Masterteam (1)



Angela Rippon


BBC 1, 21 October 1985 to 20 December 1987 (3 series)


Tea-time team version of Mastermind. Rounds were:

Team Challenge - basically, questions on the buzzer, which commenced on Angela's instruction, "Let's play!" Contestants had to beware of incorrect interruptions, as that meant a bonus point went to the opposing team, together with the full question for a further point. This system was also used a decade later in the virtually identical The Great British Quiz.

In A Spin - Teams had to make the longest word from three given letters, supposedly selected at random, starting with the first and including the others in order within the word declared. Essentially Catchword before its time.

Spotlight - Teams choose a member of the opposition to answer questions on their own from a list of specialist subjects, including the Pot Pourri category ("a tough general knowledge", Angela would always remind us). It is worth noting here that, as Angela sometimes pointed out, the teams were not allowed to watch each other playing, so new teams did not get to find out which members of the surviving teams were particularly good in that round. Only the initial "Team Challenge" round could give an indication - and of course not necessarily a true one at that. There were also stories of losing contestants tipping off future teams regarding the abilities of certain winning contestants in certain subjects, thus meaning that the experts concerned were not chosen to be put in the spotlight in their subsequent games.

It's All Yours - This only happened from quarter-final onwards. Each team in turn was allowed to confer for answers.

The set of Masterteam

The show was recorded at The Greenwood Theatre, London. The winners of each series were Warrington Sports Club, Antrim Coasters and Carrick Plus One. When the programme schedulers decided what we should watch before the Six O'Clock News, Masterteam was dropped in favour of a new Australian soap - Neighbours. A shame really, because 'Masterteam' was an enjoyable show, helped along by Angela's pleasant and professional style of hosting and the show had fitted very neatly into its timeslot.

Key moments

The gripping Masterteam leader board, with gold, silver and bronze positions for two, three or four consecutive wins. The contestants apparently also won book tokens of increasing value, depending on which medals they won - possibly £50, £100 and £200?

The team names were often memorable, one of the best being "The Peripatetic Pedagogues" - "just to confuse me!" declared Angela! Others included "The Triple Connection", "The Garbologists" (apparently a term for people who study communities by analysing their waste), "The Master Cutlers from Sheffield", "The Blackpool Illuminaries", "The Galloway Grannies", one of whom was in her eighties, "Ron's Raiders" and "The Magic Roundabout from Hemel Hempstead", (apparently named after a well-known roundabout in that town, rather than a certain children's programme). Teams also quite often appeared in uniform/work gear - these included "The Fulham Firemen", "The Harpenden Ventures" (Venture Scouts) and "The Micklebarrow Morris Men". (Ron's Raiders, incidentally, were an all-female team - Ron himself was apparently unwell and thus cheering the team on from his sick-bed).

In the last-ever edition of the show, the above-mentioned team 'The Garbologists' was in the final and one of them was a dustman. The answer to his final 'Spotlight' round question was, appropriately enough, 'My Old Man's A Dustman'.

For the team rounds, the answers always had to be given by the person in the middle seat, although, bizarrely, this person was never actually referred to as 'the captain'. When there were two men and one woman playing, the woman would always fulfil said role, and likewise, when (less frequently) there were two women and one man, the man would fulfil the role.

Occasionally, there were celebrity teams - these included "Lightning Strikes" (BBC weathermen, including Michael Fish and Ian McCaskill), "The Honourable Members" (3 MPs, including Austin Mitchell) and "The Boffins", a team that consisted of Johnny Ball, Patrick Moore and the late Johnny Morris. (Morris, incidentally, scored very impressively on the subject of 'Classical Music' in the Spotlight Round, which may have seemed surprising for one better known for being a wildlife expert, but he had, in fact, originally trained as a musician). The inclusion of celebrity contestants generally seemed unnecessary and it could detract from the enjoyment of watching everyday contestants fighting for places in the semi-finals - perhaps the celebrities only took part because there were not enough members of the public taking part? Either way, the "Honourable Members" team proved highly irritating, although they did display some decent knowledge, since they managed to get as far as the bronze medal stage.

The finals of 1986 and 1987 included In a Spin rounds with curious selections of letters. In 1986, one selection was the letters JIM. The Antrim Coasters could only declare JIM; their opponents (Good Guessers) came up with JURIMETRICS. In 1987, there was the more obscure selection of EKU. Neither team could come up with anything, and Angela proudly declared that their computer spellchecker could only come up with three!

One member of the Warrington Sports Club team was a rather elderly lady called Olive. She became something of a star in the first series. The show's most memorable moment of all came in an open round, when Angela asked the question "Who is the lead singer of Motorhead?", to which Olive confidently replied "Lemmy"! She had done a lot of research into pop music, which was not otherwise a specialist subject.

One member of the Antrim Coasters was asked in his 'Spotlight' round, 'In which children's television series does the character Hazel The McWitch appear?' He clearly didn't know and thus made a very wild guess, which was "Masterteam". Angela said afterwards, "I'm sure he didn't mean me!"

The "Team Challenge" round always ended with a strangely tinkly jingle, which Angela once rightly described as sounding like something from "The Magic Roundabout".


(When cueing the contestants in to introduce themselves): "Let's meet them - they are:"

"Let's play!"

(Following an incorrect interruption in the 'Team Challenge' round): "No - incorrect challenge - a bonus point to the opposition and the full question."

(Before the 'Spotlight' round): "If you pass, I'll give you the answer within your allotted time - and you may not interrupt the question".

"It's still yours..."

"I must have an answer!"

(Before the 'In A Spin' round): "A (or whatever) is the first letter in the sequence and must be the first letter of your word..."

"For one minute, team - it's all yours!"

Theme music

Theme and incidental music specially composed by Graham Preskett on a Yamaha DX5.

Web links

TV Cream

See also

Masterteam is also the title of a Radio 4 general knowledge quiz, presented by Peter Snow.


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