Weaver's Week 2005-11-06

Weaver's Week Index

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


The end of the marathon - 6 November 2005

The Royal Society for Chemistry this week associated various celebrities with elements, in the hope that they'd get some free publicity for their cause. Anne Robinson is briefly the element Promethium, then becomes Chlorine, and readers may research why this is hilarious for chemists. Bruce Forsyth, he's Helium, obviously. "Jane" Goody is a lump of Lead. Antan Dec doesn't get a mention, presumably as that's a compound substance made from two parts Nitrogen to one part Oxygen. But there's one glaring case of right city, wrong man; it's Roy Keane who gets associated with the element Krypton.

Antan Dec's Gameshow Marathon

Week Seven: Family Fortunes

So it's come to this. The Vorderman family, from Prestatyn, headed by their genius daughter Carol, are in the studio. The Kaye family, from Bolton, headed by their tall son Vernon, are also in the studio. Only one family can compete for tonight's star prize, the job of their dreams. Oh, let's cut to the chase. The Vordermans won the game at a canter, allowing their opponents just one board out of five.

There's not actually a lot the host can do with Family Fortunes, much of the enjoyment comes from the reactions of the contestants. While we (inevitably) saw The Turkey Incident yet again, the question "Name a word people use instead of swearing" might yet join it on the next Game Show Disasters showreel. One of the Vorderman clan brought the ITV Bleep Machine into action, prompting suave host Antan Dec to say "If it's up there, I'll give you the ~#%?ing money myself."

That is just about the spirit in which the entire series has been done. The host has a clear affection and deep respect for the traditions of the game show, but isn't afraid to tinker with the edges of the games where that is necessary. For shows like Play Your Cards Right and Family Fortunes, which were last on air barely three years ago, there's not much to be done. Even though The Golden Shot has been off our screens for thirty years, the underlying format is so good that very little fiddling can possibly be done. Bullseye underwent a subtle yet radical revision, and came out a better show for two people.

This column has criticised the too-visible sponsorship of the prizes, and would particularly object to this week's description of the car. If ITV wants viewers to know that they're just eyeballs for the sponsors, then so be it. That's clearly not a debate to which the audience is invited.

Was it right to invite the same people to compete in a tournament? Perhaps not; some of the games would have worked better with a different cast, and inviting people based on their strengths could have made for more entertaining viewing. However, there was a common thread running through all seven programmes, and the series had a clear beginning and end. If it had been a collection of one-offs, it perhaps wouldn't have held the audience's attention.

In the Big Money end game, Carol Vorderman managed to double her charity's winnings to £60,000, and the total donation across all the competing celebs to £110,000. That figure is dwarfed by the value of the prizes given away across the series - six cars, five expensive foreign holidays, and a whole host of other attractive goodies. And a jewelled ostrich egg.

So, at the end of the series, Carol Vorderman has won her dream job, working out tricky mathematics problems on national television as one third of the Dream Trio with Susie Dent and Des Lynam. The loser will change his name slightly, to Ben Bernanke, and take over the US national bank, where interest rates are already up a quarter of a percent.


Final eliminator, 5/6

Ed Harris will be discussing Garibaldi and Italian Unification. He's not to be confused with the invader who brought elephants over the Alps - that was Ian Botham. It's a decent round, but 11 (2) will leave room for the other contestants to tilt at.

Mike Abbott has been studying The Archers since 1970. This round follows the BBC pretence that the show involved actors and scriptwriters, when it's really a fly-on-the-wall documentary. Next thing we know, the BBC will be claiming that He's Having a Baby was a rip-roaring success. Mr Abbott scores 12 (2).

Hadrian Jeffs has a meaty subject, the Science-Fiction Novels of Arthur C Clarke. It's a large subject, but as it's covered by a single Wikipedia article, we balk at calling it a portmanteau round. This isn't a perfect round, but it's a shade better than we've seen so far, 13 (0) takes a deserved lead.

Amanda Hill is taking a portmanteau round, the Rivers of Britain and Ireland. We're not going to touch the "does the Thames rise at Seven Springs?" question with a bargepole, though we do know whether the Severn rises at Thamesmead. There's a simple rule about portmanteau rounds: don't. 7 (1) is a poor reflection of her talents.

