Know-it-alls eager for Test the Nation

Western professor Tim Blackmore question panel expert

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

A group of English teachers

WE FAIL ENGLISH? THAT'S UNPOSSIBLE. A group of English teachers answer in on CBC's Test the Nation: Watch Your Language, the precursor to Trivia.

Whether it’s a heated, alcohol-fueled debate at the bar or casual discussion around the water cooler, we’ve all at one point had to assert our knowledge of the world around us.

Some possess a better understanding of current events than others, but those looking to prove their knowledge will be delighted to know that CBC’s Test The Nation: Trivia makes its second appearance this Sunday at 8 p.m.

Hosted by veteran journalists Wendy Mesley and Brent Bambury, the show focuses on the 21st Century. The program challenges six groups of contestants: bloggers, cab drivers, chefs, flight crews, celebrity look-alikes and backpackers. Topics vary from the past seven years, focusing on politics, trends, scandals, and, of course, everyone’s favourite guilty pleasure, celebrity gossip.

Professor Tim Blackmore of the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at Western is one of the panel experts in charge of researching questions used on the show. What exactly constitutes a relevant question?

“You look for a good range of coverage so that you’re not focusing on one part of culture,” Blackmore explains. “You want to make sure everyone’s represented so it’s not all movies and television.”

What makes Test the Nation intriguing is that it’s not always the experts or those exposed to higher education that know more.

“It has to do with the idea of what we understand democracy to be. The average person on the street is sometimes more up-to-date than the expert in the field who is more cloistered,” Blackmore says.

Test the Nation will include a virtual audience in addition to its studio audience. Contestants will be able to play online at CBC’s website.

The show will also reveal information about others playing at home and in the studio. Who will turn out to be more politically savvy: the men or the women? These questions and others will be answered.

Blackmore sees Test the Nation as both entertaining and educational. “It’s a lot of fun. You’re working with five or six other people who are experts in their fields and then someone says something and it creates a massive discussion where you find yourself saying, ‘Hey, I didn’t know that!’” he says.

“The most pleasing is that you pick up stuff that’s been sitting right in front of you and you never even knew it.”

Test the Nation: Trivia premieres Jan. 20 at 8 p.m. on CBC. Also, visit online at

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