Weaver's Week 2009-08-30

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The Adventure Game

When we left Janet Fielding, Nigel Crockett, and Neil Adams, they'd just passed through the password barrier and are about to take part in television's most dangor-ous game.

Yes! It's everyone's favourite interactive game show, The Drogna Game, hosted by Ganord In A Rather Silly Visor and doing a remarkably accurate impression of a cheesy game show host. Think of a combination of Bruce Forsyth and Bob Monkhouse, with perhaps just a touch of Eamonn Andrews' drollery. Angord takes on the role of the cute but ditzy hostess, clearly modelled on Anne Aston from The Golden Shot. Their opponent for this match is the undisputed champion, the Black Belt of the sport, the Red Salamander of Dargon. He's accompanied by his coach and manager, Ron Gad.

The Adventure Game (l-r) Angord, Janet Fielding, Nigel Crockett, Neil Adams.

As you'll know, the game is played on a grid of squares, arranged in a triangular formation – eight squares at the base, with a crystal at the apex. The squares each contain a coloured shape. In turn, each team – the adventurers then the Red Salamander – selects a colour and a shape.

We have a suspicion Janet has played the game before, knowing how to play with moves using the selected colour or shape. Angord is a little over-enthusiastic with her gonging – "she finds it hard to think and move at the same time," explains our host in his most oily manner. But there's an elementary mistake, as Neil tries to play a blue circle when he's standing on a red pentagon: the colour or shape must match with the square he's starting from. "Evitagen doog yrev", calls the opposition's second, who always speaks backwards.

The Adventure Game The Red Salamander and Ron Gad.

There's nothing like a good nomic, thinks our chairman. Nevertheless, after a few moves, and some nonsense spoken by Ron, Neil is able to claim the crystal by landing on a square adjacent to it, at the peak of the triangle. A fanfare plays, "Isn't that just ducky!" exclaims the host. But the game's not won just yet. Far from it: Hargraves' Rule now comes into effect, the player without the prize can attack the player with the prize. Ooh, nasty.

While the return journey begins, Ganord talks to some children from Earth, thinking about what they might give His Highness. A yellow daffodil and some apples meet with approval; some polish for his leaves is an "unusual" suggestion.

The Adventure Game Neil has painted himself into a corner. Baaaad luck!

Back at the game, we find Neil and the Red Salamander in a tightly-fought battle. The Salamander is able to effect a capture, but – here's a novelty! – Neil is able to strike back! But in doing so, he knocks the Salamander off the board, allowing him a free choice of re-entry points, and there's no way of winning before the Salamander can leave the board in one of the corners. A remarkably good game, one that is sure to be giving the Salamander sleepless nights.

Gandor puts his coat back on, and tells the team that they've got about 15 minutes before their spaceship is ready, and to get some gifts. From callers, we learn that His Highness the Rangdo likes eggs, especially in an omelette. One youngster suggests that he might like a teapot. Ahead of her time!

The Adventure Game Ganord discusses presents with children on Earth.

The teams haven't been given many clues to help them find a gift, just that His Highness likes weedkiller but not fertiliser. It's the presentation moment, and Janet's first up. Gnoard sings a ballad, that well-known story "Waltzing Matilda", she's awarded a green cheese roll for her pains. At this early date, a ballad was held to be a song that told a story. Neil steps forward and offers salt. It's a rubbish present, and he's evaporated for his pains. Nigel offers a yo-yo – a game that His Highness can hang on a lead and wobble. It wins him nothing. If only they'd offered the football they brought with them.

Previous series of The Adventure Game had had a structure akin to the traditional five-act play: an introduction, a warm-up puzzle, a really difficult middle game, some sort of conclusion, and a last all-or-peanuts (well, all-or-green cheese rolls) challenge before the journey home. For this team, the structure was disrupted by an error in the Dogran's maze, and the difficult middle game lost rather a lot of its lustre.

The Adventure Game Janet sings her ballad to His Highness the Rangdo.

