Weaver's Week 2010-07-18

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It's two minutes to five on Monday 12 July. Between now and 11.30, this column will be watching and hearing game shows, and providing commentary on what we hear. We begin with ITV's most popular game show at the moment:


The Chase

ITV Studios for ITV, 5pm

Playing with Bradley this afternoon are Steve from Essex, Mark from Shoeburyness, Sue from Weston-Super-Mare, and Emma from Stratford-upon-Avon. Steve is first to play, and in his minute, he gets seven right. £7000. That's a good start, and we don't even know which chaser he's up against. Today's star is Shaun Wallace, described as Darth Vader's lovechild, and a man so smart he was unveiled by a well-known fashion company.

Steve is offered £2000 to go a step closer to home, £20,000 to take a step further away. He sticks with the £7000, and has to get five correct answers before Shaun overcomes the three-question head start. But his round is more miss than hit, and he only manages two correct answers in the first five questions. Shaun is flawless, as usual, and that's that.

Mark gets £8000 in his minute, and turns down £24,000 to take the step back. He gets two away with one wrong answer left, only to find one of those rare cracks in Shaun's armour – Mark's right on a "which of these buildings is tallest" question, and that helps to get him home.

The Chase The Chasers: Shaun's on the right

Sue also gets eight right, and declines to pursue £31,000. She might have gone for it: five questions later, she's won the money. Emma's the last contestant, she manages just four correct answers in her minute, and is offered a stonking £50,000 (FIFTY THOUSAND POUNDS) to start a step back. She doesn't take it. Shaun could have offered fifty million, and never risked paying out, as Emma gets two of her first three wrong. There are a couple of errors from the Chaser, allowing Emma to escape with £4000.

Since we reviewed the show last year, there's been one small but significant change: the individual chases are for five right answers out of eight, not six of nine. It's a shorter chase, perhaps one fewer question, but the show moves at a slightly less frantic pace. It fits well, allowing for the chasers to build up a little more rapport with the audience.

There's an appeal for contestants, proving there's another series in the works. Good call. Mark, Sue, and Emma have £20,000, and a three-step start. They turn it into a 22-step chase. They might just get away with that. Shaun gets the first two questions wrong, the team get them right, but there's no penalty other than the lost time. It's something they need to address for the next series. Shaun completes the capture with eight seconds on his clock, though he clearly took his foot off the pedal towards the end.

It's a good little show, doesn't repeat itself too much like some other programmes we could mention, and there are clear pantomime villains who we can boo at and love at the same time.


12 Yard for BBC2, 6pm

This show was a repeat from 2008, and featured the O'Flaherty Youth Team against Christopher Hughes, Daphne Fowler, CJ de Mooi, Barry The New Guy, and Judith Keppell. They're playing for £3000 today.

Quickly, two things become clear. First, that this team isn't going to get many people into the final, and second, it's completely not changed since we reviewed it in 2003. It was deathly slow then, it's deathly slow now. It still feels completely wrong to give the self-proclaimed "best brains in Britain" three possible answers to simple questions.

Eggheads The Eggheads

By dint of doing absolutely nothing in the show so far, Barry the Contestant is the only contestant to survive into the final. When he gets the first question – about the movement of a bishop in chess – correct, that very nearly becomes a team best. Thanks to the Eggheads getting one of their questions wrong, the game goes to sudden death, and a sixth round of questions.

Finally, Barry is given dialect names for a children's game. He guesses hide and seek, it's actually conkers, and the Eggheads are able to mop up. "Can anybody beat the Eggheads?" asks Dermot. The Only Connect all-star team might stand a chance. So might The Chasers.

I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue

Radio 4, 6.31pm

"You join us on our second visit to Carlisle, and that's never happened before," says host Jack Dee to introduce the programme. We're in Carlisle this week, with Barry Cryer, Graeme Garden and Tim Brooke-Taylor joined by Sandi Toksvig.

Round one is Uxbridge English Dictionary, in which the panel is asked to suggest new definitions for existing words. Barry gets into a zone when he contributes "radar" – an attack by pirates, and riffs on from there.

The fun continues with a round of Pick Up Song, introduced by the traditional pun about Samantha taking researchers from the gramophone library on a trip to Cockermouth. The only problem is that Jack Dee clearly understands the double entendre, and chooses to ignore it – predecessor Humphrey Lyttleton could get away with pretending he didn't get it. Highlight of the round is Tim performing his own rendition of "Mambo number five", made popular by Bob the Builder.

