Mastermind (TV series)

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Mastermind
Title card
Title card
FormatGame show
Created byBill Wright
Directed byDerek Hallworth
Presented byMagnus Magnusson (BBC One)
Peter Snow (BBC Radio 4)
Clive Anderson
(Discovery Channel)
John Humphrys (BBC Two)
Country of originUnited Kingdom
No. of series25 (BBC1)
3 (BBC Radio 4)
1 (Discovery Channel)
10 (BBC Two)
Production
Running time30 minutes
Broadcast
Original channelBBC1 (1972–1997)
BBC Radio 4 (1998–2000)
Discovery Channel (2001–02)
BBC Two (2003–present)
Picture format4:3 (1972–2002)
16:9 (2003–present)
Original run11 September 1972 (1972-09-11) – present
Chronology
Related showsCelebrity Mastermind
International Mastermind
Junior Mastermind
Mastermind Cymru
Mastermind Plant Cymru
Sport Mastermind
Disney Q-Family MasterMind
 
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Mastermind
Title card
Title card
FormatGame show
Created byBill Wright
Directed byDerek Hallworth
Presented byMagnus Magnusson (BBC One)
Peter Snow (BBC Radio 4)
Clive Anderson
(Discovery Channel)
John Humphrys (BBC Two)
Country of originUnited Kingdom
No. of series25 (BBC1)
3 (BBC Radio 4)
1 (Discovery Channel)
10 (BBC Two)
Production
Running time30 minutes
Broadcast
Original channelBBC1 (1972–1997)
BBC Radio 4 (1998–2000)
Discovery Channel (2001–02)
BBC Two (2003–present)
Picture format4:3 (1972–2002)
16:9 (2003–present)
Original run11 September 1972 (1972-09-11) – present
Chronology
Related showsCelebrity Mastermind
International Mastermind
Junior Mastermind
Mastermind Cymru
Mastermind Plant Cymru
Sport Mastermind
Disney Q-Family MasterMind

Mastermind is a British quiz show, well known for its challenging questions, intimidating setting and air of seriousness.

Devised by Bill Wright, the basic format of Mastermind has never changed — four and in later contests five contestants face two rounds, one on a specialised subject of the contestant's choice, the other a general knowledge round. Wright drew inspiration from his experiences of being interrogated by the Gestapo during World War II.

The atmosphere is helped by Mastermind's famously ominous theme music, "Approaching Menace" by the British composer Neil Richardson. The quiz programme originated and was recorded in Manchester at studios such as New Broadcasting House and Granada Studios, before permanently moving to MediaCityUK in 2011.

Format[edit]

For the first round, the questioner invites the first contestant to begin. He or she walks over to a black chair and sits down. The contestant is then given a set period of time, usually two minutes, to answer questions on a specialised subject which he or she has chosen (see examples below). The questioner announces the start of the time period, and then reads out a question. If the contestant gives the correct answer, he or she scores one point, and the questioner then reads out the next question. The contestant may pass (by simply saying 'pass') if he or she doesn't know the answer, or prefers not to spend time trying to remember the answer: the questioner does not begin to read the next question until the contestant has given an answer or said 'pass'. If a question is answered incorrectly, the questioner will give the correct answer before reading out the next question; this uses some of the contestant's remaining time. However, if the contestant passes, the questioner moves straight on to the next question: the answer is not read out until the end of the round.

After the two minutes are up a buzzer is sounded, which is made up of four beeps. If, when the buzzer sounds, the questioner has already started to read out a question, but has not finished doing so, he or she reads out the rest of the question, and the contestant is then given a short period of time to answer. This convention leads to the show's famous catchphrase, "I've started so I'll finish." If a question has been read out in full when the buzzer sounds, but the contestant has not yet given an answer, the questioner allows a short period of time for an answer to be given. After this, the contestant is told how many points he or she has scored, and answers to any passes are given. The next contestant then takes his or her place in the black chair, and the procedure is repeated. This continues until every contestant has had one turn.

After the contestants have answered the specialised questions, they are given general knowledge questions. The procedure is very similar to that used in the first round, except that the contestants usually have two and a half minutes each, rather than two. As originally aired, the contestants would return for the second round in the same order as for their specialised subject. The contestants are now recalled in reverse order of number of points scored in the first round.

The winner is the contestant with the most points. If two or more contestants have an equal number of points, then the contestant with the fewer (or fewest) passes is the winner. The possibility of passing leads to tactical play as passing uses less time allowing more questions to be answered; but may count against the contestant at the end in the event of a tie.

