19 April 2012George Ferzoco, Research Fellow in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, returns to the quiz show that is a national institution -- Mastermind -- on Friday 20 April at 8pm, on BBC2.
George made it to the semi-final following his victory in the first round, broadcast in February. His special subject then was the film director Federico Fellini. 'After the initial contest, I wanted something completely different, something "non-intellectual". I have been a supporter of the Italian national football team for some time, so I thought I'd give that a go.'
Asked about how it feels to be watched by about two million people, George says 'If you think about it in those terms, it will do you no good. You just need to get up there and try your best, whether it's just your mates watching or a much broader public.'
The semi-final was recorded in early September, immediately after George returned from three weeks in Florida. 'This will explain my apparently sudden tan; I promise I didn't go to a tanning salon!'
As with the first round (which was recorded in mid-July), George is sworn to secrecy about the outcome of the semi-final. 'I'm pretty horrible at keeping secrets, but I am obliged not to say anything about who won my semi. All I can say is that the semi-final is a different experience from the first round: there, you're up against other winners, and unlike the first round where there are four contestants, there are five in the semis.'
As a result of being on Mastermind, George was invited to join the Mastermind Club, and with Carolyn Muessig he went to the club's annual meeting last weekend. 'It was in Southampton, and we were warmly welcomed by everyone there. We met a lady, Patricia Owen, who was the series champion in 1973. Other champions were present, and one or two of them have also won on shows like Brain of Britain and Eggheads, so it was humbling to be in the presence of such quiz-world royalty. The "old-timers" affectionately told stories about the original Mastermind quizmaster, Magnus Magnusson. I learned that about ten years ago, the Club had its annual meeting in Bristol, and that there were some rambunctious youths outside the hotel, where Magnus was present and was reading out the questions for a members' quiz competition. The noise forced Magnus to pause, get up and go to a window, open it, and yell out below: "Hey, you! P*** off!" Imagine hearing that from someone like him! Apparently the youths immediately shut right up and went away.'
Why did you go on Mastermind in the first place, George? 'I must say that a motivating factor was our students. If I were to be picked, as did in fact happen, I wanted to set an example for them to be bold, and not worry so much about their performance on individual learning tasks. Some will go really well, others less so, but the important thing is to try your best, and to take pleasure from the cumulative effort we put into things. If you give things your best shot, you can surprise yourself -- I know I did. I am so pleased to have had the experience of sitting in the black chair, I can't tell you!'