Mastermind (TV series)

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Mastermind TV.jpg
Also known as Supermind
Mastermind Cup Final/Sport
Mastermind International
Mastermind Champions/Champion of Champions
Celebrity Mastermind
Junior Mastermind
Genre Quiz show
Created by Bill Wright
Presented by Magnus Magnusson (1972–97, Mastermind Celebrity Special: 2002)
John Motson (Cup Final Mastermind: 1978)
Frank Bough (Cup Final Mastermind: 1979)
Des Lynam (Cup Final Mastermind: 1980, Sport Mastermind: 2008)
Huw Evans (Mastermind International: 1981)
Peter Sinclair (Mastermind International: 1982)
Peter Snow (1998–2000)
Clive Anderson (2001–2)
John Humphrys (2003–)
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 40 (Regular)
3 (Supermind)
4 (Cup Final/Sport)
5 (International)
2 (Champions/Champion of Champions)
12 (Celebrity)
5 (Junior)
No. of episodes ??? (Regular)
3 (Supermind)
13 (Cup Final/Sport)
5 (International)
8 (Champions/Champion of Champions)
79 (Celebrity)
29 (Junior)
Running time 30 minutes
Original channel BBC1 (1972–97)
BBC Radio 4 (1998–2000)
Discovery Channel (2001–2)
BBC Two (2003–)
Picture format 4:3 (1972–97, 2001–2)
16:9 (2003–)
Original run 11 September 1972 (1972-09-11) – present
Related shows Disney Q Family Mastermind
External links

Mastermind is a British quiz show, well known for its challenging questions, intimidating setting and air of seriousness.

Devised by Bill Wright, the basic format of Mastermind has never changed — four and in later contests five contestants face two rounds, one on a specialised subject of the contestant's choice, the other a general knowledge round. Wright drew inspiration from his experiences of being interrogated by the Gestapo during World War II.

The atmosphere is helped by Mastermind's famously ominous theme music, "Approaching Menace" by the British composer Neil Richardson. The quiz programme originated and was recorded in Manchester at studios such as New Broadcasting House and Granada Studios, before permanently moving to MediaCityUK in 2011.


For the first round, the questioner invites the first contestant to begin. He or she walks over to a black chair and sits down. The contestant is then given a set period of time, usually two minutes, to answer questions on a specialised subject which he or she has chosen (see examples below). The questioner announces the start of the time period, and then reads out a question. If the contestant gives the correct answer, he or she scores one point, and the questioner then reads out the next question. The contestant may pass (by simply saying 'pass') if he or she doesn't know the answer, or prefers not to spend time trying to remember the answer: the questioner does not begin to read the next question until the contestant has given an answer or said 'pass'. If a question is answered incorrectly, the questioner will give the correct answer before reading out the next question; this uses some of the contestant's remaining time. However, if the contestant passes, the questioner moves straight on to the next question: the answer is not read out until the end of the round.

After the two minutes are up a buzzer is sounded, which is made up of four beeps. If, when the buzzer sounds, the questioner has already started to read out a question, but has not finished doing so, he or she reads out the rest of the question, and the contestant is then given a short period of time to answer. This convention leads to the show's famous catchphrase, "I've started so I'll finish." If a question has been read out in full when the buzzer sounds, but the contestant has not yet given an answer, the questioner allows a short period of time for an answer to be given. After this, the contestant is told how many points he or she has scored, and answers to any passes are given. The next contestant then takes his or her place in the black chair, and the procedure is repeated. This continues until every contestant has had one turn.

After the contestants have answered the specialised questions, they are given general knowledge questions. The procedure is very similar to that used in the first round, except that the contestants usually have two and a half minutes each, rather than two. As originally aired, the contestants would return for the second round in the same order as for their specialised subject. The contestants are now recalled in reverse order of number of points scored in the first round.

The winner is the contestant with the most points. If two or more contestants have an equal number of points, then the contestant with the fewer (or fewest) passes is the winner. The possibility of passing leads to tactical play as passing uses less time allowing more questions to be answered; but may count against the contestant at the end in the event of a tie.

Should the top two contestants have the same score and same number of passes at the end of the contest then a tie-breaker is employed, in which the two contenders are each asked the same five questions (one contender must leave the auditorium while the other answers). It is not clear what would happen should this fail to produce a clear winner, though it is implied that the process would simply be repeated as many times as necessary (and probably unsuccessful tie-breakers would be edited out of the final programme, to save time). It is, however, very rare for the tie-break to be required. In the version of the show hosted by John Humphrys (2003 to present), it has appeared only four times in the main series and once in the Junior Mastermind spin-off, the latter being in the final broadcast on 26 February 2006.

The winner goes through to the next round, where he or she must choose a different specialised subject. The winner of the final of the BBC version is declared "Mastermind" for that year and is the only contestant to receive a prize, in the form of a cut-glass engraved bowl. During the era of Magnus Magnusson's presentation the trophy was specially manufactured by Caithness Glass.

