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Tuesday, 13 November, 2001, 12:17 GMT
Mastermind on speed
Clive Anderson
Clive Anderson is the host of the new Mastermind
By BBC News Online's Jackie Finlay

So, Mastermind is back. Ah, the memories of the black leather chair under the spotlight, the sweat beads of tension, the stentorian tones of quizmaster par extraordinaire Magnus Magnusson.

The classic 70s BBC quiz, which ran until 1997, has been tarted up, sped up and, apparently, dumbed down for its new outing on the Discovery Channel.

The producers have kept the show's trademarks - the leather chair, the "I've started so I'll finish" Magnusson catchphrase and the two specialist/general knowledge rounds.

And luckily, the contender wearing a 70s pattern jumper and glasses won the first show on Monday. Some things don't change.

Magnus Magnusson was the original quizmaster
Magnusson was much harsher with the contestants
However, the set has been spruced up to a dramatic blue and black, giving it a taste of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? glamour.

Yet the sense of occasion has undoubtedly been lost. Magnusson used to host the quiz from a different venue around the country every week, with an audience in full show adding to the tension.

Now the audience has been banished behind the cameras - presumably because it is the same one for about 12 shows, factory-processed in the studio in half a day, no doubt.

Sympathetic

And the contenders are rushed through their time in the chair - probably for the same reason. But again, it loses the build-up of tension which made the original show a success.

Talk show host Clive Anderson is clearly a good choice for the new quizmaster, as the only person who could handle the pace.

He sits, Davros-like, behind his desk which looks as if it has come with him from his chat show and just had a quick paint job.

Despite his trademark irony, which could have been used to startling Weakest Link effect, he adopts a friendly, sympathetic tone with the contenders - again a departure from the original quizmaster and a nod to Millionaire's Chris Tarrant.

The most disturbing element of the show is the new interactive element.

Sky digital viewers are able to vote for the "brainiest" contender - that is, the one who they think looks the most brainy at the start of the show (I did say it had dumbed down).

And they can also play along in the general knowledge round.

A digital Anderson - a frightening prospect - announces these sections. They seem to have been introduced at the expense of the quiz, which is rushed in order to make room for this - and the advertisements.

And they seemed a bit pointless - after all, who needs an interactive TV to play along with Mastermind?

See also:

21 Apr 01 | TV and Radio
Mastermind winner is a Millionaire
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