Still, none of this prevents us from running head-on into the fifth act, The Vortex, the all-or-nothing denouement to the programme. Earlier in the series, His Highness had been on top form, evaporating the last eight people to try and cross. Janet's first up, and she uses – and loses – her green cheese roll at the first opportunity, then walks straight into a simple third-rank trap. Another day, another visitor who's got a long walk home. Nigel heads right, but the Rangdo directs Gandor left, and the human gives the game away. It's almost as if the Rangdo wants Nigel to win, trapping himself in the far left, and relying on Nigel stepping to the side when on the second rank. Inevitably, Nigel escapes, and has a comfortable ride home.

And that's it: Ganord says goodbye, Ron Gad says eybdoog, and the credits roll.

The Adventure Game Nigel's move.

Other Shows This Week

The episode we've just been reviewing aired on 1 March 1984; here are the other game shows going out between 26 February and 2 March. On Saturday, Ted Rogers and 3-2-1 go country (Saturday 7pm). Radio 1 had the Great Rock 'n' Roll Trivia Quiz (Sunday 4.30), while Mastermind (Sunday 8.05) came from University College Cardiff, with specialist subjects the History of Costume Since 1400, Epic Novels of R F Delderfield, Duke Ellington, and John Keats. ITV preferred Bullseye (5pm) and Family Fortunes (7.15) with Max Bygraves,

The News Quiz (Radio 4, 6.30) and the Monday Movie Quiz (Radio 2, 10pm) capped a dismal start to the working week, unless you were a fan of Danger Marmalade at Work. Tuesday's On Safari (ITV, 4.15) saw Christopher Biggins challenge Suzanne Dando and Eddie Kidd. Later, Tom O'Connor had a session of Name That Tune (ITV, 7.30). BBC2 had a repeat of Junior Kick Start (6.10). Pot Black (BBC2, 9pm) was Wednesday's television game show; radio's was Give Us a Conch (Radio 2, 10pm), a natural history quiz with Paddy Feene.

Thursday included The Adventure Game (BBC2, 5.40) and Treasure Hunt (C4, 8pm) in Kidderminster. The annual Can i Gymru contest was S4C's big show of the week (7.30). Friday had Tom O'Connor back with The Zodiac Game (ITV, 7pm) opposite Superstars (BBC1, 7.05). It was the Men's Championship from the superb indoor stadium at RAF Cosford. Competitors included John Lloyd of tennis, Peter Wheeler of rugby, Robert Smith of showjumping, Gary Cook the runner, and Neil Adams if he's finished his walk back from Arg.

Returning to the present, here's this week's Round Britain Quiz-style brainteaser. "A once-proposed long wave radio station from the Netherlands, one-thousand-millionth of the inventor of alternating current, and the Pontevedrin ambassador to Paris. Why does the sage of Cricklewood's daughter brook no error term?"

University Challenge

Heat 7: King's College London v Cardiff

We'll begin with Actor of the Week: it's Michael Sheen, and it's answered by King's College London. King's (as we'll be referring to them tonight) was founded in 1829 by some Church of England faithful, as a rival to the godless University College. Its alumni include Keates, Virgnia Woolf, and Thomas Hardy, and tonight's team are all postgraduate students.

Cardiff get the Name That Decade question, on the 1600s. This institution was founded in 1883, and took its present name in 2003 when it merged with the Medical College and broke away from the University of Wales. Alumni include Huw Edwards and both Glenys and Neil Kinnock. Thumper notes that no Welsh institution has won a University Challenge series... yet?

There's a bizarre question on reading the postal area for Penge in a mirror and working out it's 5.32 in the morning. There's another question asking after a constant in astrophysics, correctly answered by Cardiff's astrophysicist; their reward is the wordplay question, words that can be prefixed by S. The visual round is on actors playing Othello. It's introduced by Lenny Henry, who said recently that he owes this engagement to his degree from the Open University. How come that institution doesn't compete any more? Should the host be able to block sides in this manner, as the rumour has it? Anyway, King's leads, 40-35.

University Challenge Cardiff: James Selvey, Sophie Fitzsimmons, Ed Carey, Chris Clark.

