Weaver's Week 2005-03-13

Weaver's Week Index


13 March 2005

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

"There are no records of Geneva being called the Bolton of the south."

Making Your Mind Up

(BBC1, 1745 and 2020, 5 March)

It's been a year for controversial national selections - controversy has dogged almost every one of the 40 competing countries. The UK's been no different, with a grudge match between Javine, Katie "Jordan" Price, and Gina G. There have been complaints that Ms Price has been booked on more shows than anyone else, and that she's got the backing of at least one large-circulation daily comic.

All that counts for nothing if the viewing public doesn't remember to vote for Ms Price. To vote for her, they'll need to watch Making Your Mind Up, and because she's performing last, she'll need to turn in a passable performance otherwise people just won't vote.

We open with a montage of performances from last year's contest, followed by a performance from the winner, Ruslana. She's setting the standard by which we'll measure the potential entries - a catchy song, and a quality show. That's the standard of Eurovision these days.

The performers will be critiqued by a panel of four - Bruno Tonioli, who we still know nothing about; Jonathan Ross, the famous radio host; Natalie Cassidy, an acter in Eastenders; and Patrick O'Connell, the Wall Street correspondent turned Celebdaq host, and Wogan-in-waiting.

In the grand scheme of things, we should be seeing Christopher Price present his fourth qualifier; his untimely death in 2002 robbed us of someone who understood the New Eurovision. Instead, we have Terry Wogan - the last bastion of Old Eurovision, of chanson and ballads and frippery - is hosting the show. Again. He's joined by Natasha Kaplinsky, host of BBC Breakfast.

Javine is first up, performing "Touch My Fire." It owes a heck of a lot to Sertab Erener's win from two years ago - all semi-erotic dancing (but nothing too much for the more conservative viewers) and an exciting visual show. It's married to a surprisingly one-dimensional song; it might be a grower, but growers don't usually win Eurovision. Still, it's New Eurovision in a tablet, and it's a marker to compare the others against.

Tricolore present "Brand New Day." No-one else is going to send light opera, and the song is classic Old Eurovision - all about light and hope and optimism. Classic Old Eurovision doesn't win New Eurovision any more. It's all about the stage show, not just the song.

Gina G sings "Flashback." Not quite "Ooh Aah Just a Little Bit" part two, but it's an upbeat disco stomper, featuring five backing dancers wearing bowler hats - the first time a prospective entry has used those since "Rock Bottom." It won't win, but it should put the UK above two points per jury, and that would be a success by the UK's low standards.

Andy Scott-Lee has "Guardian Angel." It's a bloke in a white jumper, wrestling with a microphone stand. Add in a guitar, and we've got the new James Fox. His song is Old Eurovision-by-numbers - a pleasant tune, trite words, and there's room for a key-change just before the end. It's done very professionally.

Katie Price is last up, singing "Not Just Anybody." The backing dancers look like a wedding party in top hat and tails, but perform a very New Eurovision strip-tease during the first chorus. Jordan is in a pink catsuit thingy. Even the greatest strip in history wouldn't be able to disguise one fact: Ms Price cannot sing. Even given a simple song, with a limited vocal range, she fluffs it. Jordan doesn't need to take lessons from Carrie Grant. She needs to take lessons from Jemini. We said earlier that she would have to turn in a passable performance. This is not a passable performance.

Broadly speaking, Natalie doesn't want to have a bad word for anyone, Jonathan likes Ms Price's cacophony, Bruno says something we can never quite catch, and Patrick gives stats but no opinions. All five numbers are shown on screen at the same time, then comes the recap.

At this point, we're ranking the songs as follows:

  1. Javine. Reminds us rather of Sertab Erener, a song we didn't like on first hearing, but had a great show.
  2. Gina G. It's fast, upbeat, and might garner enough fifth preferences to make an impression.
  3. Andy Scott-Lee. A bit of work could corner the Lonely Boy vote.
  4. Tricolore, about whom we can say little.
  5. Katie Price. More chance of doing a Jemini than a Jessica.