Versions of Mastermind[edit]

Mastermind has appeared in numerous versions:

  • The BBC version hosted between 1972 and 1997 by Magnus Magnusson. It was originally broadcast late on a Sunday night and was not expected to receive a huge audience. In 1973 it was moved to a prime-time slot as an emergency replacement for a Leslie Phillips sitcom, Casanova '73, which had been moved to a later time following complaints about its risqué content. The quiz subsequently became one of the most-watched shows on British television. Magnusson was famous for his catchphrase "I've started so I'll finish," which was also the title of his history of the show (by far the most authoritative work on the show — ISBN 0-7515-2585-5). The original series was also noted for the variety of venues where filming took place — often including academic and ecclesiastical buildings. The last programme of the original series was filmed at St Magnus Cathedral in Orkney.[1] The original series also spawned an International Edition between 1979 and 1983.
  • A version on Radio 4 hosted by Peter Snow, running between 1998 and 2000.
  • A version on Discovery Channel hosted by Clive Anderson in 2001. This version shortened the amount of time available for the answering of questions and lasted just one series. This was also the first to go 'interactive'. By using the red button viewers could play the general knowledge section throughout the series. These questions had been written specifically to afford both standard and multiple-choice format in presentation. There was a one-off competition between the four highest scoring viewers.
  • A new BBC Two version hosted by John Humphrys, beginning in 2003. Whereas the original series kept talk to a minimum, asking contestants only their name, occupation and specialist subject, at first the new run included some conversational elements with contestants between rounds, although these have been dropped in the 2011 series. It is also distinguished from the original BBC TV series by the fact that many more contestants' specialist subjects come from popular culture, which probably reflects cultural changes in the British middle classes in recent years. Unlike the original version, this version is studio-based. It is now made in Salford (although, due to asbestos being found at Granada studios Manchester, parts of the 2006 series were filmed at Yorkshire Televisions studios in Leeds) .
  • Supermind was an annual playoff between either the first four champions of Mastermind or champions of other TV quiz shows (inc. Mastermind) from 1976 or 1977. It ran for three years between 1976 and 1978.
  • Cup Final Mastermind was an annual playoff between experts and supporters from the FA Cup Finalist teams they are supporting. It ran from 1978 and 1980. It came back in 2008 as a 10-part competition this time entitled Sport Mastermind.
  • Mastermind International was an annual playoff between winners of various international versions of the show (or the nearest equivalents in some countries) and ran for five years between 1979 and 1983.
  • Mastermind Champions was a 1982 3-part competition where the first ten champions of the show compete to become the Mastermind Champion of Champions. It came back in 2010 as a 5-part competition this time entitled Mastermind Champion of Champions.
  • Celebrity Mastermind, screened during holiday periods and following a similar format to the main show, but with the winner of each show being given a trophy and donating money to a charity of their choice. In this version the general knowledge section features easier questions than those in the regular show.
  • Junior Mastermind, also hosted by John Humphrys, is a children's version of the quiz programme and has the same format, the difference being that the contestants are only ten and eleven years old. The programme aired across six nights on BBC One, ending on 4 September 2004. The winner was Daniel Parker, whose specialist subjects were the Volkswagen Beetle (heat) and James Bond villains (final). There was another series in 2005 (subjects included Black Holes and the Star Wars trilogy), which was won by Robin Geddes, whose specialist subjects were The Vicar of Dibley and A Series of Unfortunate Events, with a third series airing in 2006, won by Domnhall Ryan, and a fourth and fifth series in 2007 (won by Robert Stutter and David Verghese respectively).
  • An Australian version of Mastermind was broadcast by the ABC from 1978 to 1984, hosted by Huw Evans.
  • A New Zealand version was broadcast in the 1980s, hosted by Peter Sinclair.

In the United States, the game show 2 Minute Drill on sports network ESPN had its roots in Mastermind. Contestants faced questions fired at them by a panel of four sports and entertainment celebrities for two minutes; like Mastermind, there were two rounds of questions, however slightly different: The 1st round had each panelist's questions representing a different sports category pertaining to their area of expertise, and the 2nd round had no categories and the contestant couldn't control who asked the questions; they were fired at random. The contestant with the highest score after two rounds would win a cash prize, and would have a chance to double those winnings by correctly answering the "Question of Great Significance," as host Kenny Mayne called it, from a specialty category chosen by the winner (usually a particular athlete or sports team from the past). In each series, winners advanced in a bracket-style playoff format, with cash prizes increasing from $5,000 in the first round to $50,000 (doubling to $100,000 by answering the final question) in the final round. Prizes such as trips to the Super Bowl or ESPY Awards were also given, known as "ESPN Experiences". The show had three series over a 15-month period, from September 2000 to December 2001. Like Mastermind, 2 Minute Drill featured a leather chair, dramatic lighting and sound effects. Willy Gibson of Columbus, Ohio was the grand champion of the first two series; he was defeated in the second round of the third and final series. Unlike Mastermind presenters, Mayne had a very dry, quirky and sometimes sarcastic sense of humour, but did a very good job of keeping the game going; he would quickly jump in if one of the celebrity panelists was tardy in posing their question, so as not to penalise the contestant.

In 2012 an Irish version of the show aired on TV3 known as Mastermind Ireland.

In 2013 an Turkish version of the show aired on NTV known as "Mastermind Türkiye", hosted by Altan Erkekli.


Highest scores[edit]

The highest overall Mastermind score is 41 points, set by Kevin Ashman in 1995, his specialist subject being "The Life of Martin Luther King". Ashman would go on to become four times IQA world champion. In addition he holds the record for the highest ever score on Brain of Britain and has been a member of the Eggheads since that series debut.

