Could My Quiz-Crazy Family Beat Britain's Biggest Eggheads? Find Yourself Shouting out the Answers at Every TV Quiz? It's Not So Easy When You're in the Hot Seat
Byline: by Flic Everett
MY FAMILY has always been competitive. My husband, Simon, once beat his head on the carpet in anguish when I took his queen during a friendly chess game. My dad panics if he can't complete a Fiendish Sudoku in ten minutes; and during TV quiz shows, I am regularly compelled to shout at the paralysed idiot who can't remember basic facts.
It never occurred to me, however, that one day the blinking rabbit in the studio lights would be me.
Last summer, we had an email inviting our family business, a clothes shop, to take part in the BBC2 general knowledge quiz, Eggheads.
This is a relatively highbrow teatime programme, which pits hopeful teams of Challengers against the terrifying intellectual might of the five Eggheads, all of whom have triumphed in various quizzes themselves.
They include Judith Keppel, winner of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire; Daphne Fowler, Brain of Britain Champion; Chris Hughes, master of Mastermind; CJ de Mooi, a Mensa Chess Champion; as well as the formidable Kevin Ashman, fivetime winner of the European Quizzing Championships.
These people eat encyclopedias for breakfast, and pick facts out of their teeth like spinach. You'd have to be mad to take them on, but never having seen it, we didn't know that.
Imagining it might be fun, I went with my mum and dad, Simon, and our daughter Mimi, 20, to meet the researchers at an Eastern Bloc-style hotel on the outskirts of Manchester.
It was horribly like an exam, with a sheet of written questions on such topics as what fruit is traditionally used in the dish Clafoutis, and who painted Tiger In A Storm? (I got those right, it was cherries and Rousseau -- the science bits, however, might as well have been in Swahili.) After a quickfire verbal round in which my dad easily triumphed, they waved us off and said they'd let us know.
And that, we assumed, would be the end of it -- except it wasn't. Just a week later, they got in touch to say we'd all done a great audition and they wanted us on Eggheads.
That was when proper panic set in. Having watched just one episode, we realised that we stood virtually no chance. The Eggheads were like a deadly machine, mowing down allcomers.
At this point, Mimi bottled it. Admittedly, she reads the newspaper every day -- but she decided that her chances of taking on Judith Keppel in the Politics round were less than zero, so we drafted in Simon's mate Martin to be on standby.
During the two weeks before the recording, we spent several nights round at my parents', testing each other. We no longer enjoyed light chats about our lives. Instead, my dad would demand: 'Longest river in Europe?' (It's the Volga, at 2,290 miles long, apparently. Most of us foolishly thought it was the Danube.)
Then Simon would counter with: "Who played Young Mister Grace in Are You Being Served..?' (Harold Bennett -- nobody had a clue) and we'd all sit about in a ferment.
Simon even drew up a complicated chart detailing who would answer which set of questions. The format means that each team member takes on an Egghead oneon-one in different subject categories -- Sport, Literature, Politics, Film and TV, Food and Drink, History or Geography.
Each contestant is given a multiplechoice question, such as: 'The Laughing Cavalier is a 1624 work by which artist?
'a. Frans Hals.
b. Thomas Gainsborough.
c. Anthony Van Eyck'
(it's Hals -- which you're sure you know, till the studio's deathly quiet, the Eggheads are smirking, and a small seed of doubt enters your mind) and then it's the turn of their opposing Egghead.
It's a best-out-of-three round, but if both Egghead and contestant get all three of their questions right, it goes to sudden death -- and no longer are you offered multiplechoice answers. Eeek!
The winner of each round -- be it contestant or Egghead -- then wins a place in the Final Showdown, where they will be pitted against the winners on the opposing team. …