Weaver's Week 2003-10-18

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So if Dale Winton is the answer, what's the question?

I'M THE ANSWER (Unique for ITV, 1703 weekdays)

The format of the show is simple, almost to the point of being patronising. In the opening round, there are one hundred audience members. Each person has a card containing a reasonably well-known noun. Host Dale Winton (yes, this is what he's doing these days) reads out the first of three clues. All the members of the audience who think they might match that clue stand up, and shout "I'm the answer" in almost perfect unison.

Dale then takes a moment to examine these claims. If, for instance, the clue had been "colourful" then someone with a card reading "Rainbow" would be clearly correct. He might stop at someone holding up "Dalmatian," on the assumption that they're referring to the black and white spotted dog, but if the person holding the card can refer to coastal parts of Yugoslavia, not only will they impress Dale but they'll also be edited out of the show, as daytime ITV seems not to be a refuge for potential Mastermind contestants. There can be some convoluted excuses to join in the fray, and our host isn't afraid to suggest that some of the more tenuous links might not be successful.

After this banter, Dale gives a second clue, it could be verbal, aural, or a prop thrown on stage or dropped from the ceiling. This may be the first show since Crackerjack where contestants are routinely pelted with cabbages. After a third clue, Dale indicates if the answer to his question is still standing. He makes a point of saying that anyone who is standing here and isn't the answer is out of the game: this is perhaps a bit mean-spirited, and suggests that the prepared questions aren't sufficiently wide-ranging that their potential answers overlap.

Repeat this process four times, that's just when it stops being entertaining and starts to become a grind.

After the break, four remain to the second round. They're issued with headbands, a bit like those worn by operating surgeons. Unlike the good doctors, these outfits don't have a lamp on the forehead, but do have a small television screen. The producers flash an answer onto each head, and the contestants get to familiarise themselves with each other's answer. They don't see their own answer.

Dale then asks a question, with the correct answer being one of the four on someone's head. Almost invariably, someone (for the sake of argument, Dick) will buzz in to say "I'm not the answer, but Tom is." Dale then asks Tom what is the correct answer. If Tom can give the correct answer, he and Dick take one point each. If Tom can't give the correct answer, Dick takes two points. If Sally buzzes in and says the wrong person is the answer, she is frozen out of the rest of the question and cannot score even if she is the answer. First two to three points win: rather than straightforward points, the show uses a "path of light" to reach the host.

The head-to-head final involves Dale reading out a description of a person or place or thing, and being the first to identify it on the buzzer. Yep, it's the Going For Gold final round, only without that diminishing returns or the "play or pass" business. The final round is - apparently - timed for one minute, but there's no indication of time passing, not even in the background muzak.

Whoever gets the higher score goes on to play the cash round. Dale tells the player that they are, for instance, the movie "Gone With The Wind," or Brad Pitt, or something similar. He then reads out five facts about the subject, the player responds "I am [not] the answer" as appropriate. Should the player get 5/5 at this stage, they win £10,000, and it's game over. If they get one or more answers wrong, Dale tells how many errors they made, and gives them the chance to change one - and only one - response. Four right wins £5000, three two and one wins that many thousand pounds. The finalist is guaranteed £1000, and is probably best advised to change one answer even if they're unsure.

By definition, this show is arbitrary, almost everything hinges on the selection of seat at the beginning of the recording session. We don't see any shots of the audience in the second half of the show, merely hear some Canned Crowd, this surely has nothing to do with the way the second half is recorded on the day after the first.

It's not particularly challenging entertainment, and we're not impressed that the website is only active during the broadcast, but it's good to see ITV trying a new format in the 5pm slot.



Correcting an error from last week: Darren Martin took Television, not Radio, comedy in the opening round. Thanks to Chris Jones for spotting the goof.

Second semi-final.

Tim Wilson moves from English Romantic Literature to the Life and Works of Charles Dickens. A lot on the Pickwick Papers, and it's rattle rattle rattle through 16 points and no passes.

Isabelle Heward offered Audrey Hepburn last time; today, it's the Films of Vincent Minelli. Anyone wondering is reassured by the first question: yes, he is Liza's father. She's a little slower than Tim, and scores 11 points and one pass.

Joe Shelley had radio comedy before, now it's Boys' Comics and Papers, 1940-60. Apparently, the humour classics Dandy and Beano are boys' comics. One editor Euan Kerr would wish to disagree. This columnist spent many a long hour poring over comics in his youth, and reckons this set of questions was even worse than Aunt Olive's cooking. Two passes, four points. He deserves far better.

Geoffrey Thomas takes us from Lancashire cricket to Buenos Aires. This is more obscure material, he scores nine points and no passes.

Joe Shelley finishes on 18 points and two more passes.

Geoffrey Thomas storms through the second set, and advances to 25 points.

Isabelle Heward made a Fifteen to One final many a year ago, but her general knowledge lets her down a little, and she scores 23 points and one pass.

Tim Wilson has a harder task than he might have expected, doesn't do as well as he might, and passes on two while going to 25 points.

