Jeremy Paxman today announced that there will be some major changes to the format of his long-running quiz show University Challenge. In a press release he said that the programme was to be re-structured to give it a more topical and less academic feel.
His statement said that the new show, renamed Newsiversity Challenge, was likely to drop a lot of the general knowledge elements and instead concentrate on hard-hitting interviews with teams consisting of politicians and people in the public eye.
Talking about the announcement, Paxman said "With more time on my hands from now on, I felt it was time to change the focus of the show. I will be sharing the quizmaster duties with Kisty Wark, Gavin Esler and Emily Maitliss, and this means we can increase the frequency of the programme. We're thinking every weeknight at around 10:30, but that's yet to be scheduled."
The radical changes to the programme elicited claims that it could lose its identity and meaning. But Paxman hit back, saying that "most of the contestants interviewed will have gone to university."
"The competitive side of things will still be there," he stated, "It will be me against them, as always."
In addition to the interviews, there will be reports on a wide range of current issues, after which a selection of people with differing views on the subject will be quizzed on the content. Some of these people may appear on video links, and if so, Paxman has promised to stack their video feeds in two rows, one above the other, to retain the feel of the current programme.
Some of the current University Challenge concepts will definitely be cut, however. The list includes Roger Tilling's voice, the gong and the big glass paperweight awarded to the winner of each series. The current quirky theme tune, played by a string quartet, is likely to be replaced by something much punchier and with lots of brass blasts to let you know that the programme is serious.
The news of the proposed changes has been met with mixed reactions from the industry. John Simpson, a previous presenter on Newsnight and a contestant on University Challenge in 1964, said that he thinks the new show will be a success. "I have spoken with Jeremy about it. He tells me he will be putting various politicians on the spot and asking them the really tough questions, insisting that they respond succinctly and haranguing them until they do. Then he'll award ten points if the answer is correct."
Piers Morgan told reporters that he sincerely hoped the new programme would be a complete failure. However, he admitted: "We really don't get on. It all started when Paxman left a message in his own voice-mail box telling me to go f*#* myself."