Game show analysis: university challenge
The opening title sequence of the programme features images of associated with various academic subjects, e. g. a globe. This represents the ideology of public schools and acclaimed universities, i. e. that intellectual young men should all have their own specialist knowledge of a specific subject that they excel at more than anyone else. This, and the music in the titles (a rich, classical piece), combines to give the impression that this programme is aimed at and made for the middle classes; intellectual, academically minded people that have themselves been to university and possess specialist knowledge of their own.
One aspect of the generic code of a gameshow is a ‘voice-over man’, and like nearly all gameshows University Challenge has a voice-over man. He is well spoken, like most of the target audience, and he is male, giving the impression that he is a well-respected figure, a lecturer or maybe even higher; the contestants, host, and audience are not worthy of seeing his face, they are only permitted to hear his voice. The host, Jeremy Paxman, is a white, Caucasian, middle-aged male. He has the role of a lecturer or headmaster, he asks the questions, he knows the answers, he is in charge.
This suggests that he has superior knowledge to that of the contestants; his sarcastic comments directed at the contestants suggest he has not got the time or the patience for simpletons on his show. The students wear their own clothes, casual in style as opposed to Jeremy Paxman, who wears a suit. This shows that he is a successful man, he is above casual, comfortable clothes, he is dressed formally and he demands respect. The contestants/students introduce themselves one by one, stating their name and the subject they are studying at university. This again goes back to the original idea of a specialist subject.
The idea of having a specialised subject also has different connotations, i. e. that the contestants are “superheroes”. Fictional “superheroes” all have their own unique special power (i. e. Spiderman has spider-like powers such as the ability to climb walls) that they are recognised for and that they use to save, protect and better our society with. This reflects the idea that the contestants have the special power of knowledge. They will be recognised for this power and they will use it to get good jobs and save Britain’s struggling economy, thus saving us, protecting us and bettering society.
The orange backdrop suggests richness; this reflects the idea that the contestants are the cream of society, young, aspiring, intellectual individuals that will go onto great things. There are not many different shots used, but one shot they do use is a ‘split-screen’ shot that has been associated with the show for years (and has been made fun of in spoofs- i. e. the Young Ones). This is so that the audience can see both teams battle it out and so they can decide on whom they would like to win.
You can also see all the surnames of the teams, this is so you know their names, but it is also a very middle class thing to do-in public schools you are referred to by your surname. Although the show has a very dated attitude, new values are being shown in terms of the contestants. There is an Asian captain in one of the teams; this shows the changing attitudes the show has, the new mix of culture shows that the producers are changing with the times and it goes against the traditional public school boy image. Also there is an increasing number of female contestants.
This is due to more and more females breaking free of the “housewife” lifestyle and going to university. The programme has recognised this and is changing its attitudes to look more modern. Overall I feel that the show is attempting to change its opinions towards modern society by having more female contestants and also a wide culture mix, but it isn’t doing a very good job of it as it still has old-fashioned attitudes and values. This isn’t a bad thing though, as its target audience are mainly former public school boys or university graduates that share the same attitudes.