In August 2010 during an edition of Mastermind: Champion of Champions, the 2010 series champion, Jesse Honey, scored 23 out of 23 on "Flags of the World" in the specialist subject round, an all-time record. He finished as runner-up with a combined score of 36 points, losing out to Pat Gibson by having two more passes. Honey's score was equalled by Iwan Thomas, who scored a record 23 (in two-and-half minutes) in the general knowledge round in 2010.

On Junior Mastermind in February 2007, an 11-year-old schoolboy called Callum scored 19 points on his specialist subject, cricketer Andrew Flintoff. However he did not win, being beaten by one point after achieving a final score of 32.

On 20 November 2009, in aid of BBC's Children in Need appeal, actress-comedienne Lucy Porter achieved the highest overall score for a Mastermind celebrity edition. She scored 35; her specialist subject was Steve Martin. On the same episode comedian Mark Watson, who preceded Porter, scored 33. Presenter John Humphrys congratulated him on breaking the existing celebrity record. It was then broken by Porter with her turn. On 31 December 2010, comedian Rhys Thomas scored 36; his specialist subject was Queen. Hilary Kay had also scored 36 points a few nights earlier, while one of her opponents, Richard Herring, had scored 35 points, equalling the previous record set by Porter.

Lowest scores[edit]

The current record for the overall lowest score is 5 points, set on 29 January 2010 by software analyst Kajen Thuraaisingham, scoring 4 points for his specialist subject of the life of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.[2] Previously, the lowest attained score had been 7 points which was first set by Colin Kidd in 2005. His specialist subject was "The World Chess Championships". The score was equalled in November 2009 by gas fitter Michael Burton; he only scored 2 for his specialist subject, Angels.[3]

Specialist subjects[edit]

The following is a sample of specialist subjects:[4]

A special episode of Mastermind called Doctor Who Mastermind was broadcast on 19 March 2005, in which all four contestants had the specialist subject Doctor Who. The prize was awarded to the winner by the then current Doctor, actor Christopher Eccleston.

Some specialist subjects are considered not suitable to be used. The following are examples of rejected specialist subjects:[4][not in citation given]



The following is a list of Mastermind champions since 1972.[7]

Year Winner Specialist subjects
Heat Semi-final Final
1972 Nancy Wilkinson French literature European antiques History of music, 1550–1900
1973 Patricia Owen Grand Opera Byzantine art Grand Opera
1974 Elizabeth Horrocks Shakespeare's plays Works of J.R.R. Tolkien Works of Dorothy L. Sayers
1975 John Hart Athens 500–400 BC Rome 100–1 BC Athens 500–400 BC
1976 Roger Pritchard Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington 20th century British warships Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
1977 Sir David Hunt World War II British campaigns in North Africa World War II Allied campaign in Italy Roman Revolution 60–14 BC
1978 Rosemary James Roman and Greek mythology Works of Frederick Wolfe Roman and Greek mythology
1979 Philip Jenkins Christianity AD 30–150 Vikings in Scotland and Ireland 800–1150 AD History of Wales 400–1100
1980 Fred Housego King Henry II Westminster Abbey Tower of London
1981 Leslie Grout St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle Burial Grounds of London St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle
1983 Chris Hughes British Steam Locomotives, 1900–63 Flashman novels British Steam Locomotives, 1900–63
1984 Margaret Harris Cecil Rhodes Postal history of Southern Africa Cecil Rhodes
1985 Ian Meadows English Civil War History of astronomy to 1700 English Civil War
1986 Jennifer Keaveney Elizabeth Gaskell E. Nesbit Elizabeth Gaskell
1987 Jeremy Bradbrooke Franco-Prussian War War of 1812 Crimean War
1988 David Beamish Nancy Astor British Royal Family, 1714–1910 Nancy Astor
1989 Mary Elizabeth Raw King Charles I Prince Albert Charles I
1990 David Edwards Michael Faraday Benjamin Thompson James Clerk Maxwell
1991 Stephen Allen King Henry VII Dartmoor and its environs Francis Drake
1992 Steve Williams Surrealist art 1918–39 Peter I of Russia Post-Socratic philosophy
1993 Gavin Fuller Doctor Who The medieval castle in the British Isles The Crusades
1994 George Davidson English coinage, 1066–1662 History of chemistry, 1500–1870 John Dalton
1995 Kevin Ashman Martin Luther King, Jr. History of the Western film Zulu War
1996 Richard Sturch Charles Williams Frederick III, German Emperor Operas of Gilbert and Sullivan
1997 Anne Ashurst Frances Carr, Countess of Somerset Regency novels of Georgette Heyer Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland
1998 Robert Gibson Solar System King Charles II Robert the Bruce
1999 Christopher Carter Birds of Europe Tudor dynasty British customs and traditions
2000 Stephen Follows Benjamin Britten T.S. Eliot Leoš Janáček
2001 Michael Penrice Professional boxing to 1980 (no semi-final) English history 1603–1714
2003 Andy Page Academy Awards Gilbert and Sullivan Golfing majors since 1970
2004 Shaun Wallace UEFA Champions League finals since 1970 England at the UEFA European Football Championship FA Cup finals since 1970
2005 Patrick Gibson The films of Quentin Tarantino The Culture novels by Iain M. Banks Father Ted
2006 Geoff Thomas Édith Piaf William Joyce Margaret Mitchell and Gone with the Wind
2008 David Clark Henry Ford George, The Prince Regent History of London Bridge
2009 Nancy Dickmann Amelia Peabody novels of Elizabeth Peters Life and films of Fritz Lang Lewis and Clark Expedition
2010 Jesse Honey London Borough of Wandsworth The life and work of Antoni Gaudí Liverpool Cathedral (Anglican)
2011 Ian Bayley Life and Work of Jean Sibelius Romanov Dynasty Paintings in the National Gallery
2012 Gary Grant Seven Wonders of the Ancient World Monaco Grand Prix Cetaceans
2013 Aidan McQuade Michael Collins The novels of Dennis Lehane Abraham Lincoln
2014 Clive Dunning Blackadder Life and work of John Lennon Life and poetry of Philip Larkin


