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Question: “Which program is in Guinness World Records as the world’s longest running TV quiz show?” Answer: “It’s Academic”.
“It’s Academic” is a Saturday morning program for high school students. The show has been enjoyed in the Washington area for 50 years. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton competed on the show when she was a teenager.
Teams from local schools are questioned on subjects like history, literature, math, science, religion, politics, and sports.
Host: “You should take a long look at these questions because all the clues contain the word ‘long’. Identify the following. The ‘Long Gray Line’ refers to cadets (military students) at this US military academy. . . Macgruder.”
Magruder High School: “West Point.”
Host: “Right. He didn’t live to see the staging of his drama, ‘Long Day’s Journey into Night’. . . Magruder.”
Magruder High School: “T.S. Eliot.”
Host: “(The right answer is) Eugene O’Neill. Sorry . . .”
Susan Altman is the producer. “It’s a great age group to work with. They’re fun. They’re enthusiastic. They say funny things without even meaning to half the time.”
Ms. Altman’s mother, Sophie, was a TV producer in the 1950’s. She started “It’s Academic” after local school officials asked her to create a program that showed outstanding students.
“At that time – this was in 1961 - the United States, of course, was going through a lot of upheaval with school integration, and they wanted things to help out, to make the schools look good, and to show that integration could work and work well. And so, this is what she came up with.”
The show’s previous host, Mac McGarry, says the teams became more diverse over the years.
“When we first started, the young people from various countries were not evident so much. But now, each program presents young people from all over the world, at least descendants of people from all over the world.”
Mac McGarry is 84, and hosted “It’s Academic” until September, 2011. At that time, Hillary Howard became the host.
“Every time I look up, I see people who are just 17 years old, and somehow, I think, well, I must be not growing older at all. Their enthusiasm is contagious. There’s no question about it. You really have to rev yourself up to keep up with them.”
More than 20,000 students have appeared on the show. The hosts have asked more than 200,000 questions, and gotten more than a few funny answers.
“We had a question one time, ‘Who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo’, and the young fellow answered, ‘Duke Ellington’. Another time, we had a question of ‘Who, along with Frederick Engels, wrote the ‘Communist Manifesto?’ --- Groucho Marx!”
The correct answers, of course, are the Duke of Wellington, and Karl Marx. Kelly Reeder knows that. She led the team from Rockville High School in Maryland last year. Her school has won the championship on “It’s Academic” several times.
“Me and all the other people who are on the team -- we’ve put in a lot of effort over the years, and a lot of time to be where we are. So, and I mean, it’s a really huge honor to end up on the ‘A’ Team.”
And what do other students think?
“My friends who are on ‘It’s Academic’ think it’s cool that I’m the captain of the ‘A’ Team, but my friends who aren’t on ‘It’s Academic’ think it’s kind of funny.”