Can these celebrities improve their memory?

Thursday: Can I Improve My Memory?; (Channel 4, 8pm)

Wednesday, 14th July 2021, 5:00 pm

Good things come in small packages, or so the saying goes. Well if four foot 11 inch-Sandi Toksvig is anything to go by, it really ought to be amazingly talented things that come in small packages.

One look at this incredible woman’s CV is enough to take your breath away.

The daughter of a Danish journalist and foreign correspondent, she was raised in New York (famously revealing on QI that, as a child, she held Neil Armstrong’s secretary’s hand as he stepped onto the Moon), and graduated with a first-class degree from Girton College, Cambridge, where she wrote and performed for the award-winning Footlights Revue, whose members at the time included Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie and Emma Thompson.

Sandi Toksvig, Anna Richardson, Amber Gill, Chris Eubank, Len Goodman and Nina Wadia
Sandi Toksvig, Anna Richardson, Amber Gill, Chris Eubank, Len Goodman and Nina Wadia

Toksvig began her TV career in 1982 and combined children’s telly with grown-up fare, while also holding down a successful career on the stand-up comedy circuit. She was a regular on BBC Radio 4, appeared in numerous plays, and penned over 20 books for children and adults.

But she didn’t stop there. She took up presenting duties on Channel 4’s Fifteen to One and BBC Two’s QI from William G Stewart and Stephen Fry, respectively, co-hosted The Great British Bake Off when it defected to Channel 4, as well as this year’s Extraordinary Escapes with Sandi Toksvig.

That would be enough to leave most people needing a lie down and a cup of tea, but not the tiny but mighty Ms Toksvig. While juggling all of this and being a mum to three children, in 2015 she co-founded the Women’s Equality Party.

At 63, there’s no sign that Toksvig is ready to slow down – quite the opposite in fact. She’s the host of this four-part summer series, featuring Strictly Come Dancing legend Len Goodman, boxing heavyweight Chris Eubank, TV presenter Anna Richardson, EastEnders actor Nina Wadia, and ex beautician and Love Island Winner Amber Gill. They will be coached by real masters of memory who will share the secrets of their success and try to change the way the celebrity contestants think.

Each episode will follow them over a week as they try to memorise hundreds of niche facts and master mind-bending techniques before being put on the spot in rigorous quiz conditions by Toksvig at Memory HQ. The opener sees the famous faces tasked with mastering general knowledge topics they know nothing about, followed by a quickfire challenge, tackling names and faces.

Anna must become an expert in planetary science, including historical details about the Space Race. Amber will have to spread her wings into ornithology, memorising the Latin names of common and rare British bird species. Len must remember hundreds of facts about 1990s US hip hop, Nina attempts to crack facts on the human skeleton and Chris will be memorising information about dinosaurs of the Jurassic era. Ed Cooke, who became a Grand Master of Memory at just 23 years old, will offer them a helping hand, but which of them will fall at the first hurdle?

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