Weaver's Week 2003-06-28

Weaver's Week Index

28th June 2003

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

Appearing in this week's column: potheads, trips to Africa, a roadside caff, and the very last time we'll mention Blind Date.


As has become something of a tradition, some thoughts on the recent Finals Week.

QF1: John Davies [#1 seed, 8 wins, 766 pts] -v- Christine Scott [#8, 4w, 375p]

Both contestants will be the GRUMPIEST if they lose, but thanks to that big nine, they're locked on 49 after the first period. John takes the lead straight after, thanks to the dictionary word TANGELO, and the common ATTENDS. Christine submits the audacious CROONIEST, but it's not there: worse, the anagram CORTISONE is in the dictionary. It's not a crucial conundrum, John misses it, but runs out the winner 105-76. The Target score (using the longest word in normal usage) is 127, the Best score available using declarations on the show 136. After the first period, Christine's challenge faded away, making it difficult to judge John's ability fairly.

QF2: Martin Gardner [#2, 8w, 746p] -v- Peter Jeffrey [#7, 4w, 411p]

Martin kicks off by calling Richard and Clare Balding POTHEADS. Ms Balding's spends the interval talking about how her doppelganger, Clare Slightlyreceding, is fronting the BBC coverage of Ascot at the same time. Martin moves further ahead with TANGELOS - they're grapefruit and tangerines, apparently. Thanks to a good numbers game, he's 23 ahead at the first interval, and moves further ahead after BOVATES is disallowed. It's a walkover after that point, Martin increases his lead to 37 going into the second numbers game, but blobs a decently easy final numbers game before getting the conundrum. The final score: Martin wins easily, 101-64. Target for this game 109, Best 119, and Martin seems a little more confident than John yesterday.

QF3: David Wilson [#3, 5w, 560p] -v- Patrick Vowles [#6, 4w, 449p]

Note that the #3 seed only notched up five wins, the fewest since Countdown moved to a six month series in 1998. There's hope for the rest of us yet. Patrick's attempt, "vigorate," is not allowed, giving David a seven point lead. He stretches further ahead with POLEMICS and FOGIES, and takes a 21 point lead out of the first period. David gets OUTSTRIP and FONDLER in the second, and the game's won. Dictionary Dell twists the score further in David's favour by disallowing Patrick's THORNED. David wins the game, 115-55, and looks in strong form for the latter stages. The Target for this game is just 108, the Best 118.

QF4: Ian Buckley [#4, 5w, 508p] -v- Andrew Tatham [#5, 5w, 497p]

Andrew pulls six ahead thanks to a TURGID selection late in the first, and gets an unexpected seven when Ian pulls out of the numbers game mid-solution. His lead extends with RATHOLE at the start of the second, and TARDILY pulls him 33 clear by the end of the period. Both contestants offer BLOOPERS, of which you'll see none on this show, but plenty on Mr Norden's. Andrew wins the game at a canter, 100-56. Target was 102, Best 110. Not sure who will win each semi, but it looks as if Thursday's winner will take the title.

SF1: John Davies -v- Andrew Tatham

Honours absolutely even through the first period, until John gets a fairly tricky numbers game on the nose. Speaking of on the nose, how is Ms Balding able to appear here on C4 in Leeds and appear with former WINNING LINES host Mr Simon Mayo, former INTERCEPTOR host Annabel Croft, and Kirsten Dunst on BBC Radio's coverage of the Wimbledon tennis tournament? John's AMUSEDLY is valid, Andrew's Laudsome isn't, and the lead extends to 18. Andrew pulls back with URBANITE, but John's tricky numbers game gives him a 17 point lead. Twice, both contestants offered fives in rounds where there were a number of sixes, but very little more. BOOTLEGS in the last letters round ensures John has the win, and the final score of 93-65 doesn't reflect Andrew's sterling work. Target of 103, Best 115. We've not had a nine letter word appear since Thursday.

SF2: Martin Gardner -v- David Wilson

Martin UPRATED his chances of winning in the first period, only to have those hopes killed off by MORGUES the next round. Clare's gone off to appear in the Game Show Host Convention (Mr Whiteley need not visit,) and is replaced by Mr Geoffrey Durham. David pulls ahead with CHASTEN at the start of the second, and COURSED at the end of that period. HORRIDLY hastens David's victory, but Martin decodes the conundrum to make the score look respectable. David wins, 98-86, and perhaps he doesn't looks in such strong shape for the final. Target was 113, Best 123.

