Weaver's Week 2003-01-18

Weaver's Week Index

18th January 2003

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

Best this week to Nigel Lythgoe, of GLADIATORS, SURVIVOR 1, and THE ENEMY WITHIN, currently recovering in an LA hospital. We wish him a speedy recovery and good health.

This week, the person last in to (and last out of) Witanhurst released his record. David Sneddon's "A Practical Guide to Graphite Furnace Atomic Absorption Spectrometry (Chemical Analysis)" shot straight into the Amazon.co.uk charts at position 566,373. If he's lucky, it'll sell enough to go polystyrene.

HERE COMES THE SUN (12 Yard for BBC1, 1844 Saturday)

Two families of five - and Claire Sweeney - go to somewhere in sunny Spain. It's sunny, and people speak Spanish. The top prize is a timeshare apartment in sunny Spain for two weeks every year for the rest of your life, or until the apartment falls down. So, how are we going to give away this top prize? By playing some familiar games.

First is the Direct A Driver Using Phrases We've Taught You. This game only works if the contestants live up to the stereotype of Brits abroad and don't speak conversational Spanish already. Is this a show where a little learning is a disqualification, in all meanings of the word?

Next comes the one novel game of the bunch. The object is to fill a tube using buckets of sea water, but there are some holes in the tube. There's also a line in the sand, across which no one may venture. Though it looks like a race to get buckets across the divide, this game requires three of the five to put their fingers in the holes, and the other two to ferry the buckets, one each side of the trench. A modicum of tactics is required to suss this out.

Game three is Mastermind (the peg game, not the black chair game) played with beach towels. The final challenge is getting people to stand up in a dinghy in a swimming pool.

Each game won earns one extra person for the final observation round. Those contestants playing go round the apartment, and try to remember what they see. Outside the flat, Claire whips out five keys, and asks questions to each team in turn. A correct answer earns the pick of one of the keys, only one key opens the door, and the team to find that key wins.

Why does this show leave me thinking it's fine as a one off, but a regular series might not be right?

The host must come in for a little criticism - Sweeney is fine as an actress, and did well on Celeb Big Brother 1, but here she felt like an actress reading for a part rather than a game show host.

But the main problem: it's *that* David Young format yet again. Lots of games to win an advantage in the finale, but it's still possible to stage a come-from-behind victory. We've seen it in the previous show, FRIENDS LIKE THESE; we see it in DOG EAT DOG and in DIRTY MONEY. It was entertaining three years ago, but it's now old and cliched and getting rather past its play by date.

On the upside, this show does fit neatly into the schedules between Friends Like These (gratuitous competition) and JET SET (worldwide travel). On the downside, it's got many of the arbitrary features of both without the entertainment factor.


Last week, Loz Sands, Chris Wills, Rupert Stokoe, John Rawnsley and Ben Wilson moved into the last eight.

John Rainsden (5, 2nd, summer 01) -v- Tom Hargreaves (2nd, summer 02)

Tom leaves all comer PRONATES in the opening round, then turns the opponent's day CLOUDIEST. The 26 point advantage increases to 36 when Tom gets a 3-big-numbers game that Carol finds difficult, but Tunstall-Pedoe's algorithm [1] says is very easy. John's comeback begins in the second period, but PEAKING is as good as it gets as LAUDERS is ruled out. The gap thus remains at 36 until Tom spots MILDER in the last letters. Just to rub it in, Tom turns REDCOUNTS into ten, to win 117-65.

[1] http://www.williamtp.com/numbers.html

Julian Fell (win, winter 02) -v- Terry O'Farrell (SF, summer 00)

Picking up where he left off, Julian vaults into the lead, opening with ACROBATS, then ZONULE, and a fourteen point lead suffices into the second period. Then DIMEROUS and PROVIDE extend the lead to 29. MAGGIES isn't a winner, but needs to be noted; ELECTRONS evades all concerned, including Susie. In the third, Julian ensures Terry is DESOLATE, especially after the latter's UPMARKED is disallowed. Julian turns DICCASNAG into a last ten points; no records have fallen, but 118-64 is a clear winning score.

David Ballheimer (SF, summer 00) -v- Graham Nash (win, winter 00)

It's deadlock until round four, when Graham offers the winner BEACON from a very poor set of letters. He risks VINTAGES and QUIRK in the second period, extending his lead to 19. Only three rounds offer as much as an eight. Curiously, SENATOR is a winner in round one, TREASON in eleven. David gambles GALPOED, but the GALOP is only there as a noun. Graham rubs in his victory with MICROBES in the last letters, though PETERMEAT is warmly welcomed and evades all comers. Graham wins, 103-70.


Chris Wills -v- Loz Sands

Chris gets off to the worst possible start, when COAGULENT is disallowed as an incorrect spelling, gifting six to Loz. Chris does come up with a winner next round, EXORDIA. In one of those Hidden Indicator moments, EMPORIA pops up twice in the opening period. Chris pulls away in the second with LOATHED and INJURES to extend his lead to 15. Loz halves that gap with TADPOLES, but then misdeclares allowing Chris to pull seven away. PAVIOR is a risky six, especially as there's no P in the selection. Twenty the gap, but a four-large near impossible numbers game [2] means it's a lost cause. TIVOLIFRY turns into Chris' win, 98-69.