Next, Come Shout At My Cookery, complete with sound effects. It's clearly a take on Come Dine with Me, only with the real-life jokes replaced by improvised ones. That's unless someone on the Channel 4 show has fired up a chainsaw at their guests. "I'll give it six... parts of my arm."

I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue The lovely Samantha (left) kept the team's scores

Complete the lyric is taking romantic songs and asking the teams to complete them in a novel and interesting way. "Wake up Maggie, I think I've got something to say to you," posits Jack. "You're no longer prime minister," continues Tim. It's a joke that was topical when John Naismith first took the producers' chair in 1991; now that he's steered the programme through the loss of Humph, perhaps it's time for some different ideas.

Instead, Swanny-Kazoo marries the chirpy chirp of the swanny whistle with the multi-note buzz of a kazoo. And the plinky-plonky plink-plonking of Colin Sell at the piano. It really does sound like an episode of The Clangers. At least we've not got one of those tiresome one-word letters this week.

Farmer's Film Club brings the show to a close, kicking off with "Life of Brian Aldridge". He's a farmer in long-running Radio 4 documentary The Archers. Then there's the inevitable pun on "Bring me the Head of Alfredo Garcia", after which Jack Dee draws the show to a close. Will he be defending his title of Celebrity Big Brother 2001 in the forthcoming Championship of Champions? No? Oh.

Big Brother's Little Brother

Remarkable Pictures for E4+1, 6.59pm

Which brings us to a live show on a time-shift channel. No, we don't understand it either. Anyway, there are two airheads from rubbish show Hollyoaks, someone who believes they know what people did in their previous lives, the entirely wonderful Emma Willis, and some useless bloke who contributes nothing to the proceedings. He really is the Amanda Holden of this programme, isn't he.

Anyway, there's a brief recap of what happened on last night's show, including G'Day Aussie Blewk telling assorted fibs about his homeland, and getting into a long-running row with Pandora. Emma's doing the Hollyoaks people, whose advice is for the people inside to be themselves. Don't bother acting, it's kept their show on air for the past fifteen years. And, gosh, there's a clip of vintage Big Brother, featuring Today FM's Ray Shah talking to Lisa Jeynes, who claims she can kill someone with two fingers. That's all she's famous for, isn't it.

Big Brother The stars of BBLB

What's next? Ah, that's better. Zig and Zag (the most intelligent contributors to The Big Breakfast) are talking to Dayvid in the diary room. It's cheap, it's silly, and it's far funnier than that useless bloke. Bit of a crash into the commercial break, there.

After the break, Hollyoaks pair are in the camera runs, gasping as G'Day Aussie Blewk and Pandora have put it back on, and new boy Andrew is cooking. Useless bloke says there's something wrong with his microphone. There is: it's working and we can hear him.

Emma's newsblock has footage of Rachel 2.0 predicting Corin and Ben to face the chop. It's actually Caiomhe, Ife, and Corin. Useless bloke talks to Andrea Foulkes, who claims to be able to see what people's previous lives were like. It's just guesswork, it's just interpolation, it's just complete cobblers being made up as they're going along. And we're not sure the guest is much cop, either.

Only Connect

Presentable for BBC4, 7.29pm

Series 3, Heat 2: Polymaths v Strategists

If this looks familiar, it is. We recapped this edition on 17 January, when we noted that more people are watching this than are watching Channel 5.

The result? A convincing win for the Strategists. Knowledge that there are very few zebra crossings on motorways, and they do laugh at the Department of Transport. The laughter book was last updated in 1979. How can anyone have missed the Twilight series: do they not have squeeing girlies on either side? Or are they all good feminists? The idea of Robert Green being a decent England goalie shows the programme's age: even Anne Robinson would be less rubbish.

University Challenge

Granada for BBC2, 8.01pm

Round 1, Heat 2: Cardiff v Oxford Brookes

"If you were watching the World Cup final yesterday, you'll have missed Top Gear," says the continuity announcer. And if you were watching the world's most boring football match, you would only have been entertained had you been listening to the CBBC commentary, featuring Michael "Abs" Absalom off of Best of Friends, Iain Sinclair from the bits between the programmes, and Andy Akinwole. The Blue Peter presenter was supporting Nigeria before the tournament kicked off, and the opening question in this show has the answer of Nigeria.

