Weaver's Week 2007-08-05

Weaver's Week Index

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


Slightly booked

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Image:Square Mike Reid.jpg

The deaths were announced this week of Mike Reid (right), and of Phil Drabble, the host of One Man and His Dog. Our Underworld correspondent reports how Hades put out Boat A and Boat B, so that Mr. Drabble could put his fingers to his lips and blow while Cerberus gave Mr. Reid the Runaround.

The Book Quiz

Granada for BBC4, 11pm Tuesday

Our review this week begins back in the dim, distant past. On the third day of creation, in fact, when TV's famous Mr. God decreed, "Let there be fun!" and created Quote... Unquote. Though Mr. God soon realised the amount of room available for improvement in the prototype, and had that bit airbrushed out of the official history, the game goes on. And on. And on. Nigel Rees is now in his umpty-zillionth year hosting the timeless show, without even a Dinosaur Cheese Interlude to liven up proceedings.

Mercifully, that particular literary quiz hasn't even tried to transfer to television (what about Cabbages and Kings? - Ed). We don't believe the myths that the format wouldn't work, or they can't sort out the rights. We prefer the excuse that the National Grid would fall over with so many people turning off their television sets and finding something less boring to do instead. Such as watching this programme.

David Baddiel isn't an obvious choice of host for a literary game. He was the sarcastic one on seminal comedy series The Mary Whitehouse Experience. Along with long-haired laybout Rob Newman, Mr. Baddiel was the intellectual foil to the childish silliness of Punt and Dennis. Not that young David isn't capable of coming up with some cracking lines of his own, as this show demonstrates. In the decade and a half since Ray lost his sarcastic tone of voice, Mr. Baddiel has carved out a niche as a writer of comedy books.

The rounds are predictable to the point of being unimaginative. There's a clear nod to Quote Unquote in the opening round, where the teams are given two opening lines and have to work out the connection between them. Then comes a faintly silly round where the teams are given four authors and titles, and have to work out the one the production team made up in their production meeting down the pub. As if "The Lifecycle of the Kampuchean Moth" would be co-written by J Silk and T Worm. There's a round where the teams hear what a book club said about a book, and try to discern it - a straight lift from A Question of Sport there. And the round where both players describe a book that only one of them's read is also familiar. The final round, where the teams get 90 seconds of rapid-fire questions each, inflates the scores and usually determines who wins.

But this isn't a show about winning, it's about entertaining, and that relies on the rapport between David Baddiel and his guests. When there's a good vibe - as in the episode with Simon Hoggart - the show is a pleasure to watch. Some guests don't work, and this week's combination of Mark Thomas and Jon "We've won, I'm going to stop playing" Ronson falls head-first into that category.

It's an enjoyable pastime; the rounds are nothing that would be out of place on Radio 4, but the host might be a bit too edgy, making the show a good fit for BBC4.

Countdown Update

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With less than five months until we crown the next champion, here's a brief recap of the series so far.

We mentioned earlier that James Hurrell was the carry-over champion from the last series, and that he would be a tough nut to crack. No-one has yet managed it, he completed eight games undefeated, and retired on 838 points. After his magnificent run came a succession of short-lived champions - Patrick McCann, Gary Cook, Julie Davies, and John Allen won the one game, Kath Lambert and Alan Gray strung two together, and Mike Priestly looked destined for good things in his three wins. He was well beaten by David Edwards, and Mr. Edwards went on to complete his octochamp run, scoring 737 points. The current champion is Mikey Lear, with four wins to his name.

The people with more than two wins this series are:

  1. James Hurrell - 8 wins, 838 pts
  2. David Edwards - 8 wins, 737 pts
  3. Mikey Lear - 4 wins, 336 pts, so far
  4. Mike Priestly - 3 wins, 314 pts


Heat 4

It's an all-biography week this week, and we begin with Frances Gregory on the Life and Career of Peter Cook. Mr. Cook was a notorious comic, and this contender has a notoriously decent score, 12 (2).

David Down's biography is the Life and Works of Claude Monet. He was a nineteenth-century Impressionist painter, mostly working in his native France. Mr. Down is working in the black chair, 12 (0).

Stan Rothwell has the Films of Errol Flynn, an actor in the early years of cinema. He's got some ground to make up, finishing on 8 (3).

Last biography of the week is offered by Terry Satchell, and it's the Life and Reign of Edward VI. No mention of Kett's Rebellion, as featured here last week, and a score of 5 (1).

Mr. Satchell impresses us with the knowledge shown by Edward VI, but agrees that he wasn't the greatest of kings. He has a good round, finishing on 16 (2).

Mr. Rothwell says that Errol Flynn was the greatest of the Hollywood swashbucklers, "playing the role to the hilt." The pun goes over John Humphrys's small head. The round isn't a classic, and he finishes on 16 (9). A good ratio.

Frances Gregory is asked how Mr. Cook was rude about David Frost. Everyone is rude about David Frost, including David Frost. She gets a question about the trellis, though not from North Wales, and finishes on 20 (4).

Mr. Down needs nine to win. We don't think that any of this week's contestants have appeared on BBC game shows in the past, though a David Down made it on The Great Egg Race back in 1982. Though he stumbles early in the round, he moves past the winning post with ease, finishing on 21 (2).

University Challenge

First round, match 4: Birmingham v St Andrews


St Andrews turned up in their traditional gowns

Usual declaration of interest: this column is a graduate of Birmingham University. We try not to let it distort our commentary. We are very pleased to see St Andrews have turned up in their bright red cloaks, making the team look both smart and ridiculous. Just about right for this show.

