Weaver's Week 2003-02-22

Weaver's Week Index

22nd February 2003

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

Every few years, there's a game show that sets the nation talking. Most recently, WEAKEST LINK and MILLIONAIRE. Could one of this year's crop be the new saviour of prime-time game showery?

CELEBDAQ (BBC3, 2230 Fri, rpt early Sat; BBC2 1200 Sun)

On first glance, it just might be this idea. It's a sort of Fantasy Football, but involving actual household celebrities rather than top football teams (and Wimbledon). And unlike Fantasy Football, the price of the players isn't fixed, but varies according to supply and demand. Scoring is determined by the column inches the quoted celebs receive in the national daily press, and in the two largest circulation celeb mags. The player with the most points at the end of the week wins.

It's not possible to go much further in the review without mentioning the website - http://www.bbc.co.uk/celebdaq - where viewers can play along themselves. Want to buy Angelina Jolie for £2.87, or Stella McCartney for £3.03. Can you buy Alex Sibley at any price? Would you *want* to buy Alex Sibley at any price?

The BBC is billing Celebdaq as the first wholly interactive game show in UK television history, a claim that sticks in the craw of all the WANTED fans in the country - most of whom seem to be on this list. Celebdaq is certainly the first web game to translate to television. Like WANTED in the Ray Cokes era, it doesn't actually survive the transition all that well.

On the live Friday night show, host Patrick O'Connell sometimes has a ticker visible onscreen, but sometimes doesn't. He's sometimes squashed up into a corner of the screen, but most of the time he isn't. There are some very interesting graphics packages - the splitscreen effect is a dead ringer for Bloomberg Television, the only difference being that the on-screen trading charts bear some relation to the topic of conversation; while the ticker effect is pure CNBC. Paddy himself was once the BBC correspondent on Wall Street, so is accustomed to the high flying world of finance.

There are some intriguing virtual reality shots, mostly based in a celebrity bar. The display of lights representing the price of each celeb is pretty, but doesn't actually tell us very much. They remind me of Peter Snow's packages from the last couple of general elections.

Unlike the election coverage, it's rather clear that no one actually knew what they were doing on last weekend's first show. A few missed cues and fluffed lines are the hallmarks of live television, but there were so many little gaffes that the show became painful to watch. Paddy saying "Here are the Others, I don't know who they are, but they're Others," looks good on the script. On screen, during a show that appears to be falling apart at the seams, it comes across as showing a severe lack of confidence.

However, in spite of the teething troubles for the television show, I reckon Celebdaq could well be a huge success. It combines the traditional British obsession of celebrity with the new fetish for money, and clearly does so in a way that gently mocks both. The prizes are rubbish - a jacket that makes one look like a street cleaner, and a few pounds in cash - but the prestige is there for good. The format is very good, and infinitely flexible - both hallmarks of a Conrad Green idea.

Already, the website has crashed twice, had to be upgraded once, and the number of players expanded by 25% over last weekend. There are now more than 130,000 registered players. That's more people than watch C4's RI:SE breakfast show - and while Celebdaq looks like a disaster area, by comparison with Lee and Bowman, it's sheer professionalism. Celebs you can beat include Antan Dec (Cdq: split listing, ANT and DEC); Anthea Turner (Cdq: ANTHEA) and Richard Bacon (Cdq: RBACON)

It's cheap, it's lightweight, but this one has passed its IPO without significant stagging, and I'm bullish about the long-term equity dynamic of this particular security. It looks set to float rather well.


Reading the wires this week, we caught a brief announcement saying that Dutch broadcaster Nederland 2 had a very successful format on its hands, and was increasing its order from six to eight episodes. This format (made by Endemol, natch) translates as MILLIONAIRE GAME.

In the grand finale, a contestant picks one case from a selection of about twenty. In that case is any amount of money, ranging from 100 euro (£70) to 5 million euro (£3 million, roughly.) The contestant can open the case, or sell it to the bank for a fixed amount. Yep, it's very similar to the classic format DOUBLE YOUR MONEY, but with enough of a twist to make it novel.


First Quarter Final: UCL -v- Birkbeck.

UCL lost their opener to Clare Cambridge, but beat UMIST and Emmanuel Cambridge in the repechage. Birkbeck put Emmanuel in the repechage, and ousted Clare in the second round. Anyone would think they've planned this.

Good starter question: starting from a cannon in Colchester, thence to the character's name in French and German. Maybe - just maybe - the short autumn season has refreshed the question setters.

We don't get an incorrect answer until a missignal on the fifth starter. Then Birkbeck gets a question on derivatives of trig functions, and offer as an answer that well known mathematical function, "Ermintrude from THE MAGIC ROUNDABOUT."

After a cracking start, the teams rather lose it in the second period, with missignals and dropped bonuses aplenty. Things pick up a little after the music round, but correct answers are still at a premium.

UCL goes 2/3 on internet domains - .ch and .ee are fairly trivial, but .hr confuses everybody except those who live in that fine Eurovision Song Contest winning country. Birkbeck goes 0/3 on bonuses on the moon, spotting the Sea of Crises everywhere.

