Weaver's Week 2004-09-11

Weaver's Week Index

11 September 2004

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

Bognor? Bust? - Weaver's Week

This column gives a word of thanks to Jason K, but will not explain why at this time.


Bognor or Bust

(4DTV for ITV, 2202 Thursday)

Over the past couple of years, ITV has done something very unusual. For the first time in recorded history, its comedy programmes are actually funny. Tim Vine and Ronni Ancona led THE SKETCH SHOW to somewhat more than one laugh per half-hour, while HARRY HILL'S TV BURP exposes television's main conceit. The Monkey has carefully nurtured talent like Antan Dec into mainstream comedians, and their SATURDAY NIGHT TAKEAWAY will be back later in the autumn.

Flushed with this success, ITV has pushed the boat out for a topical news quiz. "Who can we get to front a topical news quiz?" pondered the channel's top brass. It couldn't be any of the channel's big stars - Harry Hill and Antan Dec already have quite enough on their plates, Trevor McDoughnut would have to rush from one studio to another in less than twenty seconds, Gabby Logan was scheduled to still present THE VAULT (RIP), and the previous primetime game show host, Robert Kilroy-Silk, has gone and shafted off to some job or other.

In the event, the ITV top brass took a look through back issues of the TV Times. "Ah! Angus Deayton's not doing anything these days. Let's ask him." The man who was TV's Mister Sex before Dermot Murnaghan came along has been under- employed for the last couple of years. He was evicted from the presenter's seat on HAVE I GOT NEWS FOR YOU in autumn 2002, making way for all sorts of chancers and incompetents who can't read an autocue at anything like Angus's pace.

So, what does Bognor Or Bust actually entail? Two members of the public and four minor celebrities gather in the studio. We're talking fairly minor minor celebs - the first show featured Tara Palmer-Tompkintwaddle of Junior Eurovision, and James Nesbitt of Cold Feet (both ITV shows). The other two we don't recall at all. The members of the public choose their preferred celebs, then we get down to quizzing business.

Angus fires a series of questions about the week's news. Like THE CRAM, these really are questions about the week's news, not general knowledge questions loosely tied to the topic in hand. Unlike the Mishal Husein quiz, no-one's going to mistake this for a real news bulletin. All of the questions are on the buzzers, and contestants and their celebs can guess as often as they like. There's one point for a correct answer, and everyone's encouraged to be funnier than they are accurate. Indeed, the emphasis really is on the joke answers, rather than the correct answers.

This opening round occupies the majority of the first half, and does seem to drag on a little too long. Before the commercial break, Angus shows us a picture from the news, with something missing. What's gone walkies? Answer after the break, along with round two.

Round two is introduced by two cryptic pictures, the team leading gets first pick, and consists of quick-fire questions against the clock. All answers must be given through the member of the public, and are worth two points each. Whoever has the most points after this round goes on to play for the big prize.

The big prize is a trip to somewhere foreign; in the opening episodes, Australia and Thailand. By a process of semi-random generation, one of the seats in the studio is picked out. Whoever is sitting in that seat will win the big prize if the contestant doesn't get it. To win the big prize, the contestant must answer one question from two options, and can confer with the celebs to help them choose. The question is a pure guess, like the gamble on Antan Dec's Grab The Ads.

Where does Bognor come into this? If the contestant chooses the correct answer to this final shot, they go to somewhere foreign. If they choose the wrong answer, the person in the nominated seat will go to abroad, and the main player will get a trip to Bognor Regis, a seaside town in Dorset. For international readers, the joke here is that the resort is not the most upmarket resorts, and has rather been left behind by the march of cosmopolitan and international holidays. It's a cultural thing.

As a quiz, Bognor or Bust is a bit of a bust, offering nothing new to the genre. As a comedy show, it's rather more of a goer. We do, however, have a suspicion that the format may stop being funny after a few weeks. Much will depend on Angus's skills, and the quality of guests the show can attract.

Mastermind - Heat 18/24.

