Wednesday, 2 December 2009

The Midlands' Ghosthunter

I watched Eggheads for the first time tonight (BBC2, 6pm). A 30-minute roller-coaster of televisual excitement. I guarantee that if you watched it tomorrow night, you'll be on the edge of your seat within the first few minutes... reaching for the remote.

As I'm sure you know, the show pits challengers against a team of 'Eggheads' who are essentially quiz champions who have won quizzes ranging from Mastermind, to Brain of Britain, to Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? One is even 4-times World Quizzing Champion. We're talking quiz freaks here.

Why am I telling you this? Well, by the light of the full moon this morning, I left the house at 6.30 to get to BBC Birmingham for a 9am audition for Eggheads. No, not to be one of the Eggheads themselves (like you were thinking that...). This was as part of a team of challengers.

My friend and erstwhile Most Haunted sparring partner, Richard Felix, had been asked to put together a 'ghosthunters' team for the show. He needed five team members (plus a reserve) who could loosely be described as ghosthunters who were knowledgeable, erudite, well read, etc. So he phoned me... and asked me if I knew of anyone who fit the bill. As I couldn't think of anyone, he settled for me as a team member. Even though, to be honest, I'm not really much of a ghosthunter.

Although we'd need six team members for the show if we were chosen, we got by with four for today's audition. Richard's son, Edd, is also a ghosthunter and leads nightly ghost walks around Derby, and CJ Romer is another expert on ghosts and the paranormal. More importantly, CJ is bit of an egghead himself with an encyclopedic knowlege of the arts and humanities (i.e., the proper clever stuff). I gather one of the Eggheads is also called CJ... something Richard hoped might increase our chances of being picked for the show!

When Richard, Edd, and I arrived (CJ arrived later), we were led into a room where three other teams were waiting. One was a full team of five members, another had three of their team like us, and the other had only two members of their team. It was actually this last team that were the most interesting. It turns out they were a Take That tribute band. Or rather they were a 'fat' Take That tribute band. Yep, they were called Take Fat.

Our first task was to individually answer ten general knowledge questions in 3 minutes. These were not easy. And even the ones I thought I might have got right, I didn't. For example, "For which film did Paul Newman win a Best Actor Oscar?". The possible answers were (a) Cool Hand Luke, (b) The Color of Money, or (c) The Hustler. I was fairly confident it was Cool Hand Luke. But a quick check on Wikipedia tells me it was The Color of Money! (Apparently he was nominated for Best Actor award for the other two movies, but didn't win it.)

Even more worryingly, an hour or so later between us we couldn't even remember half of the questions we were asked! Good job there isn't a memory round. Or maybe there is and I've just forgotten...

The next part replicated (kind of) the format of the show itself. A category is chosen and the team picks one member to answer a multiple choice question on that category. If you got it right then you compete in a head to head with the other teams to win a point. We didn't do too bad in that round (i.e., we did at least as well as the others!).

The final part was a brief team interview on camera. These tapes are sent to the series producer and we were told that the decision of which teams to have on the show is based almost entirely on this footage. I guess the mock quiz rounds are to ensure we're not complete idiots (oh dear...). By this time our fourth team member, CJ, had arrived. Which is just as well as while we were waiting he was able to take the ten question general knowledge test and hopefully get right all the questions we had got wrong (and promptly forgotten). Though I think he went for Cool Hand Luke as well...

I think we did ok with the team interview. Apart from fact that I was asked who my favourite Egghead was. This was a problem as I'd never watched the show! Fortunately, I had remembered that one of the Eggheads was Judith Keppell the woman who had been the first person to win the million pounds on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? "Yes, she's my favourite!" I enthusiastically told the researcher. I also felt a bit of a fraud shouting in unison, "we're the ghosthunters from the Midlands!" Not only am I not much of a ghosthunter, I'm not from the Midlands.

Anyway, we'll see if we get chosen to be on the show itself. If you really want to know more about the Eggheads quiz programme, Wikipedia has an astonishingly detailed page, which is probably more interesting than the show itself, which you can watch on BBC iPlayer here.


  1. Damn, boy, you should have taken me - I knew Paul Newman got his Oscar for The Color of Money.

    Don't worry about not being from the Midlands - neither is Chris Romer (who it is worth pointing out runs his own very interesting blog). But I suppose two out of four ain't bad.

    Let's hope the producers don't read what you have just written, that would definitely scupper your chances of finally having a worthwhile media career!

  2. I mentioned this to my wife over breakfast, and as well as coming up lightning-fast with "The Color of Money, he should have got it for The Verdict so it was a consolation", told me that Judith Keppel is cousin to Camilla Parker Bowles, the link being Alice Keppel, a bit of a slapper who famously (I am assured) did Edward VII, which was Camilla's charming opening gambit when she first met Charles (and continued the family tradition - that is my comment, my wife is far too polite to say something so coarse).

    My wife is a mine of odd information, shame she isn't a ghost hunter.

  3. We're a nation of ghosthunters these days. If I'm a ghosthunter then so is she!

    Maybe we can get you both on our team (if we're picked...)!

  4. Matthew - you should have used your phone a friend! I knew that Paul Newman won an oscar for "The Colour of Money"....

  5. I have seen this show and like the concept but its so slow zzzzzzz.

    Good luck with getting on.

    I knew the Paul Newman one as well but only because I got it wrong before.

  6. Did anybody reading this not know that Paul Newman won an Oscar for The Color of Money??

  7. I bet you wish you had never mentioned Paul Newman and his Oscar.

    When will they tell you if you are in?

  8. If we don't hear anything by the middle of next month we can assume we've been unsuccessful. I'm not holding my breath...