Grand Slam (Channel 4, 2003)
This was a show that assembled a lot of people to take part in a special “so you think you’re clever, do you?” contest. 16 contestants who had reached the business end of various distinguished game shows including Countdown, Fifteen-To-One and Mastermind staked £1,000 of their own money and competed against each other in a quest to determine the ultimate quiz champion.
One thing that was interesting about Grand Slam is that it was almost presented as if it was a sport. The hosts were Carol Vorderman (still the co-host of Countdown at the time) and James Richardson (seemingly Channel 4 wanted to give him something else to do after the demise of Football Italia). They didn’t ask the questions though, but they sat together and provided analysis of the performances of the contestants, who were also interviewed about their experience.
The actual game seemed to take place in a big arena, with the contestants standing face-to-face and also being pictured on large screens. There were five rounds, with questions based on general knowledge, numbers and logic, contemporary knowledge, words and letters, and a mixture of all four for the final round (with an extra round added from the quarter-final stage). The questions were of a fairly hard standard and were asked by a disembodied voice (credited as “the questioner”).
They both started with a minute on their clock, and the chess clock format was used, where once you give your answer, your clock stops, and your opponent’s starts, and so on. This carried on until one ran out of time, and the contestant with remaining time had it banked, which will come in useful. However, they could also use three switches, where the question was passed to their opponent. This lifeline was rather pointless though as most contestants decided to switch it back right away.
In the final round, contestants have 30 seconds, plus however much time they have banked from previous rounds. Whoever had any time left at the end of this round was the winner. The show had a knockout format, with the star prize being £50,000 and a trophy. The overall series champion who was declared the best of the best was Clive Spate, who won Series 8 of Countdown in 1986. Viewers could also enter a competition via text message.
Some of the contestants were later seen on other shows including The Chase and Only Connect. There was only one series of Grand Slam, and despite Channel 4 trying to make this a high-profile show, I don’t remember there being too much excitement around it. This might explain why there was only one series. But there was also an American version a few years later, and there have been a few similar champion-of-champions-type shows, including Quizmaster on ITV last year.