Crisis, crisis everywhere. This show isn't a classic, but it's gripping in its own way - it's had more ups and downs than Celebdaq, and with a couple of minutes to play, Birkbeck's lead has come down from almost 100 to just 10. Then Birkbeck gets two starters, a full set of bonuses, and runs the clock down by dropping two more starters. Their win is assured, but the margin of victory more than flatters them.

As ever, quarter scores are worked out at the picture and music rounds.

UCL 45 05 60 35 [145] 16/27 bonuses, 5 missignals

BBK 60 55 15 90 [220] 24/39 bonuses, 6 missignals


UCL: Towner 45, Lovell 40, Hudson 14, Conway 46
BBK: Walsh 53, Hallard 43, Gillham 58, Gallivan 66

245 points were available for questions on art and literature, the teams took 145. By comparison, the teams took just 30 of 115 on science and nature.

UCL's strongest suits were Geography, making 100 of 125 available points; and Art-other-than-Literature, scoring 135 of 215. Birkbeck's best areas so far are History, 70/90; and they've taken 100/155 on Literature.

The rest of the draw:

Warwick -v- Sheffield
Cranfield -v- Durham
Worcester Oxford -v- Leeds

I'm picking Warwick, Durham, and Worcester to progress.


Fancy your hand as a great question setter? Reckon that those regulars on UNIVERSITY CHALLENGE are asking the same ten questions every week? Here's your chance to do better.

Following our recent discussion on the UKGS discussion group about what makes a good quiz question, I'm inviting entries for starter questions that could feature on University Challenge. The best question will win a £10 Amazon voucher.

I'm looking for questions that will tax students, but not be so obscure as to exclude a more general audience. Questions that swerve part-way through will be marked down, questions that drone on will be marked heavily down. I'm looking for entertainment, accuracy, and fairness.

Questions that are just plain wrong will not win the prize. In addition to the question, I need the answer, and *at least* one online source for verification.

You may enter up to three questions, to show off your wit and versatility; though if you can only dream up one killer question, that will not count against you.

The rules again:

1) All entries must be received by 10pm GMT on February 28.
2) No entrant may submit more than three (3) questions.
3) All questions must be submitted with an answer and at least one online source.

4) Entries must be sent to my personal email address, not the UKGameshows email group. To those reading this column on the web and wishing to enter: please subscribe to our Yahoo! Group.

Winners will be announced in early March.

By entering, you grant UKGameshows.com a non-exclusive license to submit any or all entries to the UNIVERSITY CHALLENGE production team, and to use any or all entries on the UKGameshows.com website and associated email list.

Question setters will retain the copyright in their questions.

And good luck!


Let's have some good news. Simon Cowell says that the next series of POP IDLE, set to launch late in the summer, will be his last. The sharp-tongued judge is misquoted as saying "I wanted to get out before my trousers rose above my shirt."

PI winner William Young, and loser Gareth Gates, both failed to win anything at the BPI awards this week, suggesting that their fifteen months of fame are nearly done.

Chris Evans has sold his new show to the US - before it's aired in this country. BOYS AND GIRLS will debut on C4 at 2100 on March 1, and has already been sold to ABC over the pond. The British show apparently has a budget of £500,000 per hour-long show, and features 100 gentlemen and 100 ladies competing for 100 grand. Further twists will be unveiled in the show.

Watching DOUBLE CROSS this week, it struck me how dour the format is. Contestants don't get to show any emotion, and the game encourages them to wear an aloof mask during the discussions. So it comes as a complete shock when one winner goes over and hugs her contestants. Then she looks sheepish and returns to her place in the line. DOUBLE CROSS finished on Friday with a winners' edition, and a call for contestants for a future series. Christian O'Connell takes over Chris Moyles' pub gig in the 7pm slot from Monday.

Kevin Smith, a truck driver from LA, became the first top prize winner on the syndicated edition of US MILLIONAIRE this week. After taxes and conversion to sterling, Smith's prize is around £375,000. This is still far more than was won on an experimental UK edition last weekend, where the FFF winner chose another contestant of the other sex to answer questions with them. This was deemed a Valentine's Day edition, for no adequately explored reason.

From a large daytime prize to a very small one: £750. Seven hundred and fifty pounds on Thursday's WEAKEST LINK. Team, your performance transcended pitiful, fell short of woeful, and was desperately sub-inadequate. In fact, the only suggestion we can make is: have you ever thought of applying for ITV's rubbish game show WOULD YOU COULD YOU? That's more your collective level.

This coming week, Tim Wonnacott takes the strain at BARGAIN HUNT daytime, 1200 weekdays on BBC1. Sky One launches HOUSE SITTERS, a travel-cum-stay at home game, 1230 weekdays. CAN I GYMRU, DEWIS YR WYTH - a Welsh-language song contest - airs all week on S4C. CCTV is not Oblivious, and is on BBC3 all week. And THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY promises the wedding from hell on BBC2, Wednesday 2000.

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