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Review: University Challenge
Morgana Chess looks back on University Challenge and reviews this year's final
The wait is over. The final of University Challenge 2016/17 has probably been the most hotly anticipated episode of the show to date and, after watching last night’s episode, I can confirm that it certainly did not disappoint.
The enduringly popular show was first aired in 1962 and presents two university teams battling it out for the title of biggest swats every Monday evening at 8pm. Led by question-master Jeremy Paxman, the series has a committed legion of viewers that tune in both to test their own grey matter and for the show’s terrific entertainment value. This week, however, I suspect that the ratings will have seen a sudden surge as this year’s finalists have been receiving an unusual amount of media attention…
Despite the sadly all-male line up, 2017’s finalist teams of Balliol (Oxford) and Wolfson (Cambridge) feature some of the best and most eccentric characters the show has ever seen. Heading Balliol’s team is Philosophy and Classics student Joey Goldman, who has been labelled the ‘sassy Harry Potter’ as he almost spits his (generally correct) answers out at Paxman. On the opposing team, Wolfson’s captain also makes a distinctive character; Canadian Economics student Eric Monkman.
Within the past week, this genius student has set twitter ablaze with his keen answers and contorted facial expressions, prompting new fans to declare ‘I love him more than my children’ and ‘we now know God walks among men’. Rallying together under ‘#monkmania’, the nationwide obsession has led Monkman to respond with the statement ‘I certainly don’t think of myself as any object of desire. I assume people are being ironic, not serious. I think they’re just trying to be funny’. The Canadian is a certified brainiac and is responsible for winning 120 out of his team’s 170 points in the previous round, capturing the hearts of thousands.
In the wake of this craze, this year’s final has been transformed into a character-driven, nail-biting showdown as Oxbridge’s greatest minds battle it out for the ultimate title. (It should be noted that the Birmingham team also did incredibly well in the contest this year, making it all the way to the quarter-final with some brilliant victories!)
The episode was a riveting watch. Indeed, eyes were primarily drawn to the main event of Goldman vs Monkman but honourable mentions also go to key players Pope, Choudhary and Potts’ garish shirt. As incomprehensible answers were spat out by both sides, there were fist pumps and anxious squeals all round as the viewer cannot help but become emotionally invested in the contest’s outcome. Some particularly tense moments arose when Monkman was so sure in his own answers that he would interrupt Paxman’s questions and repeatedly lose 5 points for his team. At one point, after he completely floundered a starter question, Paxman even derided him with ‘I’m afraid that is a completely useless answer.’ Would hero Monkman be able to bounce back??
Sadly, no. Despite their valiant effort, Wolfson ultimately lost out with 140 points to Balliol’s 190, but still attended the trophy presentation with the legendary Stephen Hawking that concluded the episode.
Winner or loser, today’s social media reveals how ‘monkmania’ lives on and the show is available on iPlayer for all those who missed out on one of the most entertaining episodes of University Challenge to date.