30/01/2018 00:02 GMT

‘Mastermind’ Producer Reveals The Specialist Subjects That Do - And Don’t - Make The Cut (And What Gets Chosen The Most)


Discussing what our specialist subject would be on ‘Mastermind’ has become a regular talking point among the HuffPost Entertainment team.

The music of Kylie Minogue 1998-2017, ‘Big Brother’ (2000-2010), The History of Drum and Bass and the works of Angela Carter have all been proffered in recent weeks.

But not all of them would necessarily make the cut it seems, as Mastermind’s producer Mark Helsby reveals in this week’s Radio Times.

'Mastermind' host John Humphrys

There are some pretty strict rules when it comes to contestants specialist subjects, although as Mark explains, many people often choose the same areas of expertise.

He tells the magazine: “You can do any subject you want – within reason. They have to be suitable for broadcast on BBC2 on a Friday night, but pretty much everything is doable, provided there’s sufficient source material to refer to.”

He also revealed that you might not even get your first choice, which means you really need to have mastered three (THREE!!!) different subjects.

“Every contender has to agree three different specialist subjects with me before I confirm their place in the heats and commission the writers to come up with the questions,” he explained. “We don’t repeat subjects from one series to the next so that we can give the writers a break from doing the same material.”

The iconic Chair.

And if you’re a fan of teenage wizards or classic BBC comedy shows and fancy your chances, then we have some bad news.

“Last year 262 people wanted to take [Harry Potter] as one of their three specialist subjects – only one of them could,” Mark says.

“Some of the shorter sitcom series –  Fawlty Towers, Blackadder and Father Ted for example – have been exhausted for new questions.

“Thirty-two people wanted to  do Fawlty Towers last year, 19 wanted Blackadder and 22 wanted Father Ted.  Some of the very popular literary subjects such as the Chronicles of Narnia or Roald Dahl probably wouldn’t be agreed to for the same reason.”

Still, however niche you think your specialist subject is, there will always be someone who can trump it.

“One applicant wanted to do ‘meat’ and narrowed it down to ‘pork’. Unfortunately, we still said no,” Mark says.

Read the full interview with Mark in the new issue of Radio Times, out now. www.radiotimes.com

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