Make your own free website on

15 to 1

Home Up News Quiz History Downloads Contents Contacting Us


"Wise Old Owls" Television Appearance #1

"15 to 1" (April 1998)

sixteen.jpg (79037 bytes)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 nominated them.

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 correctly.

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 twice).

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!  But what was Garreth thinking of?

four.jpg (82533 bytes)

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



Home ] Up ]

Send mail to with questions or comments about this web site.
Copyright Wise Old Olws 2000 & 2001 
Last modified: August 23, 2001