Lancaster University Challenge team interviewed for upcoming ITV documentary


Members of Lancaster’s ‘University Challenge’ quiz team were interviewed in Week 1 for an upcoming documentary about the much-loved quiz show. The team, also vying for a place in the next series of the BBC 2 show, participated in this special documentary celebrating the show’s 50th   anniversary.   

Famous for its highly challenging questions and the interrogative nature of its presenter, Jeremy Paxman, the show was originally commissioned by ITV in 1962. Axed in 1987, it was revived by the BBC in 1994 and continues to this day. The upcoming ITV documentary, ‘University Challenge: Making the Grade’ celebrates the history of the programme by following the progress of competing teams.

The Lancaster University Challenge team, formed as recently as November 2013 through a LUSU-conducted qualifying round, is a mixture of current undergraduates, postgraduates and faculty members. Speaking to SCAN, team captain Tom Flowerdew said that due to the original team-members dropping out, the team only assumed its current form last week. Flowerdew is now joined by Andrew Jarvis, David Jacquest, Duncan Lindsay and Sophie Prior; two of whom were originally recruited as reserves.

It is this difficult start to the competition that Flowerdew believes may have sparked the interest of the documentary’s producers. The interview with ITV, conducted at the University on Thursday Week 1, focused upon the preparations made by the team and their motives for joining the show. While Flowerdew recalls the grandiose answers he practiced with his team for the cameras, his reply when SCAN posed the same question was much simpler: “I enjoyed watching it as a child…it’s just a bit of fun”.

Away from the ‘behind the scenes’ take on the show, the team completed the preliminary rounds the following day at ITV’s television centre in Salford Quays, Manchester. While relatively reserved about the chances of the team making the televised rounds, Flowerdew was more confident when asked of the team’s chances were they to make it to the competition. Replying in a manner befitting his PhD in statistics, he says that “20% of the teams are definitely beatable”.

Lancaster teams have struggled in the competition in the past; their best result was in 2004, when they made the quarter-final.  The team have had less success in recent years, leaving in the first round in both 2008 and 2012. Flowerdew, while reserved in his optimism, is confident that the team can progress past the first round.

Much of this is due to the nature of the competition. While past champions Manchester and other prominent teams are notified of their inclusion early on, Flowerdew and his team will only find out whether they are to be included in February; less than a month before filming for the new series begins. While other teams have much greater preparation time, and greater resources, a “team of librarians” as Flowerdew puts it, he must satisfy himself with the prospect of a “panicky two-week cram” if they are to get the call from ITV.

The team’s fate now rests on their performance in the preliminaries and the personal preference of the producers. Flowerdew will find out whether his team is to be included in the next series, airing in 2015, in the coming weeks.

The documentary, ‘University Challenge: Making the Grade’ is due to appear on ITV later in the year.

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