Weaver's Week 2006-09-03

Weaver's Week Index

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



Celebrity Love Island finished this week. The winner can now return to their previous anonymity.

All Star Cup

Gallowgate / Talkback Thames for ITV, 26-28 August

Has Antan Dec let fame go to his head? The only thing standing between ITV and oblivion came up with a vanity project last year. Invite twenty celebrities to play golf, live on national television. ITV took one look at the idea, and thought, "Hang on, this is going to tie up our schedules for twenty hours, and we can't take the risk it'll be a creative failure." The Monkey passed on the idea, and we understand that recorded highlights went out on one of the more obscure cable channels, presented by whoever was cheap and available, because Antan Dec is contractually tied to ITV.

This year, with ITV becalmed in the doldrums, and with the week-end schedule completely bereft of decent ideas, the channel has had a second thought. "Actually, this is two days of uninterrupted Antan Dec. Everyone on the planet likes watching Antan Dec. It's this or uninterrupted Love Island. We'll give it a go."

And so it came to pass that ten celebrities (ranging from Bruce Forsyth to Ronan Keating) representing Europe, and ten celebrities (ranging from Meat Loaf to That Bloke Who Played Third Flunkey On The West Wing) representing the USA, gathered at Celtic Manor in south Wales. Their aim: to play better golf than their opposition.

The match was played over two days - on Sunday was a format known as "greensomes", in which pairs of players tee off, then plays their better ball to the hole. Monday was the more familiar "four balls", in which everyone plays their own ball. One point for each hole won, half-a-point if both sides took the same number of shots, after a simple but non-intuitive (and never clearly explained) adjustment for handicaps. With all matches going to the final hole, 90½ points would win the title.

The contest was clearly modelled on the Ryder Cup, but with a few major differences. There aren't interviewers going round the course asking the professionals what they thought of their last shot. Nor are there breaks from the action in order to ask six-year-old kids to chip balls into an umbrella. The Ryder Cup also uses a different scoring system, based on the number of matches won, but this would only alter the result if the match were very close - it would also have ensured most matches ended by mid-afternoon. Perhaps the biggest difference was that All-Star Cup went out on terrestrial television. The professional event has been buried on an obscure cable channel since 1995, and most people follow it on the radio, where John Inverdale's commentary team does a fantastic job.

Commentary came from Andrew Castle, who tended to make the obvious point, as if we weren't actually seeing the same pictures as him. Renton Laidlaw is a seasoned professional at this commentary lark, and added more colour. While Ronnie Corbett hasn't got much experience of live commentary, he can think on his feet, and his infectious giggle was a joy behind the mike. Antan Dec, of course, went into the contest with all guns blazing, and kept interest high during otherwise tedious sessions.

Of the players, Bruce Forsyth was a star, Chris Evans started brightly but burned out after five minutes, Meat Loaf steamed over all opposition, Ross Kemp was a bald angry golfer, and Ronan Keating should have stayed in bed. We're not entirely convinced about the star quality of this event - was Aidan Quinn a footballer? Anyway, we'd never heard of them before Sunday, and we don't expect to hear of them again.

As a whole, the programme tried to be a major sporting event, but also tried to be entertaining. It fell a little between the two stools - combining advert breaks with Antan Dec fooling around meant there was often ten or twelve minutes between trips to the course, and that broke up the rhythm of the play. Worse, far worse, the commentators were often as badly in the dark as the viewers, never quite knowing who was leading on each hole. The presentation survived some dicey weather on the Monday, to ensure this was not a disaster, but neither is it the most shining piece of television ever.

There was one last similarity to the Ryder Cup - the result. Europe took a 20-point lead on the opening day, and won the tournament just before 6pm on the Monday, 28 ahead with 27 to play; the US pulled back slightly, as the final score was 102:78. If translated to matchplay golf, Europe would have trounced the opposition 7:3.


