Weaver's Week 2006-04-09

Weaver's Week Index

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


History Today

"You're making this up as you go along!"

Classic Comeback

Tinderbox Television for UK Gold, 7pm Sunday

For too many years, UK Gold has relied on showing the same programmes, over and over again. "The channel where you're never more than three hours away from the Vicar of Dibley," said one wag. Since channel owners Flextech (now part of NTL Telewest) sorted out their finances a couple of years ago, all of its channels have begun to make some original programming. We've had new Fort Boyard on Challenge, Cruel Summer on Trouble, and Street Cred Sudoku on G2. Until this week, Gold's biggest commission was for Terry Wogan to present a chat show. Now, the channel has its first commissioned game show since Alan Titchmarsh's Ask the Family.

The formula is familiar. Take four relatively funny people, some old television clips, and some questions. The result has often been better on paper than on screen, and any show that features Doctor "Neil" Fox is in trouble already. However, the show also features Les Dennis, who is actually rather funny. "We're going back to an era when Saturday nights were Dr Who and Bruce Forsyth," suggests the host.

Round one is Questions About the Clips. A short extract from Crossroads is shown, and the panellists are asked who was driving. From Blake's 7, what caused the explosions. Or from House of Elliott, what happened next? These questions are played for laughs - the answers "The BBC special effects unit," and "Nothing. It's House of Elliott," spring from the lips.

For the second round, Les Dennis is joined by a brass bell, and introduces a round that owes a little to another comedian. He asks the contestants who would win a fight between two television characters. Each side has a minute to persuade the audience of the merits of their champion, before it goes to a vote. Even at this length, the round drags on a bit, losing the pace injected by the opening clips.

After the commercials, Les is joined by a guest from a classic television programme. Or, in the opening programme, Jan Harvey from Howard's Way. It's a repeat of the first round, really.

The final round is the only proper quiz element - a quick-fire round on the buzzers. Throughout the show, Les Dennis has some good one-liners - they don't particularly stand up to scrutiny on the printed page, but they're fine when heard.

Every celebrity panel game owes something to Have I Got News for You, and in this case it's the way the scores are announced. "Thunderbirds are go for this team, on 8 points; Thunderbirds are stop for the other team, with 4." And, like HIGNFY, this programme stands and falls on its panellists - Dave Gorman was an inspired choice for the opening episode, but even the strong chairman's script won't rescue an edition from dull guests.

The show is frothy, light, undemanding entertainment. It's not going to set the world on fire, but nor is it going to bore the pants off anyone. We recognise the director credit for Arch Dyson, a proven master of turning low-budget programmes into entertainment, and it's great to see that he's lost none of his magic.

University Challenge

Second Round, match 8: Hertfordshire v Lampeter.

Hertfordshire won an entertaining match against Lucy Cavendish Cambridge on Hallowe'en night; Lampeter beat Exeter five weeks earlier. Neither side was particularly strong on their bonus questions, so a modicum of viewer discretion is advised.

Inevitably, Lampeter gets seven of its first nine bonuses correct, including a very swift round on screen portrayals of monarchs. After the first picture round - positions on a rugby league pitch - Lampeter has a 65-35 lead.

Two starters that are right up their boulevard, and Hertfordshire has drawn level. An exchange of missignals briefly puts Herts ahead, as does the first bonus they get; Lampeter has a very brief moment in the lead, but Herts pull ahead with questions on Scottish winners of BRIT awards; their lead is 85-80.

What's the difference between a gopher and a prairie dog? Precious little, we reckon, and that's cost Lampeter a starter. And we're very surprised that Thumper didn't get this one:

Q: A formal definition of a conic section is the locus of a point P that moves in a plane of a fixed point F, or focus, and a fixed line D, or conic section directrix, with F not on D, such that the ratio of a distance of P from F to its distance from D is a constant E, also known as what?
A: We don't know.
Q: Neither do I!

Lampeter takes the lead with the next starter, and just retains it to the second visual round, a set of questions on curious rock formations. 100-95 is no lead at all. But they're helped by remembering the Referendum Party from Election '97, and the team carefully runs down the clock by suggesting Luxembourg is in the Alps.

Only one pronoun has vanished from informal usage, and Hertfordshire takes the lead by recalling "whom." But Lampeter works out that i x -i = 1, giving a ten point lead. One starter goes unguessed. Another one gets an error from both sides. So does another. Then Hertfordshire gets a starter, misses one bonus, gets another, and the gong goes. Hertfordshire has scraped a win, 145-140.

Hertfordshire didn't make life easy for themselves - 10/32 bonuses and three missignals. Lampeter took 11/27 with one missignal. Bob Chapman was Hertfordshire's best buzzer, responsible for 78 points; Ruth Russell-Jones' 49 lead for Lampeter.