We have a tie, so the contestant with fewer passes wins. Tim had two, Geoffrey none at all. He wins a tight, tight semifinal, and must surely be favourite for the final.

University Challenge

Round 1, match 5: Edinburgh -v- Warwick

The Warwick team hadn't been watching Mastermind, as they get their three Dickens questions wrong. None of the UC questions had appeared earlier. Warwick offers as one answer "Le grand masterbadtour" (one letter has been added to fool content scanners), but this is not correct.

After the first picture round, the aggregate score of both teams is 35. The record low established just two weeks ago is surely under threat. Edinburgh finally moves into positive territory just before the music round, and reduces Warwick's lead to 100.

Neither side really wants to strike forward and seize the game, Warwick's lead remains around 100 points, and the show rapidly descends into complete tedium.

Edinburgh stages something of a comeback towards the end of the show, but performs badly on the bonuses. Warwick wins, 155-115.

Edinburgh's top scorer was Will White's 48.2, Ed Wood scored 84.3 for Warwick. Warwick made 13/30 bonuses with two missignals, Edinburgh 6/24 with one missignal.

Edinburgh squeezes out CCC from the high-scoring losers' board, but their position is very shaky.

175 St John's Oxford; 160 Hull; 150 St Hugh's Oxford; 115 Edinburgh.

"This is not happening."

Teen Big Brother, eh? If ever there was an argument for increasing the minimum age requirement for the show, this series had it. There was plenty of shoutability, mostly of the "would you just look at yourselves and calm down for a moment" variety. This column found itself longing for an Alex Sibley figure, someone who could metaphorically bang a few heads together and get some approximation to order.

Of course, some of the snappiness could be down to the weather: filming for this series took place in the first week of August, when outside temperatures in the shade were double the contestants' ages, and stores around the country ran out of water ices.

Some of the tasks were interesting: on one day, the contestants were told to wear yellow boiler suits and nothing else. In another event, the housemates played one-on-one games against each other, the winner staying in and picking their challenger for the next event.

One set of nominations took something out of another chapter in the Endemol playbook: voting to save one other person from potential eviction. One person scored no votes, and hence was automatically evicted. An interesting twist, and one that's probably going to appear in BBV next year.

And the tabloids can stop twittering on now, the much vaunted sex shots finally aired. Or, to be exact, some slightly mobile duvets. Never before has so much been written about so little. This is hardly worth a moral afterthought, never mind a full-on moral panic. The viewing public agreed, that night's show attracting a derisory 1.9 million viewers in the 10pm slot, fewer than BBLB regularly picked up at 6.

Far, far more interesting than the actual, umm, event was the aftermath. The rush of emotions, telling the others, and coping with the way one of the couple went around like a gormless loon, but they they'd been doing that all week. Elaine, the senior producer, broke with convention, and identified herself by name to the couple.

The top prize: a three month holiday around the world; the twist: the winner had to take another housemate with them. Even though the show was recorded in August, and the group itself did all the nomination and eviction, the show had an interesting, entertaining feel to it. Compare and contrast against the US Big Brother show, which is so slow and boring as to have sent viewers to sleep.


Speaking of which, C4 / Endemol plans a new reality series where contestants will have to stay awake for a whole week. ENDURANCE will have up to forty people complete a variety of tasks over seven days without kipping off. "It's like Big Brother meets It's a Knockout meets Touch the Truck," said a spokey this week. Hmm. This column was convinced that no one else on the planet remembered TTT, least of all the show's host.

The provisional list of entries for next year's Eurovision has been announced. Defending champions Turkey will host, they'll be joined by paymasters Germany, Spain, France, and UK No Points. The rest of the top ten from Riga come along: that's Belgium, Russia, Norway, Sweden, Austria, Poland, Iceland, Romania, and Ireland.

Entering the Wednesday Sing-off from this year's contest will be Bosnia &

Herzegovina, Cyprus, Croatia, Estonia, Greece, Israel, Latvia, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, and Ukraine Denmark, Finland, Lithuania, Macedonia, and Switzerland missed this year's festivities following poor performances in Tallinn 2002, so they'll enter the Sing-off. The Eurovision family welcomes four new entrants: Albania, Andorra, Belarus, and Serbia & Montenegro. And three old friends return: Hungary dignified herself between 1994 and 98, but hasn't competed since for financial reasons; Luxembourg regularly won, but last competed in 1993; and Monaco won in 1971, and last competed eight years later.

Next week: it's New! It's from a Fort! It's got M Boyard! Yep, Challenge has a new series of Knightmare three nights a week at 1800. Before that, New Fort Boyard starts Monday at 1700 and 2200.

Also, loads of animated robots in FightBox, BBC3 2000 Saturday. Jack Dee hosts HIGNFY, BBC2 2240. Giant darts on Scrapheap, C4 1735 Sunday, and CyBorgs (TM) come to ITV 1600 Thursday. Superstars is up against Celebrity Time Commanders at 2000 Thursday, that's except for viewers in Scotland, who will see Superstars on Wednesday. And a new series of Masterteam begins on Radio 4 at 1330 Monday, repeated 2302 next Saturday.

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