CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: From war reporter to quiz host, Clive Myrie is a true Mastermind
Clive Myrie must have more different hats than Harrods’ millinery department. The 58-year-old journalist has been an ever-present on the BBC this year, notably reporting from Kyiv at the start of the war in Ukraine.
All this week, he’s been to the fore as a newsreader, maintaining a difficult balance in the wake of the Queen’s death, careful to appear sombre without seeming mawkish or melodramatic.
In a completely different role, he’s the host as Mastermind (BBC2) returns — the inquisitor with a twinkle. If you stopped by the BBC canteen at lunchtime, it wouldn’t be surprising to discover that Clive makes the sandwiches. Given his talents, he probably does the best cheese-and-pickle-on-granary at Broadcasting House.
Mastermind is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and the gameshow flagship was a suitable choice to mark the tentative return to normality for TV schedules, after the upheavals of the past 12 days.
Monday night on BBC2 is traditionally quiz night, and 90 minutes of brainteasers — entertaining without being frivolous — felt like an appropriate diversion from national mourning.
All this week, Clive Myrie’s been to the fore as a newsreader, maintaining a difficult balance in the wake of the Queen’s death, careful to appear sombre without seeming mawkish or melodramatic
Mastermind categories are less rigorous than they once were, though. The first contestant, Ruth, was old-fashioned, and her choice of subject, the life and works of Spanish artist Francisco de Goya, would have won the approval of original host Magnus Magnusson.
But the other specialist choices were quirkier, including the novels of crime writer Raymond Chandler and the feats of British athletes at the last Olympics.
Least conventionally academic of all was barman Ben, who won a place in the semi-finals by answering questions on the BBC gangland drama Peaky Blinders. Ben looked the part in flat cap and waistcoat, though he rather spoiled the tough image by revealing that his mum helped him with revision.
He enjoyed the advantage of shorter questions. In the opening two minutes, Ruth achieved a clean sweep, with 13 correct answers, none wrong and no passes.
Ben made no mistakes either —but he squeezed 15 points from his turn in the chair. In the general knowledge round that followed, that gave him the razor’s edge.
Though he lost his nerve halfway through, giving six incorrect answers, he still scraped to victory — beating Ruth, who got only three questions wrong.
That didn’t seem quite fair. Perhaps Ruth should have been forewarned: you don’t mess with the Peaky Blinders.
Quizmaster Jeremy Paxman, who bows out after this series, is as testy as ever. ‘Come on!’ he snapped as one team prevaricated
The more esoteric Only Connect (BBC2) followed, where the fun for most of us lies not in trying to answer the questions but in marvelling at the extraterrestrial intelligence of the contestants.
One team scored maximum points from the most oblique of clues: an Irish flag with the numerals 3 and 9. That’s all they needed to guess this would be a question about rhyming numbers — apparently, in Gaelic, the words for 3 and 9 rhyme, like 7 and 11 in English. This left me so staggered, I failed to guess the telly question: what connects Heartbeat’s Alf Ventress, Niles Crane in Frasier, Minder’s Arthur Daley and Captain Mainwaring in Dad’s Army? Answer: they all have wives we never see.
Completing the quiz triptych was University Challenge (BBC2), with rounds including monster movies of the Cold War era and Legend Of Zelda video games.
Don’t snigger — you can bet someone has done a PhD on Godzilla.
Quizmaster Jeremy Paxman, who bows out after this series, is as testy as ever. ‘Come on!’ he snapped as one team prevaricated. He’s Jez-zilla.
Sous chef of the week: Conker the collie was eager to help in Jamie’s One-Pan Wonders (C4). ‘I’ve never had a dog before,’ said Jamie Oliver. ‘He’s like my little cooking buddy.’ Conker’s verdict: fish pie was interesting, but lamb meatballs… oh, yes!
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