Nine years on from his first appearance on The Weakest Link, The Independent's Archie Bland is celebrating after he returned to take part in the final edition of the show – and pulled off a stunning victory.
Bland, the paper's Saturday Editor, was a 19-year-old student when he stepped behind the podium in 2003, enduring a torrid time at the hands of host Anne Robinson, who made great play of his "silly name, being at Cambridge University, and my parents' big house", as Bland wrote recently. On that occasion he was sent home after a few rounds, unanimously voted off by his fellow contestants. Despite that humbling, the Queen of Mean remembered him, and when she had to choose her nine favourite contestants for the finale – out of more than 11,000 from the 1,692 previous shows – Bland's was one of the names she alighted on.
Now 28, Bland still had to put up with Robinson calling him "Little Archie" throughout the final programme – broadcast on Saturday – but it was a small price to pay for his ultimate triumph. He dealt comfortably with such relatively untaxing teasers as "Crouching Tiger – Hidden what?" (Dragon), and "Dance of the Sugar Plum what?" (Fairy). But though a keen football fan, he slipped up when saying that it was Brazil, not Italy, which was the European country that won the 1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006 World Cups – an answer that might lead some to question the geographical expertise of a former Foreign Editor. Nonetheless, it was not enough to stop him from making the final shoot-out.
And while his opponent, 19-year-old student Phil Green, had a tough task in being required to name the four countries in which the seven Ancient Wonders of the World had been located (they are Turkey, Iraq, Greece, and Egypt), Bland had – for him – the somewhat easier challenge of naming the German driver who has won the last two Formula 1 world championships, correctly answering Sebastian Vettel.
Bland said: "I do slightly wish I hadn't worn the stripy tee-shirt that Anne said looked like belonged to my mother, but otherwise the whole experience was a lot of fun."
In "You are the weakest link. Goodbye!", an imperishable TV catchphrase was spawned, and versions of The Weakest Link play all over the world. Its demise in the UK after 12 years has been attributed to the 68-year-old host's waning enthusiasm for the filming schedule, and to declining audiences.
Independent staff are proving a dab hand at TV game shows. Bland's win comes after the paper's travel correspondent, Simon Calder, won Celebrity Mastermind at the end of last year, answering questions on the history of Concorde.
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