Top of the Form (quiz show)
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|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.
The programme 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. 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.
Each school fielded a team of four pupils 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 26 September 1970 - 1986.
The programme migrated to TV, where it ran from 1962 to 1975, and was called Television Top of the Form. It began on Sunday 12 Novemnber 1962, when the Controller of BBC1 was Stuart Hood (Scottish).
Compared to many television quiz shows in recent years, Top of the Form had a resolutely grandiose outlook; nothing would ever be dumbed down. Consequently, on Monday 18 June 1973 it had its first bilingual competition, with Paris v London. In the same year there was UK v Australia, in the Transworld Top Team. The competition on Monday 25 March 1974 was all in the Welsh language.
In 1975 the TV version moved to 4.10-4.35pm on Sundays, then from 3.55-4.20, with the last final on 9 August 1975. One of the producers of the TV version was Bill Wright, who would later devise Mastermind in the early 1970s.
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.
Top of the Form finalists
- 19 December 1948 High School for Boys, Cardiff v Royal High School, Edinburgh
- 9 January 1950 Elgin Academy for Boys, Moray (winners) v Grove Park Grammar School for Girls, Wrexham, Denbighshire
- 9 January 1951 Manchester High School for Girls v Robert Gordon's College, Aberdeen (boys, winners)
- 19 January 1952 St. Dominic's High School for Girls, Belfast v Morgan Academy, Dundee
- 21 January 1954 The Methodist College, Belfast (boys) v The Nicolson Institute, Stornaway, Isle of Lewis (boys)
- 9 January 1955 The Academy, Dumfries (girls) v Grove Park School, Wrexham (boys)
- 14 January 1956 Newtown Girls' Grammar School, Wales v The Royal School, Armagh, Northern Ireland (boys)
- 2 January 1958 High School, High Wycombe (Girls) v Dr. Williams' School, Dolgellau (girls)
- 8 January 1959 South Hampstead High School, London (girls)
- 24 December 1959 Rotherham Grammar School v Mackie Academy, Stonehaven
- 5 January 1961 High School for Girls, Dungannon
- 21 December 1961 Archbishop Holgate's Grammar School, York (boys)
- 20 December 1962 High School of Stirling (boys)
- 22 December 1963 Cambridgeshire High School for Boys, Cambridge
- 20 December 1964 The Academy, Montrose (girls)
- 26 December 1965 The High School, Falkirk (boys)
- 27 December 1966 The Grammar School, Bassaleg (boys)
- 7 January 1968 King's Norton Grammar School for Girls, Birmingham v Greenock Academy (girls)
- 22 December 1968 Leyton Senior High School for Girls v Grove Park School, Wrexham (boys, won)
- 21 December 1969 The High School for Girls, Stroud v Queen Elizabeth Grammar School for Girls, Carmarthen
- 2 January 1971 Harris Academy, Dundee (boys) v Wyggeston Boys' School, Leicester
- 22 January 1972 Cheadle Hulme School, Cheshire v Cardinal Vaughan School, London
- 27 January 1973 Musselburgh Grammar School v The County Girls Grammar School, Newbury
- 2 February 1974 Kirkcudbright Academy, Kirkcudbright v Broadoak School, Weston-super-Mare
- 23 February 1978 Collingwood School, Camberley v Wellington School, Somerset
- 4 January 1975 Magdalen College School, Brackley v The Grammar School, Cheltenham
- 29 February 1976 King William's College, Isle of Man v Paisley Grammar School, Scotland
- 22 February 1977 Macclesfield County High School for Girls v Thomas Magnus School, Newark-on-Trent
- 7 February 1980 Peterhead Academy
- 23 December 1980 Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys, Canterbury v Wycombe High School, High Wycombe
- 22 December 1981 Girvan Academy
- 21 December 1982 Seaford Head School, Seaford
- 14 December 1983 Colchester County High School for Girls
- 19 December 1984 Moorhead High School, Accrington
Television Top of the Form finalists
- 24 December 1962 Grove Park School for Boys, Wrexham v Kingston Grammar School for Boys
- 1 May 1963 The Grammar School for Girls, Weston-super-Mare v Royal Belfast Academical Institution (boys)
- 23 December 1963 Brownhills High School for Girls, Stoke-on-Trent v Hull Grammar School (boys)
- 26 March 1964 High School, Stirling (boys)
- 1 April 1965 Sutton Coldfield Grammar School (girls) v Paston School, North Walsham
- 28 December 1966 Hastings High School (girls) v Leamington College (girls), Leamington Spa
- 28 December 1967 Burnt Mill School, Harlow
- 20 June 1970 Salisbury v Inverness
- 11 June 1973 Elgin Academy
- 17 June 1974 Loughborough v Darlington
- 9 August 1975 Gower v Leeds
- 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
- Daily Record, 21 September 1967
- Presenter: James Lipton (2002-05-12). "Inside the Actors Studio: Hugh Grant". Inside the Actors Studio. Season 8. Episode 813https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5p4KP212qo0
|transcripturl=missing title (help). Bravo.
- Donovan, Paul (1992) The Radio Companion. London: Grafton; p. 267
- 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