Should the top two contestants have the same score and same number of passes at the end of the contest then a tie-breaker is employed, in which the two contenders are each asked the same five questions (one contender must leave the auditorium while the other answers). It is not clear what would happen should this fail to produce a clear winner, though it is implied that the process would simply be repeated as many times as necessary (and probably unsuccessful tie-breakers would be edited out of the final programme, to save time). It is, however, very rare for the tie-break to be required. In the version of the show hosted by John Humphrys (2003 to present), it has appeared only three times in the main series and once in the Junior Mastermind spin-off, the latter being in the final broadcast on 26 February 2006.

The winner goes through to the next round, where he or she must choose a different specialised subject. The winner of the final of the BBC version is declared "Mastermind" for that year and is the only contestant to receive a prize, in the form of a cut-glass engraved bowl.

Versions of Mastermind[edit]

Mastermind has appeared in numerous versions:

In the United States, the game show 2 Minute Drill on sports network ESPN had its roots in Mastermind. Contestants faced questions fired at them by a panel of four sports and entertainment celebrities for two minutes; like Mastermind, there were two rounds of questions, however slightly different: The 1st round had each panelist's questions representing a different sports category pertaining to their area of expertise, and the 2nd round had no categories and the contestant couldn't control who asked the questions; they were fired at random. The contestant with the highest score after two rounds would win a cash prize, and would have a chance to double those winnings by correctly answering the "Question of Great Significance," as host Kenny Mayne called it, from a specialty category chosen by the winner (usually a particular athlete or sports team from the past). In each series, winners advanced in a bracket-style playoff format, with cash prizes increasing from $5,000 in the first round to $50,000 (doubling to $100,000 by answering the final question) in the final round. Prizes such as trips to the Super Bowl or ESPY Awards were also given, known as "ESPN Experiences". The show had three series over a 15-month period, from September 2000 to December 2001. Like Mastermind, 2 Minute Drill featured a leather chair, dramatic lighting and sound effects. Willy Gibson of Columbus, Ohio was the grand champion of the first two series; he was defeated in the second round of the third and final series. Unlike Mastermind presenters, Mayne had a very dry, quirky and sometimes sarcastic sense of humour, but did a very good job of keeping the game going; he would quickly jump in if one of the celebrity panelists was tardy in posing their question, so as not to penalise the contestant.

In 2012 an Irish version of the show aired on TV3 known as Mastermind Ireland.

In 2013 an Turkish version of the show aired on NTV known as "Mastermind Türkiye", hosted by Altan Erkekli.

Records[edit]

Highest scores[edit]

The highest overall Mastermind score is 41 points, set by Kevin Ashman in 1995, his specialist subject being "The Life of Martin Luther King". Ashman would go on to become four times IQA world champion. In addition he holds the record for the highest ever score on Brain of Britain and has been a member of the Eggheads since that series debut.

In August 2010 during an edition of Mastermind: Champion of Champions, the 2010 series champion, Jesse Honey, scored 23 out of 23 on "Flags of the World" in the specialist subject round, an all-time record. He finished as runner-up with a combined score of 36 points, losing out to Pat Gibson by having two more passes.

On Junior Mastermind in February 2007, an 11-year-old schoolboy called Callum scored 19 points on his specialist subject, cricketer Andrew Flintoff. However he did not win, being beaten by one point after achieving a final score of 32.

On 20 November 2009, in aid of BBC's Children in Need appeal, actress-comedienne Lucy Porter achieved the highest overall score for a Mastermind celebrity edition. She scored 35; her specialist subject was Steve Martin. On the same episode comedian Mark Watson, who preceded Porter, scored 33. Presenter John Humphrys congratulated him on breaking the existing celebrity record. It was then broken by Porter with her turn. On 31 December 2010, comedian Rhys Thomas scored 36; his specialist subject was Queen. Hilary Kay had also scored 36 points a few nights earlier, while one of her opponents, Richard Herring, had scored 35 points, equalling the previous record set by Porter.

Lowest scores[edit]

The current record for the overall lowest score is 5 points, set on 29 January 2010 by software analyst Kajen Thuraaisingham, scoring 4 points for his specialist subject of the life of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.[2] Previously, the lowest attained score had been 7 points which was first set by Colin Kidd in 2005. His specialist subject was "The World Chess Championships". The score was equalled in November 2009 by gas fitter Michael Burton; he only scored 2 for his specialist subject, Angels.[3]

Specialist subjects[edit]

The following is a sample of specialist subjects:[4]

A special episode of Mastermind called Doctor Who Mastermind was broadcast on 19 March 2005, in which all four contestants had the specialist subject Doctor Who. The prize was awarded to the winner by the then current Doctor, actor Christopher Eccleston.