Those of you who didn't see the Red Button coverage missed very little - Patrick O'Connell had pieces-to-camera from each contestant, Personal File-style questions, and a brief re-cap of previous British involvement at Eurovision. Voting is by the usual premium rate telephone number, by SMS, and (for the first time) by email. Yes, rather than use a spoofable web form, they've gone for equally spoofable emails.

It's a night of live shows on BBC-1 tonight: Eurovision makes way for Celeb Star Academy (of which more anon), which yields to Jet Set (and a five-time champion), which in turn brings us back to the Making Your Mind Up set.

The studio crowd, for what it's worth, voted Javine over Jordan. Of the Europop Panel, Patrick and Bruno preferred Javine, Natalie went for Andy Scott-Lee, and Jonathan went for (er) Abba. Who weren't even taking part.

No-one shall be getting nothing this year; the scores go 2-4-6-8-12 for each region and the web, and SMS votes go by percentages.

Northern Ireland - in the person of Blue Peter's Zoe Salmon - give their votes as follows: Gina G, 2 points. Tricolore, 4 points. Andy Scott-Lee, 6 points. 8 points to Jordan, and 12 to Javine. That's a thoroughly low score for Ms G.

Northern England's votes are presented by Stuart Hall. The 11 million people here have the same voting power as 2 million in Northern Ireland. These points go in exactly the same order as Northern Ireland. Scotland's votes are given by Justin Ryan and Colin McAllister, and we would have no idea who these people were if someone hadn't told us last year. The televoters there preferred Jordan to Javine. Wales is represented by James Fox, who only gives his results in English, not Welsh as well. They've not backed their local lad, preferring Tricolore to Andy Scott-Lee for third place, but giving Javine the big points.

The world wide interwebbiverse is represented by Ruslana. She speaks very little English, but that's no handicap when working with el Tel. The email results give 6 to Javine, 8 to Andy Scott-Lee, and the 12 to Jordan. She's now just two points adrift.

Sharron Davies is scoring for the South West. They also prefer Tricolore to Andy, but give the money to Javine. Denise Lewis is in the Midlands, who follow the same voting as Wales and the West. Ferne Cotton has the results for London and the South East, and they put Tricolore third, and Javine first. She'll need to lose the SMS vote by 14 per cent. That's not going to happen.

On stage to give the SMS results, Sandy "M" Shaw, of "Puppet on a String" fame. Jordan got 29%, so Javine needs to keep 15%. Andy Scott-Lee took 19%, Gina G just 4%. Shameful. Tricolore18%, and Javine 30%. The classified result:

  • Gina G 20
  • Tricolore 58
  • Andy Scott-Lee 61
  • Katie Price 101
  • Javine 116

After the result, Jordan told the News of the Losers "I know I'm the best performer of the lot but there's been so much bitching about me from the other contestants the country's been swayed to vote against me." Darling, the country didn't need to be swayed to vote another way, because your performance was so bad as to be abysmal.

So, the UK has finally picked a New Eurovision song. We'll be pleasantly surprised if she can take the grand prize, but a there-or-thereabouts placing should be well within the UK's reach. Though if she suffers a similar - er - wardrobe malfunction as took place during the winner's reprise, anything could happen.

Comic Relief Presents Celebrities On Star Academy

The Alistair Griffin fan club may work very slowly, but they do grind people down into the tiniest little pieces, and they always get their man in the end.

After abandoning the Eurovision bonus coverage, we slipped into Star Academy mode, to see how well people were doing. We were half-expecting to see yet another row between Stoppit and Calmdown. After one of the ritual disagreements between the pair, we weren't expecting to be distracted by movement behind sensible presenter Cat Deeley's shoulder. Richard Park was waving his fist about, and mouthing that presenter Patrick Kielty was a banker. At least, we think that's what he said. Dogsby's little outburst attracted no fewer than 450 complaints to the BBC, compared with about 30 for Javine's little slip later in the evening.