Cardiff know the full name for the plastic of recycling type 3, PVC. It's their favourite plastic, and it's nice and shiny. They also do rather well on some Byzantine questions, about the empire formerly seated in Constantinople, and now memorialised in Istanbul. King's have a set of bonuses giving clues to the names of writers who won the Booker Prize in the last century (before it suffered sponsorship) that no-one understands. The audio round invites the teams to remember the first album by The Klaxons, which no-one does, and Cardiff has a 75-70 lead. After a couple of dropped starters, this happens:
Q: A Bavarian secret society...
Cardiff, Chris Clark: Illuminati.

The audio round turns out to be about songs based on the works of JG Ballard, and features the cameraman pulling back from a closeup of the captain to see the whole team. We're passing comment on the direction? Crikey. But not as crikey as the suggestion that the EU has expanded to include Swaziland. Even the most ardent europhile might baulk at that, and Cardiff lose a subsequent set of bonuses by still giggling. King's has very quietly ensured everyone gets at least one starter. The second visual round is on pictures of Roman gods, no-one recognises Boticelli, and Cardiff leads 105-80.

University Challenge King's: Tom Graham, David Willis, Brian Murray, Ollie Crawshaw.

Knowledge that "arctic" ultimately derives from the Greek for "bear" puts King's ahead; their knowledge of cricket ground extends their lead. And just when we thought they were done for, King's are beginning to run away with the game; 35 points ahead with four minutes to go. What country was Russia part of in 1945? The Soviet Union; William G. Stewart always accepted the two interchangeably (while the USSR existed), and Thumper's right to do so here.

Islands in lakes and coastal features bring Cardiff back into the game, but they're still two cycles away from the lead, and we can't see them making the repechage. Someone suggests that a dead king might be buried in Basingstoke, much to Thumper's amusement. Cardiff get the next set, close the gap to within 15, but just as they're answering the next starter, the gong goes. King's has sneaked a win, 155-140.

King's win comes from David Willis, four starters in the final stanza, as the side made 13/27 bonuses. Cardiff's bonus conversion rate was 12/24, and Chris Clark's five starters included some crackers.

Next match: Newnham Cambridge v Sussex

Repechage standings:

  • UCL 175
  • Christ's Cambridge 170
  • Clare Camb 165
  • UCLAN 155

Only Connect

Series 2, Episode 7: Mathematicians v Chessmen

No, dear continuity announcer, it's not the third semi-final, but the third-place play-off. Stephen Pearson suggests that the Chessmen lost it with That Chess Question. Thomas Cochrane of the Mathematicians says that he's never bought a CD, and Ruth Carling is no good with popular music.

Where do we begin? "Cardenio" and "Love's Labour's Won" are lost plays, both attributed to Mr. Shakespeare of Stratford, but the other two were to other authors. Chessmen get Things Beginning with Ts___ for their picture clue and two points. Mathematicians get phonetic spellings of roman numerals – Dalziel, seedy, emcee generate a couple.

"Are they French names for chess pieces" asks Nick Mills of the next set? They go for French names for chess pieces, and pick up the two points. A merciful release. Mathematicians get the audio round: shall we hand it over already? Would the question writers really include something so simple as a round of musical tunes at this exalted height? Er, no. Tunes sung by Marni Nixon, who voiced a zillion actresses who were less good at singing, yes. Not only do the Chessmen get two points for people who wear red shirts, but they correctly predict the last clue will be Garibaldi's followers. Chessmen lead 7-3.

Round two begins with 1485 AD, through Elizabethan and Regency, then Victorian, for reasons that the Mathematicians aren't sure about. It's actually World War I, the periods of the Blackadder series. Were the Mathematicians born when this went out? "It's in our knowledge range, but it's hard to connect them", suggests James O'Driscoll. Chessmen get that the next set is Chinese dynasties, and correctly name the Qing.

Only Connect (2) Finishing third, the Chessmen: Henry Pertinez, Stephen Pearson, Nick Mills

Mathematicians know their electron orbits, and end with two, for three points. Chessmen have a guess that the musical indication louder than forte is fortissimo, signalled by ff; it's right. "I've no idea who Ron Brown is", says James O'Driscoll of the penultimate man to swing the Mace in the Commons. They do at least guess at the answer, and point out they were two in 1988. Chessmen go for "Brideshead", on a clue about the children in "Brideshead Revisited". Chessmen lead by 15-6.