And that's how Only Connect the radio version worked, getting from the continuity announcer to the first answer via an entertaining and funny route that was neither entertaining nor funny, and wasn't informative, either. No wonder it was cancelled after one episode. We've no doubt that the Cardiff side don't actually care for such nonsense. Indeed, when Cardiff University was founded in 1883, it was a holiday in the city, when the church bells rang with expectation. They do take Interruption of the Week:

Q: Born 1806, which British philosopher..?
Cardiff, Greg Rees: John Stuart Mill

Blimey, that's good! The opposition get off the mark with the next starter. Oxford Brookes was established in 1865 as a school of art, merging with a school of science, becoming a technical school, Oxford Poly, and became a university in 1992. To avoid confusion with another institution in the same locality, it added the name of the technical school's first head, a Mr. Oxford.

Which brings us to the first visual round, Name That Pasta! Cardiff proves that nothing gets past her team (sorry!), and leads by 90-15. Wasn't Bottom one of Titania's attendants? No, he was an ass, or was that Puck? Must read more Shakespeare! Anyway, Oxford Brookes are trying to get questions on French impressionists, and Cardiff prove that the guesses count when they pick the right acid out of many possibilities.

Oxford Brookes know their sandwiches, and get a series of questions about words beginning with the prefix "poly". Thumper is very impressed that anyone knows which two of Henry VIII's wives appear in the Shakespeare play, the second time Little Billy has appeared tonight. The audio round is on operas set in Spain, Oxford Brookes find it Bizet (sorry!) but Cardiff's early run is still the difference, leading as they do 130-75.

University Challenge Locked together: Cardiff and Oxford Brookes

Cardiff get this week's puzzler, words containing a double-e and differing only in their initial letter. When asked a question about modern-day jockeys, it's either going to be Frankie Dettori or Tony McCoy; Cardiff guess wrongly, which is bad luck. Thumper goes on about multi-vibrators, and again we wish he'd keep his electronic circuits to his own time. The second visual round contains women in Greek mythology, apparently before they'd invented clothes, and Cardiff's lead has been trimmed to 150-110.

We have absolutely no idea what Thumper's going on about in a set of questions about Pacific islands by defining their first few letters. There is a mathematician on the teams this week, and she takes an awfully long time to evaluate C(5,2). But she returns the answer 10, and that allows Oxford Brookes to pull within 35 points. And closer! Lactose and UN secretaries-general bring the gap down to just ten points.

Game on! The Oxford Brookes captain ties the game with a buzz of Cicero, and they get a small lead from the bonuses. A fathom? Six foot dead, a slip letting Cardiff in through the back door and to pull within five. Voiceover man Roger Tilling is about to explode with excitement, Cardiff know little about mathematical punctuation, but a lot about the life story of Louis XIV. Twenty-five is enough to put the pressure on Oxford Brookes, and if only they'd been watching Only Connect, they'd know that chains are 22 yards long. We had it barely 45 minutes ago! Another starter for Oxford Brookes, and then the gong goes.

End of the round, but not the end of the contest! It's 210-210, and we have a tie break.

Q: Which constellation, whose second-brightest star is Elnath, also contains the Crab Nebula, the Hyades and Pleiades star clusters and the giant star Aldebaran?
A: Orion
A: Cassiopeia

No, it's Taurus, who beat Llanelli in the UEFA Cup Losers' Cup Extra-Preliminary Qualifying Round last week. Is this an omen for another Welsh failure?

Q: Lobamba is the legislative and royal capital of which country of south-eastern Africa?
A: Mozambique
A: Lesotho

No, it's Swaziland. Sandi, can you wait?

Q: Often meeting in pubs to read aloud their own work, CS Lewis, JRR Tolk...
A: The Inklings

Hallelujah! Oxford Brookes continue their record of winning every first-round match they play in, Cardiff continue their record of losing every first-round match they play in. At least we'll see them in the repechage – a losing score of 210 absolutely guarantees that.

Sarah Johnson had four starters for Oxford Brookes, plus the tie-break; the side made 22/33 bonus questions with two missignals (incorrect interruptions to starter questions). Greg Rees was the best buzzer, five starters for Cardiff, and the side had 18/36 bonuses. Two mentions of Billy Shakespeare, two dropped starters in the main game, and two in the tie-break. The overall accuracy rate in the main game was a superb 63/94.

Next week: Balliol Oxford v Queens Cambridge

Antiques Master

BBC2, 8.31pm

In the ninety minutes since we last heard from her, Sandi Toksvig has motored down the M6 at a surely illegal speed, and is now in Burnley. She's joined by Eric Knowles, four amateur experts, and an Annoying Voiceover Woman, in a show about antiques.

