Reach for the Top is a long running quiz bowl for Canadian high school students.
CBC: 1961–1989, 2000–2009
Various (see history)
The televised Reach for the Top series was first shown on CBC Television affiliate CBUT in Vancouver, BC in 1961. It was based on the BBC programme Top of the Form. In that first year, a team from three high schools in Burnaby, British Columbia (Fred Affleck, Robert French, Lynne Mader and Marilyn Pelzer) defeated every other team and took all the prizes. The first national Reach for the Top tournament took place in 1965, and was won by Vincent Massey Collegiate Institute from Etobicoke, ON. The series was filmed at locations across Canada with the national championships held in Montreal, QC. In 1968 joint effort by CBC and BBC led to the short-lived Trans-World Top Team in which teams from the United Kingdom played teams from Canada.
Alex Trebek hosted the Toronto version for several years. In Vancouver, the show was hosted by Terry Garner (1961-1982). In Windsor, the show was hosts were Don Daly and Marty Adler. In London, the show was hosted by Mark Lade, with judge Steve Officer. In Montreal, the show was hosted by Bob Cadman and by Marc Coté. Shelagh Rogers, later a host for CBC Radio, was a contestant on the original broadcasts of the show. Bill Guest hosted the National Finals on CBC from 1969 to 1985.
The CBC stopped airing Reach for the Top in 1985, but it continues to be shown under the aegis of Reach for the Top Inc. CFPL-TV, the former CBC affiliate station in London, continued to air local competitions for several years, and hosted the provincial and national competitions. From 2000 to 2008, the national finals were aired by CLT (now OWN: the Oprah Winfrey Network), hosted by Graham Neil of CFRN-TV in Edmonton. In 2009, the national finals were not aired except for the final game, which was filmed in the TVOntario studio. It is unknown whether or not TVO will air the 2010 national finals in its entirety. Until 2009, games at the provincial level were broadcast on stations unique to their respective provinces, among them Ontario on TVO with Nicole Stamp of TVOKids (and produced and directed by Sidney M. Cohen), British Columbia with Tamara Stanners on Knowledge, and Alberta with Graham Neil on Access. However, only Ontario provincial level games are now aired (by TVO).
In 1985, Reach for the Top Inc., a private company, was established by Sandy Stewart, on agreement with the CBC. Stewart then joined with his wife, Patricia Stewart, in partnership with Robert Jeffrey and Paul Russell of Paulus Productions Inc. to create Schoolreach, an in-school version of Reach for the Top available across Canada by subscription. Schoolreach is organized among the different school boards in Canada, and monthly tournaments are played, culminating in a district final each spring. The winner in each district participates in the provincial finals (which are televised in Ontario), and the provincial winner competes in the national championship.
Reach for the Top Inc. produced a season of programming in Toronto in 1986 and 1987. The Reach for the Top National Finals were revived in 1988. In 1995, Sandy and Pat Stewart retired from Reach For The Top. Reach for the Top and Schoolreach were then taken over by Paulus Productions Inc. under the direction of Paul Russell and Robert Jeffrey.
CBC created a similar program, SmartAsk, which aired for three seasons before being cancelled in 2004. From 1973 to 1997 the CBC's French language network, Radio-Canada, aired a program called Génies en herbe ("Budding Geniuses"), which was the French language equivalent of Reach for the Top. Competitions continued after the cancellation of the program, and teams from other francophone countries around the world often participated.
The game is similar to Quiz Bowl, the high school and university trivia game played in the United States, but with some significant differences. Reach questions include "snappers," the same as "tossups" in Quiz Bowl, which can be answered by any of the four players on either team. There are also "Who am I?" or "What am I?" questions and "shootout" questions, also open to any player. "Relay" questions are directed at only one of the teams, and "assigned" questions are directed to a single player. Questions are typically worth ten points, but can be worth up to forty points. Points are not deducted for a wrong answer.
Every game lasts for three rounds, with one minute breaks in between. As of 2009-2010, each game consists of 86 questions, plus four sudden-death tiebreakers in the case of a tie game after regulation. Contestants may answer a question before the reading of it is completed; however, a correct, anticipated guess does not earn extra points.
- Snappers – These are standard toss-up questions played at both the beginning and end of each round; they are known as Snapstarts and Snapouts, respectively. The first five Snapper sets consist of four questions each, while the last one has anywhere from ten to twelve of them. All Snappers have no specific category.
- Open Questions – These are like Snappers, except the questions all follow the same category. Audio and visual questions are also Open Questions. Each category consists of either two, three or four questions. In the national tournaments of 2007 and 2008, interrupting a question and giving a wrong answer lost five points (similar to the American College Bowl). This was called a "Neg 5."
- Team Questions – This is similar to the toss-up/bonus format in regular Quiz Bowl games. The first question (called a "scramble") is asked. The first player to buzz in with the correct answer scores ten points (originally five) and control of three (originally four) questions worth ten points each (though they can confer with their teammates). If neither team successfully answers the scramble, the remaining questions become toss-ups (although in some leagues the other questions are unasked).
- ____ am I? – This question has four clues regarding a person, place, thing, or single word (in case of the last one, the clues are quotations with that word missing from each of them). After each clue is read, teams have an opportunity to guess. A correct guess on the first clue is worth forty points; each subsequent clue reduces the value by ten. If the answer isn't guessed after the ten-point clue, it is revealed and no points are awarded.
- Chain Snappers – These are like Snappers, except answer to each question relates to the next one in some way. There are usually six of these in a set, and can replace a snapper set to end a round.
- Assigned Questions – One question is asked to each player (who can't confer with their teammates). If they are wrong, the player sitting directly across from them can attempt that same question and steal the points.
- Relay Questions – These are similar to the Assigned Questions, except a wrong answer ends that team's turn, and the other team can't steal. In addition, while the first three questions are worth ten points each, the fourth one is worth twenty. Also, conferring is allowed on these types of questions.
- Twenty-Point Special – Self-explanatory; this usually requires more than one answer, though sometimes it is more difficult than a normal ten-point question with only one correct answer. The team must get the whole question right in order to score.
- Shootout Questions – Shootouts involve the host asking up to twelve questions; however, each player can only give one correct answer. The first team to have all its players give correct answers wins forty points. If neither team has done so after the twelfth question, no points are awarded. Prompting and consultation amongst the players is forbidden. A Shootout sometimes replaces a set of Snappers to end a round.
- List Questions – The teams are asked a question with five correct answers. They have had at least two formats:
- Format #1 – This question was played between two rounds. The teams would write what they thought were the correct answers. Each correct answer was worth five points.
- Format #2 – This format is used today. The teams alternate responses, earning ten points for a correct answer. When a team makes a mistake, the other team attempts to give the remaining answers before they make a mistake themselves.
The tournament is divided into three different levels. At the regional level, local high school teams compete against each other to determine who goes on to the provincial level. The winners of the provincial championships then go on to the National Reach for the Top tournament. The winner is then declared the national champions.
Some districts also have "Intermediate" level competitions, where the questions are written with a lower level of difficulty to provide experience to new, younger players. Intermediate level champions do not move on to national finals.
Participants must be "continuously enrolled in a secondary school" to be eligible for participation in Reach for the Top. The age limit restricts participants to those who are 19 or younger at the beginning of the school year. There are no rules about the language of instruction in a school or that a school must be in Canada, but the vast majority of teams come from anglophone schools in provinces with established leagues.
Quebec colleges, distinct post-secondary institutions, by definition do not fit eligibility requirements. However, given that the first-year of college is effectively equivalent to Grade 12 in other Canadian provinces, the participation of year one college students in Quebec has been allowed in practice.