"If you're looking forward to a nice easy round, tune to another channel now," suggests our host. The grids are extra-difficult this week, and the Chessmen are having the greatest difficulty getting started on this one. It takes them almost a minute to start jabbing. They have three tiles, some Jacks, and then go on a process of elimination trying to find the last tile. Nothing for the groups; they were Magic ___, synonyms for "criticise", physics waveform, and famous Peters. Spotting the links gives them Two points!

There's some headroom for the Mathematicians, and they begin by suggesting there are constellations, but then go for snooker players, which is actually correct! Very sensibly, they abandon their trial-and-error technique for something more thoughtful, such as things to do with water. They're able to bang the buttons far faster than the opposition, but not to much more effect, and the other three groups evade them. Positions in yoga just evade the team – they reckon they're symbols of India. They confuse constellations for nebulae, and miss snow____. Two points! Chessmen's lead remains, 17-8.

Into mssng vls, where we begin on Twins, which just about ends in a 2-2 draw. Biographical Films is in a 1-1 draw, Doctors Who Were Authors is a 2-0 win for the Chessmen, and they've won by 22-11. Well done to them!

Next match (final): Rugby Boys v Cambridge Quiz Society

Only Connect (2) Thomas the Tank Engine served the Mathematicians well: Ruth Carling, Thomas Cochrane, James O'Driscoll.


Heat 1

It's the beginning of another series of television's longest running-quiz. Not that it's been going for more years than any other quiz, it just feels like it's been on every week since Tim Henman was the UK's best tennis player. A few changes this year: the six best runners-up will return in the semi-final phase, something that the host claims has never happened before. Hogwash! A repechage semi-final was standard fare up to and including the 2003 series. Seeing as how there are 96 contenders in 31 weeks, that can only work if there are five people in each semi-final. Does that mean we've finished with the chats at that phase? Do hope so. Not entirely convinced about the mean 'n' moody shot of all four contenders standing in a row leading to the chair that we see before the opening titles.

Shall we begin? Abigail Maher is discussing the Life and Work of Louis Wain, a painter ... whoa! Just as they've done in the finals for the past few years, each show is introduced by a short film clip featuring the contestant talking about the subject. These are more cheap affairs, just the contestant in front of a screen overlaying some footage of vague relevance to their subject. As we were saying before we were so rudely interrupted, Louis Wain was a painter best known for his representation of cats. The contender gets the series off to a great start, ending on 15 (1).

Mastermind The contestants and host stand in line to the chair.

Tony Esau tells us about the Greeks in Sicily, 500-212BC. Yes, before the ball was part of the Roman empire, it was ruled by the Greeks, and there were some interesting developments during the three centuries. There had to be, really. It's another great round, ending on 14 (1).

Roy Watson Davis takes the Basil Rathbone films of Sherlock Holmes. He was active during the Second World War, and aimed both to entertain and to be the definitive portrayal of the detective. Another round, another stellar performance, 15 (1).

William de Ath has the Life and Works of Kurt Vonnegut. "He was a science fiction writer," states the contender; it's not an opinion shared by the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy entry on the author, whose published novels have been re-interpreted as a thesis on anthropology. The final score: 15 (1).

A three-way tie! So it goes. Do we get rid of the chats? We do, indeed, though it could be that they've gone to squeeze in a tie-break. Tony Esau is first up, having scored a measly 14 points first time up; he remembers the treaty of Vichy and the Vulcan bomber to finish on 27 (2).

Mastermind Roy Watson Davis speaks of Basil Rathbone as a picture appears behind him.

Abigail Maher is asked who finished second in the recent national final of Mr. Cowell's touring entertainment "By Jove! This county does have some talent!" A writer called Charlie Dickens, if we can remember back to the beginning of the series. What? Oh. She's also asked about Sue Perkins' triumph on Maestro! The general knowledge round does contain subjects other than reality tv, and finishes on 20 (4).

