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For as long as he can remember, working class Brian Jackson has craved knowledge and dreamed of going to university- and ultimately, appearing on University Challenge. He finally achieves all of these things when, against everyone's expectations (including his own), he is accepted at The University of Bristol and makes the 1985 University Challenge team. With things going so well for Brian, What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

The film is based on the novel of the same name by David Nicholls and was directed by Tom Vaughan.

Tropes used in Starter for Ten include:
  • Coming of Age Story: The film is Brian's, taking us through his first loves and successes and his first epic failure.
  • Dawson Casting: Everyone.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Brian's stay with Alice's family.
  • Dumb Blonde: Subverted with Alice, who makes the team. Still an achievement even if Brian helped her out a bit.
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: Alice, given her romantic history.
  • The Great British Seaside: Brian's hometown.
  • Hollywood Nerd: Type 2 all over. If an adorkable James McAvoy and a somewhat stuffy Benedict Cumberbatch are the geekiest looking persons on set, you probably should overthink the authenticity of your casting. Unless of course you're trying to make a statement.
  • Jumped At the Call: Brian when he finally spots the poster advertising the University Challenge tryouts.
  • Lame Excuse: Brian is meant to be spending NYE with Alice, but they have to send him home early. This is because her grandmother has fallen down the stairs and broken her hip, and it has absolutely nothing to do with Brian getting stoned and disgracing himself in front of Alice's naked parents.
  • Lower Class Lout: Spencer, Brian's mate from back home.
  • Matzo Fever: Brian has this for Rebecca Epstein: "That's a Jewish name!"
  • Men Are Uncultured: Spencer and Tone, Brian's friends back home who like to listen to Motörhead on the pier every night while sneering at Brian for daring to move away and try something new.
  • Oh Crap: "Ursa Major, or the Great Bear!"
  • Old Friend: Spencer, who turns up unannounced to see his old pal at his Bristol home. They end up falling out when he accuses Brian of having changed- or as Spencer puts it, "turned into a wanker". Brian retorts by pointing out that Spencer hasn't changed, and that given his criminal past this is actually worse.
  • Scenery Censor: The pepperpot in front of Alice's dad's crotch.
  • Smug Snake: Team captain Patrick Watts.
  • This Is a Competition: The attitude of Patrick, who takes it all very very seriously:

  "Excuse me! This man has been sent from the offices of UNIVERSITY CHALLENGE!

  • Upper Class Wit: Patrick, who is evidently rather bright but has probably never worked a day in his life.
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