"Wise Old Owls" Television
"15 to 1" (April 1998)
Chris Jones went on this Channel 4 show, the most
prestigious on British TV since the demise of 'Mastermind',
in April 1998. Click on the image for a larger version (Chris appears on the extreme
right of the picture).
'15 to 1' has been on air since the
latter half of the 1980s, and takes as its premise the whittling down of fifteen
contestants until one winner emerges. Elimination of the competitors is a
key feature. The final segment of each show does not commence until twelve
of the contestants have been eliminated.
The quiz begins with fifteen competitors, numbered 1 to 15
arranged in a semi-circle facing the host William G. Stewart (lots are drawn in the Green Room to see who
takes which number). Competitors
stand behind a podium bearing their allotted number and three lights, each light
representing a "life".
Beginning with contestant number 1, the host asks each in turn
a singe general knowledge question. They must answer correctly within four
seconds or loose a life. After all 15 have been asked a question the
host goes back to contestant number 1 and repeats the process. During this
second pass, anyone who got their first question wrong is eliminated from the
show if they fail to give a correct answer to their second question.
As the second pass comes to its conclusion the show goes into
the second of its three phases.
The host now asks the lowest numbered
competitor still in the game a question. If they get it wrong they loose a
life and the host goes to the next contestant and asks a different
question. This continues until someone answers correctly (again within
four seconds). Once a correct answer is obtained that person is asked to "nominate"
someone else to receive the subsequent question. That person must then
answer correctly or loose a life (in which case the nominating player picks
another victim). If they get it right, however, that player gets to choose
the next victim - although they are not allowed to choose the person who
This process continues, with contestants answering
correctly or incorrectly, either loosing lives or breathing sighs of relief,
until all but three of the contestants are eliminated. This marks the
conclusion of the second part of the show.
The last stage begins with the three survivors ranged side by
side facing the host. At this point William G. Stewart (left) is armed with a
final 40 questions. Each survivor is given three "fresh lives" and,
for any lives they carried with them into the final segment, they are awarded a
point. Thus, in the event of a tie at the end of the show, whoever carried
forward the most lives wins.
The final segment begins with questions being asked and it is open to
any of the finalists to buzz-in with an answer. If they get it right they
score ten points. If they get it wrong they loose a life. Once just one
of the players has given three correct answers a bell sounds and from that point
onward persons answering a question correctly are asked to
"answer or nominate". Players can either chose a rival
(who they perceive to be vulnerable) to answer the next question, hoping they
will loose lives and eventually be eliminated, or take the question themself in
order to score points. This latter course is favoured by confident players
who aim to amass an unassailable score (remembering there is a limited number of
questions in the final), assuming they can repeatedly answer questions
If more than one player is still standing at the end of the 40
questions then whoever has the highest score wins. In the event two do get
knocked-out, the remaining contestant is invited to continue answering questions
- until they either run out of questions, or lives - to see how high a score
they can get, The reason for this is that the 15 winners with the highest
scores get to take part in the end-of-series Grand Final.
However, regardless of what score they finish with, or whether they subsequently
run out of lives, the winner is invited to return and take part in one of the
heats in a subsequent series (until recently only Winners got to appear on the show
Tactics always play a big part in the final of each show
because a point may be reached where there are insufficient of the 40 questions
remaining to allow a trailing player to catch up with someone who's surged
ahead. In such circumstances a player's only option is to try and seize
the initiative, by getting a question right, and then nominate their
rival, hoping they'll slip up and loose a life or two. Alternatively, a
player with what appears to be an unassailable lead may be happy to surrender
the initiative and nominate rather than risk loosing a life.
However, as an added sweetener, there is a prize for the person who
finishes the series with the highest final score, and a prize for the Grand
Final winner. So there are definite potential rewards for players willing
to 'take it on'.
When Chris went on the show he had the misfortune to find
himself up against a certain gentleman ("Bill") who was twice a winner
of a 15 to 1 Grand Final and who was making his eighth appearance
on the show!
Nevertheless Chris acquitted himself rather well, managing to
reach the final of his show without loosing a single "life". In
the final he was the first to answer three questions, sweeping into an early
lead. But then what to do, answer or nominate? With Bill such a
seasoned campaigner there appeared little option but to "answer",
since nominating would risk surrendering the initiative to a former Grand
Champion! However, an awkward question cost Chris his first life.
Another was then lost on the buzzer (due to a misunderstanding) before he could
wrestle back the initiative, and the lead. But then disaster, after having
switched to the less adventurous policy of nominating (having only one
remaining life and so being vulnerable), another awkward question eventually
came his way via an opponent having nominated him and he was eliminated.
Bill then stepped up and took control of the game, correctly
answering some 15 questions in succession before finally slipping up himself
(thus, apparently, vindicating Chris' earlier tactics).
The conclusion to the show was electric. With two questions
remaining Bill had an unassailable lead but had just lost his second life.
He now only had one left. His opponent, Garreth, then buzzed-in and correctly
answered the penultimate question. It was now his decision as to who must
answer the final question. Garreth surely had to nominate Bill because a
wrong answer would hand him (Garreth) the game regardless of the scoreline. However, inexplicably,
he took the
question himself (and a real stinker it was too, see
below) and got it
wrong. Bill, to his credit, admitted he didn't have a clue as to the
correct answer either! Anyway, Bill ran out winner, and deservedly so!
was Garreth thinking of?
Click image for full size version (from left to right, Garreth, William G
Stewart, Bill, & Chris).
In case you were wondering, that final question was ….
In the New Testament, the name Gethsemane
means "the place of the …" what ?
Rest your curser on the sky-blue
panel to reveal the answer