Television: 'Mastermind' masterful in the reality television genre

By Lin Fergusona

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QUESTION TIME: Mastermind contestant Ben Mai in the chair for an upcoming episode of the riveting but restrained quiz show.PHOTO/SUPPLIED
QUESTION TIME: Mastermind contestant Ben Mai in the chair for an upcoming episode of the riveting but restrained quiz show.PHOTO/SUPPLIED

It was grand to have a Sunday night programme catering for the grown ups in the form of a quiz show that didn't assault our senses.

We weren't ground down by a loud wildly enthusiastic audience, a quiz master dropping quips and asking questions like he was throwing commands to a dog racing around an agility circuit.

Gentleman news reader Peter Williams leads this new series of Mastermind (Sunday, TV1).

Not only is he a calm, soothing voice of reason, his delivery of the questions is sharp and clear.

Facing that gentle smile, while under that glaring spotlight and willing your brain to tick over, would, I should think, be small comfort though.

It must be a nerve-racking brain grind.

What a contrast it was to sit back and comfortably watch a quiz show that was more a meeting of minds than a hysterical, hypermanic display of people hyperventilating to get some dosh to take home.

Think about it . Think about all those regular quiz shows you've watched recently. Didn't Mastermind render you a little bit speechless. It was so quiet.

A well behaved audience - ah yes there was an audience sitting behind those Grecian-style pillars - who you'd swear was attending a lecture in an atmosphere that was academic and a little donnish.

The set with its mosaic tiled floor, and the large spare columns in front of which the contestants sat in a neat row in matching smart leather chairs, was completely unadorned.

The brightest thing on the show was Peter Williams' pink tie.

I appreciated the lack of buzzers and bells, the simple heraldic-style intro and outro music, there was nothing messy and you could just sit back and do your darndest to try answer a question or two.

The contestants were given 90 seconds to answer each group of questions. Thing is, the questions seemed consistently long with Williams continually saying "I shall continue asking the question" after a very tiny buzz had alerted him.

The specialist subjects of the four contestants in this opening show were fascinating: from the life and works of Stephen Fry, to the history of the New Zealand Wars, the story of the Princess Bride and the history of the New Zealand Trotting Cup.

They of course were followed up by the general knowledge rounds.

It was a well produced show with no extraneous influences.

But I'm pretty sure that for a large section of younger viewers it would be described as a boring oldies show.

Tough. Bring it on I say.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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