Sport Mastermind (BBC2, 2008)
A while ago I looked back at Mastermind, a long-running game show, and definitely one of the toughest of its era. It ran for a successful 25 years, and after it ended it was often tipped to return, which it eventually did, with revivals on the radio and TV. There were also some spin-off series, including some celebrity specials, but I’ll be reviewing another variation.
Sport Mastermind launched in 2008, and the host was Des Lynam. Now he is someone of course who has hosted lots of sports coverage on TV over the years, including Grandstand and Match Of The Day, and he then caused a stir by moving to ITV. After that he entered the world of game shows by becoming the host of Countdown in 2005, where he had the difficult job of replacing Richard Whiteley.
And to using a sporting analogy, Countdown ended up going through a quick succession of hosts, like a football club trying to find the right figure whilst struggling to maintain its success following the unexpected departure of a long-serving and trophy-winning manager. Des was the host of Countdown for just over a year, so this was an unexpected return to game shows… and back on the BBC as well! But it was hoped that he would be just the authoritative figure needed to host this one.
Sport Mastermind followed the usual format, including the famous theme music, and the black chair. The twist of course was that all of the questions were on sport. Four contestants took part, and there was none of that coming on by running down a walkway of whatever they did for a series or two. They would first be asked questions for two minutes on their specialist subject. It could be about a particular sport, a particular team, or even a particular player. There was one point for every correct answer.
Round two is general sporting knowledge, where there would be questions on anything, football, cricket, rugby, the Olympics, and so on. The lowest-scoring contestant goes first, and before their round they have a quick talk with Des about their specialist subject. There was a good standard, with plenty of scores over 30. If there is a tie at the end, the contestant with the fewest passes wins.
The highest scorers went on to the leaderboard, who then progressed to the final (where they would have a different specialist subject). The overall series winner was Chris Bell. There was only one series of Sport Mastermind (and some later editions were named Des Lynam’s Sport Mastermind) which was ten editions, much shorter than the regular series. He didn’t particularly do much wrong here, but some viewers did feel that Des was a little past his best by this point, and he hasn’t been seen on TV much since this show ended.