Weaver's Week 2006-03-12

Weaver's Week Index

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

"The musical equivalent of valium" - Bruno Tonioli.


Making Your Mind Up

BBC1, 4 March

Before the first performance, guest commentator Bruno Tonioli sums up the UK's problem at Eurovision. "We didn't deserve to come 22nd last year; it was a tactical vote." He's right that the UK didn't deserve to come 22nd, they deserved to come 23rd, for Gracia (Germany's entry) was badly let down by the production. The UK's problem is not bloc voting, it's that the country keeps sending rubbish songs. For the past two years, the error was compounded because the UK's song sounded like half of the others. This gives a hint for this year: Send a good song, and/or send a gimmicky song.

1. Goran Kay, Good vibrations. In other words, don't send this derivative Eurodisco that was out of fashion even when it was in fashion. "He looks like a cross between Edwina Currie and the new Doctor Who," says Jonathan Ross. "It's not a chart song, it's a Eurovision song," says Kelly Osbourne, who has come in yet another new hairstyle. Kelly, no, if you want to win Eurovision, you have actually got to send a good chart song. Juries went out with your nappies.

2. Kym Marsh, Whisper to me. This would have been the right song to send last year, a slow-tempo tune, building to a major-key climax. Bruno Tonioli is asked if Miss Marsh's singing experience will help her, and responds with discussion of the dress. Fearne Cotton is clearly impressed, and she appears to be the most switched-on of the pap panel.

3. Daz Sampson, Teenage life. "When did you last see a rapper at Eurovision?" asks Natasha Kerplunksky. Last year's Ukranian entry. Daz has a history of putting out what we might politely term "Tat". He was one half of late 90s chancers Bus Stop, and is now one half of the Uniting Nations. He also had a hit in 2002 with a bizarre cover of "Rhinestone Cowboy", with his co-writer John Matthews (one of the Cuban Boys, best known for their "Hamster-dance Song" from December 1999.) This would be a high-risk entry. There's a chance that it would fall flat on its face, but with a bit of luck, it'll be vying for the win. It's doesn't bear a second listen, but it is unmissable viewing the first time round, and that is all Eurovision needs.

4. City Chix, All about you. This is a mid-tempo tune, performed by two female singers, and feels like it could do a Gracia - be rather good on record, but be let down somewhere along the production line. Jonathan Ross is right, this would make the Radio 2 playlist, but that may not be such a positive as he makes out. Fearne Cotton is still bigging up Daz; Bruno Tonioli reckons the performers should have taken some clothes off.

5. Four Story, Hand on my heart. A four-strong male vocal group, performing a moderately fast soul track. Kelly Osbourne damns the group with faint praise. Terry Wogan can't stand Alan Sugar, so doesn't get Jonathan Ross's joke about this group being contestants on his show. When we're discussing the BBC's cross-promotion more than the song, trouble lies ahead.

6. Anthony Costa, It's a beautiful thing. It's perhaps not beautiful, but it's a very pleasant and upbeat song, recalling Phil Spector's Wall of Sound at its finest. Fearne Cotton says that it's the most professional performance of the night. "I don't understand why you'd go from singing with Elton to Eurovision," ponders Kelly Osbourne. It's called career progress. The concept may become familiar one day.

The BBC's handling of this event left an awful lot to be desired. We know that Terry Wogan should not be here. He is only hosting this show because Christopher Price is no longer amongst us, and the BBC has completely failed to find a quality replacement. Instead of any positive message, Mr Wogan peddles the tiresome, tedious, irritating nonsense that is stuck in the dark ages. One of the Pap Panel was responsible for the night's greatest insult - "the people voting for this have only just come out of caves. They're not as sophisticated as us" - but it was completely in keeping with Mr Wogan's approach to the show. It's outmoded, outdated, and desperately in need of change.

