Top of the Form (quiz show)

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Top of the Form
Running time 30 mins
Country UK
Language(s) English
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.

History[edit]

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.

Demise[edit]

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.

Hosts[edit]

Format[edit]

Each school fielded a team of four ranging in age from under 13 to under 18.

Transmission[edit]

Radio[edit]

Television[edit]

The programme migrated to TV, where it ran from 1962 to 1975, and was called Television Top of the Form.

Theme[edit]

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.

Contestants[edit]

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.

However, as comprehensive schools were becoming more commonplace under the Harold Wilson government, the autumn 1967 TV series of Top of the Form featured only comprehensive schools.[1]

Notable contestants[edit]

  • Film star Hugh Grant, who represented Latymer Upper School;[2]
  • 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.[3][4]
  • 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 3-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.

Popular culture[edit]

Top of The Form was satirised in the 1960s pre-Python television series At Last the 1948 Show.

The "Natural Born Quizzers" episode of Steve Coogan’s comedy series Coogan's Run involved a thinly-disguised version of the show.

In 2008, Dave Gorman traced the history of the show on BBC Four.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Daily Record, 21 September 1967
  2. ^ Presenter: James Lipton (2002-05-12). "Inside the Actors Studio: Hugh Grant". Inside the Actors Studio. Season 8. Episode 813. Bravo. http://www.bravotv.com/Inside_the_Actors_Studio.
  3. ^ Donovan, Paul (1992) The Radio Companion. London: Grafton; p. 267
  4. ^ [1]

External links[edit]

Video clips[edit]

Audio clips[edit]