Information needed

Cup Final/Sport[edit]

Information needed


Year Winner Country Specialist Subject
1979 John Mulcahy Ireland Irish History (1916-22)
1980 Rachel "Ray" Stewart Australia Life and times of Julius Caesar
1981 David Harvey New Zealand The Lord of the Rings trilogy
1982 Leslie Grout Great Britain Windsor Castle
1983 Christopher Hughes Great Britain British Steam Locomotives

Champions/Champion of Champions[edit]

Information needed


2002/03/04 celebrities and winners[edit]

Stephen Fry on Celebrity Mastermind. His chosen subject was Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories.

(Winners listed in bold)

2004/05 celebrities and winners[edit]

(Winners listed in bold)

2005/06 celebrities and winners[edit]

(Winners listed in bold)

2006/07 celebrities and winners[edit]

(Winners listed in bold)

2007/08 celebrities and winners[edit]

(Winners listed in bold)

Transmission date Celebrity Specialist subject
31 December 2007 Paul Bradley Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band
Dan Snow Seven Years' War
Peter Serafinowicz Monty Python's Flying Circus
William G. Stewart Lord Elgin and his Marbles
1 January 2008 Adrian Edmondson Sex Pistols
Bill Turnbull Beekeeping
Jan Ravens Daphne du Maurier
Benjamin Zephaniah Jamaican Reggae up to 1985
2 January 2008 Steve Cram Sunderland FC
Anjum Anand Partition of India
Tony Hawks Tony Hawk
Bill Kenwright The Hit Parade 1957–1964
3 January 2008 Wayne Sleep Bob Fosse
Yvette Fielding Henry VIII
DJ Spoony Ray Charles
Brian Sewell British motor cars 1930–1950
4 January 2008 Kaye Adams The Pankhursts
Simon Rimmer Tranmere Rovers FC
Danny Wallace Ghostbusters
Nicholas Parsons Edward Lear

2008/09 celebrities and winners[edit]

Transmission date Celebrity Specialist subject Position
28 December 2008 Dave Myers Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood Winner
Toyah Willcox David Bowie 1967–1977
David Lammy Muhammad Ali
David Harewood His Dark Materials
29 December 2008 Rav Wilding The human body
Mark Chapman Premier League Football
Philippa Gregory Elizabeth Woodville Winner
Jon Culshaw British Pop of the 1980s
30 December 2008 Bob Harris Life and Career of Alan Freed
John Sessions Short stories of Sherlock Holmes Winner
Louise Minchin The Life and Career of Darcy Bussell
Andrew Neil The Life of Adam Smith
31 December 2008 Sally Lindsay Carry On Films Winner
Mick Hucknall Life and Career of Henri Matisse
Summer Strallen Breeds of dog
Mel Smith The comedies of William Shakespeare
1 January 2009 Phil Daniels Chelsea FC in the 1970s
Rick Wakeman Just William
Ian Lavender Buster Keaton
Tim Vine Elvis Presley Winner

2009/10 celebrities and winners[edit]