Roy Watson Davis knows the predecessor work of "Under Milk Wood", and is asked which state has been represented by Edward Kennedy, who died this week. The contender looks like he might do something useful, but once he makes a couple of errors, many more follow, ending on 21 (4).

There's seven minutes until the next show, and that's an awfully long time to ask two minutes of questions, until we remember this show started a couple of minutes early and only ever runs for 27 minutes. William de Ath remembers Fred Godwin's nickname, and takes a pass about half-way through his answers, not remembering Mike Channel from Radio Active. But then he passes again, errs a bit, and finishes on 25 (4).

So Tony Esau is the week's winner, and William de Ath will be on the repechage board when we publish it in five programmes' time.

This Week And Next

The latest OFCOM report has thudded into our email box. (Can documents thud into an email box? Don't know.) Anyway, it reports how Radio Hartlepool is still running a competition where listeners put stickers onto their bumper and hope for their registration number to be read out on air, except that some of the registration numbers were made up. Naughty. Hallam FM and Absolute Radio were also criticised for broadcasting misleading sponsorship claims by Sky Television, and that the appropriate clearance hadn't been obtained to air the ads. We were interested to hear that 324 complaints were made to OFCOM about the edition of Big Brother broadcast on 11 August, and 101 about an edition two days later. Details of these complaints have not been made public, which surely goes against the point of a public regulator acting in the public interest and accountable to the public.

We're also unhappy to learn that there's been Yet Another Fakery Scandal, this time involving Sun, Sea and Bargain Spotting. Not so much from the faking (cameraman poses as tourist) but from the fact that the Game Adjudication Panel has deemed this a Game, and it's completely passed us by. Sorry.

Line-ups have been announced for Strictly Come Dancing and its North American equivalent, Ballroom With the B-List. The UK list includes game show irregular Phil Tufnell; the overseas talent includes Donny Osmond's Teeth, Kelly Osbourne's Amazing Changing Hairstyles, Macy Gray's Beehive, and Melissa Joan Hart Explains It All. We assume that their show will go out on one of the UKTV channels, the BBC programme begins next month.

Oh, and Big Brother's challenged its remaining contestants to "do something interesting". They did, they invaded the show's camera-run, and were promptly told that the producers had confiscated their prize money. It's almost as if the contestants were being treated as eight-year-olds, told that they had to stay in at break because someone had moved the teacher's handbag under her desk. It makes Channel 4's decision to end the show after next year's run seem understandable: Big Brother has long ceased to tell us anything about anything.

Ratings for the week to 16 August. Total Wipeout had 4.45m seeing people fall in the water, Guesstimation had 4.05m making it up as they went along, and Dragons' Den comes third for the week, 2.95m find silly things to do with their dosh. University Challenge (2.9m) and Mock the Week (2.75m) both beat Big Brother (2.65m), where the Friday eviction was so exciting it was beaten by the Thursday show. Amongst digital channels, Britain's Got Talent Us (970,000) led from Come Dine With Me (890,000) and Big Brother's Big Mouth (595,000). QI broke half a million, Four Weddings 375,000, and The Only Connect recorded 260,000. The Charlie Brooker effect can be seen as Deadliest Warrior came to Bravo with 105,000 spectators wondering what the fuss was about.

Answer to the brainteaser, then. About ten years ago, there were plans for a radio station called Delta to broadcast easy-listening music on the long-wave band. Nikola Tesla's many inventions included alternating current; his name is used for the SI unit of magnetic field strength, and one-thousand-millionth of that unit is known as a gamma. To the world of opera, in particular Lehar's "The Merry Widow", where Baron Zeta is the ambassador from Pontevedro. Mathematicians know an error term is denoted by epsilon. δ, γ, ζ, ε... they're all Greek letters, as overseen on Only Connect by Victoria Coren, the daughter of Alan.

Only Connect (2) That answer in summary.

Which brings us to the highlight of the coming week: the Only Connect final (BBC4, Monday 8.30). There's a return for Scrapheap Challenge (C4, Sunday 5.25), more Celebrity Millionaire (ITV, Tuesday 8pm), and Paris Hilton finds another Best Friend (ITV2, Thursday 8pm). We'll prefer Swots (Radio Scotland, Friday 6.10).

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