Final: John Davis -v- David Wilson

David gets off to a great start with EXPATS - a six from a very inflexible opening set of letters. John retrieves the lead with FURRIEST, and extends it when David's risk in the next round crashes and burns, then David fails a fairly simple numbers game. John leads, 30-12, after the first period. DC doesn't discuss "Generics" at the start of the second; back when the show was 30 minutes long, dubious words could be discarded with reasons. John finds the TOILET, and the second numbers target, and a surely unassailable 68-34 lead after the second. John trips by offering "wrankle" in the third, but his lead is so large that it's not going to be a crucial error, especially as David's "sondage" is disallowed. John picks up the conundrum, to take the victory 102-58. Even though he didn't score in the opening round, John has beaten the Target score of 101, and come within spitting distance of the Best, 107. David had the highest individual score of the season, and the best single performance of finals week, but John's 11 wins clearly reflects his excellence.

Sidebar 1: After the result, Richard reads a viewer's letter saying how both John Davies and Graham Nash - who won the Supreme Championship in January - were taught at the same school. Not only that, they were taught by the same teacher, Margaret Young.

Sidebar 2: A Google search for "thorned" revealed about 2^12.5 hits, including such eminently sensible usages as "thorned handle basket" (a basket with a handle made of thorns - a sensible usage of the word, not a sensible product!) "thorned crown" (as used in Christian imagery) and "thorned trees" (cacti, saguaro, and the ilk.) This column is mystified as to why the NODE declines to accept this perfectly common English word.


Mark Labbett captained the only useful Glamorgan side ever on University Challenge, and made the final of Brain of Britain and Radio 4's Masterteam. Clive Spate has won Weakest Link, Brainteaser, Catchword, and is perhaps best known as a Countdown Supreme Champ and world-ranked Scrabble (TM) player. Both gentlemen have taught mathematics in school.

Colour commentator James Richardson plays long on Mark Labbett's lack of confidence on television quizzes, and Clive Spate's tenacity. The mathematics round could be the decider.

The opening general knowledge round clarifies the rule on interruptions: questions can be interrupted, it's just that no one interrupted previously. All six switches are used, with two "Switch" "Switch" "Pass" messes. The switch is looking like a gimmick that has very little use at this level. Clive Spate wins by 5 and a bit seconds.

The maths round shows a phenomenal level of knowledge, just one error decides the round. Again, Clive Spate takes 5 and a bit seconds.

No replay this week, we're straight into the contemporary knowledge round. "The best quizzers can come undone, but it won't happen tonight," says Carol Vorderman. Clive Spate wins this round by 45 seconds, after Mark Labbett gets just one of 11 questions correct. Has anyone ever seen Carol Vorderman and axed lottery prognosticator Mystic Meg in the same room?

Words and Letters looks like Clive Spate's round, and Mark Labbett appears to have a little difficulty seeing the display. That, and a series of passes, gives Clive Spate a further 13 seconds.

Clive Spate has an advantage of 1:10, and needs that advantage. He runs the clock down by 34 seconds before Mark Labbett's 30 expire, but the gap was always too big to pull back.

Clive is the winner by 1:06, and takes third place in the seedings list, behind Olav Bjortomt and Dee Voce. These seedings will determine who faces whom in the later stages of the contest. This column is still hoping that later rounds are longer, as this contest would surely have been closer had the show run for an hour.

Next week: Melanie Beaumont plays Peter Lee.


Total voting for week 4: 1.74 million, compared with 2.7 million when Spencer left at this stage last year. Total votes, at 3.87 million, are only 60% of the equivalent figure from last year. And there are those who suggest that the double eviction was planned precisely to prevent Jon from adopting the Ultimate Cash Loser strategy proposed on the UKGS list last year.

Celebdaq divvies for June 20: Sissy £7.40 (and delisted); Tania £4.82, Fed £3.84, Nush £2.08, Cam £1.26, Ray £1.25, Steph 53.8p, Scott 24.1p, Gos 22.8p.

Earth Mother Davina's interview of ousted contestant Federico has been the most talked-about part of the show so far, as she brought up the topic of (er) endowment size, live on national television. While Fed shuffled and pretended not to know what she was talking about, Ms McCall continued to press him on the issue. By midweek, around 60 people had complained to each of two regulatory authorities.

The reward challenge involved Cameron playing off against Ray. The objective: stick pins in a map corresponding to countries. It all boiled down to whether the country was Mongolia or Kazakhstan. It was Mongolia, and the Gentleman has won. He gets to choose one person to join him for each correctly identified country, and broke Alex's year-old record for stalling when prompted to pick a housemate. To cut a very, very long story short, Nush was left in the main house while the other six had a slap-up meal on BB. So far, so ordinary.

Just when we thought Big Brother was settling into a rhythm, off goes Cameron on an exchange with Big Brother Africa, swapping with Gaetano. The Gentleman has a two-week amnesty on being evicted, meaning he should be through to the final five (depending on the evictions calendar, thrown into turmoil by last week's unsporting double exit.) He can nominate his rivals, the Who He and the Anodyne, gets extra exposure as E4 airs BB Africa for a week, and the emotional lift of a break from the same four walls. On the other hand, it could allow those two to bond further with the Cook, leaving the Gentleman isolated on his return after a six day absence. We shall see.