Antiques Master Which of these jokes is the oldest? Oh, that's earlier.

The competition begins, naturally enough, with round one. Eric has brought along five antiques, all of different periods, and the contestants are challenged to put them in the correct chronological order. Five points for each item in the right place, and the contestants are able to explain the answer as they give it. Each player has their own go at this round individually, and their efforts are intercut for the finished show. This works far better than would showing their individual efforts in sequence.

During the scoring, points are awarded for each item. After each item, Annoying Voiceover Woman tells us what the scores mean for each person. "Timmy has scored five points here, bringing his total to ten". Why Sandi can't give the scores as we go along, or at the end of the round, we don't know.

Round two is the Mystery Guest, an antique object of uncertain usage. One by one, the contestants will come up and examine the object, and speculate as to what it might have been used for. They're given a broad clue to get their minds in the right sort of direction; some of these clues are a lot broader than others. If the contestant picking up the object gets it right, they'll pick up ten points. If they're wrong, the other three contenders can take five points from guesses they've written down.

And, as we go on, Annoying Voiceover Woman tells us the scores, and how the different possibilities would alter the outcomes. We can work this out for ourselves, we're not all refugees from ITV daytime.

Antiques Master Can we use this to silence Annoying Voiceover Woman?

After this, the contestant with the lowest score is eliminated from the competition. The remaining three get to play their specialist subject. Yes, this means that five antiques have made the journey to Burnley without making it on television. The contenders are given five items in their specialist subject (this week, two different sorts of china and some biscuit tins), from which they need to pick the oldest, the most valuable, and the odd one out; there's a bonus if they can get the value of the most valuable to within 10%, and a clue as to what the oddity is.

This round really shows the limitations of filming outside the studio, the contestants have to explain what it is they're seeing, but we don't get to see these distinguishing marks for ourselves. Instead, we get what sounds like Radio 5 crashing through for a few seconds.

The grand final crams 90 seconds of quizzing into the remaining minute of game. Five points for a correct answer, five points away for an incorrect answer, and if a contestant interrupts Sandi while she's asking a question, she'll continue and finish it. Mercifully, Annoying Voiceover Woman hasn't put her oar in since half-way through round three, and we have a brief contribution from the winner over the end credits.

To be honest, this column can take or leave antiques. When it's coming at the end of a four-hour marathon of game shows, our reaction is more on the "leave" side than the "take", but that might be a little unfair. Eric Knowles is always good value, and while Sandi Toksvig may not be an obvious antiques expert, she certainly proved able to handle very old jokes earlier this evening. The programme is overstaffed, however – Annoying Voiceover Woman contributes precisely nothing to the show, and her endless discussion of possible outcomes in round two mean that round four is chopped down.

This is all a bit of a shame: there's the makings of a decent little show here. Put the specialist round somewhere that everyone can play it, perhaps give no clue at all in the mystery object round, and put Annoying Voiceover Woman somewhere where no-one will hear or see her. Channel 5, for instance.


At this point, we rested our eyes and listened to a story. Readers will, perhaps, be familiar with the play Romeo and Juliet, by local playwright Little Billy Shakespeare. For the first half of the play, the most well-rounded character is neither of the title roles, but Mercutio. He persuades Romeo to throw off his angst and attend Capulet's party, calls him on his lustful desires for Capulet's daughter, trades good-natured insults. He punctures people's pomposity, mocks the romantic sentiments that afflict all the other players, and accepts responsibility for his own actions. Then he gets into a brawl with Tybalt defending Romeo's honour, and is killed. The rest of the play follows on from this act of self-sacrifice: Romeo does Tybalt in, goes into exile, and the rest of the tragedy of misunderstandings plays out.

Big Brother

Remarkable Pictures for Channel 4, 10.30pm

Day 33, and we need to introduce the characters. There's supermole Mario, former soldier Steve, and Aussie John James. Pandora from Skins has shown up, as has Boris Johnson's cousin Ben. There's the best footballer in England Ife, and Corin recently set a world record after talking for 36 minutes without once drawing breath. Everyone can say and spell Caoimhe's name, but we keep tripping over Dayve's cognomen.

