I couldn’t help laughing at the news that the Corpus Christi team had been disqualified from University Challenge. That said, they was nowhere near as smug and annoying as the captain of the Manchester team, who would lean back in his chair and sneer when he got an answer right and give his team mates patronising shoulder-pats when they got an answer right for him.
The real humour lies, though, in the BBC’s culture of apology. Ever since Greg Dyke left, the corporation’s first instinct, in face of adversity, is to shoot itself in both feet – and attempt to back-pedal. It fights the wrong battles and blames the wrong people; Richard Marson should never have been sacked from Blue Peter.
It’s solution to its troubles is to send its employees on ever more courses on ethics and compliance, when the real problem is that some of those high-up in the BBC have no background in programme-making and seem to think that management is all about denial and equivocation rather than sticking by the poor sods who actually make the programmes.
I saw University Challenge being recorded once. They did two shows a day, and in the match between the teams I hadn’t come to see, both teams were so dim that there’d be longeurs where half a dozen or more questions would go unanswered in a row. Jeremy Paxman’s solution was to tell the director to wind back the clock and cut out the boring bits. Television fakery – or making an entertaining game show?
That said, when I appeared on Crackerjack, all those years ago, I cheated. When asked ‘what would you buy in a box office?’ I answered ‘boxes’.
But there was a camera fault and the round had to be re-shot – whereupon I gave the correct answer.