Natasha Kaplinsky is not the breath of change; indeed, her presence on the show was completely superfluous. What, exactly, did she contribute to proceedings? Precious little, sadly. This isn't a criticism of Ms Kaplinsky, but of the production team who though that an established Saturday night star would add something to the proceedings.

The producers did nothing to endear themselves to the fans who had trekked to London from around the country. Queueing for the studio began around 2pm; doors did not open until after 4pm. Almost half the 400 seats were reserved for BBC big-wigs and guests of the competitors, leaving over a hundred fans left to watch proceedings from the staff canteen. Some who were there suggested that the audience co-ordinator was particularly rude and charmless. This behind-the-scenes shenanigans came across on screen, where the first part of the final felt very flat, devoid of the energy that it's had in the last couple of years.

One solution would have a lot of merit - take the show out on the road, to a different theatre or concert hall within the UK. Venues like St David's Hall, Sage Gateshead, the Assembly Rooms, or Symphony Hall could hold a thousand or more people, eliminating the overflow problems. And, rather than have the BBC Ticket Unit handle free tickets, sell them through the theatre's existing box-office. It's far better that people are disappointed a month in advance than waste their journey.

"But we don't sell tickets," complains the BBC. Wrong; the producers of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue follow exactly this procedure, and they ensure an exactly full house by selling tickets. This need not be a profit-making exercise - a nominal price of (say) £5 should cover the marginal costs of hiring the theatre, and would reduce the number of no-shows towards zero. Indeed, if all of the songs were performed by the same act, some of the costs could be underwritten through that route. That, though, would be to acknowledge the New Eurovision, and with Mr Wogan around, the BBC will never escape the shackles of Old Eurovision. Get rid of him, and replace him with the only member of the Pap Panel who gave good value for money, Fearne Cotton.

Next week's Week will explore the murky world of regional voting, and raise the spectre of the West Lothian question. But that's then, this is now.

After the performances, this column voted for the gimmicky song of Daz, seriously considered the good song of Anthony, and would not have objected if Kym's almost as good song got the gig. Of the Pap Panel, Kelly Osbourne and Jonathan Ross went for Daz, Fearne Cotton for Anthony, and Bruno straddled the fence.

The entire north of England has votes given by Kelli Young (who?) from a rainy Manchester; they give two to Four Story, 4 to the Chix, 6 to Kym, 8 to Anthony, and 12 to Daz. Alistair Appleton is in South East England. They give the same low votes, 12 to Anthony and 8 to Daz. It's a two-horse race already, and it's 20:20.

Scotland's results are read by Michelle McManus; it's 2 for Goran, 4 for Kym, 6 for Anthony, 8 for Daz, and 12 for the Chix, because they have parts on the (Scotland-only) soap River City. Daz leads 28:26.

The Midlands' votes are given by Rustie Lee. Did Janice Long forget to set her alarm clock? Goran gets the 2, but otherwise it's the standard result - Daz takes top spot, and extends his lead to 40:34.

The web votes are read out by Javine Hylton, who won this contest last year, and will appear on the new series of The Games from next week. What? Channel 4 promotion on the BBC? 2 to Goran, then Kym and the Chix. Anthony gets the 8, Daz the 12, and it's 52:42.

Say what we see: in Belfast is the biggest star of the night, Roy Walker! Four Story get the 2, then Daz 8 and Anthony 12. The lead is 60:54. Wales have pulled in someone called Maggot; Goran has the 2, Four Story the 4, then Kym, Anthony, and Daz's lead goes back to 72:62.

Simon Grant has the results from South-West England. 2 for Four Story, the top prize to Daz, whose lead is now 84:70. It'll take an upset to stop him from progressing.

The SMS votes are one point for each 1% of the votes cast, so 100 points are up for grabs. They're read out by Helena Paparizou, who takes so long that she seems to think Mr Wogan is still hosting a chat show. Get on with it!

Four Story get 5%, finishing on 17. Goran Kay 6%, to 14. Kym Marsh 9%, 53 her final score. The City Chix 17%, totalling 55 and third place. Anthony Costa has 26%, his score is 96. Daz Sampson 37%, so his 121 points is the winning score.

