Weaver's Week 2001-10-29

Weaver's Week Index

29th October 2001

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

This week:

- The National Television Awards are awarded

- Reviews from the satellite market

- Two more shows bite the dust


First round, match 13: Durham -v- York

Durham returned in 99, scraping past Balliol Oxford, and defeating Glasgow and Trinity Cambridge before being thrashed by Open in the semis. 2000 saw Durham lose to North London, but narrowly beat Fitzwilliam Cambridge in the repecharge. King's London, Aberystwyth, UMIST and Oriel Oxford all fell in short order as Durham became series champions. Last year, Durham inflicted the regulation heavy defeat on Birmingham, but fell to eventual champions Imperial London in the second round.

York's only recent appearance was last year, defeating Aberdeen before falling to Balliol Oxford in the second round.

After last week's near-record low, things can only get better. The continuity announcer doesn't disappoint: "They invented free time and some risque entertainment." But she's talking about the next show. Jezza is being ironic in the introduction, talking about "the finest student minds in Britain" in a manner that suggests he doesn't believe a word he's saying. I think we have the first bow-tie of the series, worn by York captain Michael Prior-Jones. Durham are all in dark colours.

The opening exchanges are roughly equal, York getting all the bonuses when they do get a starter, Durham getting most of the starters but few bonuses. Paxo is surprised when he asks which screen heroine debuted in '38, came home in '45, had a son in '47... [1] Durham pulls away, only to be almost reeled in by the music round. The music round is fun, naming the piece of classical music from the first note. "Also Spach Zarathustra" is easy, the distinctive "Minute Waltz" foxes them.

Durham pulls away through the next part of the match, and it all becomes rather academic shortly after the second picture round. York's late run is just too late, Durham winning 200-140. We already know it's not enough to come back as a high-scoring loser, in spite of Paxman's comments.

Durham was very weak on bonuses, scoring just 15/42. York made 13/21. John Harrison the star of the show for Durham, scoring 91 points.

Loser standings, after 13 of 14 matches:

220 Downing Cambridge

185 Hull

150 Edinburgh

145 Cardiff

Next week, the final first round match: Leeds -v- St Hugh's Oxford

[1] Lassie.


National Television Awards: Third straight win for MILLIONAIRE in the Most Popular Quiz Programme category. It's democracy, in the sense that it did poll more votes than anything else.

Tarrant lost Entertainment Presenter to Geordie duo Ant and Dec. Entertainment Programme went to MY KIND OF MUSIC, hosted by Michael Barrymore. BIG BROTHER won the Factual Programme for no obvious reason. THIS MORNING defeated Countdown in the Daytime Programme category.

Lost: The teams are challenged to get home from the Strait of Belle Isle. Rather than make for the nearest international airport in Sunny St John's, NF, the teams will pick up money towards tickets at LAX, California. This becomes the perfect excuse for a North American Road Trip documentary, and perhaps the most entertaining race yet, with skullduggery, a surprise en route, and sabotage for other teams

The Race: On to Kalikata (Calcutta), via the tea capital of the world, Darjeeling. We see some lame attempts at sabotage, but tying bags to the seat is not in the same category as giving deliberate duff information to the competition. There's a scene where one team is surrounded by beggars watching them, and it strikes me that there may be more people in that crowd than are watching the finished show. All four teams finish the four-day journey within two hours, but the oh-so-smug voiceover from Keith Duffy rubs it in that they're only racing for second place, and this has no advantage. A weakness in the format, methinks. One of the players is pulled from the race after this leg, for "breaching a rule at the start." We're told no more. Maybe he got off lightly.

Millionaire is running a series of Women Only Specials. So, if you're a woman, call now. With the host, Chris Tarrant, being male, I'm mischeviously wondering if we might get a new host.

Postponed: After five weeks, Channel 4 has decided to shelve the remaining episodes of X-FIRE. The start of the ground war in Afghanistan meant that the line between fantasy and reality was becoming dangerously blurred. That and they wanted to fit in yet another episode of the tedious ham acting of HOLLYOAKS. C4 say that the series will return "in the spring." We'll be holding you to that.

Cancelled: C5 will not be renewing GREED, the big money quiz hosted by the channel's top political correspondent Jerry Springer. Depending on who you believe, it's "too derivative of other quiz shows" or "too downmarket for the channel." This may mark the first time the concepts "too downmarket" and "Channel 5" have peacefully co-existed.