First round, episode 22

Terry Wogan has been on his high horse again, criticising the contestants on Mastermind for daring to tackle non-academic subjects. What would Mr Wogan's specialist subject be, we wonder. "The Art and History of Back-timing Records so they Don't Crash the Pips." Or "Political Voting in The Eurovision Song Contest and Other Urban Myths." Or even "The History of Television Chat Shows."

Tonight, Dorjana Sirola will tell us about Croatian Geography. Readers will remember that we once objected to University Challenge asking a question that boiled down to "Where do you live?" We won't object to a set of questions along the theme "Tell us about where you were born," because these questions had academic rigour. The contender scores 14 (1).

Nik Scopes has the "Flashman" novels of G W Fraser. The Board of Internet Columnists has written, insisting that every mention of Flash should be accompanied with some "aah"-ing. Let's do it over the score. 14 (3) here.

David Parker discusses the Lives and Films of Powell and Pressburger. Even after two minutes of quick-fire questioning, we know very little about these people, who they were, what their importance was. We do know that Mr Parker knows a lot about them, as he finishes on a perfect 18 (0).

Brendan Moriarty has the week's only reasonably accessible round, the Life and Career of Winston Churchill. 4 (6) is not a winning score, and John "Smallhead" Humphrys reckons the subject was too big. His final score is 11 (12).

Ms Sirola is a familiar name to fans of the Monday Quiz Hour, as she's won University Challenge, most recently as part of the Bodleian Library team. It's a rare poor performance, finishing on 20 (4).

Mr Scopes discusses how to develop property, before finishing on 19 (9). Mr Parker, therefore, just needs three to win, and finishes on 29 (3).

University Challenge

First Round, Match 4: Merton Oxford v Manchester

Manchester is the defending champions, and - following the merger of UMIST last summer - the reason why we're not giving a re-cap of the team's history. Merton Oxford was last interesting during the Civil War, when Robert Robinson was a nipper.

We could be looking at an early exit for the champs, as they fall 60-15 behind in the opening exchanges. The first visual round is on flags of African countries from this year's world cup, which gives 25 points to the hosts in about two seconds. "How do you know that? It's not natural!" screeches Thumper. One starter later, the gap is down to just five points.

Merton gets a set of bonuses that wouldn't be out of place on La Cible, Name That Louis. Merton pulls away again, bringing up their century before the audio round, and in spite of not knowing what's on the edges of their coins. The audio round is on popular marches, and Merton has pulled right away, leading 145-50.

Thumper has a bit of a brain fade, asserting that Madagascar is not in the Indian Ocean. Starter of the week would be this one:

Q: Listed in a work by Alan Dawson, what name, thought to have been inspired by a Hollywood icon, is given to British hills of any height with a drop of 150m or more on all sides, in other words, "relatively high hills"?
Andrew Wells, Merton: Marilyn Monroe.

Thumper accepts that, they're simply called "Marilyns". Merton has had the better of the middle bit, including the second picture round - Name That Fountain - and leads 200-85. Manchester can still boost its claim for a place in the repechage, but will need to know that their show will be transmitted today, just before an evening on John Betjeman.

With three minutes to go, Manchester is up to 120, which might be enough to keep it in contention through the series. A couple of starters, and maybe some bonuses, would surely secure a place. The side will never catch Merton, and the final score is Merton 245, Manchester 150. We do seem to be enjoying a glut of strong performances this year, which is most welcome.

High-scoring losers

195 Bristol
160 Pembroke Oxford
150 Manchester
95 Harris Manchester Oxford

This week, every contestant scored more starters than missignals. Andrew Wells picked up seven starters and 105 points; the Merton side made 22/40 bonus questions and one missignal. Manchester split their starters more evenly, with Ciaran Lavin and David Elliott both picking up three; Mr Levin's starters resulted in two more bonuses for the team, and we deem him the leader, 46-44. The side made 15/27 bonuses, but three missignals could hurt - without those errors, Manchester would rank above Pembroke Cambridge in the repechage standings.

