Weaver's Week 2004-07-17

Weaver's Week Index

17 July 2004

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

Saturday Night Passport - Weaver's Week

"Do you think you should be kissing your privates?"

PASSPORT TO PARADISE (Celador and World's End for BBC1, early Saturday evening)

Back in the dim, distant reaches of time, there was a breakfast programme on Channel 4. The people who liked it really liked it, but most people shrugged their shoulders and watched something else less boring instead. After three and a half years, THE CHANNEL FOUR DAILY came to its natural conclusion, to be replaced by THE BIG BREAKFAST. That show made a star of its host Chris Evans, and quickly begat DON'T FORGET YOUR TOOTHBRUSH.

A couple of years ago, ITV launched its new show for Saturday nights. ANTANDEC'S SATURDAY NIGHT TAKEAWAY starred Antan Dec, featured them playing pranks on ITV hosts, doing something live and unplanned, having someone promote their records, surprise people who are out, and someone has the chance to win some of the products advertised in an unspecified ITV region during the commercial breaks.

The BBC has seen the success of Antan Dec's show, and come up with a similar one of their own. It's hosted by some more erstwhile Big Breakfast presenters - Johnny Vaughan and Denise Van Outen. Each show starts with a song, there are some deeply unfunny sketches involving a couple on their sofa, a few cross- promotions for other BBC shows, and there's another song from Ms Van Outen during the programme. Most of the elements fall under the broad description of game:

  • The Lookalikes. Four people who think they look like someone famous or on Eastenders come to the studio, and the audience votes on their favourite. The almost-entertaining twist: our hosts haven't seen them beforehand. The winner gets a cheap plastic trophy, and any resemblance to every look-alikes show since the invention of television is surely coincidental.
  • The Hidden Camera Game. The team have gone to an outdoor event, and planted some cameras. Viewers call the people at the event on their mobile phones, and they're challenged first to hop on the spot, then to make their way to a red phone box. First there is asked a simple question for two grand. There's a flaw the size of a telephone box in this game: the telephone box is a bit of a dead giveaway, and the producers really need to find somewhere less obvious to hide the phone. Any resemblance to an occasional feature on Takeaway is, of course, coincidental.
  • The Pictures Game. Viewers are challenged to take pictures of themselves doing something silly, send them in by email or picture message, and the one the producers judge to be best wins a consumer durable. For many viewers, this is a chance to give themselves fifteen seconds of fame on national television. Any resemblance to a feature on Johnny Vaughan's chat show is coincidental, and we've seen the patent to prove it.
  • The Backing Dancers Game. Behind Ms Van Outen are some really rubbish dancers. That's because they're not dancers, they're people who have all met one member of the audience at some point. If the member of the audience can work out who they're seeing, they can win some consumer durables and travel tickets. Any resemblance between Ms Van Outen and an entertainer is - oh, hello, Mr Lawyer.
  • The Passport To Paradise. Someone has been flown out to Foreign Parts, at the end of a very long satellite delay to and fro, and their other half can join them. But there's a catch - the companion must get three out of five either/or questions correct. The resemblance between this and the end game of BOYS AND GIRLS (or Toothbrush's LIGHT YOUR LEMON finale) is surely coincidental.

And that's your fifty minute show. As a rule, we don't much like the gratuitously simple phone in quiz (the one quiz device not present here,) but there's no opportunity for home viewers to participate unless they have a modern mobile phone.

There are very few new ideas in entertainment, and even fewer new ideas in Saturday night television. As a package, Passport To Paradise works, and the lack of adverts means it might works a little bit better than Takeaway. The show will grow very stale if it does not have a fast turnover of ideas, perhaps could lose the sketches and gain a short taped feature.


This week:

Alan Stanton, History of England in the 11th century. It's a tremendously broad subject, and one can't help feeling that it's too broad. Questions on Welsh princes and Scots kings don't really seem fair. Seven points and three passes.

John Axon, "Auf Wiedhersein, Pet" series 1 and 2. Just a dozen programmes from the mid 80s is perhaps too tight a subject. 11 (1).

Wendy Forrester, Elizabeth Gaskell. Wendy rattles through the questions, and finishes on 12 (2).

David Twynholm, Rod Stewart. Some fairly esoteric questions, including the bonus track on a 12-incher, but he scores 12 (2).

