My ‘Mastermind Australia’ journey – Part 8: THE SHOW!

All present and (usually) correct. From left to right: William Laing, me, (Host) Marc Fennell, Kieran Magee and Yael Blinco.

Hello! When I last left you, I was finally about to enter the studio, for the recording of my particular episode of Mastermind Australia (which you can find right here, on SBS OnDemand:

Now read on…


So Kieran, William, Yael and I troop into the studio, and are introduced to the show’s host Marc Fennell, who curtsied when he met me. Must admit, I wasn’t expecting that.

We settle into our contestant chairs, and before we know it, we’re away! William was first in the Big Black Chair with his specialist subject; Herbert ”Doc” Evatt.

He did well and scored 11 points.

After William’s round, and a quick wait while Marc rerecorded a couple of questions, it was my turn, with my specialist subject: Bottom. It had all been leading up to this; I was about to see if all my research would pay off. I did ever so slightly better than William – 12 points. I was pleased that all of the questions I was asked, I had previously written (in one form or another) in my 19-page document…

My ‘Bottom’ questions – Page 3 of 19

with just one exception…

In the Series 1 episode Contest, how much did Eddie pay for the second-hand copy of Parade magazine?

I never wrote that question! Bugger! I really should have. I ventured “5 quid?” but the answer was, of course, £1.50. There was one other question in this round that I got wrong, and which, in retrospect, I wish I’d challenged at the time…

A film version was released in 2001 of that year’s Bottom Live tour, recorded in Nottingham and crediting who as director?

I answered Dominic Brigstocke, (which was wrong; he’d directed one of the earlier Bottom Live tours), because I’d been thrown by the words “A film version”. There is a film version of Bottom – as in, shot on film for cinema release – which is the 1999 spin-off movie Guest House Paradiso. But this particular question was asking about the one of live shows (recorded on video for release on home video). So beginning the question with the words “A film version” set me off down the wrong track, thinking about Guest House Paradiso. 

The film.

As opposed to the DVD recording of the 2001 live show Bottom 2001: An Arse Oddity.

… Which was directed by Dewi Humphreys.

After my round, and a quick wait while Marc rerecorded a couple of questions, Yael tackled her specialist subject, Fawlty Towers. She scored 7. Silently playing along, I got 9. I was stunned that Mastermind Australia‘s producers missed the golden opportunity of including a question about the play Fawlty Towers Live! Maybe something along the lines of:

In 2016, John Cleese’s stage adaptation of the show, Fawlty Towers Live, premiered in Australia, featuring which Australian actor as Basil?

I was right there – the Mastermind Australia producers had arranged it so that Yael was literally sitting next to Basil! 

Sorry – I couldn’t resist including this photo here. (Opening Night of ‘Fawlty Towers Live’ – Sydney, 20th August 2016.)

How could the production not have taken advantage of that? Whether Yael got the question right or wrong, it would have been a fun / interesting moment for the episode… and one that doesn’t exactly come along every day. What an absolutely jaw-dropping waste of an opportunity by the show’s producers.

After Yael’s round, and a quick wait while Marc rerecorded a couple of questions, Kieran did his specialist subject (the Collingwood Football Club 1927-1930), and scored 8.

So coming into the General Knowledge round, I was the one to beat. The scores were: Me: 12, William: 11, Kieran: 8, and Yael: 7.

I knew I’d be last to take the chair in General Knowledge round (they always start with the lowest scorer, saving the highest scorer for last), so I decided to silently play along with everyone else’s General Knowledge questions during this round, counting my correct answers on my fingers. I knew I couldn’t be seen – the camera was on Yael, and the rest of us were in darkness.

I played along with Yael’s General Knowledge questions, and got 8 of them right. Her final score of 13 meant she wasn’t a threat to my lead; I’d only need to get two correct in my General Knowledge round to beat her. 

After Marc rerecorded a couple of questions, Kieran had his General Knowledge round, and silently playing along, I got 10 of them correct (in contrast to Kieran’s 8, which brought his score to 16). I remember thinking “Ooh, lots of lovely pop culture questions there – I wish they’d given that particular set of questions to me. But since they haven’t… will I now be unlucky with my set of questions?”

After Marc rerecorded a couple of questions, I played along with William’s General Knowledge questions, and got 9 right. And I thought William did too; I thought his final score had ended up on 20. This meant that, to beat him, l’d now need to score 9 in my General Knowledge round.

But when Marc announced William’s score, it turned out that he’d only got 8 right in that round. I rejoiced at this – now I’d only need to answer 8 General Knowledge questions correctly, and I’d win the game!

My General Knowledge round began. But I got question after question wrong…

– I answered “Northern Territory” for the Birdsville Track question. (My first thought was “Queensland”, but then I thought “No, that’s too obvious – this is Mastermind!”) Of course, the answer was Queensland; they always begin the round with an easy one, to get the contestant off to a comfortable start. I knew they did that – I just forgot, in the pressure of the moment. A lesson (re-)learned: go with your gut, don’t overthink.

– The Pritzker Prize is for Architecture. (I’d guessed “golf”, because I’d never heard of Glenn Murcutt, but that sounded to me like a golfer’s name. I would not have known this.)

– Magnesium is the metal widely used in spacecraft manufacture. (I’d guessed Aluminium, only because I knew it was a light metal. I would not have known this.) If I’d had a working knowledge of The Periodic Table, I think that would have helped me here… D’OH!

– “Shoal” (I definitely should have known this; I’m usually good with the vocabulary questions… but I couldn’t tell you the last time I heard “shoal” – in either of its meanings – used in a sentence).

– Lidia Thorpe. I might have known this, if I’d had the time to wrack my brains… but, mindful of the ticking clock, I answered “Fred Nile”, even though I knew that was wrong. While Nile is a well-known bigot and anti-gay ‘crusader’, he’d have been far too old to lie down on the ground in front of a Mardi Gras float. I just said his name on the principle that it was always better to give an answer than to say “pass”.

Of course, in 90 seconds, only so many questions can be asked… and having got all those ones wrong, I only had enough time to get 6 right.

Which, of course, meant that I had lost to William.

By one point.

The same margin by which he had lost to me back on Australia’s Brainiest Quizmaster. That was 18 years ago, so his dish of revenge was indeed served very cold.

William (back row, second from left) and me (back row, centre) on ‘Australia’s Brainiest Quizmaster’ in 2006.

I smiled and congratulated him and shook his hand, and was genuinely very happy for him. He’s a very brilliant and friendly man, and I’d greatly enjoyed his company during the whole experience.

We gathered around for photos on the set (one of which, I believe, is above), and then it was back to the greenroom, where the contestants for Episode 3 were all ready to go on. I said a quick hello to Andy Zito and Miles Glaspole, and introduced myself to (Mastermind Champion) Sterling Coates and Andrew Brown (who was a Chase winner). I wished them all luck, and met up with my wife Judi, for a debrief and post mortem…


… And that’s what I’ll be discussing here next week, in the final, and rather reflective, instalment of my Mastermind Australia journey.

See you then!

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