It's not clear how many of those complaints were about Dogsby's demolition of the contestants. Almost without exception, ever since Star Academy started, the self-proclaimed head has been wrong. He was wrong about David Sneddon, he was wrong about James Fox, and goodness knows he was wrong about the flowers on The Shiny Show this week. At least one booted contestant suggested that Dogsby was only there to boost his career, and went off on a "How dare you question my authority!" rant, perhaps confusing himself with a real teacher. Or Eric Cartman. We later found out that the contestants went en masse to see him during Monday, to remind him that this isn't about finding a recording star, but about raising lots of money for charity and making entertaining television.

Mr Park's poor impression of someone who knows what they're talking about goes alongside some new judges. Lesley Garrett, an opera singer; Craig Revel Horwood, a choreographer; and a different mystery guest judge most nights. Carrie and David Grant appear in the performance studio, but don't have a say in who goes.

The format is identical to the 2003 series, right down to the lack of judge involvement in the last few nights. And, like the second series proper, this one worked in spite of the ranting between Dogsby, Patty, and the others. While we have no argument with the worthiness of the cause, we think this series has finally proven that the Star Academy format has run its course here. Indeed, the publicity surrounding the BBC's charter renewal has almost explicitly said that Star Academy will not return.

This leaves two years for us to perfect a new interactive game show format for Comic Relief 2007. Anyone for a ten-years-on version of Celebrity Wanted?

University Challenge

Second round draw

  • Edinburgh bt Royal Holloway
  • Manchester bt Newcastle
  • St. Hilda's Oxford bt Leicester
  • Corpus Christi Oxford bt Sheffield
  • Balliol Oxford bt Durham
  • Lancaster bt Reading
  • University College London bt University of East Anglia
  • Jesus Cambridge v University Oxford

Second round, match 8: University Oxford -v- Jesus Cambridge

Perhaps the logical place for the repechage final, the last game in the second round pits Univ Oxford (lost to Newcastle, beat York) against Jesus Cambridge (lost to Leicester, beat Queens' Belfast.) Jesus is the only Cambridge side to make the second round, while all three other Oxford sides have already booked their place in the last eight.

Repechage finals are usually great matches. It's a sluggish start this time, with just one of each of first three bonuses correct, two dropped starters, and one missignal. It'll get better; it has to. The first picture round is Name That Ballet Position, after which Jesus' lead is 55-20.

There's another slew of dropped starters in the second stanza, not least this one:

Q: A person who is "illiterate" is unable to read and write. What word is used to describe a person who can read but chooses not to do so; or, more recently, to derive their information and entertainment from non-literary sources such as graphics or video?
Ian Blaney, Jesus: A philistine.

Univ have very quietly pulled within five points, but by the audio round - Name That Jazz Style - Jesus has pulled to 90-60. They missed all four questions in the audio round, and have the only musician in the studio. Thumper's a bit nice to Jesus, accepting a slightly late answer.

Jesus have had the majority of the starters so far, but have not taken advantage of the bonuses. But they keep getting more starters than Univ; by the second picture round, Name That Movie From A Pulitzer-Prize-Winner, Jesus' lead is 125-100.

Thumper asks about the Metonic cycle - 6,939 days. How many years is that? Does one know, or work it out? A round on motorways, and suddenly the gap is down to 15. But starters are being dropped like they're hot cakes, and Jesus are playing out the clock like seasoned pros. They deserve their win, 165-135.

Katie Birkwood led the winning Cambridge side from the front, scoring 112.5 as the side made 11/31 bonuses. Ian Webb was just the best buzzer for Univ, making 51.9 points; the side had 11/27 bonuses and two missignals.

This Week And Next

The annual University Challenge Stat Pack, and the first review of the new Mastermind series, follow next week.

Channel 4 has renewed Big Brother for a further three series, taking the franchise up to 2008. If this is ground-breaking, public service television, we're monkey's uncles.

Also coming next week, a much-delayed Crisis Command Scorecard. That's because the third episode, Hostage, postponed from last September, finally airs in the 2320 slot on BBC2 tomorrow. Very oddly, there's no slot on the schedule for the final episode, Hurricane.

Other highlights of the week: the US Scrappy Races come to C4, but there's no Puzzle Panel (replaced by news) or Countdown after Monday (replaced by racing.)

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