Julie Aris is taking the Hercule Poirot novels. This is classic Mastermind territory, and she starts very well, but falls into a valley of passes halfway through. She scores 12 with 5 passes.

George O'Neill takes Dracula, the novel and films. It's another classic Mastermind subject, and he puts in a strong performance, scoring 13 (3).

Andrew Hunter is taking the Battle of Britain. Yep, another classic subject, and another short drop into passness. He makes 13 (2).

Michael Kane offers the life and music of Buddy Holly. It's perhaps the least usual subject, and 18 (0) is the least usual score.

Second time around, Julie does well, but not well enough to win, finishing on 22 (10). There's at least one show this series where that was enough to win, and this week's runner-up is going to lose out from coming in a heat of very strong contestants.

George rather falls down on his general knowledge, finishing on 19 (6). Andrew does slightly better, finishing on 23 (6).

Michael needs six correct answers to progress, he gets only four before falling into pass hell. He then gets three more, finishing on 25 (3), and taking a slightly fortunate victory.


According to the BBC, CRISIS COMMAND: COULD YOU RUN THE COUNTRY is not a game show. It is, according to the Beeb, an intelligent television series. We say: just because the grown-up BBC hasn't produced a new intelligent game show involving members of the public since (erm) (can't be QI or MIND GAMES because that's celebs) (er) (can't be RAVEN because that's for children) (ah) (can't be EGGHEADS for blazingly obvious reasons) (got it!) Just because the grown-up BBC hasn't produced a new intelligent game show involving members of the public since Sophie Raworth's JUDGEMENTAL two years ago doesn't mean that we can't combine games with brains. Though quite where Amanda "Shut up" Platell fits in is anyone's guess. And besides, with barely 800,000 people viewing the show, we reckon the BBC will be glad of any good publicity for the show.

In this week's opening instalment, Plague was the chosen horseman of the apocalypse. With one panel making their decisions on BBC2, and another on BBC4, we can compare and contrast. Confirmation that there are more decisions filmed than actually make the show - the BBC4 team were asked whether to delay treating patients to wait for chemical suits, and what to tell the public; the BBC2 team how much of the region to block, and a sub-plot involving a ferry. The BBC2 monitors showed a question about whom to alert - Europe, the WHO, or someone else - that made neither cut. We heard the experts giving the same rehearsed spiel to both teams.

Gone from the show is the length of time it took the team to decide, as that would make it too easy for reviewers to find that time had gone missing in the edit suite. The show fits a little more easily into a 60 minute than a 90 minute format, but is still spoiled by the strobing effect of people walking across shot every few seconds. Bad television. From the post-facto review in May, it looks like our chance of seeing how amateurs would run things like the economy or trade negotiations won't be realised this series, as the experts are Tim Garden, an army type; Charles Shoebridge, an emergency services type; and Amanda Platell, a spin doctor who really should just shut up.

The BBC2 contestants were a tailor, a man who thinks it's good to talk, and someone who once sold herself on Ebay. Their BBC4 counterparts were an exhibitor, a charity worker, and a coffee maker. Here are some scores:

  • Correct decisions on BBC2: 5/7, with (in this column's view) one major and one minor error.
  • Correct decisions on BBC4: 2/7, both correct decisions were minor, and they had to rely on a deus ex machina to keep the show within the prepared parameters.
  • Times we wanted to hit a BBC2 contestant with a clue-by-four: 9.
  • Times we wanted to hit a BBC4 contestant with a clue-by-four: 36.
  • Times Gavin Esler had to slap down contestants: 3.
  • Coffee chains we'll think twice before patronising: 1.
  • People killed by the BBC2 trio: 18.
  • People killed by the BBC4 trio: 49,000. Most of the deaths resulted from failure in the final decision.
  • Times Amanda Platell spoke over the two episodes: 41.
  • Times we shouted for Amanda Platell to shut up: 29.
  • Times Gavin Hewitt said that ministers' decisions would be enacted: 14.
  • Times it felt like he said that: About 25,000.
  • BBC2 contestants who positively reckoned they could run the country: 1.
  • BBC4 contestants who positively reckoned they could run the country: 2.
  • Writers of number one hit singles involved with the show: 1 (Philip Pope, who wrote "The Chicken Song" and all the other songs from seminal 80s comedy Radio Active.)