In the opening exchanges, the smart comes from St Andrews, the ridiculous from Brum, whose one intervention was with the word "Slag". For which they were fined five points. At the first visual round, Name That Sports Stadium - during which they take forever to identify Wembley Building Site - St Andrews' lead is a healthy 80-(-5). We'll take Linguistic Genius Of The Week:

Q: Which five-letter word can, with the addition of the letters H or HR or HOR after the first letter, generate three more words of which the final vowel sound is different in each case; the original word having the meaning strong, chewy, or stiff.
[everyone thinks]
St Andrews, Fergus MacGregor: Tough

Here's how well the show is planned these days: a question early in the show asked about an action of Clementine Churchill without mentioning her by name. A later starter listed the given names of the wives of 20th century prime ministers. Including "Clementine".

"You should never get out of bed", advises Thumper to the Birmingham team during their first set of bonuses. We can see where he's coming from. The audio round is pan-pipe versions of number one hit singles. This, folks, is why we never refer to it as the "Music" round. It's torture for everyone except Birmingham, the team identifies all four of these, er, pieces. The gap closes slightly, to 115-50.

Not that St Andrews needs an aid...

Q: Regarded as something of an acquired taste and of so pungent a smell that it's often eaten outdoors, the traditional Swedish dish surstromming consists of which whole fish fermented with salt?
St Andrews, Alice Larter: Herring.

Herring aid? Oh, please yourselves. The second visual round is on paintings, and St Andrews' lead has increased again, to 155-80. St Andrews completely missed a set of bonuses on the geography of Slovenia, and at least one viewer has been tugging their ears in disbelief. (Caution: report is in Slovenian.) Looks like we know who will win, the only question is by how much. And with St Andrews getting most of the starters, and most of the bonuses, Birmingham don't stand a chance of getting above Magdalen's 160, the lowest losing score of the series so far.

Repechage standings:

  • Lancaster 185
  • Liverpool 165
  • Magdalen Oxford 160
  • Birmingham 145

That said, the side gives it a good go - they've nothing to lose, and only their pride to play for. Correct starter follows correct starter, though with not many bonuses following, and suddenly the side is - briefly - up to 150 points. Only to lose five through a missignal, and the gong goes during St Andrews' next set of bonuses. Their winning score is 200-145.

Never mind, Birmingham will appear on the repechage board for at least one week. And the university's graduates will just go back to hosting Dance X. And Millionaire. And Newsround.

Kelsey Jackson Williams was the best buzzer for St Andrews, six starters in his bag, one more than Mark Goodwin for Birmingham. St Andrews answered 16/35 bonuses correctly; Birmingham had 14/27 with three missignals.

This Week And Next

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0898-gate continues, Channel 4 has announced that it is to end most of its premium-rate telephone competitions. The only ones that remain are ones run for no profit - such as ringing a number to request an information leaflet, where the call charge covers the cost of postage. In addition, the current series of Big Brother will be allowed to run telephone voting at cost. And Deal or No Deal's legalised telephone lottery will continue, at least for the episodes already taped. Any profits from the latter will be donated to charity. It's a £10 million hit for the channel. We also learn that You Say We Pay was fleecing its viewers back in 2004.

In other news, GMTV's Head of Enterprises, Kate Fleming, has resigned over the company's involvement in 0898gate. And, just to prove that they're up there with the hippest of cats, the Conservative Party is to hold an open election for its candidate as London mayor. All party members get a free vote, but anyone else who wants one can call 0898 VOTE BLUE. They'll receive a brochure from each candidate, and a ballet paper. A snip at £1.50 a throw, with the added danger that someone might win a visit from Boris Johnson. Don't all call at once.

Dance X remained the most-viewed game show in the week to 22 July, attracting 4.5m viewers. Big Brother had 4.3m, and Millionaire 4.05m. 8 Out of 10 Cats ended its series with 3.5m, Sing It Back: Lyric Champion 2007 found its winner with 3.3m, and Would I Lie To You? attracted 3.15m.

BBC2's second most-seen show was University Challenge (2.5m), ahead of Dragons' Den: Where Are They Now, which had 2.35m. Old News and Mock the Week beat 2m, QI had 1.95m, Link and Mastermind 1.85m, repeated Buzzcocks 1.55m, and Eggheads 1.5m. Over on Channel 4, Big Brother On The Couch recorded 1.45m, and Win My Wage - the summer replacement for Deal Or No Deal - was seen by 1.4m

Very little on the digital tier, as E4 ratings were not available. America's Got Talent on ITV2 was seen by 600,000, More 4's Come Dine With Me by 195,000, and Challenge's top show was Old Millionaire on Wednesday, pulling in 105,000.

There's remarkably little surprise about the most promising new show of the coming week - Raven The Secret Temple (CBBC, 5.30 weekdays) transplants the show to India, but there's no escaping the influence of Nevar. It's the second-most-interesting show that gives us trouble. Do we nominate Nortonland (Challenge, 11pm weekdays), a compilation of some of the game-ish moments from Graham Norton's chatshow? Or do we plump for Reel Wars (Discovery Real Time, Wednesday), a televised fishing contest? Or should we recommend that readers find some paint, slap it on the wall, and watch it dry?

Next week's Week will be reviewing Win My Wage. It'll also be published at the slightly later time of Monday.

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