Transmission date Celebrity Specialist subject Position
20 November 2009
(Children in Need special)
Stephen K. Amos Five Star 4th
Lucy Porter Steve Martin Winner
Dave Spikey Leeds and Liverpool Canal 3rd
Mark Watson FIFA World Cup since 1966 2nd
27 December 2009 Goldie The Films of Paul Thomas Anderson 4th
Paul O'Grady The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee 3rd
Gail Emms Gavin & Stacey (British TV series) 2nd
Loyd Grossman 18th Century Art and Artists Winner
28 December 2009 Darren Bennett The Star Wars movies 4th
Stuart Maconie 20th Century British Poets and Poetry Winner
Linda Papadopoulos Nirvana 3rd
Andrew Lancel The Academy Awards 2nd
29 December 2009 Alastair Stewart The Rolling Stones Winner
Steve Backshall Judo 2nd
Dave Vitty British Motorways 3rd
Saira Khan The Life and Works of Coco Chanel 4th
30 December 2009 Joe Pasquale Vampires in films 3rd
Roger Black Life and Music of James Taylor 2nd
Antony Audenshaw British Birds Winner
Diane-Louise Jordan Brothers and Sisters 4th
1 January 2010 Ed Byrne Star Trek movies 3rd
Tristan Gemmill Apollo Moon Programme Winner
Anneka Rice Jean Rhys 2nd
John Bishop Irish Potato Famine 4th
4 January 2010 Stewart Lee The Life and Work of Derek Bailey Winner
John Thomson Bond villains 2nd
Sascha Kindred Manchester United 1990 to present 4th
Matthew Lewis Oasis 3rd
5 January 2010 Tony Parsons British punk rock and new wave 3rd
Diane Parish Frasier 4th
Russell Grant County of Middlesex 2nd
Paul Gambaccini DC Comics Winner
6 January 2010 Michael Winner British cinema of the 1960s 4th
Dom Joly The Presidency of Jimmy Carter 2nd
Mishal Husain The Chronicles of Narnia 3rd
John Bird Life and Works of Igor Stravinsky Winner
7 January 2010 Mark Foster The New Romantics 3rd =
Nigel Planer The Life and Works of Robert Louis Stevenson Winner
Ching He Huang Entourage 3rd =
John Suchet The Life and Music of Beethoven 2nd
7 January 2010 Beverley Knight Life and Times of Prince Winner
John Higgins Dallas 3rd =
Michael Howard Liverpool F.C. in the 1980s 3rd =
Alex Deakin The Stone Roses 2nd

2010/11 celebrities and winners[edit]

Transmission date Celebrity Specialist subject Position
19 November 2010
(Children in Need special)
Stewart Francis The Toronto Maple Leafs 3rd
Tony Hawks Fridges 4th
Fred Macaulay Fawlty Towers 2nd
Andi Osho The Matrix trilogy Winner
27 December 2010 Mark Lawrenson History of Preston North End 4th
Hilary Kay Life and Works of Josiah Wedgwood Winner
Samantha Giles Films of Alfred Hitchcock 3rd
Richard Herring Rasputin 2nd
28 December 2010 Giles Coren Asterix the Gaul 2nd
Pixie McKenna History of Ellis Island 4th
Dean Macey Back to the Future trilogy 3rd
Samira Ahmed Laura Ingalls Wilder Winner
29 December 2010 Frank Gardner Birds of the Middle East Winner
Levi Roots Jamaica 1960–present 2nd=
Helen Chamberlain World Darts Championships 4th
Pam Rhodes Christmas carols 2nd=
30 December 2010 David Threlfall The Bonzo Dog Band 3rd
James Redmond England Football Team since 1990 4th
Hattie Hayridge The Cold War Winner
Ortis Deley Spider-Man Comics 2nd
31 December 2010 Adam Boulton The Life and Books of Anthony Burgess 2nd
Toby Buckland Father Ted 4th
Kirsten O'Brien Reeves and Mortimer 3rd
Rhys Thomas Queen Winner
3 January 2011 Robert Webb Novels of Ian McEwan 3rd
Helen Skelton Debbie Harry and Blondie 2nd
Sir Clive Sinclair British inventions 4th
Stephen Mangan The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Winner
4 January 2011 Elaine C. Smith Life and music of Joni Mitchell 2nd
Robert Llewellyn Electric cars 3rd
Michael Buerk Novels of Patrick O'Brian Winner
Cerrie Burnell Life and works of Augusto Boal 4th
5 January 2011 Simon O'Brien Life and music of Bob Marley 2nd
Digby Jones Kings and Queens of England 1485–present Winner
Jason Merrells Life and work of Leonardo da Vinci 3rd
Terry Christian Manchester music 1977–present 4th
6 January 2011 Derek Martin Western films 4th
Arthur Smith British radio comedy since 1950 3rd
Brian Moore Genesis Winner
Alex Horne Life and career of Ken Dodd 2nd
7 January 2011 Kristina Rihanoff Life and career of Patrick Swayze 3rd
Micky Flanagan Life and music of Bruce Springsteen 2nd
Martin Roberts Cartoons of Hanna-Barbera 4th
Seeta Indrani Operas of Giacomo Puccini Winner

2011/12 celebrities and winners[edit]

Transmission date Celebrity Specialist subject Position
11 November 2011
(Children in Need 2011 special)
Imran Yusuf The Life and Films of Jackie Chan
Karen Taylor Fred Dibnah
Russell Kane Evelyn Waugh Winner
Jarred Christmas The Transformers
27 December 2011 OJ Borg The Original Star Wars Trilogy
Jay Rayner The Musicals of Stephen Sondheim
Simon Calder Concorde Winner
Antony Costa Only Fools and Horses
28 December 2011 Stacey Solomon The Inbetweeners
Simon Day The Sopranos Series 1 & 2 Winner
Sophie Grigson Highgate Cemetery
Steve Harley T. S. Eliot and the Four Quartets
29 December 2011 Chris Packham Battle of Rorke's Drift Winner
Jenny Meadows Wigan Rugby League 4th
Alex Winters The Manic Street Preachers 2nd
Graeme Hawley Blackadder 3rd
30 December 2011 Matthew Hoggard Friends series 1 & 2
Jules Hudson Operation Market Garden
Justin Moorhouse Les Dawson Winner
Ray Fearon Othello
2 January 2012 Andi Osho John Humphrys Winner
Michael Vaughan Premier League 4th
Richard Arnold Dallas 2nd
Simon Armitage Ted Hughes 3rd
3 January 2012 Michel Roux, Jr. Auguste Escoffier's Guide to Modern Cooking 4th
Jessica Hynes Pam Ayres 3rd
Jon Sopel Tony Blair 2nd
Neil Hannon Frasier Winner
4 January 2012 Miles Jupp Former England cricket captain Mike Atherton Winner
Rachel Riley Manchester United F.C. 2nd=
Wayne Hemingway 1970s Disco Music 4th
Gary O'Donoghue Winston Churchill 2nd=
5 January 2012 Neil Dudgeon Philip Larkin Winner
Stewart Francis Toronto Blue Jays 3rd
Sandie Shaw Nichiren Buddhism 4th
Andrew Collins Disaster Movies of the 1970s 2nd
6 January 2012 Jacqui Smith The Archers Winner
Nathaniel Parker Marx Brothers 2nd
Erin Boag The history of New Zealand 3rd=
Jason Manford Quantum Leap 3rd=
8 January 2012 Sarah Storey Sex and the City 4th
Martin Lewis The Superman Films Winner
Nihal Arthanayake Glenn Hoddle 3rd
Dan Walker Gunpowder Plot 2nd

