Weaver's Week 2004-01-17

Weaver's Week Index

17 January '2004'

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


Channel 4's Quiz Hour promotions still feature clips of Fifteen To One. This is a bit of an error.

BEAT THE NATION (Endemol Midlands for C4, 1445 weekdays)

Take two members of the ISIHAC team, add in some questions of varying difficulty, four contestants with an entertaining story to tell, heat gently, and serve in the dregs of the daytime schedule.

The basic premise is as follows: Century Quiz has written a shedload of questions. Wary of the effect Century Quiz has had on other shows, Endemol has tested these questions on "over 1000" internet users via the Yougov polling site, and scaled up these responses to the Grate British Public.

Our hosts are very much playing the one tough, one tender cliché. Only they're both being nice, so it's the not so clichéd one tender, one tenderer. Tim Brooke-Taylor plays the really good cop role, chatting amiably to the contestants, and offering losing contestants a chance at winning £100 in a short game. Curiously, we seem to recall Tim playing the tough cop back on Qd. Graeme Garden plays the merely nice cop, asking most of the difficult questions, and most of the easy questions as well. Viewers who expected Humph to be asking Colin Sell what he was playing need not tune out just yet.

After Tim has said hello to the contestants, and invited them to regale us with a possibly interesting anecdote, it's on to round one. Fingers on buzzers, the contestants try to answer questions that the majority of the nation gets wrong. The score for each question is the percentage of people who got the question wrong, so here it's going to be between 51 and 100 points per question. First three to 150 will progress, so we're going to be asking no more than eleven questions in this round, quite possibly fewer. The last player, the one who hasn't reached 150, must leave us. Before they go, Tim offers £100 if they can guess how many people got a question correct to within 10%.

In the second round, Graeme asks six questions, with scoring as before. The contestant has the chance to double if they can correctly predict whether a minor celeb will get the answer correct. The lowest score after six questions is eliminated, but Tim has another £100 to give away. In this game, the contestant is given two categories of people, and tries to work out which group gave the more correct answers. It's a 50/50 guess.

There's a missed opportunity for Heavy Tactics here - six questions, three contestants, why not limit each player to answering two questions only? That would force contestants to gamble on the unknown difficulty of future questions and the celeb's knowledge.

Before the break, Graeme poses a One Percenter. That's a question that 99% of the nation got wrong. Such as, "In which country was Yehudi Menuhen born?" Or

"Colin, what are you doing on the piano?"

Last year, Fifteen to One occupied this slot, and it appears William G Stewart left a large pile of spare lives around. In the third round, each contestant starts with three lives, and the two are, in turn, asked questions of increasing difficulty. First error loses a life, then the difficulty goes back to the easy. First contestant to lose all three lives is eliminated, but can win £100 by predicting which of two people is more well known.

In the daily finale, the winner has to answer ten questions in 90 seconds. We start with an easy question, one to which less than 10% of the nation didn't knew the answer. After a correct answer, the next question foxed between 10 and 20% of the nation, and so on. Success is rewarded with £500 and a possible seat in the Season Final; failure means they'll come back the next day to try again.

One hidden statistic: exactly how intelligent is the Grate British Public? 30% knew the colour of the rainbow between yellow and blue. Only slightly more than half the nation knows where to find New England, less than half know the Irish flag or the logo of the National Trust. After the infamous "Oak Leaf" incident, surely everyone in the country knows this one. Only 15% of the country knows the Spanish flag by sight, and the number of people who know what Colin's doing on the piano is none, apparently.

The title sequence follows a bird following the road signposted "Right" through a cartoon mock-up city, finishing at a roadsign supported by Tim and Graeme. At least, we think that's who's supporting what. The roadsign motif spills into the other graphics, many displaying like the rounded ends of the sign. Departing contestants take their desks with them, the last show this column remembers that lost bits of the set as it went on was Shafted.

Overall, Beat the Nation is very sedate and polite; the hosts are very much in the Nice mould, and the whole show feels more like a replacement for Countdown than the quietly thrusting Fifteen To One. There's no audience, everything is canned crowd, and our studio spies suggest that companions aren't even allowed to watch the recording from another studio.


Second Round, Match 2: St Andrews -v- Queen's Belfast

Andy's overcame a weak challenge from City, while Queen's was scarcely tested when beating Bradford in the final first round match just four weeks back.

Queen's gets the Manchester Self-Promotion question of the week, plugging the programme's home city's museum of cities. Later, a question on cities built on seven hills doesn't name local rival city Sheffield. Future UC contestants might wish to note: this is a Granada production, and Granada is based in Manchester.

The first picture round is, perhaps, the ultimate exercise in tedium: pictures of authors, who all wrote under pseudonyms, and the teams are challenged to give both names. And if they fall asleep, it'll cost everyone £1000. Oh.