Mrs Hill took the Ecclesiastical Calendar last time (31 Jul), and discusses the rivers diverted underground in London. Her general knowledge round is one of the best we've seen, and she advances to 22 (4). That puts her right back in contention.

Mr Harris had the "Hornblower" novels (16 Apr) earlier. Yes, the Garibaldi in question did invent the dried fruit biscuit. The general knowledge round is filled with passes, and finishes on 21 (6).

Mr Abbott discussed "Dinnerladies" in his heat (10 Jul). "Long may 'The Archers' last, even if it doesn't get as many listeners as the 'Today' programme," said host John Humphrys. Let's hope he doesn't live to regret that, or meet Lynda Snell round the back of the continuity booth. The round of questions goes well, though runs out of steam just before the end. The score of 24 (4) may not be the winner.

Mr Jeffs took William Colenso (2 Oct), and will need to score 11 points in his second round. He discusses the geostationary satellite, as first worked out by Mr Clarke, then scores question after question. Again, it's not a perfect round, but it's enough to win at a canter, with 28 (0).

Final eliminator 6/6

It only feels like two minutes since the last programme. Most odd.

Philip Green begins this second show with the Life and Work of Niels Bohr. He spends perhaps a little too much time discussing his answers, but clearly knows his onions. Benefiting from a question that John Humphrys clearly starts after the signal, Mr Green scores 15 (0).

Patrick Gibson will discuss the Culture Novels of Iain M Banks. Let's be honest, this sort of narrow round is something that the viewer will either know, or they won't; purely from that point of view, they're perhaps less interesting than "guessable" rounds - like Neils Bohr. Mr Gibson also knows his onions, scoring 16 (0).

A very high standard this week. Er, this programme. Mary Frankland talks about Warwick, "The Kingmaker". He was a figure of the Wars of the Roses in the 15th century. This isn't going to be a winning score, and Mrs Frankland finishes on 8 (3).

And finally! David Berry has selected the Life and Films of Barbara Stanwyck. We shall draw a veil over the round, noting only the final score, 5 (6). Mr Berry discussed Guilliame Appolinaire first time out (1 May), and remarks upon how Ms Stanwyck wasn't as glamorous as the likes of Greta Garbo. The general knowledge round is a bit of a lost cause even before it's begun, and finishes on 14 (9).

Mrs Frankland had JRR Tolkein in her heat (26 June). Warwick the Kingmaker was but one of the colourful characters of the 15th century, a man who changed sides in pursuit of his own ambition. Any similarity to modern day politicians is surely coincidental. Mrs Frankland takes a route through the ring road around Pass City, and finishes on 13 (8).

Mr Green took Raymond Chandler in the first round (7 Aug). He suggests that Mr Bohr's theories were to do with small things - the structure of the atom - and weren't on the (literal) grand scale of Albert Einstein's. This isn't a classic general knowledge round, finishing on 21 (4).

Mr Gibson took Quentin Tarrantino films in the season opener, back on 20 Mar. Six questions will see him secure a place in both first and last programmes, and we recall that that was successful for Kevin Ashman back in 1993. Seven questions later, Mr Gibson has the win he needs. By the end of the two minutes, he's put together a fantastic score, the highest in the revival. His 35 (0) includes nineteen correct answers (and two errors) in the general knowledge set.

Next Tuesday's final will last one hour, without a continuity announcement in the middle.

University Challenge

First round, match seven: Hertfordshire v Lucy Cavendish Cambridge

Neither side has much of a record in this contest. It's Hertford's first appearance, and they may well be this year's one token New University, granted status since 1992. Lucy Cavendish is the all-female college at Cambridge for mature students. They made one appearance, ten years ago, when they were soundly beaten by another New University, South Bank (now part of London Met). Could the producers be setting up an all-female clash against St Hilda's Oxford in a later round?

Two postgraduate students of astrophysics in the Herts team, and just one undergraduate. LCC doesn't have a scientist, but they are all mature students. Obviously. It's a college for mature students.

