Top of the Form (quiz show)
|Running time||30 mins|
|Home station||BBC Radio 4|
|TV adaptations||BBC 1 (1962-75)|
|Air dates||1 May 1948 to 2 December 1986|
|Opening theme||Marching Strings|
|Other themes||Fanfare for the Common Man (ELP prog rock version)|
Top of the Form was a BBC radio and television quiz show for teams from secondary schools in the United Kingdom which ran for 38 years, from 1948 to 1986.
It began on Saturday 1 May 1948, as a radio series, at 7.30pm on the Light Programme. It progressed to become a TV series from 1962 to 1975, also the heyday of University Challenge. 1975 also coincided with the phasing out of many grammar schools.
A decision was announced on 28 September 1986 to stop the programme. It finished on Tuesday 2 December 1986. The producer, Graham Frost, was reported to have said it was cancelled because the competitive nature of the show jarred with modern educational philosophy. The BBC was reported to have been preparing a non-competitive inter-schools show where pupils no longer had questions with a right and wrong answer. However the BBC said "there are no programmes planned involving schools on the radio".
- Wynford Vaughan-Thomas
- Lionel Gamlin
- Richard Dimbleby
- David Dimbleby
- John Ellison
- Robert MacDermot
- Kenneth Horne
- John Edmunds
- John Dunn
- Tim Gudgin (1965–86)
- Bob Holness (1974–76)
- Paddy Feeny (1965–86)
- Geoffrey Wheeler (1962–75)
Each school fielded a team of four ranging in age from under 13 to under 18.
- BBC Light Programme from 1948–67
- BBC Radio 2 (sometimes simulcast on BBC Radio 1) 1967-70
- BBC Radio 4 from 1970-86.
The programme migrated to TV, where it ran from 1962 to 1975, and was called Television Top of the Form.
The tune Marching Strings (composition credited to "Marshall Ross", a pseudonym of Ray Martin) was the theme for many years, though for the last few series, Emerson, Lake & Palmer's recording of Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man was used. Earlier, Debussy's Golliwog's Cakewalk, from his Children's Corner suite, had introduced the radio series.
The series tended to feature grammar schools; in later years, as these schools became less numerous, comprehensive schools sometimes featured, but less often, and there was an increasing dominance by independent schools.
- Film star Hugh Grant, who represented Latymer Upper School;
- Darien Angadi, whose story was told during a BBC Four documentary about the quiz programme
- Vivien Stuart (1969), later a weather presenter and television announcer.
- Hilary Benn, represented Holland Park School in 1969 who were contentiously eliminated in a second round match.
- Robbie Fields, also a member of the 1969 Holland Park School team, whose identical twin, Randolph Fields went on to found Virgin Atlantic Airways. Fields was famously asked the 3 point question : "I was born in Valencia in 1867, who am I?" and answered "Blasco Ibanez", prompting adjudicator Geoffrey Wheeler to take a deep breath and pronounce the answer correct and leaving 99.99% of the viewers baffled.
Top of The Form was satirised in the 1960s pre-Python television series At Last the 1948 Show.
- Round Britain Quiz, Radio 4 general knowledge quiz from the same era, but for adults, and still broadcast regularly
- University Challenge, Granada TV similar series for British universities which also was taken off the air in the mid-1980s, although was brought back for a new audience in 1994
- Schools' Challenge - continuing UK inter-schools quiz, non-televised, based on the rules of University Challenge.
- Blockbusters (UK game show) - television school-age game show, with its heyday in the 1980s
- The Top of the Form Story March 2008 BBC4
- UK Game Shows
- Television Top of the Form
- The Top of the Form Story
- TV Cream