Weaver's Week 2001-07-10

Weaver's Week Index

10th July 2001

Iain Weaver reviews the latest happenings in UK Game Show Land.


I've been out of the loop for two weeks, and I've completely forgotten who half the contestants are. The contestants are getting a buzz out of this show in general, and voting people off in particular. Unless they're confusing excitement with hunger, caused by a lack of rice. "My stomach's starting to stick out," bleats Charlotte (or was it Eve?) She's the one who will notice. They're sitting around, moaning their heads off, and nothing is happening. Have I missed the show and tuned into Big Brother?

Quite possibly. Big Trousers has set the group a challenge. Walk along bamboo poles. First to the end wins a full English breakfast. It's over the water, so those who fall in get wet in another It's A Knockout ripoff. Pete wins the challenge, but only by breaking the spirit of the contest by crawling on his hands, not walking. Yet another call to review the rules... hmm, they did say get across, didn't specify it had to be walking. Pete's breakfast it is, and cue ten minutes of waffle about one meal. Yes, this *is* BB.

Eventually, Big Trousers sets the group their main task. Dive for 25 treasure chests. In one of the chests is an idol, find the idol, and you're through. Gee whizz, it's worse than waiting for the lottery balls to drop. At least that has Alan Dedicoat trying to be interesting. He fails, but he tries. Richard wins this one, leaving Charlotte certain of her pending eviction. Nothing like pre-judging the public vote, is there.

But wait! There's a plot to oust Peter, which might save Lottie. Sorry, who's that doing a piece to camera? Jackie? Who she? And he would be Mick? Gaw, still ten minutes till the voting. Zoë trusts this Richard person, but Pete's double-crossing himself with Jackie. Charlotte and Eve are rubbing kerosene into Mike's rear end. But who has been canoodling with Big Trousers' Big Trouser? What is the secret of the North Shore? Are bottles of water really an indigenous plant species? Will they stop burbling and get to something interesting?

Finally, the voting. The two last cast-offs are wearing T-shirts with biblical references. EVE and R the main letters, one is Matthew 4 18-19; the other was earlier identified as apposite to the theme. Big Trouser declare s the result from the dairy pot. Charlotte 1, Peter 5, Eve 1. Pete is peeved that no one was fair enough to be honest. He passes his bible on to Richard, a move that must be orchestrated by the producers.

Producers who no longer get a main-screen credit, just the almost unreadable sidebar. Nigel Lithgoe has his name removed from the main credits, evidently he doesn't want this to show on the same CV as GLADIATORS, POPSTARS and (er) AN AUDIENCE WITH THE SPICE GIRLS. Nasty Nigel Admits Defeat, that's this week's headline.

Spotted on release: SURVIVOR, THE SOUNDTRACK. All the ethnic choral music from the series, collected on one CD. Sing along with "Opening Theme." Tap your feet to "Interlude." Wonder why "Ten Million Viewers Are Missing." It's £15 from all good record stores, a price not dissimilar to the expected viewing millions. On that basis, I'll wait till I see it for £6.


The Weakest Link was never scheduled to be the biggest show launched last August. 21 hours before Annie's black outfit first graced our screen, ITV launched The New Show From Celador, The Makers Of Millionaire. Never mind that the BBC had already completed two series of Celador's Winning Lines, quietly forget that the US run had begun and ended. This was TNSFCTMOM, and it was going to be a hit. Top newsreader Kirsty Young, a hugely expensive steel and glass studio, futuristic graphics, funky music from the Strachan Brothers [father and son, actually - Ed], smart contestants.

Only one thing was missing: interest. The opening shows proceeded at a snail's pace, and by the time they sped everything up, viewing figures were into a tailspin. The format - rotate around three people, with five specia list subjects each, three flips, and buy answers for cash - fell into the trap of being mind-bogglingly confusing. After ten episodes, ITV takes the show off-air, and has another think.

