University Challenge host Jeremy Paxman signs off as viewers praise his 'brilliantly understated' farewell
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Born in Leeds, the 73-year-old veteran broadcaster and former Newsnight presenter had hosted the popular quiz since the BBC revived it in 1994. He had announced he was stepping down from the quiz show a year after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
In Paxman’s final episode on Monday night, Durham University became the 2022/23 champions. They were presented with their stainless steel book award by Jung Chang, the author of Wild Swans: Three Daughters Of China author.
Signing off at the end of Monday’s episode, Paxman said: “It remains for me to thank Jung Chang for presenting the trophy, all the teams who have entertained us over the past months, and you for watching. University Challenge returns later in the year and I look forward to watching it with you. So it’s good night for me. Good night.”
While the lack of fuss left some viewers feeling the BBC should have done more, most viewers were full of praise for Paxman’s simple farewell. Simon Collins described his exit as “brilliantly understated”, while Dr Stephen Fawcett said it was a “lovely understated goodbye”. Michael Sadgrove agreed, saying it was an “admirably unfussy exit” by a presenter who will be “much missed” by the show’s fans.
Steve Whalley said: “The small screen will be a much poorer place without his gravitas and intelligence. That modest farewell was typical of the man.” Meanwhile, Michael Brown said the show “won't be the same without him” and Tony Hom described it as a “sad day” in the programme’s history.
Describing it as the “end of an era”, Jane Camm said: “Jeremy Paxman made it all about University Challenge and not about himself. Watched programme with my son, sad to see Jeremy go.” Isabel Wolff said the show would not be the same without Paxman as quizmaster, adding that his farewell had been “endearingly modest and dignified”. Fellow viewer Richard Pierce said: “I have to admit to shedding a quiet tear at Jeremy Paxman's dignified, simple, and moving farewell.”
A number of former contestants also shared their memories, including writer and actor Julian Dutton. He said: “As Paxman bows out of University Challenge, my fond thoughts turn to one Christmas when I, along with my fellow Leeds alumni, were smashed by Edinburgh. But defeat was outshone by the delight of seeing a consummate professional at work – Jeremy Paxman.”
Kate Phillips, BBC director of unscripted, said Paxman was “without doubt one of the world’s finest, and most formidable, quizmasters”. She said: “We are hugely grateful to Jeremy for his dedication to the programme for the past 29 years. He will be much missed by the production team, by the thousands of students who have dared to do battle over the years and by the show’s millions of viewers.”
Paxman will be replaced by journalist and broadcaster Amol Rajan, who is the third host of the programme in its 61-year history. The show was first launched by Bamber Gascoigne in 1962 and is due to return this summer with a new title sequence and modernised set. The well-known title music and voice of Roger Tilling will remain.