Glenn is dressed entirely in black, walking down an airstrip, no shades... "Last time, there were questions, but no answers. Who is betraying the team from within? Who is the saboteur?" It's time to vote off... no it's not. "What is the answer to the ultimate question?" [1] "Who is the mole?"

Last week, the prize pot stood at £2,500 from a potential £25,000. Natalie may have left us, but nine remain. In order from this week's intro, with full biographical details...

Paula Mason, 23, ground steward, Spennymoor County Durham Jim Anderson, 40, garage owner, Kilmarnock Ayrshire Dafydd Williams, 27, event co-ordinator, Cardiff Paul Tregear, 29, firefighter, Westcliff on Sea Essex Mel Brookes, 30, information associate, Fleet Hants Chris Gallagher, 28, consultant trainer, Holgate Yorkshire Tanya Buck, 33, fitness instructor, Barnet Herts Chris Lintern, 27, company director, Chapmanslade Wilts Karrie Fox, 50, artist, Truro Cornwall

Early morning at the airstrip, and Glenn has a plate of egg and chips for the team. My mistake, it's Challenge 4. It involves some aerobatics in propeller-driven planes. Good job there's no egg and chips involved. That would be a waste of good food.

In the briefing room, there are seven stunts described. All the team member has to do is identify which stunt they've been through. Get five of nine to win £10,000. They also get to pick a call name, for no adequately explored reason, though this will pop up in the quiz at the end of the episode.

Paula (Twinkle) and Dafydd (Iceman) go first. Twinkle gets her inverted spin; Iceman melts and gets his wrong, though they got it on the ground.

Mel (Pookey Bear) is wrong, and feeling more than a little queasy. Tanya (Baseball) squeals like a good 'un, and is also wrong. Only one more wrong answer will do.

Chris L (Goose) describes a knife-edge spin up, apparently. Karrie (Homer) displays her sense of humour and another inverted spin. Jim (Jester) enjoys himself no end, during a centrifuge reverse rollout. Sooner him than me... They're all right.

One of the last two will do. Chris G (Maverick) says vertical roll to hammerhead. He's wrong. Paul (Twirp) [2] says corkscrew twist; the ground crew is confused. They wouldn't know a corkscrew twist if they saw one.

The team wins £10,000. More egg and chips, anyone? Or drinks on Glenn?

Jim suspects Chris G, Chris L suspects Dafydd, Mel kept her eyes closed, Tanya is "gutted" and fiddling with her shades. Karrie spots Chris G's call sign. Paul suspects Mel knew what she was going to do.

Weaver suspects: One of those who got it right may be the mole, to force everyone to fly.

[1] 42 [3]

[2] "Twirp" sounds like "twerp," British slang for an idiot.

Challenge 5. Day four, we're at the Revelstoke Forum, home of the Grizzlies. Ice hockey uniforms.

This is a complex challenge, right out of the CRYSTAL MAZE playbook. Our nine are on bungee ropes around a central ring, and each member has to retrieve a puck from twenty feet away. The ring is centred around a pole, if the ring touches the pole there's an alarm and the team loses a life. Lose nine lives, or take more than 20 minutes to grab all the pucks, and the challenge is lost. Manage it, they're £5000 better off.

Mel fails, Chris L grabs her puck, and then Paula gets hers. Mel fails, and costs a life. Mel keeps on going, and finally gets hers. Paul's movement causes Mel and Karrie to fall, but they get it. Jim finds it trivial. Karrie can't stand, but Dafydd is on hand to lend a hand. He grabs his own, almost loses a life. Two to go: Chris G finds it easy; Tanya also takes help from someone.

The challenge is won inside 10 minutes, with only one life lost. Glenn raises hackles by intimating that physical assistance might be outside the rules, but it's not expressly forbidden, and the challenge is won.

Mel points out she was crap, Chris L says it's team work that paid off.

Weaver's suspicion: Probably not Mel, or Dafydd - he was helpful.

Back at the cabin, there are tuxedos, cocktail dresses, and a stretch limo with bubbly.

En route, Glenn hops in the front, with a £15,000 Challenge 6. There's a bomb in the field over there, and the team's challenge is to defuse it. The people who planted it are around to take out our team. So, flak jackets and hard hats on, as we revive X-FIRE just for one moment.

Paula and Chris G run together, as do Karrie and Jim, Tanya and Paul. Jim is taken down, Mel is also emulsified, Chris L tries to crawl through the grass and gets splatted. Dafydd runs and is out. The G man arrives first, Paula's hard on his tail. Paul and Tanya follow a little later, Karrie last of all.

