The first host of the very popular BBC Mastermind Quiz series Mastermind has died a few days back. He had coined the phrase “I’ve started so I’ll finish” and finally he has finished, at the age of 77. He had been hosting this quiz for almost 25 years on the BBC.
The quiz along with its famous Black Chair, the spotlight on the participant and the eerie music developed a cult following even amongst non-quizzers. India too had its own version of Mastermind hosted by Siddhartha Basu, regarded as probably the doyen of television quizzing in India. The Indian version was aired from 1998 until 2002. I had attempted the preliminary round of 2001 (the written prelims) and was way off the qualifying mark. But, the standard of the written preliminary round was exemplary, with people realising the answers to many of the questions the minute they walk out of the room!
I remember this quiz show very well. In the early days of my software engg career in Bangalore, i and my roommates used to have our own internal competition for every edition of this quiz. I personally didn’t admire the specialised section, which i felt was more about mugging up many trivia associated with the area. Some specialised areas included novels of an author and trivia in them, which i thought was not good enough material to be quizzed on. All you had to do was to give an author whose books you had read quite a number of times and you practically knew everything in the books.
Whatever be its shortcomings, the Mastermind Quiz was extremely entertaining and i could sometimes, just by watching, feel the tension that the participants on the Black Chair would have felt.