A comedy panel game in which being Quite Interesting is more important than being right. Stephen Fry is joined each week by four comedians to share anecdotes and trivia, and maybe answer some questions as well.
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Well, other than The Simpsons. But University Challenge is undoubtedly the best quiz show. No fabulous prizes, celebrity specials (though wouldn't it be cool if the BBC showed the episodes with people like Stephen Fry in?) or tacky formats; just a good, solid series. Yet there is still enough of a 'format' present to endear the show to me - the classic dialogue ("your starter for 10" has actually made it into the Oxford Dictionary of Quotation), the one-team-on-top-of-the-other set (famously parodied in The Young Ones), Roger Tilling's blink-and-you'll-miss-it voiceover that he nevertheless gets credit for, and the fact that every week seems to include Somethingorother College, Oxford playing either the Open University or UMIST.
Most importantly though, where most other quiz shows only seem to point out your ignorance of certain topics and leave you feeling stupid for the questions you can't answer, the ultra-difficult nature of University Challenge means that you don't feel bad about the questions you get wrong, but when you get one (or more!) right it seems as if your whole life spent collecting arcane facts has been validated.
You could also argue that University Challenge is more wholesome than other quiz programmes. The winners don't play for prizes but rather for the honour of their university (and, if I remember rightly, some money and a nice statue too). It was watching this programme that I knew I wanted to go to uni, and someday be able to say to a BBC studio audience "I'm Richard Magrath, and I'm reading English Literature". It was through University Challenge that I learnt that you "read", rather than "study", your course at university, about the Oxbridge collegiate system and that I have a talent at being able to recognise pieces of classical music when played backwards.
Finally, as the icing on the cake, the series is filmed in Manchester. What more could you want?
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