It's clear, however, that this is a last roll of the dice by Endemol / C4. Worried by the lack of press coverage, and the very poor voting figures, the programme makers have decided to play to this year's abiding theme: brains. Go see that people in Africa are, in fact, just the same as people in the UK. With all the strengths and weaknesses of Europeans. It's a cultural exchange. It's being undertaken by the most open-minded and mature contestant of the twelve. The phrase "goodwill ambassador" springs to mind. It's actually somewhat more highbrow than we might usually expect from BB.

In fact, gosh darnit, this is Public Service Broadcasting. Day 33, and Cameron sees for himself that there's really no difference between BB Africa and BB Europe. It's a huge sock in the eye for the racist elements in society, and maybe - just maybe - it's going to convince a few people that those who live there are no different from those who live here.

The cash challenge invited the contestants to memorise facts about each other. Such questions as "What's your favourite joke." Some of the punchlines were: "To get to the other side" and "Doctor Who." This column leaves the starts of those jokes as an exercise for the reader, noting only that this isn't quite the GRAND SLAM level. The contestants bet a modest 95%, and completed the task without too much problem.

Cameron's stint in BB AFRICA has given us a chance to see a foreign episode. The title sequence is signals bouncing off satellites to a techno-bleep soundtrack. It helps to emphasise the pan-continental nature of the show. BB Africa is using the original Dutch Big Brother logo - the words in a long blue oval, with a strip of film coming off the "o" in the middle. British viewers will be able to compare the Big Brother USA logo from the end of the month, when C4 streams the transatlantic version on a 16 hour tape delay.

Cameron and Gos both posted rises of over 10% on Celebdaq this week; bookies' favourite Scott lost 5% of his value, leading rival Ray gained 7%.

The Daily Tabloid is depressed by the complete lack of publicity for their many-strings-attached £50,000 bounty for the first heterosexual couple to have sex in the BB house and sell their exclusive to that organ. The Tab is so depressed that the offer has been withdrawn, and covers its blushes by saying "the show is boring." Pot, kettle, hello.

Nominated for eviction this week: Nush (3 votes), Steph (3), Tania (3). At the risk of stating the blindingly obvious, it's another of the ladies going, then. The result: Tania went.


Confirmation that BLIND DATED has finished, ended, gone. ITV is seeking another dating show, but not just yet. Pop Idle 2 and Antan Dec's Takeaway will cover the autumn, though quite how the duo intends to host two live prime time shows back to back remains to be seen. Hopefully they won't bring in the Russian Antan Dec; after five weeks, the duo is still waiting for RTE to reveal the real televote results.

The Broadcasting Standards Commission has upheld a complaint of unjust or unfair treatment by Mr Beale about Antan Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway on 29 June 2002. The programme surprised a member of the audience with the information that he had two secret admirers and that he had to choose one for a date. The admirer who had not been chosen had to decide whether to send the new couple to dinner at the Savoy or to a roadside café, Silver Service, owned by Mr Beale.

The Geordie duo intended the footage to illustrate the contrast between a romantic dinner at the Savoy and a snack at a roadside café. However, the Commission took the view that the comments made and the presenters' reactions went beyond a humorous comparison and were unnecessarily derisory.

Complaints about naked parents and explicit questions on the daytime repeat of the first episode of BORES AND GIRLS were not upheld. The BSC does not adjudicate on questions of quality.

If you miss something interesting on BIG BROTHER LIVE during the last ten days of the contest, and you're watching on satellite, E4+1 will help you out. With the new channel's star attraction BIG BROTHER THAT WAS LIVE AN HOUR AGO. Except that even the live broadcast isn't live, but 20 minutes delayed.

This Saturday, ITV has not one, not two, but three new game shows. The Monkey is staking its reputation... ok, it's having a bit of an experiment, not having much of a reputation to stake. At 1915, JUDGEMENT DAY stars Brian Conley and a studio audience giving away a big prize to someone they think deserves the dough. They might have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn't been for that pesky Liza Tarbuck. At 2015, Melanie Sykes steps into Earth Mother Davina's pepto pink dress on THE VAULT. There had better be a £300,000 rollover jackpot, otherwise this column will bang on about it until the end of the run. There will certainly be merciless laughing at the home contestants who don't watch the rest of the show. And at 2115, DROP THE CELEBRITY invites six people onto a plane, but most of them will have to jump out. Quality of parachutes is assured; quality of celebs is certainly not.

And finally. When he's not appearing in Countdown's dictionary corner, Alastair Stewart hosts a show lecturing and hectoring people in how to drive a little less safely. Actually, let's take that again.

When he's not appearing in Countdown's dictionary corner, or hosting the wreck that was KING OF THE CASTLE, Alastair Stewart hosts a show made up of car crashes and chases. This week, he was arrested for drunken driving.

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