Creator Of TV's `It's Academic' Show Dies At 95

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Television producer Sophie Altman, who created the long-running quiz show "It's Academic," pitting teams of high school students against each other, has died. She was 95.

Altman died of heart disease Saturday at Georgetown University Medical Center, said her daughter, Nancy Altman of Bethesda, Md.

Altman was already a seasoned TV producer in 1961 when she started "It's Academic" in the Washington area. The quiz show is entering its 48th season in Washington and there are local versions in several other cities; at one point more than 20 cities had their own versions.

The show _ reminiscent of the "GE College Bowl" that ran on network TV in the 1960s _ tests brainy high school students on an array of subjects.

"She had the idea that it would be really nice if academic achievement had the same accolades as the heroes on the football field," Nancy Altman said. "If you got a right answer it was like you got a touchdown."

Among the competitors the show attracted were future Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles Schumer; astronaut Timothy Creamer; Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Michael Chabon; and ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, according to Altman's family and the show's Web site.

Topics used in "It's Academic" questions changed over the years, particularly in literature, as high school reading assignments evolved.

"When we started the show, I went around and got all the books used in high school English courses," Altman told The New York Times in 1981. "Now English is quite difficult for us. They don't know the classics anymore. They don't know 'Ivanhoe,' Dickens or too much Shakespeare."

Altman continued to craft questions until she was hospitalized a few weeks ago.

"We worry over every question like a dog," she told The Washington Post in 1979.

Said her daughter: "She loved being around teenagers. She just loved the energy and the enthusiasm and that's just who she was."

Versions of "It's Academic" are running under various names in Baltimore, Charlottesville, Va., Cleveland, Phoenix, Pittsburgh and San Diego.

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On the Net:

It's Academic: http://www.nbc4.com/itsacademic/index.html

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