Weaver's Week 2005-04-24

Weaver's Week Index


It's All Oxford - 24 April 2005

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

A Picaresque novel is a set of episodes recounting the tales of an anti-hero in society. Think of "Huckleberry Finn."

University Challenge

The Semi-Finals

  • Balliol Oxford v Corpus Christi Oxford
  • University College London v Manchester

First Semi-Final - Balliol Oxford -v- Corpus Christi Oxford

The statistics suggest that Corpus Christi should win this, but the semi-final is the point where good sides need to stop hiding their light under the bush if they want to be deemed a great side.

As one might expect from two Oxford sides, they've competed against each other before. In fact, the nucleuses of these sides contested the 2004 inter-college quiz at Oxford. Played under rules similar to University Challenge, Balliol opened up a lead of over 100 points, only for Corpus Christi to pull level. Balliol won that one on the final starter, setting up a distinct revenge mission.

In this week's game, there's a set of bonuses on Picaresque novels, a term that's just tossed into the air as if we all knew what it meant. This was a phenomenon of the old, Bambi-era University Challenge, but has become very rare in the Thumper era. The first picture round is Name That Bond Film From Its Car, and while Balliol get that, Corpus Christi has had by far the best of the opening salvos. Buzz of the week comes shortly after:

Q: What links a cult novel of 1971 by Luke Reinhardt, Caesar...
CCO, Sharp: Dice

Balliol does well in the second stanza, and at one point is a gnat's crotchet away from taking the lead. However, their player slightly fluffs the name of a chemical process, and Corpus Christi pulls away again, helped by the "When in doubt, say 'Route 66'" rule. The audio round is Name That Johann Strauss Piece, on which CCO struggle, and indicate that Balliol know all the answers. It's not Balliol's question.

Some inspired buzzing, and great bonus work, allows Balliol to take the lead during the third quarter, but not for very long. Balliol re-takes the lead before the second picture round, Name That Tomb.

Corpus Christi briefly re-takes the lead, but can't consolidate during a set of bonuses on South Africa. Balliol can't turn flowers to their advantage, allowing CCO to move ahead with two and a half minutes to play. Yep, Roger Tilling, the voice-off man, is getting very excited, but Balliol can't do anything with bonuses on the Avon valley. CCO stall for as long as they can over their next set of bonuses, but they can be caught in one set of questions. Only when they correctly put Minitel in France can Corpus Christi not be caught. They run out frantic winners, 255-205.

BOX 35 45 100 25 [205]
CCO 70 55  35 95 [255]

Not until the final stanza did anyone drop a complete set of bonuses. Balliol had 19/33, Corpus Christi 22/42 with one missignal. Speed on the buzzers was the key this week, Nick Sharp (87.4) and Stefano Mariani (88.2) did the trick. Jamie Lee (69.7) was the best buzzer for Balliol, just ahead of Peter Baker (66.9)

Mr Baker is the best overall buzzer for Balliol, though their bonus percentage remained at a low 45%, and overall they scored just 49% of the available points.

Who will meet Corpus Christi in what should be an epic final? Manchester and UCL, next week.

Splash Camp

(Televisionary / Wised Up for CITV, 1558 Friday)

Now, does anyone remember Survivor? There's a certain resemblance between these shows. Splash Camp features ten youngsters - five girls, five boys - who are put in a camp, where they taste various water sports. All of the applicants are reasonably sporty, and (of course) can all swim, and they have a welcome competitive streak. The ITV press release says it's the first UK reality series exclusively involving children, and we can't think of any show to disprove their claim.

The thirty-minute shows split neatly into two halves. The first half has footage of the teams practicing the week's skill - in the opening episode, kayaking; later episodes will feature power-boating, water-skiing, windsurfing, and more. There's a reward challenge, a simple challenge for a decent reward that will help to liven up the winning team's time in the camp. Generally, only one or two members can take the lead role in this game. Already, we've seen people move over kayaks put together as a raft, and race around a course.

After the break comes a little more practice, and some footage of the second day, before the big challenge of the programme. This is some sort of relay race, involving all five members of each team, and involving the skill they've been honing for the past couple of days. A win in this event allows the team to run their flag up the Splash Camp flagpole; the team with most flags at the end of the series will win a prize for themselves and their families to the Med.

