. They can answer each time Anderson asks a general knowledge question and will be given a final score at the end of the round.

Viewers who record high scores will be invited to submit them to the station and compete in a viewers' final.

Anderson has been keen to defend his BBC employers in explaining his absence from the screen. He said recently: "I have never had an exclusive deal because I thought, rightly or wrongly, that that would give me more flexibility."

He added: "Well, the downside of more flexibility is that, if they don't renew the contract, then you're scrapped and you have to look around for something to do."

Anderson also hosts a series on BBC Radio 4, Unreliable Evidence, and has been interviewing performers at this year's Edinburgh Festival.