Jeremy Paxman hosting University Challenge (Picture: BBC/ITV Studios/Joseph Scanlon)
It’s one of the most daunting, perplexing and intellectually difficult quiz shows on tv, with an erudite host champing on the bit to make mincemeat of the contestants.
No, we’re not speaking about Only Connect but the grand-daddy of TV brain-melters – the classic University Challenge.
First broadcast in 1962 with the dapper Bamber Gascoigne as its host, it vanished from our screens in 1987 only to be revived in 1994 with Jeremy Paxman presiding.
The former Newsnight man’s impatient exasperation has been a TV fixture since, capable of reducing the sharpest mind to quivering jelly.
Eric Monkman, Bobby Seagull and Gail Trimble are simply some of the classic contestants who’ve given pretty much as good as they’ve gotten.
But there have been loads of others who’ve limped away from the BBC studios licking their wounds.
How any teams scored no points at all?
Given how difficult some of the questions are, you’d have thought the answer could be within the hundreds.
Surprisingly, though, just one team is known to have scored a big fat zero.
That ignominious dishonour belongs to the University of Reading, who were trounced 240 points to nothing by Keble College Oxford in the BBC show’s 2017 Christmas special.
The team wasn’t made up of students, however, but of celebrities who had previously studied at the Berkshire institution.
The team comprised of broadcaster Pippa Greenwood, Springwatch presenter Martin Hughes-Games, anthropologist Anna Machin and Sophie Walker, the then-leader of the Women’s Equality Party.
And they’d been doing pretty well up to that point, having coasted through their opening round before narrowly beating the University of London in the semi-final.
Have any student teams scored zero?
No student teams have scored zero in the Jeremy Paxman era, though Exeter came close in 2009 when it finished a quarter final with just 15 points.
The team that beat them went on to win the series, only to have their victory erased when it emerged one of their members had finished their studies while the series was filmed.
It’s believed a team from the University of Sussex fared even worse in the early 1970s, ending a Bamber Gascoigne-chaired edition with a lowly 10.
There was also an edition in 1975 that a University of Manchester team deliberately set out to sabotage by answering every question with the name of a socialist revolutionary or iconic celebrity.
The stunt – a protest against the perceived over-representation of Oxford and Cambridge colleges – led to Manchester being banned from the contest for the next four years.
When is University Challenge on?
The current series of the show runs on Monday nights at 8:30pm, with Only Connect preceding it at 8pm.
Earlier this year Paxman said he would continue to present the show ‘as long as they’ll have me’ after revealing he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
Warwick University were crowned champions of the last series following a tense final with Magdalene College, Cambridge in April.Credit: Original article published here.