Mastermind (BBC1, 1972-1997, BBC2, 2003-present)
Often described as one of the toughest game shows to have appeared on British television, Mastermind is the challenge where contestants have to sit in the famous black chair to answer questions on their specialist subjects and general knowledge as asked by Magnus Magnusson who hosted for 25 years.
Every week Mastermind would tour the country meaning that most programmes took place in an ancient cathedral. Four contestants would take part and as they sat on the chair with a single spotlight on them they were asked their first question, “what is your name?”. They got harder. They then had two minutes to answer questions on their chosen specialist subject, and a wide variety of subjects were featured over the years, with one point scored for every correct answer, and if they didn’t know an answer they had to pass.
In the second round all the questions would be on general knowledge. The highest scoring contestant over the two rounds progressed to the next stage of the competition, and if there is a tie the contestant who had the fewer passes goes through. In the next stage the contestant must pick a different specialist subject, and eventually we come to the final.
The final has the same rules as a regular edition but usually features five or six contestants. The contestant with the highest score becomes the overall series champion and receives the trophy which was usually a specially made bowl. Several people who have won Mastermind have become famous and gone on to further success.
These include Fred Housego in 1980, and Kevin Ashman who has been a very successful game show contestant over the years, and in winning Mastermind in 1995 he achieved the highest score in the show’s history with a remarkable 41 points. In more recent years the 2004 series winner Shaun Wallace went on to put his knowledge to good use by becoming a regular on ITV’s The Chase.
In its original run Mastermind appeared on BBC1 and very quickly earned a reputation of being a tough game, and the late Magnus Magnusson went on to become a much respected game show host. In 1997 the decision was made to end Mastermind and Magnus retired at the end of the final series, but the story wasn’t over yet.
In 2003 the BBC revived Mastermind, this time on BBC2 and hosted by John Humphrys, and now the programme always takes place in the same studio. There have also been several spin-offs from Mastermind including a champion of champions special, a junior version with younger contestants, and also several celebrity specials. Mastermind is a show that I have watched regularly over the years and the standard of contestants is always impressive, and the show’s reputation as being very tough means that rightly it is considered a classic.