It's a risky strategy from the Grate British Public, but not as risky as the attempts to dress the set behind Terry and Natasha. This is either going to make the top ten, or it'll fall flat on its face. We shall find out which on 20 May.

University Challenge

Second round, match 5. Trinity Hall Cambridge v Birmingham

Trinity Hall had an embarrassingly easy win in week 3 against Magdalen Oxford; the opposition was below their usual woeful standard. Birmingham clung on to beat Strathclyde in a low-scoring match in week 6. Lest we forget, Birmingham has never lost a second-round match, beating Lampeter in 1995. This column was there, and must declare its degree from Birmingham.

Birmingham gets off to the better start, but come a cropper on bonuses of literary works taken from Paradise Lost. Trinity Hall has come back by the first visual round, on celebrity chef's restaurants. A full house leaves Thumper wondering what sort of student grants these Cambridgians are on, and a 60-25 lead.

The second stanza turns into a bit of a one-sided game, with Trinity buzzing well, and answering lots of bonuses into the boot. Birmingham could have started a pullback with a question about chemistry, but their chemist gets the wrong answer. By the audio round - women's names in classical music - Birmingham have crept off the blocks to trail 120-40.

Trinity Hall get a starter about the Exclusion Principle before it's defined, and the side is on tremendous form tonight. It's not that they're beating Birmingham to the buzzers by much - many starters are being dropped tonight - but Trinity are putting forward a solid performance on the starters and bonuses. Birmingham gets the second picture round, on Missing People, to trail 195-60.

Birmingham's main aim tonight will be to do better than Magdalen Oxford against these opponents, and at 215-75 down, they've already scored more while conceding less. Knowledge of the number of books in the Booker Prize shortlist not only adds to Birmingham's score, but ensures that everyone has answered at least one starter correctly. At the gong, Trinity Hall has a clear win, 255-95, and cheering is led by the distinctive tones of Michael Hall, who has stepped forward as the person we heard in the episode a month ago. With this result, he has good reason to cheer; Trinity Hall could go a very long way.

Chris Smyth (74) and Ben Hardy (73) were the leading buzzers for Trinity Hall; Deepinder Chema (40) led for Birmingham. Birmingham made 7/18 bonuses, Trinity Hall a stonking 25/39. Neither side made a missignal.

This Week And Next

Richard Whiteley's will was published this week, and he's ensured that his family and loved ones are all provided for, along with a suitable gift to Giggleswick, his alma mater. This column will not discuss exact amounts, it feels disrespectful.

Ratings for the week ending 26 February, and after threatening to break through for the past month, Dancing on Ice recorded an eight-figure audience - 10.5 million. So far this year, only soaps have managed to break the 10 million barrier. Millionaire inherited 6.5 million - it'll be interesting to see how it fares now Dancing is over. For the BBC, Just the Two of Us had 5.7 million, but Millionaire Manor fell under 4 million again. It's possible that the first in the new series of The Apprentice - which had 3.7 million - beat it. With BBC2 showing the Winter Olympics all week, Masterchef Goes Large was all around the schedules, and Tuesday's primetime edition had 2.7 million watching.

On the digital channels, the repeat of QI moved to 10.30, and came within 15,000 viewers of being BBC4's most watched programme. Only the heavily-trailed Time beat Steven Fry and his panel of smarty-pants. Pop Idle US managed to get a mere 650,000 viewers.

How many people have gone from Question Time to The Games in less than two months? That's what Adam Rickitt will be doing; he replaces Goldie in the new series from next Friday. Countdown is taking four days off, making way for the Cheltenham Festival, and Deal or No Deal moves to 4.30 from Tuesday. There's also a new series of Never Mind the Buzzcocks, featuring guest hosts. First up, to discuss his extensive collection of bryophyta, is Jonathan Ross.

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