This, the first starter of the match, might have caused confusion:

Q: What group of four letters can be an intransitive verb meaning "elapse" or "proceed", a transitive verb meaning "hand over", and a noun denoting a casual sexual advance...
Joanna Atkin, LCC: Pass

Which is correct. The next starter asks about Norman Schwarzkopf, the US commander in the 1991 Gulf War. Immediately before that conflict, Radio 1's Mary Whitehouse Experience programme had a running joke about Sadaam Hussein's parrot, Hatfield. As in, Hatfield Pol(l)y. Or, as it's known now, Hertfordshire University. At the first visual round, about types of bridges, Herts have come back, but still trail 55-35.

Three composers - Bach, Scarlatti, and Handel - were all born in 1685. This fact was the excuse for a party in one edition of The Adventure Game twenty years ago, and a starter tonight. Hertfordshire get a good set of bonuses on the latitudes of European capitals, which shows how confusing the regular map gets to be. Maybe they should ask someone who knows how to read maps:

Q: Named after a town in Nova Scotia, where its first conference was held, which movement of scientists, inspired by Einstein and Bertrand Russell, issued the Vienna Declaration of 1958 warning of the dangers of radioactive fallout from fusion bombs and fission bombs.
Bob Chapman, Hertfordshire: Pugwash!

Though they trail on starters answered, Hertfordshire manage to pull within five by the audio round, about works by Aaron Copeland. LCC's lead is 75-70.

Didn't we rail against this sort of trickery recently?

Q: A beach volleyball team consists of how many..?
Bob Chapman, Herts: Two
Q: ... how many fewer players than a team playing the conventional game?

It's one-way traffic - after a slow start, Hertfordshire are taking almost every starter going, though relatively few bonuses. The second visual round is Name That Pope, after which Hertfordshire's lead has stretched to 135-70. Lucy Cavendish can certainly make it to the repechage, but their lack of scientists seems to tell against them. Indeed, they briefly pull level with Strathclyde's 115, but then pick up a missignal, and Herts get the next starter to run out the clock. Hertfordshire has a notable win, 160-110.

Repechage placings

1) St Hugh's Oxford 190
2) Durham 130
3) Exeter 125
4) Strathclyde 115

Well, that was entertaining and exciting, even if it wasn't particularly high-scoring. Bob Chapman was the best buzzer for Hertfordshire, picking up 82 points; captain Joanna Atkin led for LCC on 47. Hertfordshire have some work to do - they made 9/36 bonuses and one missignal, LCC a much more respectable 10/21, but two missignals proved fatal.

Next: Sheffield v Sussex

This Week And Next

A brief world news round-up. On the Dutch version of Big Brother, contestant Tanja gave birth to her child on 18 October. Mother and daughter are both doing well, but are no longer on the programme. Tanja walked out of the show just over a week later after branding housemates "childish, talkative and manipulative." "I want to enjoy maternity, not feel annoyance," Tanja told Dutch paper De Telegraaf, admitting: "I'll be happy when I am amongst normal people again."

The excuse for the departure of Tanja and baby Joscelyn Savanna was apparently housemates' taunts about smoking and their jibes that "she had smoked so much during her pregnancy that the baby would end up breast-feeding on tar". As opposed to, say, taunting her about her exhibitionist streak, as manifested in a strange desire to have a child live on national television, purely for the benefit of Endemol's profits (sorry, for the benefit of a television audience). Oh, and on the slim chance that she might pocket the prize of 400,000 euro for being the last person who cared about this nonsense.

The editor of Big Brother admitted it was shame Tanja had made good her escape because the whole sorry affair had been "good television".

If you thought we had to wait a long time for a jackpot winner here, spare a thought for Australia. Rob Fulton has ended a six-year wait and become the first person to top the tree on Australia's Millionaire.

Coming up this week: The Golden Lot (5.15 today) sees Carol Vorderman, now safely ensconced as ITV's Game Show Goddess, hang around with some antiques. C4 airs The Deadly Knowledge Show (9.30 daily), bringing their daytime game show quota to two and a half hours.

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