Top of the Form



Wynford Vaughan-Thomas, Lionel Gamlin, Richard Dimbleby (early hosts)

John Ellison and Robert MacDermot

Later hosted or co-hosted by: Kenneth Horne, John Edmunds, John Dunn, Tim Gudgin (1965-86), Bob Holness (1974-6), Paddy Feeny (1976-86)

Scorekeepers included: Joan Clark


BBC Light Programme, 1 May 1948 to 1967

BBC Television, 25 April 1953 and 27 February 1954 (specials)

BBC Radio 2, 1967-70 (sometimes simulcast on Radio 1)

BBC Radio 4, 1970-86


Legendary long-running contest between two secondary (read: grammar) schools.

Each series was run in a knockout format with the curious feature that both teams would answer questions from their own school, with the two locations linked by telephone lines. A different question master asked the questions in each site, with the action constantly bobbing back and forth between the teams throughout the programme.

Teams would consist of four players from different school years, with two marks for a correct answer and (for some rounds) one mark on offer if it was passed over to your opposite number in the other team.

Most of the appeal lay in seeing the pupils give well-meaning but misguided answers to basic questions, such as the girl who thought that "soft soap" was a type of detergent rather than flattery. In of themselves, the questions give an excellent indication of the knowledge currency of the day. For instance, a 1961 round on "recent words and phrases" asked the pupils for the definitions of such cutting-edge concepts as a photo finish, a barbecue, an astronaut, a cover girl, a documentary, denier, fellow travellers (Communist sympathisers) and apartheid.

It transferred to television as, logically enough, Television Top of the Form.

Theme music

"Marching Strings" by Marshall Ross, performed by Ray Martin and His Concert Orchestra. Emerson, Lake and Palmer's recording of Aaron Copeland's "Fanfare For The Common Man" was used for the last few series.


Long-serving co-host Tim Gudgin was best known as the bloke that read out the Full Time scores on Grandstand.

A former contestant on the show was the actor Hugh Grant who represented Latymer Upper School.

Former producer Paul Mayhew-Archer recalls that when an increasingly irate technician was trying to get the Post Office telecommunication lines to work, it wasn't realised that, while the lines weren't working to his eyes, the pupils in the Kent school hall could easily hear him swearing like a docker.


Many quiz books were published.


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