It's Academic

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It's Academic being taped in historic Studio A at NBC-owned WRC-TV in Washington, DC on December 12, 2009
Mac McGarry hosts It's Academic in Washington DC on December 12, 2009


It's Academic is the name for a number of televised academic quiz competition for high school students through the United States and internationally. It's Academic programs have notably aired on NBC-owned WRC-TV in Washington, DC, NBC affiliate WVIR in Charlottesville, Virginia, and CBS-owned WJZ-TV in Baltimore, Maryland.

The Washington DC version of the show has been on the air since October 7, 1961, and is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest-running quiz program in TV history.[1] The program was created for WRC by Sophie Altman, who continued as executive producer until her death on May 24, 2008. Mac McGarry hosted the Washington shows from the beginning until June 25, 2011. Hillary Howard, a news anchor for Washington radio station WTOP-FM, took over as host subsequent to McGarry's official retirement in November 2011.[2] The Baltimore show is hosted by David Zahren. The show features three local high school teams of three players each. Over the years, chief sponsor Giant Food has given more than $2,000,000 in scholarship funds to participating schools. In 2014, James Hubert Blake High School became the first ever school to win three consecutive super bowls in the Washington edition of It's Academic.[3]

Format[edit]

The single-elimination tournament features 81 schools in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan region, 81 schools in the Baltimore metropolitan region (including Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore), and 9 schools in the Central Virginia region. The winners in each region go on to battle each other in the Super Bowl.

Each contest is composed of five rounds. Round 1 is a category round with eight themed questions (e.g. "the letter B" or "famous paintings"). Questions do not appear on the players' monitors but do appear for the viewing audience. Each team is given 100 points before this round and teams receive 10 points for each correct answer and lose 10 for each incorrect answer.

In Round 2, each team is individually asked five questions and receive 20 points each for a correct answer, but do not lose points for an incorrect answer.

Round 3 is a toss-up visual round. The monitor displays an image and the host provides a question accompanying the image. Teams receive 20 points for each correct answer and lose 20 for each incorrect answer (10 until April 19, 2014). Eight questions are used. The fourth question is always a math question.

Before Round 4 the captain of each team introduces the sponsors and school administrators and coaches. Team then select from three question packets. The team to the immediate left of the team that is supposed to answer chooses which packet the answering team will use. Eight questions are given to each team, with 20 points for a correct answer and no penalties. A 25 point bonus is given if a team correctly answers all eight questions, for a total of 185 points in this round. The fourth question is always a science question and the seventh question is always a math question.

Round 5 features toss-up questions, each worth +/-20 points. Visual questions are worth +/-30 points. The number of questions varies depending on the time left in the game. The game ends when the buzzer sounds. If a team has buzzed in prior the buzzer sounding, the team is required to answer the question before the game is considered over.

After the host has announced the teams' final scores, the studio audience is invited down from the stands to join the contestants on camera during the closing credit sequence. In the Washington version, the song heard under the credit roll is "T.L.C. (Tender Loving Care)" by the band MFSB.

Discontinued rounds[edit]

Prior to the adoption of the current format, there were several other formats of play.

Category round[edit]

The "very fast"[4] category round consisted of questions pertaining to the same category. In some cases, the question was the same throughout the round: teams were given different items, and had to answer the common question on the basis of each item (e.g., given a state, name either senator from that state[5]). In other cases, all the answers in the category round shared an announced characteristic in common (e.g., geographical locations whose names begin and end with "A"[4]). Teams used their buzzers in this round, earning 10 points for a correct answer, but losing 10 points[5] (later 20 points[4]) for wrong answers.

Timed round[edit]

In all forms, a team individually answers questions from a packet within a time limit. In one form, at the beginning of the game, teams get one minute to answer questions for 20 points each. In this form, teams are not penalized for wrong answers, in order to help the teams in "building score".[6] In another form, teams have one and a half minutes to answer questions for 20 points each. However, 20 points are deducted for a wrong answer. Teams may pass a question, losing 10 points; however, the other two teams may buzz-in to answer the passed questions (with a few exceptions) for plus or minus 20 points after the time runs out for the team's turn. Every question that is fully read must be answered or passed within a reasonable time. However, if a question is not finished when time expires, the team may reject it without penalty or answer the question at their own risk. In this form, getting all 10 questions (later 8) correct originally earned the team a 50-point bonus, later reduced to 25.[4][6][7]

Scrimmage round[edit]

A "scrimmage round" was once used during the 1977–78 Buffalo season championship. Teams were instructed to "use [their] lights and buzzers" for a "one-minute scrimmage round."[8]

Guest questions[edit]

Beginning in 2008, telecasts on the WRC-TV version have included "guest questions" from notable persons in government, business, sports, and the arts. Among those seen in pre-recorded videos are:

Spin-offs[edit]

It's Academic show at WMAQ-TV in 1967. The team is from Chicago's Kennedy High School.

