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.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (April 2014)|
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 to stop the programme was announced on 28 September 1986 and the last broadcast was on Tuesday 2 December. The producer, Graham Frost, was reported to have said it had been cancelled because the competitive nature of the show jarred with modern educational philosophy. The BBC was reported[who?] to have been preparing a non-competitive inter-schools show where the questions no longer had a right and wrong answer, but they later denied this claim.
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 went on to found Virgin Atlantic Airways. Fields was asked the three-point question: "I was born in Valencia in 1867, who am I?" and answered "Blasco Ibáñez", prompting presenter Geoffrey Wheeler to take a deep breath and pronounce the answer correct and leaving viewers baffled.
Top of The Form was satirised in the 1960s pre-Python television series At Last the 1948 Show.
In 2008, Dave Gorman traced the history of the show on BBC Four.
- Round Britain Quiz, BBC Radio 4's general knowledge quiz from the same era, but mainly for adults, and still broadcast regularly
- University Challenge, a similar Granada Television series for British universities, which moved to BBC 2 and was taken off the air in the mid-80s, 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 - television school-age game show, with its heyday in the 1980s
- The Top of the Form Story at BBC Programmes
- Top of the Form at UKGameshows.com
- Television Top of the Form at UKGameshows.com
- Top of the Form at the Internet Movie Database
- The Top of the Form Story at the Internet Movie Database
- TV Cream