Some specialist subjects are considered not suitable to be used. The following are examples of rejected specialist subjects:[4][not in citation given]

Champions[edit]

The following is a list of Mastermind champions since 1972.[7]

YearWinnerSpecialist subjects
HeatSemi-finalFinal
1972Nancy WilkinsonFrench literatureEuropean antiquesHistory of music, 1550–1900
1973Patricia OwenGrand OperaByzantine artGrand Opera
1974Elizabeth HorrocksShakespeare's playsWorks of J.R.R. TolkienWorks of Dorothy L. Sayers
1975John HartAthens 500–400 BCRome 100–1 BCAthens 500–400 BC
1976Roger PritchardArthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington20th century British warshipsArthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
1977Sir David HuntWorld War II British campaigns in North AfricaWorld War II Allied campaign in ItalyRoman Revolution 60–14 BC
1978Rosemary JamesRoman and Greek mythologyWorks of Frederick WolfeRoman and Greek mythology
1979Philip JenkinsChristianity AD 30–150Vikings in Scotland and Ireland 800–1150 ADHistory of Wales 400–1100
1980Fred HousegoKing Henry IIWestminster AbbeyTower of London
1981Leslie GroutSt. George's Chapel, Windsor CastleBurial Grounds of LondonSt. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle
1983Chris HughesBritish Steam Locomotives, 1900–63Flashman novelsBritish Steam Locomotives, 1900–63
1984Margaret HarrisCecil RhodesPostal history of Southern AfricaCecil Rhodes
1985Ian MeadowsEnglish Civil WarHistory of astronomy to 1700English Civil War
1986Jennifer KeaveneyElizabeth GaskellE. NesbitElizabeth Gaskell
1987Jeremy BradbrookeFranco-Prussian WarWar of 1812Crimean War
1988David BeamishNancy AstorBritish Royal Family, 1714–1910Nancy Astor
1989Mary Elizabeth RawKing Charles IPrince AlbertCharles I
1990David EdwardsMichael FaradayBenjamin ThompsonJames Clerk Maxwell
1991Stephen AllenKing Henry VIIDartmoor and its environsFrancis Drake
1992Steve WilliamsSurrealist art 1918–39Peter I of RussiaPost-Socratic philosophy
1993Gavin FullerDoctor WhoThe medieval castle in the British IslesThe Crusades
1994George DavidsonEnglish coinage, 1066–1662History of chemistry, 1500–1870John Dalton
1995Kevin AshmanMartin Luther King, Jr.History of the Western filmZulu War
1996Richard SturchCharles WilliamsFrederick III, German EmperorOperas of Gilbert and Sullivan
1997Anne AshurstFrances Carr, Countess of SomersetRegency novels of Georgette HeyerBarbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland
1998Robert GibsonSolar SystemKing Charles IIRobert the Bruce
1999Christopher CarterBirds of EuropeTudor dynastyBritish customs and traditions
2000Stephen FollowsBenjamin BrittenT.S. EliotLeoš Janáček
2001Michael PenriceProfessional boxing to 1980(no semi-final)English history 1603–1714
2003Andy PageAcademy AwardsGilbert and SullivanGolfing majors since 1970
2004Shaun WallaceUEFA Champions League finals since 1970England at the UEFA European Football ChampionshipFA Cup finals since 1970
2005Patrick GibsonThe films of Quentin TarantinoThe Culture novels by Iain M. BanksFather Ted
2006Geoff ThomasÉdith PiafWilliam JoyceMargaret Mitchell and Gone with the Wind
2008David ClarkHenry FordGeorge, The Prince RegentHistory of London Bridge
2009Nancy DickmannAmelia Peabody novels of Elizabeth PetersLife and films of Fritz LangLewis and Clark Expedition
2010Jesse HoneyLondon Borough of WandsworthThe life and work of Antoni GaudíLiverpool Cathedral (Anglican)
2011Ian BayleyLife and Work of Jean SibeliusRomanov DynastyPaintings in the National Gallery
2012Gary GrantSeven Wonders of the Ancient WorldMonaco Grand PrixCetaceans
2013Aidan McQuadeMichael CollinsThe novels of Dennis LehaneAbraham Lincoln
2014Clive DunningBlackadderLife and work of John LennonLife and poetry of Philip Larkin

The Chair[edit]

Perhaps the most famous icon of the show is the black leather chair in which the contestants sit, lit by a solitary spotlight in an otherwise dark studio. The inspiration for this was the interrogations faced by the show's creator, Bill Wright, as a POW in World War II.[1] The original black chair was given to Magnus Magnusson as a souvenir when he retired from the show.[8]

The chair is an Eames Soft Pad Lounge Chair designed by Charles and Ray Eames in 1969. Today these chairs are made under licence by Vitra.

