Monday, 29 April 2013
This blog was first posted a couple of years ago but, since the Only Connect / University Challenge special is being repeated tonight on BBC Two (terrestrial TV! Get us!) I thought I would publish it again…
Oh yes. It is him.
You might have noticed on the news page (or Twitter) that I have been off filming new episodes of Only Connect for the autumn. I’m not sure exactly when they’re going out on TV, but of course I will announce it here when I know. For now, I can reveal that we are making a whole new 16-part tournament, plus four specials. More details on the other specials later, but one of them is, as the picture above might hint, very excitingly, the Only Connect Champion Of Champions (The Crossworders) v. the 2010 winners of University Challenge.
At last! Once and for all it will be determined: are the young folk of BBC2 up to the rigorous challenges of BBC4?
I’ve been excited about this for weeks, and was intensely nervous before the recording. University Challenge v. Only Connect! How cool is that?
The UC team had to come one player short, because we only have teams of three. They’re all lovely, and Jenny Harris and Josh Scott are excellent quizzers. But I’m sure they won’t mind my saying that the great phenomenon of the last UC series was the captain of their Only Connect team, the legend that is Alex Guttenplan. We all admired his super-fast buzzing skills on BBC2, and read about him after he captured mainstream press interest; in the flesh, I have to say he didn’t disappoint. I melted every time I looked at him. Just my cup of quizzing tea.
During the recording, I flirted with him outrageously because I thought it would make our viewers laugh. I’m sure at least 75% of them are in love with him, whatever their general inclinations. The secret truth is, he actually brought out - more than anyone I’ve ever seen, more than chubby toddlers at the zoo, more than puzzled babies in tiny prams, more than clumsy kittens fighting with a sofa - my maternal instincts. If I had a son, I would want him to be like Alex Guttenplan.
Not immediately, of course. Not at point of birth. But.. you know.. like that.
He’s just utterly gorgeous. All bespectacled and long-haired and pudgy-cheeked, all shy and stammery in the green room, but absolutely fizzing with knowledge and speed of thought. It’s as though he comes alive at the ringing of a quiz show bell. He’s like a perfect baby quizzer, like a Gambler or a Crossworder or any of our other geniuses, but in super-cute youngster form. I could not love him more. It was terribly hard to keep treating him with the respect any visiting contestant deserves, because I kept wanting to hug him and feed him cake.
I know this isn’t much in the way of salacious gossip. And you know there’s no point asking the result of the battle, because I wouldn’t tell you in a million years. Or rather, I wouldn’t tell you in the number of weeks between now and the show going out. All I can really tell you is that I have never struggled so hard to stop myself addressing someone as “Poppet”.