One good think later, this is the result. And - whisper it softly - they've *almost* got it spot on. There's now just one contestant in play at a time, they keep going until they retire or get a question wrong. The subject is General Knowledge, still set by the public, though the three flips are to a specialist subject. Cash for Questions has gone for good, along with much of the prize fund. While primetime TPV paid £5000 for just one correct answer, the reward for going through all five rounds is now just £3000.

Gameplay is similar to the first incarnation - get one question of five right in the first round for £100, two of five in the second for £250, three for £500, four for £1000, and sweep all five for £3000. Contestants now only see one question at a time: they can answer, flip, or pass. If they pass, the answer comes straight up.

Just to add to the tension, and keep things moving, the game is played against the clock. Contestants have a generous four minutes of playing time to get through all five rounds. It's not enough to cause mistakes, but is enough to add a little extra pressure for someone going for the big money.

Original host Kirsty Young has left the show, officially so that she doesn't present this and the news straight after. New host Kaye Adams looks and sounds like Young, though. The set has been transformed into something that reminds me of a conveyor belt - chrome encloses a walkway, with a large chair and spotlight in the middle for the contestant. The music remains.

All in all, this could go down as an object lesson in how to turn a failed format into a minor hit. Except for one thing. A contestant who gets a question wrong stakes the winnings so far against Capital Radio's Bong Game. In this, a disembodied and distorted voice counts up money; stop the count before a bell and win that much; fail to stop the count and everything goes to the original question setter. This is out of keeping with the original game, and strikes me as a gimmick of the most pointless variety. The original game made rubbish radio, and this is even worse television.

However, if one can overlook this flaw (and get rid of it for the next run, please!) the show has become a minor success story. Can ITV repeat this magic on Survivor? Find out next year.


Annoyed that your nation's Big Brother is charging for the live web feed? That there's less time devoted per week than to one baseball match? Psst, over here. Come join UK BB2, already in progress. Free live feeds at www.channel4.com/bigbrother - 21 hours of coverage on E4 per day, and 4.5 hours per week on C4. And if you don't like it, it's all over in one month.

Outside the house, Narinder has signed to host a radio show with a radio station in the northwest.

The Shrink has spotted that the first three evictees were either bitching, or bitched about, or (for Narinder) both. Bubble was neither, which caused some shocks. Shrink reckons more bitching will follow this week. We see no more than usual. Shrink also spots that Amma has been great at eye contact since day one, and now moves in to add her voice to the communication.

This week's task is to teach an old dog new tricks. A mutt into the house, teach it four obedience things. 50% is the bet. Brian reckons the dog is gay, but this isn't South Park. Liz takes the lead in training Paddy, wit h a lot of help from Helen, Amma, and Josh. The team has less than three hours training the dog before performing. It's a good effort, but it's doomed. Dean is really annoyed by this, and would happily poke the person who devised this task in the eye.

Helen has an insightful comment, spotting that they know jack spit about what happens out here. But she's back to vacuous normality soon after. "People are getting tetchy... I'm starting to irritate people." Not as much as Brian's singing, tuneless noteless stick a sock in it.

Brian has major trouble with general knowledge, like the first man on the moon. He could always dress in black, host a daytime quiz show, and hope. Dean is getting irritated by this, preferring someone with a bit more brain than Posh 'n' Becks. Liz sympathises. BB has asked the group to write a "soap opera" about their time in the house, not perform some amateur dramatics. It's completely OTT. So bad, they'll be writing professionally.

The Other Shrink reckons the housemates have reverted to the controlling environment of primary school. Helen, Brian, and Paul are goodie-goodies; Dean, Liz, and Amma are challenging Big Brother over anything. During my absence, there was a wonderful trick where Liz pretended to hypnotise Josh and Bubble, to confuse the goodies. Josh, reckons Shrink 2, could go either way. Not the first time that charge has been levelled against Josh.

Paul and Amma have a disguised battle; Paul says he would rip her to shreds outside if she talked to him the way she does. It's all done by proxy, no direct accusations. Brian is making more and more digs at Josh; they ar e disguised as humour, but they're hurting Josh. He might shout back, especially in this week's heat.

