Weaver's Week 2001-08-21

Weaver's Week Index

21st August 2001

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

THE CHARM OFFENSIVE (ITV, Saturday 11 / Sunday 19)

Four people are given five minutes of prime-time television to explain why they should get a prize, and fill the time with a video of their friends and family singing their praises. Ulrika Jonsson (fresh from Dog Eat Dog) doesn't so much host the show as simper around, introducing each clip and doing nothing to earn her fee.

I'm reminded of those brief chats that Davina has with the family of the potential evictees on Big Brother, where Uncle Reg pleads for us to keep his nephew in the house, when we've already made up our mind that he's out. I'm reminded of party political broadcasts, too. Fascinating to those involved in the minutiae of the vote, completely dull to everyone else in the country, and shown in the middle of prime-time.

There is a second show on Sunday a week later, in which people will call up (at national rates) or go to the web site, or write in, and spill the beans about the contestant. After this, there will be a phone vote, and the winner collects the dough.

To be honest, this is a complete pup of a show. The first show is less interesting than watching paint dry. So dull it made Oblivious seem like heavyweight intellectual fare.

The main problem is that, for tedious legal reasons, the shows have to be pre-recorded, so that lawyers can go through them with a fine toothcomb and remove any juicy bits. Er, potentially defamatory claims. If the show were live, and over in one evening (perhaps one hour with the result later) it could have a future.

As it stands, this is probably the worst networked show I've seen all year. It made Touch The Truck seem interesting.


From an intellectual lightweight to a real heavyweight.

SALFORD beat the Royal Academy of Music in the 2000 first round, falling to local rivals UMIST in the second.

LEICESTER appeared the previous year, beating City on a tie-break, Selwyn Cambridge by a mile, before being soundly beaten by Oriel Oxford in the quarters.

A slow game, there appear to have been many questions edited out as the first picture round comes as the 4th starter - it's usually around the 8th. Leicester is comfortably ahead, but Salford pull back well in the second quarter. Salford finally takes the lead just before half time, thanks to captain Marc Hudson's buzzing. It's one way traffic after that, Salford winning 155-130.

Noteworthy: Hudson's score - 8 starters, one penalty, 91 points. Also that Leicester got nine starters right, but just 8 of 26 bonus questions. That, I think, is where they went.


Correspondent Jackie M notes that The People Versus is cutting the prize for a winning question from £100 to £50. Perhaps it's a cost-cutting measure, perhaps it's a sign of faith that the producers have plenty of questions for future episodes.

New episodes of Weakest Link Daily this week, on BBC2 at 1715. We start on Monday with the Welsh Special, arising from insults that country took when host Anne Robinson appeared on Room 101. (See report March 10.) Don't be confused by The Real Weakest Links (BBC1, Wednesday 2000) which consists of Paul Merton looking at things that went wrong, and is not a profile of the contestants who totally blobbed on (T)WL.

Just two episodes of Countdown this week, Tuesday and Wednesday.

MASTERMIND is to return to the television screen, four years after its last appearance. The BBC production will air on the Discovery Channel, and be hosted by Clive Anderson (host of Whose Line Is It Anyway?)

DEFECTORS (Challenge TV, weeknights)

Again, a full review on the UK Game Show site explains the format. Four members of the public attempt to convince the audience to trust them on general knowledge. They score points based on correct answers and how many people like them. Repeat for a few rounds, eliminate people during the game, until we have a winner.

Very cute touch: asking the contestants to explain why they should be trusted in 10 seconds, cutting their mike at the end of the time, and seeing the host poke fun at their explanation.

Marginally cute touch: The interactivity between the audience and contestants - with a prize for the audience member who scores best during the game, they have a reason for staying awake. Explaining how the audience scores are worked out would probably be a complex task, but would enable one to play along for fun and honour at home.

Not quite so cute touch: Even in the end game, it feels like the audience is voting at random, or on a personal preference, rather than how well the contestant will answer the question. With the scores being reset in the head-to-head final, if two players run away from the other two, much of the game becomes irrelevant.

Really annoying touch: The music sting that plays during every question. And every voting procedure. And in and out of the ad breaks. It's fine and funky for the first few dozen times, but gets really annoying afterwards.

However, I'm not going to let that little touch - easily resolved by judicious use of the mute button, and set to change in the next batch of programmes - spoil an otherwise outstanding show.

In a footnote to the UKGSP review, I note that shows now airing feature a revised format. Out go most of the buzzer rounds, in comes a final round that scores in the same way as the others. It's much more fair, and makes a great show even more tense.


Once again, note this review contains significant spoilers. For those outside the UK, CASTAWAY was the BBC's big reality television project, leaving thirty-odd people on a Scottish island for a full year and making some rather good shows out of their exploits.

Let's meet the team:

Nicholas (Nick Bateman), Putney, Big Brother 1.

Narinder (Kaur), Leicester, Big Brother 2.

James (Stroud), Wimbledon, Survivor.

Penny (Ellis), Islington, Big Brother 2.

Trevor (Kearon), Birkenhead, Castaway.

Caroline (Caggie O'Shea), Birmingham, Big Brother 1.

Toby (Waterman), Leeds, Castaway.

Zoe (Lyons), London, Survivor.

Darren (Ramsay), Cirencester, Big Brother 1.

"These people are experts at surviving, conspiring, and voting people off." It's the Daily format, with an audience, played at 100-250-500-1000- 1500-2250-3000-4000-5000. Three minutes and counting...