The eight quarter-finalists are now known, and so is the quarter final draw:

  • 10 April, 8pm - London Business v Gonville and Caius Cambridge
  • 10 April, 8.30 - Manchester v Imperial Medicine
  • 17 April, 8.30 - SOAS v Trinity Hall Cambridge
  • 24 April, 8.30 - Liverpool v Hertfordshire

Trinity Hall has top-scored, with 575 points. Manchester (495), Liverpool (470), and G&C (450) are also scoring well. SOAS has 405, ICM 380, London Business School 355, and Herts just 305. Manchester is the only side to score on the majority of its bonuses, and Manchester and Liverpool have both answered 65% of the starters on offer. Best individual performance has come from Aubrey Manchester (195), with Khodaverdi GCC (184) in second place.

It is almost as if the producers had seeded the four top-scoring sides to remain apart. We have the enticing possibility of an all-Cambridge final, or of a Liverpool - Manchester battle. We note, in passing, that no Oxford side has made it to the last eight - St John's lost the repechage final by a whisker, St Hilda's was outclassed by Manchester. Never in the twelve years of the BBC revival has Oxford ended its challenge so early.

A brief word about the University Challenge Boat Race; this year's title was retained by Oxford, who were buzzing slightly faster than opponents Cambridge throughout the match, and pulled away during the third stanza, when there was a series of questions about the wind and rain. Oxford is therefore exempt to next year's final, while Cambridge will have to meet the winners of the academic play-off, assuming that it isn't a Cambridge college.


Heat 2

Four people, one chair, and no questions. Except one hundred and twenty or so.

Ron Simpson is offering American Jazz to 1950, a subject that is somewhat alien to this column, much to our embarrassment. It's home territory to this contender, he makes an almost-perfect 14 (1).

Russell Turner settles into the black chair as if he owns it, and takes questions about Gerrard Winstanley and the Diggers. This wasn't a progressive rock band of the early 1970s, but a religious and political movement of the Protectorate. He would make a good subject for future Mark Steel lectures, and Mr Turner would be a good advisor - he makes just one error to finish on 15 (0).

Jenny Ryan will be discussing Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series. This column saw all 144 episodes, and scored barely half the contender's 15 (0). These were tough.

Huw Chapman has the Life and Times of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Judith Keppell famously won a million on this topic; Mr Chapman makes 7 (2). His general knowledge round starts slowly, but picks up a bit of speed, finishing on 19 (5).

Ron Simpson correctly points out that there wasn't much non-American jazz before 1950, and correctly points out that Louis Armstrong set the standards for all, in every sense of the world. He's unlucky not to score with "Imagination" as a John Lennon song, and 23 (3) doesn't feel like a winning score.

Russell Turner starts with three errors he's visibly kicking himself about, but recovers well. He gets to shout "Mornington Crescent!" at the small-headed host, and finishes on 25 (1).

Jenny Ryan needs eleven to win, and gets three of the first four, relatively easy, questions. Then they get harder, and the scoring slows down. Then it picks up remarkably, but - agonisingly - the pause in the middle was just too long. She finishes on 24 (3), and it's Russell Turner who goes away with the victory.

This Week And Next

The Untitled Andrew Lloyd Webber project will go ahead, and will find a performer for a forthcoming version of The Sound of Music. It currently has the unwieldy title of How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? - surely a candidate for chopping down. And Graham Norton will be hosting. Couldn't they get Patrick Kielty back?

Viewing figures for the week ending 26 March, and the number one game show this week was Millionaire, which has 6.2 million on Saturday. Jet Set had 5.5m, Stars in Their Eyes 4.8m. The Apprentice and Deal or No Deal were in a statistical tie with 4 million viewers, followed by Link (3.2m), The Games (2.4m for the Friday final, five other scores at or above 2m), Buzzcocks (2m), Old News (1.9m) and Ready Steady Cook (1.8m). Half a million followed the losing Apprentice to BBC3, 300,000 saw the peak episode of Deal on More4.

Brain Of Blue Peter this week, and that was a severely difficult quiz, moving from optical illusions through Dominic Wood trickery, fake teachers, questions about members of McFly, and obscure trivia. This column was very happy to record a score of 10/20.

A double-bill of University Challenge on Monday (BBC2, from 8pm), preceded by the return of Eggheads (6pm BBC2). BBC4 is having a short Top of the Form season, beginning next Saturday at 8pm. There's no episode of School's Out next Wednesday, but that's not going to stop us from reviewing it in next week's Week.

To have Weaver's Week emailed to you on publication day, receive our exclusive TV roundup of the game shows in the week ahead, and chat to other ukgameshows.com readers sign up to our Yahoo! Group.

Back to Weaver's Week Index

A Labyrinth Games site.
Design by Thomas.
Printable version
Editors: Log in