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Quizmaster Reflects On 50 Years Of 'It's Academic'

Host Mac McGarry (top left) poses with student contestants on the set of <em>It's Academic</em> in 1988.
Host Mac McGarry (top left) poses with student contestants on the set of <em>It's Academic</em> in 1988.

For 51 seasons, the Washington, D.C.-based TV quiz show It's Academic has pitted three teams of high school students against each other in a sports game atmosphere — complete with chants and cheerleaders.

The show first aired in the Washington area in 1961 and spurred similar programs in several other cities. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, New York Senator Charles Schumer and political commentator George Stephanopoulos have all appeared as contestants on versions of the show.

Quizmaster Mac McGarry has hosted the D.C. program for five decades. He stepped down in November 2011, and officially passes the baton to the show's new host in January. McGarry talks with NPR's John Donvan about the show's evolution.

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