Alan comes back with a fair performance, but he's got too much of a gap to make up. He finishes on 17 (6).

John starts off strongly, but then makes error after error. He recovers towards the end, but 18 (3) isn't going to be a winning score.

Wendy takes it slowly and steadily. Perhaps a little bit too slowly, but she takes the lead on 22 (5).

David has something to tilt at, but gets trapped in a very deep circle of pass hell. One of his questions is clearly re-recorded after the show, and a good run at the end takes his total to 17 (7).

Wendy Forrester, then, is going to progress to the second round; on the half of the qualifiers we've seen so far, she'll need to be very lucky to make the final.


This week's target: One Million Pounds Sterling, Tax Free.

Only three shows have ever given away this much money. First there was Ian Woodley on a TFI Friday special, "Someone's Going To Be A Millionaire," on 24 December 1999. Then came Judith Keppel, blazing the trail for David Edwards and Robert Brydges and Pat Gibson (but, ahem, not Charles Ingram) on ITV's "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?," and - much as ITV would like us to - we mustn't forget Charlotte Hoborough and Johnny Gibb on the two "Survivor" series.

Contestants' Row is all female this week. Yvonne is first up, tries to pay for every answer, and runs this amazing sequence

Q: The Vernal Equinox is the start of which season?
Broker: Deal £250.
Contestant: £300.
B: Summer.
B2: Deal £300. Autumn.
B3: Deal £200. Winter.
B4: Deal £300.
C: Spring!

Yvonne finishes with eight answers and £150.

Pat is next up, she does exceptionally well, getting seven on her own. She overpays for the remaining three, and £6,100 may not be enough. Carly gets three on her first run through, but then gets two more she'd passed, and deals well. By the end, the nerves have gone, and she's £5,900 better off.

By contrast, Astrid seems to get more nervous as her set of questions continues. She gets seven on her own, then buys answers like they're going out of fashion. She sweeps the board, and takes the lead on £6,150. The last contestant will need to go like the clappers, but when Victoria gets two on her own, she's never going to make it. Especially if she deals for 200 and more. She gets nine, and finishes with a not-going-to-qualify £100.

Round two starts with Astrid buying answers for £600 and £500. It's one way of jumping to a big lead, but is bound to fail if the other contestant ties. Astrid has a two-question lead, but that can fall in a moment. Well, in 15 seconds. Astrid finishes with ten answers and £450, Pat with eight answers and

£1300. At this stage, two brokers have passed £2000, and the leader has almost £4,500.

Now, if Astrid is to face the million pound question, she will have to have at least £1 (and probably £50) of her £11,600 stash. Therefore, if she makes the jackpot, she'll be the biggest cash winner in UK game show history.

Daft Answers Of The Week:

Q: A jackdaw is a member of which family of birds?
A: Duck.
Q: What is the official language of China?
A: English.

So, Astrid versus the million. The first four questions go with no difficulty. Question five is about the 2006 Winter Olympics, and she spends 30 seconds dealing for a grand. Question 6, about Jennifer Lopez, also deals for a grand. 7 is Rupert's home, that's simple. Question 8 stumps everyone - the eighth person in line for the throne is Louise, the daughter of Edward the green engine. Astrid goes away with £17,500, while the Salesman doesn't add to his stash of £4,450.

That failure means someone could win a million from the comfort of their armchair. Rose Kelly is in York, Yorkshire, and she's got her husband in the room. Eyes down, here we go. Question 1: the pub in Corrie. 2: the metal also known as quicksilver. 3: the sport of a shuttlecock. 4: Merlin was a friend of which king. 5: the largest member of the tiger family. And that brings us to a grinding halt. "Leopard? Puma? Tiger? Leopard?"

The answers not made clear in the text: crow, Mandarin, Turin, Marc Anthony, Nutwood, Rover's Return, mercury, badminton, Arthur, Siberian tiger.

If you couldn't believe it first time, next week's prize is again One Million Pounds Sterling. Tax Free.

* - Allowing for inflation, the million pounds that Chris Evans gave away in December 1999 is now worth £1.11 million.


We had unusually sharp practice in the opening Brain Of Britain this week. The second music question was played, and Robert Robinson (hosting the show for the 1,942nd consecutive year, tracing its roots back to the Roman entertainment Cerebrus Brittanicos) asked who sung the piece. "Eva Cassidy" said one contestant, only to be reminded that it wasn't actually his question to answer. The contestant whose turn it was jumped in and said "Eva Cassidy," and won the mark.

