Tag Archives: Jeremy Paxman

Not just a pretty face

It’s amazing how coming face-to-face with someone off television makes you feel as if you’re meeting an old friend. And in this instance I don’t mean in the street, but seeing them on a different television screen. Like the Christmas University Challenge.

Now, I do know a few people who’ve been on the ‘celebrity’ teams anyway. But then the other day, Daughter and I were taken aback to find Bishop’s screen ex-husband (the snake..!) Jake on one of the Cambridge teams, as himself; Jamie Bamber.

We did always like Jake on NCIS. At least until he cheated on Bishop and had to be escorted off the premises by Gibbs.

Anyway, it was nice to see him again, and even nicer to find he’s a knowledgeable and intelligent man. Somehow you suspect actors and musicians of being a bit substandard in a general educational way. Here I have to say that without Jamie his team would have done a lot worse.

In the semi-finals they were up against an Oxford team, on which we were very happy to find Frank Cottrell Boyce, and happier still to hear him describe himself as a children’s author (and not the man responsible for having the Queen fling herself out of a helicopter in the company of James Bond). Frank is a very educated and intelligent man, and more than a credit to his team.

There have also been a few musicians this year, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by what they know.

And then you tend to be equally surprised by how little some others know. But as Jeremy Paxman says, they did not have to do this.

My feeling is that more women would make for better teams. And more authors, preferably children’s authors. I can provide a list of suggestions, should the BBC require help.


Over a meal out the other week we got talking about what famous people we had come across in the wild. Apparently meeting them through ‘work’ like blogging, did not qualify. You had to just happen upon them.

Various semi-famous people were mentioned, but the discussion felt a bit lacklustre. What’s a Jeremy Paxman in Blackwell’s or an Alistair Darling at airport security? I mean, really? The best Son came up with was flying with Gordon Brown. Daughter didn’t even think to mention her own flying with Pilou Asbæk.

I felt I had something to add, but it took me a while to remember Agnetha Fältskog at Heathrow (as we have a flying theme). Jan Malmsjö in the post office might not count, as I worked there. But Daughter found someone from one of those shows I never watch at our former post office. Or was it the greengrocer’s?

We came to the conclusion that the winner was the Resident IT Consultant’s cousin who volunteered the fact that she had danced with John Travolta.

(The niggling feeling that I was forgetting someone, finally matured when I remembered my Cliff Richard and Cilla Black encounter at the theatre. But they don’t beat Travolta, since I didn’t dance with either of them.)

Give Ps a chance

As if we didn’t have enough watching to fit in anyway, more turned up a few weeks ago. I was most excited about The Great Interior Design Challenge, but for some reason it paled after watching just once and we couldn’t muster the stamina to return to it. I do like the interesting houses they find for the keen interior design hopefuls to ruin and to obsess over, but it suddenly hit me that specialist Daniel Hopwood is merely a hairdresser who does homes instead of heads. On television.

But Michael Portillo on the Great American Railroad Journeys has been fun. OK, so he took several days [programmes] to even leave New York, but among the sightseeing there’s enough trains and tracks and station buildings to satisfy. Who’d have thought all those years ago that we’d willingly watch this Conservative politician travelling the world by train? (I think we have had a personality shift here; Portillo was of the ‘wrong’ political persuasion, but he’s a normal human being. His successors are something else entirely and will never get anywhere by train.)

Jeremy Paxman’s University Challenge is a programme you don’t have to watch every week. It’s fun enough to dip into if you have a spare half hour, if only for his marvellous rudeness towards the contestants. I do find though, that I can’t even begin to hope to answer more than a question every now and then. Correctly, I mean.

And then we have the lovely Piers [Taylor]; the architect who helps people in dire homes and with little money to do something spectacular to their houses. I’m interested to see that they dropped the presenter from the first series, letting Piers present as well as architect his way around. The fact that he has architect helpers now, proves that his is not a lone voice in a design desert. I was actively invigorated when the charming Sikh architect went out of his way to help ‘his’ home owners reuse stuff and to buy the cheapest, and occasionally unexpected, materials. I will have the wetroom I want, rather than the wetroom the shops want me to have. He said something rude about tiles being common. I love him!

Christmas University Challenge

Not being a regular viewer of University Challenge, I’ve been a bit hit and miss over the years. I did enjoy most of last year’s Christmas specials, and it’s something the Resident IT Consultant and Daughter and I can share.

This year I knew I wouldn’t forget, as the captain for the Manchester team happens to be a facebook friend. Not someone I know well, but it’s nice when something good happens to anyone you’re even a little connected to.

Manchester team

So I knew which team I was going to root for, and I did think they were a particularly good team. Well matched, and all four buzzed and contributed.

Christine Burns kept us updated online on what it had been like, without ever putting any spoilers out there. I am ‘borrowing’ some of her pictures.

Manchester team

I’m not the greatest fan of Jeremy Paxman, but he does do rude comments very well. He’s refreshing that way, so different from fawning television presenters, who smile and say bland things.

After the rather good team from Sheffield stopped Manchester’s hope of a place in the final, we wished Sheffield would win. Nicci Gerrard confirmed my theory that authors are good allrounders. Last year I enjoyed Philippa Gregory’s efforts on Christmas University Challenge, and this year it was Nicci who impressed.