[2] Four large, 9, 9, to 467. Answer later.

Rupert Stokoe -v- John Rawnsley

John sends a first a SCUTTLE then a POLISHER under Rupert's challenge early doors, taking a 15 point lead out of the first. Rupert pulls back with MISRULE, but John brings out his FLAGGER and it's honours even in the second. TRIBADE and OUTRANK come out for John, and the result is not in doubt. Rupert gets a tricky little numbers game to reduce the gap a little, and no one sees TWINSEEDS doing anything. John wins, 89-70.


Second Round, Match 4: Durham -v- Jesus Oxford

Durham beat Queen's Cambridge, Jesus sneaked past the LSE.

It's low scores, and very little to choose between them. Durham knows everything about voting systems, then get to shout "Goon" at their opponents as Jesus goes 0/3 on that subject. Jesus knows Plutarch's "Parallel Lines", but not Blondie's. This must indicate *something*, surely.

"The standing stones of Stenness, the rocks of Brogar..."
James Henderson, Durham: "Orkney."

This sort of Thumper-fooling speed gives Durham a two-starter lead by the sound round, clips from avant-garde 20th century composers. Or, for Jesus, say "Philip Glass" at every opportunity, not that it scores any points.

Jesus pulls it back a little, but Durham's lead is never below 20, and extends to 70 when they know the Latin for "wart" is veruca. The Bermondsish, as we all know, is "mingin."

"Called 'Mileu' in Herge's original..."
Rosamund Spinnler, Jesus: "Snowy."

This helps Jesus rack up a quick 25, but the clock is against them, and Durham is doing its best to run it down.

"Bandar Seri Begiwan..."
Jonathan Lewis, Jesus: "Brunei"

That would be the capital, I think. Such quick fire tactics help Jesus to come back, but it's all a bit late. Durham wins, 225-180. Their top scorer was Chris Joby's 90, with Lucas making 85 for the Oxford side. Durham took 21/39 bonuses with two missignals; Jesus 14/34 with two missignals. Durham took all 40 points they faced on geography.

Next: Birkbeck -v- Clare Cambridge


Dec: "Line 52! Hello!"
Caller: "Hello!"
Dec: "Hello! Who are you?"
Caller: "Me!"
Dec: "Hello, Me!"

Caller wins a telephone, rather than a clue.

More good news for Granada came from the US. A court there has, very sensibly, ruled that their I'M A CELEBRITY GET ME OUT OF HERE is different from Castaway's SURVIVOR. The judge ruled that the celeb torture and bickering show borrowed no more heavily from the amateur torture and bickering show than I DREAM OF JEANNIE borrowed from BEWITCHED. Bothered and bewildered, CBS said that it respected the decision and is studying the options.

ABC will now air AMERICAN MINOR CELEB TORTURE AND BICKERING next month. Reports on TV Barn suggest the following lineup of celebs: Bruce Jenner, Tyson Beckford, Robin Leach, Melissa Rivers, Julie Brown, John Melendez and Alana Stewart. The Mouse is staying very true to the original, using people that no one over The Pond has ever heard of.

Two (or three) bits of bad news from the Chris Evans camp.

1) Chris Moyles has been fired from Channel 5's LIVE WITH CHRIS MOYLES show, owing to unimpressive ratings and a show that didn't develop in twelve weeks. He'll be replaced with London DJ Christian O'Connell, further reducing the chances that O'Connell will step into Steve Lurpack's show on Radio 1.

2) The host of Cliff's C4 big show BOYS AND GIRLS will be the deeply dull and insipid Vernon Kay. I expect B&G will slip into the WITHOUT PREJUDICE? slot in March.

Speaking of which, seasoned CJ watchers will have recognised their favourite former model on this week's edition. CJ rose to fame when he appeared twice on Daytime WEAKEST LINK, then on the 2000 Sore Losers Special, and on the 2002 Models special. He was coyly described as "Retired model" this week, and his sarcastic wit would surely be more interesting than Vernon Kay. So would watching paint dry.

Contestant Calls this week: direct someone doing strange things in foreign parts, go round foreign parts doing strange things yourself, and married couples only.

And that Countdown numbers game: (((100*9)*(50-9))/75)-25. This is probably the first time we've invoked 36,900 in this cause.


The WEAKEST LINK specials weren't strong enough to make the Christmas schedule, so they're being burned off this week. TV Drama at 1845 Saturday, Kids' TV (including Gopherman, Roland Rat and (er) Timmy Mallett) at 2005 Wednesday. Quite how they'll operate the puppet remains to be seen, though Gordon is quite the master after this time.

Reality survivors Mel and Sue attempt to rescue RI:SE this week. The comedy duo host segment that will probably be called EXCEEDINGLY EARLY LUNCH, and will air at 0830 weekdays. Edith Bowman of MAKE MY DAY and Iain Lee of THE ELEVEN O'CLOCK SHOW are the warm-up act.

A new series of THEY THINK IT'S ALL OVER at 2130 Friday on BBC1, and Iain Duncan Smith leads the charge in JUST A PMQ, 1830 Monday on R4.

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