The fortnightly Moaning Minnies report has come out, and these programmes have attracted rejected complaints:

24 Hour Quiz - 13 complaints, which implies 13 viewers, which we find hard to believe.
Big Brother and BBLB - 17 complaints, of which we believe 13 were to do with Kat.
Millionaire and Antan Dec both picked up one moan.

Ken Jennings Watch: the Jeopardy! phenomenon racked up his 1000th correct answer on Monday, while his 30th consecutive win on Tuesday took his winnings past a million dollars. After tax and at the current exchange, that's a heck of a lot of money; at the current rate, he'll be able to afford Beckham's missed penalty ball (a snip at 10 million euro) by the end of 2005.

In a rare show of intelligence, Channel 4 has commissioned Countdown to run until 2009. We note, in passing, that Carol Vorderman will soon have spent more than half her life presenting the show. In the last couple of weeks, Angela Jones (two wins), Malcolme Major, Ian Laird (three each), and Margaret Winning (she did, just once) have all been in the champion's chair.

Sneaking in under the wire is SIMPLY THE BEST, 1930 tonight on ITV. Two teams from two towns compete in games and challenges, and the first person to mention Stuart Hall loses. BBC3 is plugging SPY hard, a documentary-game in which people train to be spies - that's 2100 Sunday. The very first edition of ISIHAC airs on BBC7 on Monday. ITV's back again on Friday, with HOUSE RACE, in which two couples build a house inside ten days. That's except for viewers in Ulster, who get FAMILY FORTUNES, and hence win. Opposite them falls a CELEB MASTERMIND.


Celebdaq dividends for the week ending July 8 have fallen into a pattern. The evictee records a huge dividend (Marco, 145%); there are a couple of press-hogs (Bekki, 101%; Jason, 91%); most other people score between 50% and 70%, Daniel makes 34%, and Kat a big fat nothing. By dividend and share growth, £10,000 invested in Celebdaq at the start of the series has now turned into a cool million.

Money has been coming in all the time for Nadia, she's been 4.00 and lower all week. At one point in the second week she was at more than 60/1. Daniel has drifted to second favourite, around 4.90, but Michelle (5.50) has overtaken Stuart (6.60) for third place. Early favourite Shell drifted past 10 this week, Victor's gone out to 16, while Jason remains a 50 shot. Ahmed never traded shorter than 40 after the opening weekend, and was unbackable at the end of the week.

No one was surprised to see Bekki leave the contest last week, the main story came in the voting figures. Fewer votes were cast for Bekki and Ahmed combined (421,581) than for Tania (486,951) in the corresponding week last year. We think it's the lowest vote total since the opening week of BB2, and has to say something about the attitudes of the audience. Could it be that BIG BROTHER has become passive entertainment, a semi-scripted plot laid on for five million viewers to enjoy?

The crowd reaction at last week's eviction adds fuel to that theory. Not only did they jeer at the pantomimeish bad bits, but they jeered at the good bits. Conducting the exit interview outside does not make for good television - perhaps the worst thing about BB2 was that we couldn't hear a thing from Brian in his interview, not that anyone much cared. The whole set-up sometimes feels like something out of the middle ages. "Here's Bekki, she came to our village twelve days ago, kissed one of the girls, made her cry, wandered around like a loon. Now you've got her out, so you can all throw rotten fruit at the evil beast. Not me, her!" One of these days, someone is going to stick up two fingers at Endemol and refuse to speak to Davina.

The Saturday Taped task seemed to disappear this week, so the prize fund is somewhere between £21,500 and £41,500.

Endemol has been shamed into doing something positive for Nadia, and has allowed BBLB to revive "Find A Nice Lady Friend For Cameron," only now it's "Find Nadia A Man." Would they do the same thing for Dan? Or for Brian Dowling?

We've given up noting the inconsistencies peddled by Endemol's Ministry of Truth and Office of Information. It's just not worth the candle, as the show has stopped being entertaining and become a very easy game of Spot The Fib, even less taxing than the analogous game played on the news this week. Suffice to say, after a completely rigged army game, everyone except Michelle and Jason went up for the public vote, and Ahmed left.

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