2012/13 celebrities and winners[edit]

Transmission date Celebrity Specialist subject Position
27 December 2012[8] Hannah Cockroft McFly 3rd
Val McDermid Life of Christopher Marlowe Winner
Lizo Mzimba George Smiley Novels of John Le Carre 2nd
Crissy Rock Life and Works of Toulouse-Lautrec 4th
28 December 2012 Simon Evans Ernest Shackleton and the Endurance Expedition Winner
Bobby Friction Life and Music of Prince 4th
Ewen MacIntosh Twin Peaks 2nd
Alice Roberts The Moomin Novels of Tove Jansson 3rd
29 December 2012 Adam Buxton David Bowie in the 1970s 2nd
Nelufar Hedayat The Harry Potter books =3rd
Chris Johnson The Films of Monty Python =3rd
Neil Pearson The English language expatriate press in Paris, 1922-39 Winner
30 December 2012 Ken Bruce The Jeeves novels of P. G. Wodehouse Winner
Sidney Sloane Liverpool F.C. under Bob Paisley 3rd
Holly Walsh Badgers 2nd
Paul Young The films of Johnny Depp 4th
31 December 2012 Milton Jones Potatoes 4th
Denise Robertson John George Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham Winner
Adele Silva The children's stories of Roald Dahl 3rd
Chris Van Tulleken The life and achievements of Ranulph Fiennes 2nd
1 January 2013 Pete Firman The Life of Tommy Cooper Winner
Jaye Griffiths Life and career of Ayrton Senna =2nd
Paul Martin Rock drummers 1970-2000 4th
Pete Reed The Lord of the Rings film trilogy =2nd
2 January 2013 Charles Campion Kenneth Grahame and The Wind in the Willows 2nd
Darren Kenny Life and works of Wassily Kandinsky 3rd
Naga Munchetty The Ryder Cup 1979 to present Winner
Kurtis Stacey Life and films of Arnold Schwarzenegger 4th
3 January 2013 Clemency Burton-Hill Downton Abbey 2nd
John Hammond Status Quo 3rd
Martin Kelner Arsenal F.C. since 2000 4th
Steve Punt Life and career of Tony Hancock Winner
4 January 2013 Carol Decker Life and work of Tina Turner 4th
Nick Hancock The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald Winner
Austin Healey Everton Football Club 1984-1994 2nd
Michael Underwood James Bond - the Roger Moore years 3rd
5 January 2013 Cheryl Baker Life and music of James Taylor 3rd
Tim Bentinck A. A. Milne and Winnie-the-Pooh Winner
Mark Thompson Coffee 4th
Guy Henry Life and films of Peter O'Toole 2nd

2013/14 celebrities and winners[edit]

Transmission date Celebrity Specialist subject Position
23 December 2013[9] Shaun Keaveny The music of Led Zeppelin 3rd
Mark Watson The Canterbury Tales Winner
Bunny Campione Life and films of Stewart Granger 4th
Frank Cottrell Boyce Life and works of Oliver Postgate 2nd
28 December 2013 Danny John-Jules Life and career of Bob Fosse 2nd
Gail Porter British Number 1 Singles of the 90s 3rd
Mike Bushell Alan Partridge Winner
Prue Leith War time food in Britain 4th
30 December 2013 James Allen Roald Dahl Winner
Chris Ramsey The Sopranos 3rd
David Bradley Max Wall 2nd
Shobu Kapoor On the Road by Jack Kerouac 4th
31 December 2013 Josh Widdicombe Blur Winner
Katharine Merry Aston Villa F.C. 1980–1990 3rd
Sian Reese-Williams Black Books 2nd
Nick Baker Life and Works of Alfred Russel Wallace 4th
2 January 2014 Adil Ray Fawlty Towers 4th
Mark Porter History of the Porsche 911 2nd
Kevin Eldon The Music of The Beatles Winner
Jordan Stephens Life and Times of Ross Geller 3rd
3 January 2014 John Cooper Clarke The Films of Elvis Presley 4th
Roy Hudd Life and career of Dan Leno 2nd
Ben Faulks The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition 4th
Frank Turner Iron Maiden Winner
4 January 2014 Hal Cruttenden The Rocky Films Winner
Clare Perkins The Border Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy 2nd
Sophie Hosking London Underground 4th
Huw Stephens Johnny Cash - The Columbia Years 4th
5 January 2014 Charles Collingwood Hampshire County Cricket Club
Georgia Henshaw Sherlock
Fred MacAulay Porridge
Mark Billingham Elvis Costello
12 January 2014 Richard Coles Mapp and Lucia Novels of E.F. Benson
Monty Halls Life and Times of Jacques Cousteau
Ava Vidal Buffy the Vampire Slayer Series 1 and 2
Tony Livesey The Jam
17 January 2014 Clare Grogan Doris Day
Quentin Letts Hereford Cathedral
Newton Faulkner Life and Work Harry Nilsson
Richard Whitehead Tottenham Hotspur 2000 - Present

