Weaver's Week 2011-01-09

The Week of the Year 2010 | Weaver's Week Index | Next week

And so it's into another new year, and the Poll of the Year 2010 is now open, the returning officer has cut the ribbon and cast the ceremonial first ballot. Voting continues until Saturday 15 January, so there's enough time to consider your vote carefully and not vote for the first thing that comes to mind.

Famous and Fearless


Famous and Fearless

Princess Productions for Channel 4, 2-7 January

Take eight people, give them a bit of training in spectacular things, and ask them to do them. Hmm. Not ruled out Bruce Forsyth and the Generation Game yet, have we?

The eight people in question are meant to be famous. We'd certainly heard of two of them – Kelly Holmes (defending runner-up from The Superteams and infamous non-Gladiator) and Rufus Hound (defending champion from Let's Dance for Comic Relief for Sports Relief). Stretching our minds confirmed that we'd actually heard of two others – Jonah Lomu (man-mountain at the '90s rugby world cups) and Kacey Ainsworth (singer of "Not pretty enough". Oh, sorry, that was Kacey Chambers.)

The other four are, as we'd learn on the first programme, Jenny Frost (the new Kerry Katona), Sarah Dunn (obligatory Hollyoaks crossover), Charley Boorman (the one who went round the world and isn't Ewan McGregor), and Sam Branson (known only for being the spawn of Virgin Richard, quite a claim to fame there). So it's not so much "Famous and Fearless" as "Some People You've Probably Heard Of And Some More You've Not and Fearless".

Famous and Fearless (l-r) Lomu, Hound, Branson, Boorman, Holmes, Ainsworth, Dunn, Frost

Quite why it took half an hour to run through all of these people's achievements is entirely beyond us. Unless it was to squeeze in reminders that what they're about to do is dangerous, people could get hurt, possibly seriously. Is the audience tuning in so that we can see someone lose a limb? And if we are, do we get to vote on whose right arm is ripped off? The answers are "very possibly" and "er, no". Can we have some respect from the host, who consistently refers to "girls" and "boys" as though he was trying to remind us of his previous series for Channel 4, a notorious flop in 2003. These are grown-up people, Gents and Ladies.

Now, all of this is happening live from the Liverpool Arena, slap-bang by the Mersey, and a (vigorous) stone's throw from Albert Dock. One of the events, surely, will be Pro-Celebrity Weather Forecasting using the map from This Morning With Richard 'n' Judy. What, they've decamped to UKTV Not Watched? Blimey.

Anyway, there's a live arena crowd, eager to see some hot action, thrills and spills and quite possibly bellyaches. They've been whipped up into a frenzy, and they'll cheer anything. Not just the host, but also his interviewer Clare Balding. And additional opinions provided by Little Jimmy Osbourne. And further waffles provided by the night's guest commentator, someone of the calibre of David Haye, one of about 200 people recognised as a boxing world champion. And then there's the friends and/or family of the competitors, the people who helped with their training, and event commentary from Nick Fellows. He's just about the only person involved who doesn't get his face on screen.

Famous and Fearless Readers are cautioned that this show may include Chris Evans

As this is a live programme, there's inevitably some viewer interactivity, because a live programme without any viewer interactivity is so twentieth-century. Here, it's a guessing game amongst viewers as to whether contestant A or contestant B will win when they meet after the commercial break. And, er, that's it.

It takes an awfully long time to introduce all of these people – something over half-an-hour on the opening edition. While they're doing that, we'll go off and do something else. With no University Challenge and no Only Connect this week, our Monday night was somewhat bereft, so we'll fast forward to Friday.


Heat 17

Jenny Lycett is the first contender in the new year, and she's got the Films of Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980). A native of Leytonstone, Hitchcock is almost certainly the most famous film director of all time. Career highlights include North By Northwest, Dial M for Murder, and pretty much everything else he did. The round is never going to live up to the remarkable achievements of the subject, but 9 (2) is certainly far from shoddy.

Remarkable achievements is clearly the theme of the week, as Tim Fenn tells about the Life and Works of John Hunter (1732-93). Hunter was a pioneering anatomist, founded the science of experimental pathology, and suggested that scientists didn't so much theorise as experiment. This contender theorised about how far he could run up the score; the experiment result is 17 (0).

Marryk Harvey continues the theme with the Harry Potter books (1997-2007). The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy writes, "Harry Potter was a perfectly ordinary 11-year-old boy. Then he discovered he was a wizard, and was whisked away to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry." Author JK Rowling created a complete and heavily detailed fantasy world, though this column found her prose style to be uncomfortably like treacle, which explains why we've never left King's Cross. Still, seventy squillion books have been sold, and the contender magics up a score of 16 (1).

