The quiz kids: Brainy TV shows indicate we have had enough dumbing down

The success of University Challenge, Only Connect and other shows of their ilk is certainly remarkable

Editorial@IndyVoices
Friday 09 October 2015 20:53
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University Challenge was first broadcast in 1962 but is undergoing a renaissance in viewership
University Challenge was first broadcast in 1962 but is undergoing a renaissance in viewership

Fingers on buzzers: here’s your starter for 10. Which television double bill, both hosted by well-known journalists, became an unexpected hit this year, leading some commentators to hail the success as a new intellectual awakening in the nation? On a Monday evening… Have to hurry you…

No, sorry, bad luck Balliol, it isn’t Strictly followed by Casualty. The answer is, of course, University Challenge followed by Only Connect. Well, that’s how it might go if these brainy quiz shows were themselves the subject of a specialist round.

The success of these and other shows of their ilk is certainly remarkable – some three million viewers tune in to BBC2 on a Monday evening to catch them, beating EastEnders over on BBC1. University Challenge tests the general knowledge of the teams, as it has since its first edition, its format cosily familiar and much parodied. Only Connect is a much newer arrival, and, in a crowded market, has had to develop a new twist, so that its contestants also have to rely on lateral thinking in order to score. Neither is easy, which is obviously part of the appeal.

Perhaps it does indicate that British TV, and national cultural life more generally, has had quite enough of dumbing down. In which case, there should be a bit more discussion about the eurozone crisis in the Queen Vic, a visit to the art galleries of Weatherfield on Corrie, and a literary criticism circle established in Emmerdale. Yet one other clue to the popularity of two shows may be the sheer magnetism of the two Oxbridge-educated hosts, Jeremy Paxman and Victoria Coren Mitchell, respectively. So that’s how those two are connected, at any rate.

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