I’ve given up trying to understand the new ‘best-loser’ format in University Challenge. It seems to be more difficult to grasp than the subject matter of most of the questions. One advantage it does have, in television terms, is that you see the teams return more regularly to have another go and you get an interesting sense of déja vu. I particularly welcomed seeing Girton College, Cambridge return to the fray on Monday. They had a particularly gripping bout against St. Andrews where they took an early lead, then were caught up by their opponents (mainly due to an incredible streak of starter answers from someone called Flaherty). I wasn’t too keen on St. Andrews as, although Jeremy Paxman said their average age was 24, they appeared to be mainly mature students (i.e. ones doing PhDs and other research) and not undergraduate students: I always think it’s unfair when a bunch of hairy, beardy, beer-bellied blokes in T-shirts come up against ‘normal’ students.
I found myself getting behind Girton as they eventually pulled ahead of St. Andrews. This might not have been unconnected with the composition of the Girton team — unusually having two female students. Being a thoroughly feminist minded chap I particularly admired the intellect displayed by Becca Cawley (reading English) whose appearance will probably encourage more applications to Oxbridge (admittedly male ones) than any amount of government target-setting. I particularly liked the way she was game to have a go at questions she really didn’t know the answer to (usually because St. Andrews had buzzed too quickly) and the hesitant way she volunteered these answers — the complete antithesis of the sort of arrogant swot one might associate with academia.
In the end I was almost cheering when Girton got through to fight another day. I’ll scrutinise the Radio Times for when this day is as I’ll make a point of watching.