The voting. Amma - Paul (doesn't gel) Josh (too serious) Brian - Paul (nothing in common) Amma (ditto) Dean - Paul (ditto) Amma (ditto) Helen - Josh (he's finding it hard) Dean (doesn't get on) Josh - Amma (temperamental and aggressive) Brian (wishes he wasn't there) Liz - Paul (doesn't gel) Helen (too noisy) Paul - Amma (no respect) Liz (a bit snooty) So... Amma and Paul have 4, Josh 2, everyone else one. It's Liz's first nomination since the opening week. Bookies reckon Amma will get around 65% of the vote. Instant reaction: both expected it, Helen squeaks like a dog whistle, Amma's surprised it's taken this long.

Brian has promised to shave his head if he's not nominated. So, out comes the razor, and off come Brian's short tresses. Hey, blond roots! Josh joins in the snippage, especially in 30-degree heat.

Housemates 12 and 13 stage an unexpected entry to the garden mid-evening. They're escorted off, but not before giving Brian a shock. They might have gotten on camera if they'd invaded during the E4 coverage, there's plenty to choose from. C4 say they'll prosecute the next gatecrashers, we wonder what the charge will be. Trespass without damage is not a criminal offence.

Liz and Dean are talking in the garden every night. Narinder reckons Liz is the most likely to indulge in on-camera umming. Reader, draw your own conclusion.

Amma is dull, certainly, but she was feisty at the start, and she might spark back. Paul is dull, and got my vote this week.

Dean spends an hour with BB on Wednesday. He's clearly feeling betrayed about the whole dog trick thing, and has a heart-to-heart with the producers. We see a calm face; I suspect (without any supporting evidence) that em otions ran high. Helen got all tired and emotional after leaping to the "stupid" and "daft" conclusion that Dean stopped playing because of her. Brian and Josh ask the others to give them space to have a sort out. Brian figures that it's not because Josh is gay, yet that's not what he said to BB. The others seem to be rallying more to Josh that Brian. Brian is so frustrated that he thinks about smashing a plate on Thursday night. But deci des against it.

As of Thursday night, I'll rate as follows: 1) Liz 2) Dean 3) Brian 4) Helen 5) Amma 6) Josh 7) Paul Bookies rate: 1) Brian 2) Dean 3) Liz 4) Helen 5) Josh 6) Paul 7) Amma

Brilliant shot on Friday's eviction show: the group has gathered on the patio table, allowing a pullback shot to Davina in the camera run. Vanessa Feltz, star of CelebBB, says Paul should be dating Helen already. The nation says: get on with it already, Amma's out. " " she says before collapsing into Helen's arm, as the audio feed suffers an unfortunate outage. Paul rises and looks shocked and pleased. 64-36 the winning majority.

Two hours later we find the fact behind the mike fail "I am over-f'in... oh sorry!" Paul repeatedly asks, "what is going on?" A man on the verge of cracking, perhaps. "They're not kidding about the gratings!" is Amma's first comment outside. Usual pleasantries from the family, photocall, meet the friends. We know the drill by now.

As has been clear, Amma expected to leave early on. She found that other, louder people made the running. She takes the charge of being aggressive from the nominations, though I'd put it more as blunt; temperamental is a charge she rejects. Davina gives one, two touches of positive energy. Quick look at the studio orientation (doors to the north) shows Davina as air might be right, but Amma's not water. Nothing was ever going to happen with Liz, claims Amma, but that's not what people saw. Terrible green screening at every cut to and from pre-recorded inserts - isn't live television wonderful. Brian to win, thinks Amma, but she'd like Helen to triumph.

We have six left, and this was the week last year when four went to the vote. I'd love to see Paul go, I'd like to see Josh up for eviction, and I think Brian is treading very dicey ground. Put those three to the vote, I think.


The review of DESERT FORGES comes next week. OBLIVIOUS - Davina's other game show - begins on ITV 6pm next Saturday. Review in a fortnight.

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