Round 1: Nick - sorry, Nicholas - gets the obligatory question about Orwell's "1984," Trevor one about the movie "Castaway," James the question about survival of the fittest. Darren blew £500 on his first attempt, and it takes a full circle before Nick can bank that amount. Penny doesn't know what P is a two-piece sleeping suit. Time expires with £1600 in the bank, and Penny leaves £250 on the board.

Zoe is strongest, Penny went 0-for-weakest. Anne asks if Darren is interested in fashion. "Yes, can you not see?" No. Why does he want to get rid of Penny? "She got two questions wrong, she is the weakest link, goodbye." A muffled titter from the audience. Penny's gone with 4 votes, no-one else got more than two.

Round 2: Nick shouts "Bank" at every opportunity. The team gets nine in a row, but timid banking nets just £1500. Zoe is asked about Celeb Big Brother, which took place while she was away filming. £1850 is banked.

James is 100% strongest, Trevor weakest. Trevor gets 3, Darren and Narinder two each. Trevor agrees with Nick that he has to go, and walk he does. Darren next, he reckons.

Round 3, £3450 banked. Zoe reckons there's been a female Poet Laureate, that costs £500. Caggie reckons Roger Hargreaves wrote about Mr Accident Prone. Anne is surprised that Darren knows St Helens is in the English north west. Naz reckons London's pre-war airport was in Chelsea, not Croydon. Just £600 is banked. That's pretty poor, really. Who should be feeling very cast away?

Narinder went 0-for-3; Toby is strongest. Narinder takes the vote, 4-3. Caggie reckons Naz was slightly more stupid than Darren. He reckons he got most (the majority) of his questions right. Anne points he got exactly one. Naz reckons "that two-faced wench" Caggie is jealous of her lipstick, and Darren is next.

Round 4, £4050. A round of eight correct answers nets £1000. Darren gets two right, but his third causes Annie to crease. Caggie reckons the star of Porridge was "I can see his face." £1450 is banked. Who isn't Big Brother but a big girl's blouse? Whose island has run out of sand?

Zoe is strongest, Caggie weakest. Darren collects 4 votes, Caggie 2. Toby is voting off because his dress sense is making him look bad. "Statistically, Caroline was the worst player..." "Ha!" goes Caggie. "Sorry?" enquires Anne, schoolmistressly. "Sorry." Darren would like to see the "stupid, thick, bad hair, awful top" Caggie here.

Round 5, £5500. Nick knows that letters that aren't vowels are consonants, he could replace Carol Vorderman. Caggie reckons botany is the study of bottoms. By not banking before her errors, she costs the team £750 - they bank the same amount. Whose tent has blown away? Whose extinction is necessary?

Nicholas went 100%, Caggie hasn't given one correct answer. She's off unanimously. James has only given three errors since we started - he's an old Etonian. Nicholas - not an Etonian - has used his full name. "That's not strictly relevant" What do the newspapers call you? "Nicholas Bateman." We must read different newspapers. Caggie is backing Nick.

Round 6, £6250. Two Survivors, one Castaway, one Big Brother. We could motor from here. They get seven of the first nine correct, but more timid banking nets just £850. They get £1050 in total. Who doesn't deserve immunity? Whose reality is fiction?

Nick is strongest again, James now weakest. James and Zoe tie at two votes. Zoe reckons James was slightly worse than she. James admits he had a bad round. Nick decides to ditch Zoe, on past performance. James punches the air - has Nick set himself up to lose in the final? Zoe played a stronger, tactical game, and has the brighter top.

Round 7, £7300. James looks like he's going to pieces. Five of the first seven question is answered correctly, but nets just £400. The trio heads to £850, James leaves £250 on the table. Who should be banished to a remote island?

Nick is still strongest by far, and James is in pieces. He's off. Nick notes that James has changed, and not for the better. He got a question wrong about the Von Trapps, so it's "So long, farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, goodbye." Nick is expected to win.

Round 8, £8150. Winnings here are trebled. Nick gets a fair few wrong, Toby goes less than 100%, and we bank just £700. Nick was stronger.

Tonight's total: £10,250. Who will post the cheque for charity?

Nick elects to play first.

1A) C2H5OH is the formula for what commonly-consumed liquid? Alcohol.

1B) What Labour veteran stood down in 2001 after more than 50 years? Tony Benn. (1-1)

2A) Limeswold, produced between 1982 and 1992, was a variety of what food? Cheese.

2B) What Dad's Army actor also provided the voice of the television Mr Men? Clive Dunn - no, Arthur Lowe. (2-1)

3A) How many more players are there in a rugby union team than a rugby league team? 4 - no, 2.

3B) The Trans-Siberian railway joins Vladivostok with which other Russian city? Moscow (2-2)

4A) Which female singer named her 2001 tour the Drowned World tour? Jennifer Lopez - no, Madonna.

4B) Which Russell Crowe movie won the Best Picture Oscar in 2001? Gladiator (2-3)

5A) Artemis and Apollo are two of the offspring of which god? Zeus

5B) Name of which currency is common to Chile, Argentina, and Mexico? Dollar - no, Peso.

3-3, we have a sudden death situation.

6A) Which stage musical was written by Richard O'Brien? Rocky Horror Picture Show.

6B) What is the third letter of the Greek alphabet? Delta; no, Gamma.

Nick donates the winnings to the Imperial Cancer Research Fund. After being the best thing on the rather good TRUST ME last December, he now goes undefeated in two game shows, and reckons Anne Robinson is an amateur at this hosting lark. He has a point.

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