By the half way mark, this show is in grave danger of turning into the Elliott Wilson show. At the audio round (obscure Cuban jazz ensembles,) the St Andrews captain has 80.7 of his side's 100 points.

Queen's finally comes into the game just before the second picture round, but has an 85 point deficit to tackle. One starter, then Wilson comes back, and - with St Andrews conferring for as long as they can - the game's as good as over, especially thanks to some very odd diagrams of the human skin.

250 points is racked up at this second picture round, the series average of 290 with a minute to play. At the gong, St Andrews has notched up its expected win, 200-105. Queen's was not a bad side, but Wilson's 114.4 says it all. His side made 18/35 bonuses with two missignals, Queen's had 9/21 and two missignals. Thom Kerr's 42.3 led for the Belfast side in a week when neither side made a full set of bonuses - last time out, Queen's made four full sets.

Next: Gonville & Caius Cambridge -v- Strathclyde


In Germany, Celeb Torture and Bickering is airing on RTL. "Ich Bin Ein Star Holt Mich Hier Raus" - the first time a German title is actually shorter than its English translation - has dropped ten national unknowns into that Aussie jungle.

German viewers have seen the usual fare - a singer of questionable talent lies in a "cockroach coffin" with 30,000 little insects, and an out of work TV host was pecked to tedium by a band of aggressive ostriches. And, as ever, media watchdogs and other pressure groups are claiming the show has a lack of moral grounding.

"I've really been blown over. These are methods that are reminiscent of torture tactics," said Jo Groebel of the European Institute for the Media. Walter Eykmann from a national Catholic church group told the daily tabloid newspaper Bild that RTL was putting profits and ratings above the participants' well being. "It's absolutely repugnant how Daniel Küblböck (a loser on Deutschland Sicht von Superstar (Pop Idle) (the usual longer title)) is being abused," said Eykmann, rather predictably.

In keeping with tradition, RTL has defended the program, saying all those taking part were aware of what they were getting into. "The participants are acting of their own will and are public persons who know exactly what they are doing. We aren't torturing anyone," said a spokey, resisting the temptation to add "Except possibly the viewer."

Some animal rights groups see things differently. The Association Against Cruelty to Animals and the German Association for the Protection of Animals have both criticised the show for using living creatures simply for a scare effect. Germany's authority for television standards has also stepped in to the debate and is planning to hold a hearing on February 11 to determine whether RTL's show breaks the country's standards of broadcast decency. However, since the two-week run of IBESHMHR will long be over by then, there appears little chance the plug will be pulled.

The candidates earn 1,000 Euro for each day they stay in the camp for the charity of their choice, and - of course - hope to come out with free publicity that could help their careers and possibly net them a minor part in an obscure show on RTL in nine months' time.

This report based on a piece by Deutsche Welle.


To the surprise of not too many people, Claire Southern won Shattered. The final challenge was to be the last person to fall asleep, and both of the other competitors nodded off within seconds of each other. They lasted 30 minutes, Claire took two hours to nod off, and later mused that one of her competitors was trying to put her off by snoring. "I think I was actually asleep by then,"

replied the vanquished contestant.

Shattered has come in for a lot of criticism, much of it centring on the ethics of exploiting sleep depravation for entertainment. This column reckons that Shattered wasn't so much entertainment as a televised science experiment. The psychologists found some early results: very tired people don't get horny, nor do they lose their gross motor functions. How much of this was down to the televised circumstances is, as yet, an unknown quantity, and one inviting further research.

Whether the new Office of Communications watchdog will allow that research to be televised in the UK remains to be seen. Reports in a tabloid suggest that the research might take the form of a celebrity show, starring ten people of whom we've never heard. Perhaps the prize will go to the member of the audience who stays awake the longest.

Meanwhile, Shattered's place on E4 has been taken by The Salon. This, not whatever plan is coming from the US, is the first continuous reality show. Well, with the possible exception of The Bureau, but that was originally a spoof. Wasn't it?

Next week: Hercules continues on BBC3 (and there will be a review in next week's Week). ITV has It Shouldn't Happen On A TV Talent Show at 1910 today, so that's only one full hour of Simon Cowell and Richard Park and Patrick Kielty this week. The Monkey also has the Grate British Driving Test at 2100 Monday. Radio 4 has new series of Round Britain Quiz and of X Marks The Spot.

To have Weaver's Week emailed to you on publication day (usually Saturday), receive our exclusive TV roundup of the game shows in the week ahead, and chat to other ukgameshows.com readers sign up to our Yahoo! Group.

Back to Weaver's Week Index

A Labyrinth Games site.
Design by Thomas.
Printable version
Editors: Log in