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Tuesday, 24 January 2012

A starter for ten
If you ask me - you didn't, but that's the risk you take in these here parts - there's only one good reason to watch the geek-swollen, virgin-fest that is University Challenge. Sod the finer points of geo-thermal dynamics or post-modern American literature. It's really about the reaction of the contestants whenever they answer a question correctly.
Have you ever seen a more socially inept bunch of individuals? Yeah, they may look like regular human beings but this thin veneer of normality is cracked wide open whenever they bag themselves points. They just don't look like they know how to handle it, do they? I've seen less seat shifting in the local GUM clinic. In fact, you can narrow their behaviour down to just four responses:
The shrugger: It's the boffins' version of 'whatever', as if answering a question about the conversion of carbon dioxide into organic compounds is the equivalent of doing up your shoes with velcro. 
The bored: As if being on University Challenge is so, so dull that they're desperate to get back to the lab. They'll answer a question about interpretivism in political science while learning back in their chair with such an insouciant slouch that they look dead.
The ashamed: It's that embarrassed look they get when they manage to identify the Laughing Cavalier from a quarter inch of canvas. I say shame because there's a direct correlation between their correct answers and the number of extra years they'll have to wait for a shag.
The hotshot: With that self-congratulatory nod that displays such enduring smugness it's hard to believe that the contestant hasn't learned to blow themselves off yet. 
Funny thing is that these responses look laughably well practised, like actors who've lost out on an Oscar while still having to gurn happily for the camera. Jesus, across the land there are lank haired contestants standing in front of mirrors in their pants while learning how to say 'photosynthesis' or 'Aristotle' without exploding with happiness at their own intelligence.
And that's the problem with University Challenge, isn't it? The contestants. They actually make me grateful that I spent more time necking cider than I did studying. Appearing on UC would have been social death. Well, for normal human beings at least.



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