An Australian version of the show aired on Network Ten and the Seven Network from 1968–1975, and was revived by Seven's Perth affiliate in 2001. Seven took the show national in 2005. [9][10]

A New Zealand version was also screened by TVNZ in the 1980s, with Lockwood Smith as the host.

WNBC-TV in New York aired a local edition of It's Academic from the mid-1960s through at least 1972, hosted most of the time by Art James, with Lee Leonard filling in for a year.

WMAQ-TV in Chicago had a version in the 1960s and 1970s under the "It's Academic" name, hosted by Ed Grennan.

WLWT and WCET in Cincinnati aired a local It's Academic from (at least) 1965 into the 1980s.

A version of It's Academic aired on WBEN-TV in Buffalo from the 1960s through 1986, hosted by sportscaster Van Miller. It was later revived for a few months in 2008 by WGRZ-TV, with Kevin O'Neill as host. The show returned to the area starting January 12th, 2013 and is hosted by O'Neill and produced by Full Circle Studios for broadcast on NBC affiliate WGRZ-TV.

A show using the It's Academic name aired in Richmond, Virginia on the NBC affiliate, WWBT Channel 12, in the 1970s, which was also hosted by Mac McGarry and sponsored by Giant. That was replaced by Battle of the Brains. Battle of the Brains has also replaced a version of It's Academic that aired in Hampton Roads.

The World Affairs Council, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of State, hosted an 'It's Academic International event in 2002, also hosted by Mac McGarry.

KFVE in Honolulu currently airs a local version titled It's Academic Hawaii which is hosted by Keahi Tucker.

Notable contestants[edit]

Notable people who have competed on It's Academic include:

Other notable participants:

In 1979, a charity special was held between a team of three Democratic senators (Patrick Moynihan, Lloyd Bentsen, and Alan Cranston), three Republican senators (Lowell Weicker, John Danforth, and H. J. Heinz III), and three members of the press (Jessica Savitch, Art Buchwald, and David Broder).[12]

Champions[edit]

(Note: bold denotes Super Bowl Champions.)