Parodies[edit]

The programme has been the target for many television spoofs, most memorably the Two Ronnies sketch written by David Renwick in 1980, featuring Ronnie Barker as Magnus Magnusson and Ronnie Corbett as a contestant named Charlie Smithers, whose specialist subject was "answering the question before last". This continually led to humorous and often rude answers. A similar sketch featured Monty Python alumni Michael Palin as Magnússon and Terry Gilliam as a contestant whose speciality was "questions to which the answer is two."

The 2003-onwards version has been spoofed by the Dead Ringers team, with Jon Culshaw playing John Humphrys. In one send-up, which appeared on the television edition of "Dead Ringers", the contestant offered to answer questions on Mary Queen of Scots, but when an answer was given, John Humphrys was shown saying "Yes, but you sexed that answer up". The sketch was a reference to the controversy caused by the aftermath of the Iraq War. One episode included Mastermind: The Opera.[9]

Another spoof was featured in Armando Iannucci's 2004: The Stupid Version, where a contestant's specialist subject was "The television series Thunderbirds and Lady Penelope's Cockney chauffeur".

Also in 2004, Johnny Vaughan's BBC Three show Live at Johnny's featured a version called Mastermind Rejects—the premise being that the specialist subjects were too ludicrously obscure even for Mastermind. In the final show of the series, Magnus Magnusson took over as the quizmaster - it was the last time he would utter the catchphrase "I've started so I'll finish" on any form of Mastermind. The specialist subject was The History of the Home Video Recorder, 1972 to 1984.[10]

On their 2005 Christmas Special, comedy duo French & Saunders parodied the show with Jennifer Saunders playing Abigail Wilson, a pensioner whose special subject is ceramic teapots. She passes on all but one question, which she answers incorrectly anyway.

In 2005, the show was spoofed on BBC Radio 4's The Now Show where the specialist subject was "Britishness", relating to the proposed test immigrants may have to take, to prove they can fit in with British society.

In 1974, Morecambe and Wise performed a sketch based on Mastermind, which featured Magnússon and the black chair. The format was different, however, with Wise, then Morecambe, being asked 10 questions each.

In 1975 The Goodies featured Mastermind in the episode Frankenfido when a dog (Bill Oddie in a suit) appeared on the show and managed to correctly answer questions asked of it as they all had answers that could be represented by growls, such as 'bark' and 'ruff'.

In the late 1970s, Noel Edmonds radio Sunday lunchtime show used to feature a send-up called "Musty Mind" where a phone-in contestant would be asked ludicrous questions on a parody of a serious subject, such as the "Toad Racing" or, on another occasion, "The Cultural and Social History of Rockall" - Rockall being a bald lump of uninhabited rock in the eastern Atlantic.

Benny Hill parodied Mastermind on The Benny Hill Show on at least two separate occasions. In one of the parodies the show was called "Masterbrane". In each, Benny played the role of Magnússon while Jackie Wright played the hapless contestant.

Spitting Image used the Mastermind format in a sketch where a Magnus Magnusson puppet asked questions of a Jeffrey Archer puppet whose specialist subject was himself. The twist was that Archer's puppet, being incapable of answering questions about himself without exaggeration or evasion, ends the round with zero points.

The BBC's satirical current affairs quiz show Have I Got News for You has parodied the show several times, by turning the lights down - except for spotlights above select chairs - and playing the theme tune, before subjecting at least one of the panel to some rigorous questioning. The first occasion happened on the 1995 video special, where only regular captains Ian Hislop and Paul Merton were asked questions; Ian on (as he put it) "The Life and Lies of Jeffrey Archer", and Paul was asked questions on "Absurd Newspaper Stories Between 1990-1995". The second occasion was in 1998, when Magnus Magnusson appeared as a guest. All four panellists were asked questions on this occasion, Paul's being the Starr Report, Ian's being the life and times of Rupert Murdoch, while Magnus had Mastermind, which also included a moment on Quizball when he confused playwright Arthur Miller with the name of the surgeon who had once operated on his mother's kidneys. After Magnusson's questioning, the spotlight then turned onto the other guest, John Simpson, who was informed that his "specialist subject" was Christmas cracker jokes, which he received help from Ian throughout.

