Having actually appeared on University Challenge
series, we got to the semi finals and lost to the winners, Durham
), I can say that the show is quite different when you're recording it than the finished product looks.
Firstly - Jeremy Paxman. He's wearing jeans under there you know. And taking swigs from a can of Heineken during breaks. Nice bloke. Particularly funny when he gets drunk and rants about Bill Gates.
Second - the show as recorded would probably last about an hour. Those bright students you see on the TV couldn't even think of an answer for about a third of the starter questions.
Third - Paxman's condescension is entirely for show. Half the time he hasn't a clue about the question. The answer will be given by a contestant, and he'll say 'No, the answer is...', but then the student will dispute this, saying that both answers mean the same,he'll get something in his earphone, and there'll be a retake, with him then saying 'Yesss, well, I'm going to allow that...'. At least twice per show he allows through an astoundingly wrong answer, or disallows an obviously right one, but every time when it comes to the final take he manages to portray an air of total omniscience along with superiority to the rest of the human race...
The US equivalent of the show is College Bowl.
Also, at least on the series I was on, mgriffithsuk's write-up is way off the mark. There was not a single question about Latin (shame, I used to quite like the subject), there were as many questions about pop music as there were classical music, and none of the team I was on, who did better than most, went to public school as far as I'm aware (I did go to a fee-paying grammar school for a few years, but as a non-fee-paying Assisted Places student...) and we didn't feel at all disadvantaged by the fact...
And Oxford didn't get a single college through that year, and Durham won, not Cambridge. But other than that, an entirely correct write-up...