Year Winners
1972 Washington: Walt Whitman High School
Baltimore: Gilman School
1973 Baltimore: Randallstown High School
Washington: Bethesda Chevy Chase High School
1974 Washington: Herndon High School
Baltimore: Randallstown High School
1975 Washington: Walt Whitman High School
Baltimore: Randallstown High School
1976 Washington: Northwood High School
1977 Washington: Bethesda Chevy Chase High School
1978 Washington: Northwood High School
Buffalo: Nichols School
1979 Washington: Bethesda Chevy Chase High School
Buffalo: Grand Island High School
1980 Washington: Walt Whitman High School
Baltimore: Randallstown High School
Buffalo: Iroquois Central School District
1981 Washington: Holton-Arms School
1982 Washington: Walt Whitman High School
1983 Washington: Bethesda Chevy Chase High School
Baltimore: Dulaney High School
1984 Baltimore: Dulaney High School
Washington: Rockville High School
1985 Washington: Walt Whitman High School
Baltimore: Dulaney High School
Buffalo: Williamsville East High School
1986 Washington: Bethesda Chevy Chase High School
Baltimore: Wilde Lake High School
1987 Washington: Bethesda Chevy Chase High School
Baltimore: Wilde Lake High School
Central Virginia: St. Anne's-Belfield School
1988 Baltimore: Dulaney High School
Washington: Walt Whitman High School
1989 Washington: Georgetown Day School
Central Virginia: Thomas Jefferson High School
Baltimore: Dulaney High School
1990 Baltimore: Oakland Mills High School
Washington: Rockville High School
Central Virginia: St. Anne's-Belfield School
1991 Baltimore: Dulaney High School
Washington: Walt Whitman High School
1992 Baltimore: Wilde Lake High School
Washington: Thomas Jefferson High School
1993 Washington: Thomas Jefferson High School
Baltimore: Gilman School
1994 Baltimore: Linganore High School
Washington: Eleanor Roosevelt High School
Central Virginia: Woodberry Forest School
1995 Washington: Montgomery Blair High School
Central Virginia: Woodberry Forest School
1996 Washington: Georgetown Day School
Central Virginia: Woodberry Forest School
Baltimore: Mount Saint Joseph
1997 Washington: Georgetown Day School
Baltimore: Oakland Mills High School
Central Virginia: Charlottesville High School
1998 Washington: Gonzaga College High School
Baltimore: Hammond High School
1999 Washington: Rockville High School
Baltimore: Towson High School
2000 Baltimore: Howard High School
Washington: Eleanor Roosevelt High School
Central Virginia: Robert E. Lee High School
2001 Washington: Eleanor Roosevelt High School
Baltimore: Howard High School
2002 Baltimore: Howard High School
Washington: Holton-Arms School
2003 Washington: Holton-Arms School
Baltimore: Centennial High School
2004 Baltimore: Howard High School
Washington: Richard Montgomery High School
Cleveland: Solon High School
2005 Washington: Walter Johnson High School
Baltimore: Centennial High School
Central Virginia: Robert E. Lee High School
Cleveland: Solon High School
2006 Washington: Richard Montgomery High School
Baltimore: Hammond High School
Central Virginia: Charlottesville High School
2007 Washington: Walter Johnson High School
Baltimore: Centennial High School
Central Virginia: Robert E. Lee High School
2008 Washington: Rockville High School
Baltimore: Mount Saint Joseph
Central Virginia: Charlottesville High School
Buffalo, NY: Iroquois Central School District
2009 Baltimore: Centennial High School
Washington: Montgomery Blair High School
Central Virginia: Charlottesville High School
2010 Washington: Rockville High School
Central Virginia: Charlottesville High School
Baltimore: Gilman School
Cleveland: Copley High School
2011 Washington: W.T. Woodson High School
Baltimore: Walkersville High School
Central Virginia: Rappahannock County High School
Cleveland: St. Edward High School
2012 Washington: James Hubert Blake High School
Baltimore: Catonsville High School
Central Virginia: Louisa County High School
Cleveland: Firestone High School
Hawaii: Waiakea High School
2013 Washington: James Hubert Blake High School
Baltimore: Centennial High School
Central Virginia: Charlottesville High School
Cleveland: Twinsburg High School
Buffalo, NY: Williamsville East High School
2014 Washington: James Hubert Blake High School
Baltimore: James M. Bennett High School
Central Virginia: Charlottesville High School
Cleveland: Cloverleaf High School
Buffalo, NY: Williamsville East High School

References[edit]

  1. ^ "It's Academic". 
  2. ^ http://wtop.com/?nid=41&sid=2617677
  3. ^ Katz, Bonnie (10 Jul 2014). "Blake High School sets an academic record". The Sentinel. Retrieved August 24, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d WRC-TV (Washington) in association with Altman Productions. 23rd season premiere. It's Academic. Presented by Mac McGarry. Featuring Churchill, Mount Vernon and Northwestern. Original airdate 1983-09-25.
  5. ^ a b WIVB-TV (Buffalo) in association with Altman Productions. 1978–79 championship. It's Academic Presented by Van Miller. Featuring Grand Island, Iroquois, and Jamestown. Original airdate 1979.
  6. ^ a b WIVB-TV (Buffalo) in association with Altman Productions. It's Academic Presented by Van Miller. Featuring Williamsville East, Bishop Timon, and Salamanca Central. Original airdate 1981.
  7. ^ Altman Productions. It's Academic Presented by Mac McGarry. Featuring Albemarle, St. Anne's-Belfield, and Madison County. Original airdate 1988.
  8. ^ WIVB-TV (Buffalo) in association with Altman Productions. 1977–78 championship. It's Academic Presented by Van Miller. Featuring Nichols, Lancaster, and Williamsville East. Original airdate 1978.
  9. ^ http://au.tv.yahoo.com/b/its-academic/
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "History". 
  11. ^ Picture of "Chuck" from May 21, 2010 article. Accessed January 6, 2011 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/20/AR2010052000759.html
  12. ^ Campbell, Gail A. (1989-12-14). "Quick! Hit the Buzzer! Who Is Mac McGarry?". Washington Times. "Both Mrs. Altman and Mr. McGarry point to a special charity version of It's Academic they did 10 years ago...That show pitted three Republican senators and three Democratic senators against the press. Republicans Lowell Weicker of Connecticut, John Danforth of Missouri and H.J. Heinz III of Pennsylvania got more points than Democrats Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, Lloyd Bentsen of Texas and Alan Cranston of California, but the press still won. The late Jessica Savitch, Art Buchwald and Washington Post political columnist David Broder handily whipped the pols..." 

External links[edit]