Treorchy's own Philip Evans is the final contender tonight, he's taking the Welsh Settlement of Patagonia. Y Wladfa was a colony of people, mostly from in and around Bala, who emigrated en masse in 1865. After some considerable problems establishing the community, it eventually gained firm roots. It's a considered round, not quite as quick as the previous two, but ends on a very good 14 (0).

Not terribly easy for Jenny Lycett to win from this position, but the Cheshire Cat, Nirvana, and Greece help her to achieve a score of 18 (6).

Philip Evans remembers Liza Minelli's mother, the plot of "War and Peace", the treaty of Utrecht, and the nickname of IAN PAISLEY, a man so loud that he speaks in capital letters. The final score is 28 (1). It's enough for the repechage board, if he finishes as runner-up.

That's by no means certain: Marryk Harvey starts off with the history of Guantanamo Bay, the plots of "Enigma" and "Red Dwarf", the career of Mike Tyson, Statto, and why there are fewer argons in circulation than ten years ago – the incandescent lightbulb has mostly been replaced by the new sort. There's a long run of passes before he gets the very last question right, and finishes with 28 (7).

The repechage board:

  • Nick Mills 34 (4)
  • Hamish Cameron 30 (2)
  • Ann Skillen 30 (7)
  • James Collenette 29 (2)
  • Philip Evans 28 (1)
  • Duncan Byrne 27 (2)

Dr Fenn therefore needs twelve to win, eleven to make the repechage board. He's briefly flummoxed by literary prizes, but soon picks up speed – freelancers, "The Scream", parakeets, Graham Norton's character in "Father Ted". But there are passes and errors, and it's clear he's not going to burst through the tape and win by a mile. Instead, he'll win by a nose, with 29 (2).

So Tim Fenn is this week's winner. Philip Evans slots into fifth place on the repechage board, displacing Ian Packham. With seven episodes to go, he must stand a fair chance of qualifying.

Famous And Fearless (continued)

As we were saying before we lost the will to live, in the first programme, it was something like 30 minutes before anything of substance happened. After that, things did get going a little more quickly, with the flag dropping on the first event after a mere quarter of an hour. Or, to be exact, the commentator saying "It's up to Chris for the all-important countdown".

After the all-important countdown, the event itself is generally over in about the length of Channel 4's other Countdown. On Monday, for instance, a race on mini-motorcycles came crashing to a halt before the first corner. Quite literally, as Kelly Holmes and Jenny Not Kerry attempted to both pilot their vehicles into the same piece of space. As the passing Scottish deities pointed out, allowing this to happen would violate the laws of physics, and they both had to stop and dismount.

Famous and Fearless Two bikes into one space just doesn't go

This is the other problem with "Famous and Fearless": it looks spectacular, but the only danger is of not achieving the stunt. On the one hand, we don't tremendously want to see people badly hurt on national television, because that's simply not entertaining, and would lead to the show falling off air faster than ITV's latest sitcom. But we do at least expect a show with "Fearless" in the title to ask a little courage of its competitors, not wrap them up in cotton wool. Mini-motorcycles? There's more energy released by a powerdrill. Honestly, we reckon there was at least as much danger in BBC2's "Stargazing LIVE With Him Off Of Mock the Week And That Bloke From D:Ream", not least because it was blimmin' cold out.

The show suffered from conservative event formatting. All the recorded events were time trials, which lacked the cut and thrust of a real race. Too many of the the arena events were two-heats-and-a-final, which led to a lot of events concluded in the first corner. Watching people ride a powerboat on their own is mildly interesting; watching people race powerboats is far more gripping.

Famous and Fearless One of the competitors takes part in just off-street luge

But wait, there's more. "Some People You've Probably Heard Of And Some More You've Not and Not Tremendously Fear Inducing, This, Is It" has even more attractions. Each night's show has footage of a celebrity repeating their favourite recent Blue Peter stunt. So we had bit o'filler Sean Maguire reliving that moment when Andy Akinwolere went wing-walking on a biplane (a task that doesn't actually require any walking). We had everyone emulating all the presenters in those powerboats from a couple of years back.

We had one of the contestants imitating Zoe Salmon by driving a monster truck. There were people trying to be the new Joel Defries and going hovercraft racing; there were people trying to be the new Helen Skelton at roller derby. If this series gets renewed for next year (and, quite frankly, that's a big if), can we have the contestants being asked to do some kite fighting? Or actually make those friendship band thingummies without them falling to bits? Or conduct an entire interview with Miranda Cosgrave without removing the hand of a Minion?