More Crisis Command statistics next week.


It's three weeks since we last looked at Countdown, when Marcus Alderton was in the champion's chair. He didn't last much longer, beaten on his third game by Roy Thearle. Roy looked like he could become the third octochamp of the series, but was defeated in his fifth game by Paul Gallen. Paul is this series' junior prodigy, and completed his eight games undefeated on Thursday with his best performance of the series. His 846 points makes him the number one seed for the series so far, fifteen ahead of Jack Welsby, but Jack heads the par scores by (- 55) to (-37). Roy tops the list of defeated contestants in fourth place. The series final will be on December 17, not the 24th, so there are just 63 qualifying games remaining. One defeat for anyone in the entire contest would put Paul into Finals Week.

JUNIOR MASTERMIND was won by Daniel Parker. He appeared on Tuesday's BLUE PETER, and though Konnie Huq reckoned that her co-presenter Simon won, but a review of the tape shows that he actually passed once more than Daniel with the scores level. Back to the ice bath, Simon.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the start of September means that Ken Jennings season has started again. To no-one's surprise, he won this week's five games, a streak of 44 games unbeaten. A 45th win on Monday's JEOPARDY! would tie the all-game record in North America, held by Thom McKee on TIC TAC DOUGH in 1980.

TEST THE NATION had its national music quiz last week. Amongst the featured performers were Anita Dobson (a clip of "Anyone Can Fall In Love", which quiz fans will recall is a trite lyric set to the Eastenders theme) and David Mellor (whose media work evidently doesn't include a spot on CRISIS COMMAND, for which we can be truly thankful.) Phillip "Gopherman" Schofield sang, which was good news; Annie "Pavlov" Robinson didn't, which was a blessed relief. For once, colour commentary came from people - David Grant and Lauren Laverne - who knew what they were talking about. The waffle about bits of the country and groups doing better than others should be taken with a mountain of salt, but wasn't, which shows that if there's ever a Test The Nation The National Statistical Inference Test, the BBC will fail.

TWI has confirmed some of the stars for the next series of SUPERSTARS. Young boxer Amir Khan, cyclists Bradley Wiggins and Chris Hoy, sprinter Marlon Devonish, heptathlete Denise Lewis, and rowers Ed Coode and Steve Williams will join defending champions Duaine Ladejo, Zoe Baker, and Lesley McKenna, and others. There will also be a Superstars Gold show, featuring stars who would have competed on the show had it aired between 1985 and 2002.

We thought we'd heard the last of Simon Fuller. If only. The man who invented POP IDLE and who has profited more than any of the national winners, or even Antan Dec, may have his day in court. He's suing Simon Cowell, the man who invented THE Y FACTOR, currently playing to audiences of almost hundreds on ITV, for stealing the format of Pop Idle. While there are a lot of similarities between the two shows, there are differences. Applicants for Y can be of any age, and Y isn't hosted by Antan Dec, and, er, that's it. Mr Fuller's main claim may well be that lots of the Pop Idle technical crew have also turned up on Y, and have clauses preventing them from working on rival shows. "The whole thing is completely and utterly ridiculous," said Simon Cowell. But enough on your show, what about the lawsuit?

Big Brother Germany has come in for some criticism after showing a contestant getting her nipple pierced without anaesthetic. Andreas Scheuer of the CDU said

"It is nothing short of torture and the cameras must be turned off immediately." From the opposite side of the spectrum, Claudia Roth for the Greens: "For such boundlessly shameless voyeurism there can be only one answer - switch off immediately."

Next week: Gopherman's back with the return of Winning Lines (1930 today) and University Challenge (2030 Monday). Mad Mad House comes to Sci-Fi at 2100 Thursday, and A Question of Sport at 1900 Friday.

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