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'Disastermind' contestant loses complaint over "astoundingly thick" jibe

Simon Curtis scored an all-time record low – 1 point – for his chosen specialist subject, and was ridiculed on TV as a result.

Simon Curtis
Simon Curtis

A CONTESTANT ON the British edition of Mastermind has lost an official complaint against Channel 4, after it rebroadcast his appearance with a jibe ridiculing him as “astoundingly thick”.

Simon Curtis scored just 1 point after answering questions on his specialist subject, the films of Jim Carrey, during an appearance on the show in 2006. His score was the lowest in the history of the BBC series for a contestant answering questions on a specialist topic.

The ill-fated appearance came in the second round of that year’s series – meaning Curtis must at least have won his first-round heat – but that did not stop him from being dubbed ‘Disastermind’ in his home area of West Yorkshire.

(Warning: the analysis following this clip contains strong language.)


While Curtis took the poor performance in good spirits – giving the Guardian an interview in which he admitted he had chosen the Carrey topic “out of the air” – he was less enthused when his appearance was replayed on a Channel 4 show in January of this year.

When it was featured on bloopers show ‘Awfully Good’, narrator David Walliams described Curtis’s appearance thusly:

Sometimes in life, you have to know your limitations […] if you’re not let’s say, very bright, it’s probably not a good idea to go on a quiz show that tests your mental agility. And by not very bright I mean, astoundingly thick.

The damning critique prompted Curtis to lodge a complaint with the media regulator Ofcom in protest at his treatment.

Walliams had not made reference to the fact that Curtis had already won a first round tie – nor did he mention that Curtis had previously won £250,000 in the ITV version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.

Yesterday Ofcom threw out his complaint – affirming that Curtis’s atrocious score, on a topic he had chosen of his own volition, meant Walliam’s narration was deemed a fair comment. It also dismissed Curtis’s complaint that he wasn’t asked for permission for his clip to be used.

It added that the Walliams programme was not obliged to include references to Curtis’s previous success on TV quizzes, as it was not a “serious examination of Mr Curtis’ character, intelligence or competence”.

“This would have been clear to viewers from the outset,” it added. Curtis’s consent for the clip to be used was not required because he had signed release forms with the BBC, who had supplied Channel 4 with the footage on request.

While Curtis’ one-point round was the worst specialist subject round in the show’s history, Curtis rescued his score in the general knowledge round to avoid the ignominy of becoming its worst-ever contestant.

An Irish version of Mastermind will be broadcast for the first time this autumn on TV3.

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Gavan Reilly

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