At the risk of completely derailing our trail of thought, can we put on record how thoroughly pleased we are that Barney Harwood's joining Blue Peter? As we said in last May's Game Show General Election Exit Poll, "Watch this man, he's going to go far." Good luck to him: Joel's a more difficult act to follow than might appear. This column honours its All Predictions Wrong Or Your Money Back guarantee: refunds for this correct prediction are available on presentation of a proof of purchase.

Famous and Fearless Joel Defries takes part in an actual hovercraft race. More than the competitors here did.

Back in Liverpool, the action continues at its very sedate pace, two minutes of incident surrounded by fifteen minutes of very little happening. And it's not just the penalty area at Anfield, similar things are happening in the city centre. After the studio event, there's a filmed insert, showing something exciting like Street Luge. Or, when these competitors get their hands on it, Just Off Street Luge. It's coming down a hill while lying on a slightly modified longboard, and while wearing lots of safety gear.

Each edition ends with a Big Stunt involving a car. This is played by the winner of the gentlemen's competition and of the ladies' competition for an extra few points and ten grand for their nominated charity. An example of this was Flipping a Car, which doesn't involve lifting up a motor with one's own hands, or even arranging a simple lever so that when the contender jumps on it, it acts to invert the vehicle. No, this requires the contender to drive the car so that its right wheel rises up a ramp, and to do so at such a speed as to cause the centre of gravity to fall outside the chassis and hence rotate the car about its long axis. Sometimes, there's more spectacle on the host's face.

Famous and Fearless Coming up: monster truck racing from Iowa

A rather fearless performance was delivered by Mr. Hound, who spent most of the week defending himself from twits on Tw*tter against suggestions that this was the worst show in television history. It's not that bad, but neither is it going to be remembered well.

This is a show with lots of stunts, more spectacular than they might appear. With four regular commentators, there are too many voices, and at least one of them can be dispensed with. If it had been billed as Son of The Games, we'd almost certainly have given it approval. If it had been edited into a less elongated slot, we would have appreciated it. As it is, we don't think the programme quite delivers as much as its name promises.

If we're being honest, the most fearless member of the show has to be Clare Balding, who told her fans that, after surgery late last year, she needs no more treatment for possible thyroid cancer. Going under the knife has to be more scary than riding a bicycle over some plastic bumps.

Famous and Fearless Winner of the week: Clare Balding

This Week And Next

Ratings for the two weeks up to 26 December are now out. The Strictly Come Dancing finale on the 18th was seen by 14.3 million viewers, The Apprentice peaked on the previous Wednesday's semi-final with 8.75m, and the Total Wipeout Celebrity Special was seen by 5.65m. Take Me Out returned to a competitive 5.1m viewers opposite the Strictly finals night, and we're not entirely convinced that people have quite got the hang of The Million Pound Drop Live, as it was the top-rated programme on Channel 4+1. Where it's not live.

For Christmas week, Strictly continues to rule the roost, 10.95m saw John Barrowman win the yuletide title. The live celebrity Millionaire pulled in 6.65m viewers, as did the Christmas Eve HIGNFYQI was just behind on 6.45m. Pointless Celebrities entertained 2.3m people. On the digital channels, Celebrity Juice ruled with 1.16m, then comes The Only Connect Third-Placed Play-Off, seen by 665,000 eager fans. Bring on the wall? 390,000 on CBBC, and World's Strongest Man began its final run on Bravo with 170,000 viewers.

A schedule alert for all readers: the Only Connect Championship of Champions – pitting the Epicureans against the Gamblers – will go out at 8.30 on Monday, and not at the end of the month as billed in all listings magazines. Miss it and, in a very real sense, miss out.

Lots of new and returning shows this week. Celebrity Five Go to... (C4, 5pm weekdays) is an activity show for minor celebs. The Biggest Loser UK is now on ITV (9pm Monday) and hosted by Davina McCall. That just feels wrong. Cwis Mwyaf Cymru (S4C, 5pm Thursday) is Wales's Biggest Quiz hosted by children's presenters, and Michel Roux's Service (BBC2, 8pm) is a rare trip into competitive preaching. Or is it competitive waiting? Live performances begin on The All-Ireland Talent Show (RTE1, 6.30 Sunday), and back amongst us are May the Best House Win (ITV, 2pm weekdays) and Antiques Road Trip (BBC2, 5.15 weekdays). Countdown moves to an earlier time (C4, 3.10 weekdays), and there are lots of episodes of Superstars (ESPN Classic, from Tuesday).

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.

The Week of the Year 2010 | Weaver's Week Index | Next week

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