The series is sponsored by the British Watersports Society, and it's clear why - the shows encourage youngsters to take up these sports by showing just how much fun they can be. While challenging for the participants, the tasks are fun for the idle viewer to watch, and by keeping the same contestants over the series' entire run, we'll get to know their strengths and weaknesses.

The host is Steve Wilson, who is enthusiastic about his job without being patronising. He hasn't quite got the level of excitement spot-on just yet, sometimes sounding a little bored by proceedings, but he's very nearly there. Some of the picture editing is a little strange to our eyes, going from speeded-up to slowed-down and back, repeatedly. It gets a touch disconcerting after a time.

While Splash Camp is clearly not a high-budget show, and hasn't quite got the charm of Jungle Run, it's a welcome alternative to a diet of escapist cartoons. And, fact fans, the credits include Mick Robinson, known to viewers of a certain age as Mick From Magpie.


First round, show 7

Richard Pierce is talking about British political history, 1905-2004. That's a broad subject - someone last year took British Prime Ministers over a similar period. The questions go quite heavily on minor parties and national politics, and it's a slow round. Richard's final score is 7 (0).

Peter Shirtcliffe almost bounces into the seat, picking the Life and Career of Mohammed Ali. That's the boxer, in case anyone is confused. Like his hero, he has a good but not perfect round, making 10 (1).

Dorothy Walker has chosen the Musicals of Stephen Sondheim. This was another tricky round, even to someone with a vague knowledge of the subject. 9 (3) is her total.

Lewis Graham takes Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. Presumably to distinguish him from all the other Sherlock Holmeses out there. This is going to go down in history for all the wrong reasons, Lewis scores 2 (5).

Lewis does far better in his general knowledge round, finishing on 10 (10). Richard puts together another slightly shaky round, making 15 (0) in total.

Dorothy has a sterling general knowledge round, and shows her sense of humour by confusing tiddlywinks with lawn tennis. Easily done. 20 (4) is her final score.

Peter has a fair way to go in this low-scoring contest, and while he goes at a very fast clip, he doesn't quite make it. 18 (5) is his limit, allowing Dorothy to take the win.

The Monthly Countdown Update

We left the game with Mike Meakin in the champion's chair. He made three wins (319 pts, +45 to Par) but never quite looked settled. Jillian Tilman (114, +45) and Steve Smith (133, +26) both lasted for just one win, but then Jon O'Neill took up permanent residence in the winner's seat. His habit of taking four from the top is something this column has never quite mastered. This numbers strategy - and a high-risk letters strategy - depressed his points total, but improved his score to Par. Jon finished his octochamp run with 804 points, including five centuries, at +2 to Par.

Mansoor Ditta took over the vacant champion's chair, scoring 146 (+39) during his single win and loss, though both games were wonderful ding-dong spectacles. Ross Allen won the game, and has retained his title for seven wins since. Any sort of win on Monday will lift him to third seed, but a higher place is most unlikely.

The top 10 at present:

  1. John Mayhew 8w, 813p
  2. Jon O'Neill 8w, 804p
  3. Judith Young 8w, 707p
  4. Ross Allen 7w undefeated
  5. Chris Hunt 6w, 715p
  6. Fred Reynolds 6w, 599p
  7. Frank Mulvey 5w, 458p
  8. Brian Roles 5w, 427p
  9. Toni Ryan 4w, 427p
  10. Sue Drinkwater 4w, 385p

This Week And Next

Thanks to UC alumnus and leading Oxford quizzer Rob Linham for assistance this week.

The BBC has declined to show the 50th anniversary Eurovision Song Contest show, to be held this autumn in Copenhagen. It won't air on BBC1, nor on minority interest BBC3. Surely this is the stuff of public service broadcasting, more so than the n-th episode of a ceaseless serial drama that no-one watches any more.

The BBC's election coverage has included footage of politicians visiting a group of students in their house. Cue an end-of-visit quiz from Newsnight host and quondam weather forecaster Jeremy Paxman, pretending to be the host of BBC2 student quiz University Challenge.

Not a lot of note this coming week, though we'll be reviewing the new Come and Have a Go If You Think You're Smart Enough in seven days. The title has been truncated after five words. From the first episode, this is a significant change.

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