2014/15 contestants and winners[edit]

Transmission date Celebrity Specialist subject Position
21 December 2014 Emma Barton
Tony Marshall
Zoe Lyons
Jamie Baulch
22 December 2014 Ore Oduba
Lizzy Yarnold
Alex Riley
Ken Dodd
23 December 2014 Tim Key
Andy McConnell
Amy MacDonald
Richard Stilgoe
27 December 2014 Andy Day
Ann Cleeves
Tom Rosenthal
Robert Peston
28 December 2014 Rob Deering
Amy Willerton
Andy Bell
Jason Watkins
31 December 2014 Kate Thornton
Tony Law
Steve Pemberton
Harry Shearer
2 January 2015 Jimmy McKenna
Gillian Joseph
Dallas Campbell
Russell Kane
January 2015
January 2015
January 2015


Year Winner Specialist subjects
Heat Final
2004 Daniel Parker Tudor dynasty James Bond villains
2005 Robin Geddes The Vicar of Dibley A Series of Unfortunate Events
2006 Domhnall Ryan Supermarine Spitfire Animals of the African plains
2007 Robert Stutter Madame Tussaud Tintin David Verghese Jurassic Park films George Lucas

The Chair[edit]

Perhaps the most famous icon of the show is the black leather chair in which the contestants sit, lit by a solitary spotlight in an otherwise dark studio. The inspiration for this was the interrogations faced by the show's creator, Bill Wright, as a POW in World War II.[1] The original black chair was given to Magnus Magnusson as a souvenir when he retired from the show.[10]

The chair is an Eames Soft Pad Lounge Chair designed by Charles and Ray Eames in 1969. Today these chairs are made under licence by Vitra.


The programme has been the target for many television spoofs, most memorably the Two Ronnies sketch written by David Renwick in 1980, featuring Ronnie Barker as Magnus Magnusson and Ronnie Corbett as a contestant named Charlie Smithers, whose specialist subject was "answering the question before last". This continually led to humorous and often rude answers. A similar sketch featured Monty Python alumni Michael Palin as Magnússon and Terry Gilliam as a contestant whose speciality was "questions to which the answer is two."

The 2003-onwards version has been spoofed by the Dead Ringers team, with Jon Culshaw playing John Humphrys. In one send-up, which appeared on the television edition of "Dead Ringers", the contestant offered to answer questions on Mary Queen of Scots, but when an answer was given, John Humphrys was shown saying "Yes, but you sexed that answer up". The sketch was a reference to the controversy caused by the aftermath of the Iraq War. One episode included Mastermind: The Opera.[11]

Another spoof was featured in Armando Iannucci's 2004: The Stupid Version, where a contestant's specialist subject was "The television series Thunderbirds and Lady Penelope's Cockney chauffeur".

Also in 2004, Johnny Vaughan's BBC Three show Live at Johnny's featured a version called Mastermind Rejects—the premise being that the specialist subjects were too ludicrously obscure even for Mastermind. In the final show of the series, Magnus Magnusson took over as the quizmaster - it was the last time he would utter the catchphrase "I've started so I'll finish" on any form of Mastermind. The specialist subject was The History of the Home Video Recorder, 1972 to 1984.[12]

On their 2005 Christmas Special, comedy duo French & Saunders parodied the show with Jennifer Saunders playing Abigail Wilson, a pensioner whose special subject is ceramic teapots. She passes on all but one question, which she answers incorrectly anyway.

In 2005, the show was spoofed on BBC Radio 4's The Now Show where the specialist subject was "Britishness", relating to the proposed test immigrants may have to take, to prove they can fit in with British society.

In 1974, Morecambe and Wise performed a sketch based on Mastermind, which featured Magnússon and the black chair. The format was different, however, with Wise, then Morecambe, being asked 10 questions each.

In 1975 The Goodies featured Mastermind in the episode Frankenfido when a dog (Bill Oddie in a suit) appeared on the show and managed to correctly answer questions asked of it as they all had answers that could be represented by growls, such as 'bark' and 'ruff'.

In the late 1970s, Noel Edmonds radio Sunday lunchtime show used to feature a send-up called "Musty Mind" where a phone-in contestant would be asked ludicrous questions on a parody of a serious subject, such as the "Toad Racing" or, on another occasion, "The Cultural and Social History of Rockall" - Rockall being a bald lump of uninhabited rock in the eastern Atlantic.