More randomly, Have I Got News for You turned the Mastermind spotlight on one of its favourite guests, Boris Johnson, when he appeared in 2001. He was told his specialist subject was then-Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith "whether you like it or not". The programme's final Mastermind moment to date came when John Humphrys guest-hosted an edition in 2003, shortly after taking over as Mastermind presenter. After the opening round, HIGNFY regular Ian Hislop mentioned that in accordance with a long-running theme of Humphrys' other well-known role as anchor of BBC Radio 4's Today Programme, he was about to spring a surprise on him. Hislop then asked Humphrys several questions about quotes said by him or about him, including the revelation that Iain Duncan Smith had once remarked about his "nicely balanced package".

In his early routines Bill Bailey would often parody the Mastermind music, finding it very sinister. He would then play the music on keyboard with an over-the-top hellish sounding climax.[citation needed]

The programme Balls of Steel parodied Mastermind with its sketch The Alex Zane Cleverness Game, in which experts were quizzed on their specialist subjects (included were "The Life of Anne Frank", "Eurovision Song Contest Winners", and "Hercule Poirot"). Unknowingly to the experts, the show was a complete hoax, and blatantly incorrect answers were included in order to frustrate them whenever they supplied the correct answer.

The comedy show Snuff Box had the two main characters Rich Fulcher and Matt Berry both appear on Mastermind. Berry chose his specialist subject as Alton Towers and only scored 3 points before a blackout, in which he apparently shoots the host after being told to sit down. Fulcher chooses 'Anglo-Saxon architecture', though displays no knowledge of the subject and makes up answers such as 'Toto from The Wizard Of Oz' and 'Elvis', and scoring no points.

In 2011, The Chris Moyles Show on BBC Radio 1 parodied the show with a feature called 'Disastermind'. Using the back-up chair from the Mastermind studio, each team member chose a specialist subject, only to have them swapped before being questioned in the chair on their randomly selected subject and general knowledge. The specialist subjects were The World of Glee; UK Dialling Codes; U2; Husky Dogs and Back to the Future Part 1.

In 2013, Mastermind featured on the ITV show Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway, as part of an Ant Vs Dec segment where Ant and Dec had to answer questions based around a school challenge they took part in. Ant won.

Transmissions[edit]

BBC1[edit]

SeriesStart dateEnd dateEpisodes
111 September 197226 December 197216
23 September 197327 December 197317
35 September 197423 December 1974 ??
427 September 197522 December 1975 ??
57 September 197621 December 1976 ??
630 August 197713 December 1977 ??
731 August 197826 December 1978 ??
85 September 197923 December 1979 ??
931 August 198021 December 198017
106 September 198127 December 1981 ??
119 January 198324 April 1983 ??
1229 January 198427 May 1984 ??
136 January 19855 May 198518
1412 January 198629 June 198623
154 January 19877 June 198723
167 January 19885 June 198823
1715 January 198911 June 198923
187 January 199017 June 199022
1920 January 19912 June 199120
2016 February 19927 June 199217
2110 January 199316 May 1993 ??
2220 March 199421 August 199417
239 April 19956 August 1995 ??
2429 May 199614 October 1996 ??
259 June 19971 September 199717

BBC Radio 4[edit]

SeriesStart dateEnd dateEpisodes
11998 ?? ??
21999 ?? ??
32000 ?? ??

Discovery Channel[edit]

SeriesStart dateEnd dateEpisodes
114 November 200116 January 2002 ??

BBC Two[edit]

SeriesStart dateEnd dateEpisodes
17 July 20033 November 200317
221 June 20045 December 200431
38 March 20058 November 200531
420 March 200613 November 200631
59 July 200724 March 200831
65 September 200819 June 200931
728 August 200928 May 201031
820 August 201015 April 201131
94 November 201111 May 201231
1010 August 20125 April 201331
119 August 201325 April 201431

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ a b As described on the BBC website's Mastermind page
  2. ^ Jones, Sam (2 February 2010). "Mastermind's lowest scorer: 'It wasn't my night'". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 February 2010. 
  3. ^ Gabbatt, Adam (19 November 2009). "Black chair brings ignominy for Mastermind contestant". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 November 2009. 
  4. ^ a b "Mastermind: The Show". BBC. Retrieved 24 March 2008. 
  5. ^ Kirsty Rowland; aired 6 March 2009
  6. ^ Mastermind - 6th March 2009 - Part 1 - YouTube
  7. ^ Mastermind - UKGameshows
  8. ^ Conversation with Magnus Magnusson, March 2004
  9. ^ http://www.thelinkportal.co.uk/files/video/deadringersmastermindtheopera.swf
  10. ^ The details of Mastermind Rejects were provided by the contestant on that show, Andy Hain

External links[edit]