The five have two cases to open, based on number problems. Another game exiled from the CRYSTAL MAZE. Then take digits from a question, and cut a wire. Paul, Paula and Karrie are stumped, Chris G and Tanya get theirs right. Tanya does everything she can to double-check the answers. Tanya presses the defuser and lets Chris G take the blame as the bomb goes off. Challenge lost.

What's worse, all the answers they need are on the case as the serial number.

Weaver's suspicion: The mole made it into the barn with the bomb. The producers would do their best to ensure that happens.

The Finger Of Suspicion Moment: Add the mole being in the presence of the bomb and the stunt plane to the mole being on the far bank last week, and only Tanya remains. In two of those sets: Karrie, Paul, Dafydd and Mel.

Last week's nominations are in square brackets.

Tanya: Chris L - he's watchful [Paul, Chris L]

Chris G: Paul, Tanya, Jim, Chris L [Dafydd]

Mel: Chris G - giving instructions to Tanya [Karrie]

Jim: Paul, Chris G, Mel [four nominations]

Paul: Karrie - it's easy for her not to know [Chris L, Karrie]

Karrie: Chris G - he had time to work out the clues [Natalie]

Chris L: Karrie - she's dropped back since the trek. [Karrie]

Paula: "Two or three" [Paul, Chris G]

Dafydd: Jim or Tanya [Chris L]

Who is green-screening tonight? Karrie ... stays Mel ... remains Paul ... continues Chris G ... goodbye!

The perils of hedging your bets.

Just to throw us, the clue on the website: "A snake in the grass is worth two in the barn - it's better than watching paint dry!" points clearly to the slitherer, Chris L.

My nomination was Tanya, but it's beginning to lean towards Karrie. Episode three, Sunday at 8. White water rafting, clapping for eggs.

[3] The answer to the Ultimate Question is revealed by kind permission of the Amalgamated Union of Sages, Philosophers, Luminaries, and Other Professional Thinking Persons.


NATIONAL GEO-GENIUS is being hyped to the gills by the National Geographic channel. Four people try to circumnavigate the world, their correct answers progressing everyone along a pre-determined route around the planet. This results in some major imbalances of difficulty: one contestant could get questions on Latvia and Slovenia, while their neighbour is quizzed on Italy and Finland. There's potential for unfair results, especially as contestants are eliminated during the show.

The standard of questions rises as the game goes on, from fairly simple general knowledge in the opening round to difficult, almost specialist questions in the finale. This is good, especially as no-one makes a song and dance out of it.

There's a lot of branding for the NG, based on *that* rectangular logo. The music and sound effects annoy greatly, especially a sting at the end of each round.

Juliet Morris is a decent host, she doesn't do anything to void the rule of thumb that presenters of NEWSROUND always go on to do something good. The format as a whole feels like it's lacking a certain point.

I'm reminded of WORLDWISE, a children's quiz hosted by David Jensen in the mid-80s. Contestants plotted their own circumnavigation of the world on a giant map, giving a far greater sense of controlling one's own destiny than on NG-G.

TV SCRABBLE: Challenge TV has come up with one brilliant idea this year, in the shape of DEFECTORS. Revamping Scrabble for the television should be a good idea, but it falls flat. Toby Anstis (CBBC host turned Challenge linksman) hosts a show that has too many contestants and too little interest.

A and B try to find the best word out of a few hands, then each plays against the clock. Repeat, then the two winners play another timed game each. There's no strategy, and the result is only slightly more interesting than watching paint dry.

Vague memories of the C4 attempt in the COUNTDOWN slot circa 1984 give two pro-celeb teams forming words on a 30 second timer, which could be challenged for validity or by a better word. That was passable, this is not.


Back: Season four of FRIENDS LIKE THESE already? Blimey, how time flies. 6:30 Saturday. Followed by WINNING LINES.

MILLIONAIRE returns to three episodes, Saturday for 75 minutes, Tuesday and Thursday for 60.

New to daytime: NO WIN, NO FEE hosted by Paul Ross. BBC1 midday from Monday. Unless it's replaced by the daily NEWS 24 NEWS SPECIAL.

Another week of LOST!: Monday 11:35, Tuesday 11:30, Wednesday 10:55.

Contrary to some listings magazines, there is *no* X-FIRE on Tuesday. However, if you're suffering from withdrawal symptoms, you may consider the US import, THE AMAZING RACE, Sky1 at 8.

Enjoy THE PEOPLE VERSUS while it lasts - ITV launches a new soap in the 5:05 slot three days a week from November 7. NIGHT AND DAY? More like... ah, you're ahead of me, dear reader.

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