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A question of questions

I went over to Manchester this afternoon to take part in a try-out of a new quiz format that the BBC are developing. I did sign some kind of confidentiality agreement (didn't really get the chance to actually read it), so I'll be somewhat vague about the details of the game itself.

Getting to the BBC in Manchester may be easier by train than by car, since you don't have to navigate the appalling one way system, and Oxford St station is almost opposite the BBC building. There were seven people at the try-out - all previous Mastermind contenders,who lived reasonably close to Manchester. Geoffery claimed to remember seeing me in the green room at a recording session, though I didn't remember him at all. Anna came and introduced herself to me - she was on a couple of series ago and now was one of the question setters - she'd set my questions on Monica Edwards. It was really interesting to talk to her about it and she was very generous in her praise of me.

We did the run-through in a smallish room near reception, and it was filmed simply, with a single camera, as was the discussion of the game afterwards. I guess this was mostly as a convenient record for the production staff to look at later, though they were taking notes as well. Five of us played through one version, where questions were given with no prompting of the answers. I survived the first two rounds but was eliminated in the third. Maddeningly, the last question was 'who wrote the graphic novel, the Watchmen ?'. I remembered the name Alan, but could not think of his surname. Neither Andrew nor Dr Gary had any idea, and about 30 seconds after revealing our answers, I remembered his surname. If it had come to me in time, I'd have gone through to the last round. On the other hand, I was bursting for the loo, so was quite glad not to have to stay for another round.

We did the basic idea again, this time starting with six players, and minus Dr Gary who had won the first game. This time we had multiple choice answers, I was the first one eliminated this time, The production team ran out of printed questions at this point, and were asking questions from a book. Dr Gary and I both recognized it as the 'Who wants to be a millionaire' quiz book, as we both had it. I'd have got a lot more questions right in the rounds that used the book..

Two of the team, who lived in London, had to rush off at 5, when the session was due to finish, but everyone else stayed on until nearly six, finishing the second version of the quiz and discussing how it had worked and what people liked or not, and how the format might be tweaked to make it work. It was fascinating stuff. I got the impression that we might be called back for another try-out when they've made more decisions about the show (and maybe decided on a name for it). I'll be interested to see how it develops.

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August 2018


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