Next match: Brighton v Imperial College of Medicine

Countdown Update

It's been far too long since we did one of these. Jean Braithwaite, Scott Davenport, and Beelal Saab all turned out to be one-game wonders. Joy Longworth won seven, making 699 points at +61 to Par. She was denied octochamp status by Andrew Laycock, the first of his five wins (506 at +58). In turn, he fell to Simon Born, who would win three games (357 at +16). An unfortunate misdeclaration allowed Godfrey Jackson to claim one win, but Rosemary Emanuel made greater progress - her four wins totalled 435 at +46. Margaret Hunter and Carolyn Kennedy had one win each, Ian Hilton won four (481 at +9) and looked like he could go further, but fell to Sheri Evans on Thursday.

The current top eight:

  1. Tony Warren 8/712
  2. Joy Longworth 7/699
  3. Phil Watson 6/574
  4. Andrew Laycock 5/506
  5. Ian Hilton 4/481
  6. Rosemary Emanuel 4/435
  7. Simon Born 3/357
  8. Ken Jenkins 3/251

This Week And Next

Gameshow Marathon US began with The Price is Right, which seems to have a theme that hasn't been updated since the early 1970s, and a scoreboard that is older than some of the contestants. Ricki Lake is a very promising host, but the slightly-expanded half-hour show was all done by 8.45. Poor value for money there.

The print media has been Shocked! Horrified! Amazed! to find that Andrew Lloyd Webber has contracted a professional Maria for his production of The Sound Of Music. Big deal - this has always been on the cards, and was made clear to applicants at a very early stage. No, this column is slightly more surprised to find that the show's backers include Mr Archer of Grantchester 6262.

Channel 4 has decided not to have another huge run of Big Brother. Speaking at the Edinburgh Television Festival, the channel's head confirmed that 13 weeks was too long. Not least because it ends just as the ETF is beginning, and is fresher in people's minds than if it ended a month sooner. Kevin Lygo went on to say about his powerhouse production, "It would be boring and nobody would watch," and "Some years are a bit shit and you can't remember who won." Mr Lygo also confirmed that Space Cadets was a four-day show spread out over a ten-day run.

Dan Chambers, who directs programmes at Channel 5, began his career working on Big Brother. He said that BB is "becoming morally unjustifiable" and "is not as exciting as it used to be." It's not entirely clear why Mr Chambers' channel has not appeared in our round-up of television ratings all year.

And there's no change this week. Ratings for the week to 20 August, including the final week of Big Brother. 240,000 saw Raven The Island, which was still barely half-done at this point. Data for More4 is not available; this probably has nothing to do with the channel's controller comparing ratings for digital channels to a game of pin the tail on the donkey.

No such problems for the analogue channels, where X-Factor returned with 7.45 million viewers, comfortably ahead of In It To Win It (7.25m) and crushing Maria (5.35m for the results show, 4.5m for the performances.) Repeats of Link and Millionaire attracted 4.2m. Dragons' Den led for BBC2 with 2.9m, ahead of University Challenge (2.55m), Mastermind (2.25m), Link (2.2m), and Eggheads (1.85m). Come Dine With Me pulled 1.95m for its weekly final.

And then there was Big Brother. 1,430,000 tuned in for the post-match analysis in Big Mouth, almost three times the figures from the previous night, and almost five times the viewers of E4's BB Live an hour earlier. But 1,810,000 were there for ITV2's Xtra Factor on Saturday night. BB did win the gold medal for this week, 8.2m tuning in for the 10pm final, and almost 6.5m for the earlier exits. In the middle, a BB-themed 8 Out Of 10 Cats had 5.3m. The BBLB recap show on Sunday had 2.1m, and the previous Monday's Big Brain had 1.95m.

Next week: Deal or No Deal moves to 4.45, allowing Come Dine with Me to pop in at 4.15. BBC2 has Through the Keyhole at 3.15. It's the first in a new series of Brain of Britain, with the grand final scheduled for 25 December. The News Quiz returns on Friday, when there's also something called All Star Talent Show on Channel 5. Challenge has new episodes of Bullseye.

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