The established group was joined on Friday night by newcomers Keeley, who complained about the house being a bit messy; Andrew, a maths wiz from Oxford; and Rachel 2.0, almost indistinguishable from evictee Rachael. It's their second full day on set. Yesterday, viewers saw G'Day John James and Pandora have a row, another row, after he thought she had insulted him.

Now read on. John James asks Caoimhe to intercede with Pandora on his behalf. Corin is leading a group singalong of Boney M songs, because that's how hip and with-it she is. The existing contestants take part in a quiz, answering questions about their new housemates. Actually, this deserves a bit more of a write-up: it was originally scheduled to use something like the Dizzy Dummies spinner from Endemol's Total Wipeout, but they couldn't get it set up in the garden, and the players had to spin round broomsticks on the ground. Then they were to run the length of the garden to push one of three silent buzzers. The buzzers were mounted on pieces of dowelling, weren't that stable, and one of them fell over and snapped.

Big Brother Finally, a buzzer Richard Hammond can reach. So long as the answer's A.

Anyway, Dayve, John James, and Ife end up on the winning side, and are rewarded with a banquet with the newbies. The others end up locked in the bedroom. But we don't get to see much of that, with more footage of Pandora and John James rowing at each other from six feet apart. Corin is leading a group sing along from Andy Williams songs, because that's how hip and with-it she is.

It's now six days since the Mercutio of this year's Big Brother fell on her sword, killing her own chance of the prize so that Caoimhe could become whatever she was to become. Though Shabby is gone, and not coming back, her ghost still lurks in the dark recesses of the set. John James simply can't talk to Pandora, and wants to go home. He finds out that Pandora fibbed when she claimed Big Brother had told her what was said, and she doesn't like being called on that fib.

Tensions run high, and it requires the intervention of Big Brother to get her to listen. Mario almost threatens to break the diary room door down to prevent John James from leaving. He is clearly channelling the spirit of Lady Bracknell: to lose one character is a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness. It takes a long chat to change John James's mind, and eventually the heat in the diary room gets to him.

Was there so little happening that over half the show had to be spent on John James and Pandora's tragedy of self-deception? Was it right that Ife, Corin, Dayve, Rachel 2.0 had nothing more than walk-on parts in today's show? Yes and no; the others have had, or will have, their days in the spotlight. Apart from Corin: even after a month, we scarcely know her.

This Week And Next

To sort out the University Challenge review: Titania's retinue are Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Moth, and Mustardseed. And yes, Bottom does have an ass's head for some of the play.

One other item from Big Brother, as the cardboard cutouts from Hollyoaks mentioned it. Tuesday's edition featured footage of the Stay Right Where You Are And Dine With Me contest, which featured narration by Dave Lamb. He's only the third person to provide commentary, following Marcus Bentley and Davina McCall, she did the eviction shows in the first few years.

Bruce Forsyth told the Rusty Old Radio Times that game shows are "money for old rope". The entertainer said, "You can do a series in two weeks then take as much time off as you like."

Our schaudenfraude department was tickled to hear that police in South Africa had punched the lights out of a professional Eurovision disrupter. It turned out to be Jimmy Jump, who got in the way of the Spanish entry this year, and not the annoying person we hoped it would be.

Eurovision Song Contest The pain in Spain is decked in South Africa.

Ratings in the week to 4 July have a large hole: BBC1. Amongst the channels for which we do have data, Big Brother is top-rated. 2.8m people saw BenJo being put through his paces on Sunday night. Aggregating C4 and C4+1, Wednesday's show (keep your hats on!) proved slightly more popular. Mock the Week on BBC2 had 2.35m, and Have I Got April's News For You 2.1m. No ITV game show made the channel's top 30, so we must assume The Chase remains the channel's most popular.

Another week, another million for Come Dine With Me – 1.05m on More4, to be exact. Four Weddings burst through the half-million mark, 525,000 saw the episode on UK Living, and Big Brother's Big Mouth had 455,000 Sunshine fans tuning into late-night E4. Good score for Fferm Ffactor, 65,000 for the agricultural competition.

What's new this week? Channel 5 gets on the talent show bandwagon with Don't Stop Believing (7pm Sunday). Mission 2110 comes to BBC1 (4.05 Mo-We), and it's got to be better than Paris Hilton's New Best Friend Forever (ITV2, 7pm Monday) or Four Weddings Usa (UK Living, 9pm Monday). But the week's big debut is the new series of Celebrity Masterchef (BBC1, from 8pm Wednesday). Ten more celebrities test their ability to cook while under pressure. No, never heard that before.

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