Benny Hill parodied Mastermind on The Benny Hill Show on at least two separate occasions. In one of the parodies the show was called "Masterbrane". In each, Benny played the role of Magnússon while Jackie Wright played the hapless contestant.

Spitting Image used the Mastermind format in a sketch where a Magnus Magnusson puppet asked questions of a Jeffrey Archer puppet whose specialist subject was himself. The twist was that Archer's puppet, being incapable of answering questions about himself without exaggeration or evasion, ends the round with zero points.

The BBC's satirical current affairs quiz show Have I Got News for You has parodied the show several times, by turning the lights down - except for spotlights above select chairs - and playing the theme tune, before subjecting at least one of the panel to some rigorous questioning. The first occasion happened on the 1995 video special, where only regular captains Ian Hislop and Paul Merton were asked questions; Ian on (as he put it) "The Life and Lies of Jeffrey Archer", and Paul was asked questions on "Absurd Newspaper Stories Between 1990-1995". The second occasion was in 1998, when Magnus Magnusson appeared as a guest. All four panellists were asked questions on this occasion, Paul's being the Starr Report, Ian's being the life and times of Rupert Murdoch, while Magnus had Mastermind, which also included a moment on Quizball when he confused playwright Arthur Miller with the name of the surgeon who had once operated on his mother's kidneys. After Magnusson's questioning, the spotlight then turned onto the other guest, John Simpson, who was informed that his "specialist subject" was Christmas cracker jokes, which he received help from Ian throughout.

More randomly, Have I Got News for You turned the Mastermind spotlight on one of its favourite guests, Boris Johnson, when he appeared in 2001. He was told his specialist subject was then-Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith "whether you like it or not". The programme's final Mastermind moment to date came when John Humphrys guest-hosted an edition in 2003, shortly after taking over as Mastermind presenter. After the opening round, HIGNFY regular Ian Hislop mentioned that in accordance with a long-running theme of Humphrys' other well-known role as anchor of BBC Radio 4's Today Programme, he was about to spring a surprise on him. Hislop then asked Humphrys several questions about quotes said by him or about him, including the revelation that Iain Duncan Smith had once remarked about his "nicely balanced package".

In his early routines Bill Bailey would often parody the Mastermind music, finding it very sinister. He would then play the music on keyboard with an over-the-top hellish sounding climax.[citation needed]

The programme Balls of Steel parodied Mastermind with its sketch The Alex Zane Cleverness Game, in which experts were quizzed on their specialist subjects (included were "The Life of Anne Frank", "Eurovision Song Contest Winners", and "Hercule Poirot"). Unknowingly to the experts, the show was a complete hoax, and blatantly incorrect answers were included in order to frustrate them whenever they supplied the correct answer.

The comedy show Snuff Box had the two main characters Rich Fulcher and Matt Berry both appear on Mastermind. Berry chose his specialist subject as Alton Towers and only scored 3 points before a blackout, in which he apparently shoots the host after being told to sit down. Fulcher chooses 'Anglo-Saxon architecture', though displays no knowledge of the subject and makes up answers such as 'Toto from The Wizard Of Oz' and 'Elvis', and scoring no points.

In 2011, The Chris Moyles Show on BBC Radio 1 parodied the show with a feature called 'Disastermind'. Using the back-up chair from the Mastermind studio, each team member chose a specialist subject, only to have them swapped before being questioned in the chair on their randomly selected subject and general knowledge. The specialist subjects were The World of Glee; UK Dialling Codes; U2; Husky Dogs and Back to the Future.

In 2013, Mastermind featured on the ITV show Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway, as part of an Ant Vs Dec segment where Ant and Dec had to answer questions based around a school challenge they took part in. Ant won.


Very few episode copies from Series 1-10 survive from the archives due to a mass archive wiping from the BBC. The episodes that survived in the archives are Episodes 6, 9, 12 & 15 of Series 1, Episode 17 of Series 2, 4 & 5, Episodes 15 & 17 of Series 3, Episodes 1-10 & 12-16 of Series 6, Episodes 1-15 of Series 7, Episodes 1-2 & 4-17 of Series 8, All 17 episodes of Series 9 and Episodes 1-16 of Series 10.[69]


  1. ^ a b As described on the BBC website's Mastermind page
  2. ^ Jones, Sam (2 February 2010). "Mastermind's lowest scorer: 'It wasn't my night'". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 February 2010. 
  3. ^ Gabbatt, Adam (19 November 2009). "Black chair brings ignominy for Mastermind contestant". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 November 2009. 
  4. ^ a b "Mastermind: The Show". BBC. Retrieved 24 March 2008. 
  5. ^ Kirsty Rowland; aired 6 March 2009
  6. ^ Mastermind - 6th March 2009 - Part 1 - YouTube
  7. ^ Mastermind - UKGameshows
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ [2]
  10. ^ Conversation with Magnus Magnusson, March 2004
  11. ^
  12. ^ The details of Mastermind Rejects were provided by the contestant on that show, Andy Hain
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  15. ^ "Mastermind - BBC One London - 3 September 1973". BBC Genome Project. Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
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  45. ^ "Mastermind - BBC One London - 15 January 1989". BBC Genome Project. Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
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  69. ^

External links[edit]