Weaver's Week 2011-06-05

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YTV for Channel 4, 2 November 1982 – present

Since we last caught up on Countdown, we've had a slew of winners. Mary Adie qualified for the Finals Week; Chris Childs and Adrian Turner had one win each, Scott Robson took two wins. Roger Edwards had three wins, Joe Jenkins and Jennifer Strachan both took a teapot and nothing more. Tony Atkins had two wins, Cliff Barnes one, and the unrelated Tom Barnes became an octochamp. Liam Herringshaw had four wins before his run was interrupted for the finals sequence; his scores have been good enough to suggest he could well qualify for the Christmas Finals Week.

We've also heard that Jeff Stelling will leave Countdown at the end of the year. He'll have completed three years in the hot seat, and wishes to trade a programme that lots and lots of people watch for a channel seen in almost exactly no homes. If Countdown is the nation's favourite parlour game, its second-favourite might be Guess Who The New Countdown Host Will Be. There will be an awful lot of speculation, we're not going to add to it.

QF1: Michelle Nevitt (8th seed, 4 wins, 336 pts) lost to Adam Gillard (1st seed, 8 wins, 903 pts), 76-117

Jeff notes that we've had 99 contestants on this series. Eight of the best are here for the finals week, but their number doesn't include Graham Hill – he won six games in April, and would have been number six seed. That allows Michelle Nevitt to come back, the Glaswegian had four wins in March before losing to Andy McGurn, who we'll see later. She's up against Adam Gillard, a student and half-marathon runner from London. He strikes in the first round with HOMIES, then it's two sevens and a pair of PANDAS before the numbers round. That goes to Adam, and he takes a 36-20 lead into Alistair McGowan's Impressive Poetry Corner.

"I'm gonna have a go at a nine," says Michelle after the break. She's got CONVERTER, and eighteen points. Adam, he also has a CONVERTER, so the gap remains. The next round begins with Rachel pulling TOAST out of the bag, but both players tie on sevens. It's the same in the next round, but AIRIEST is another winner for Adam in round nine. Then comes Susie's etymology point, on "getting hammered". A simple numbers game has Adam leading 85-62 at the break. More sevens in the next rounds, but Adam seals the win with MORALISE in the final letters game. Let's be fair, Michelle is a quality contestant, she had a little misfortune to lose in the heats, and has now come up against a top seed in cracking form. How good? Prior to missing the conundrum, Adam has been just two points away from perfection, ceding a single point in two letters games.

Countdown Top seed Adam Gillard.

QF2: Edward McCullagh (2nd seed, 8 wins, 896 pts) beat Andrew McNamara (7th seed, 5 wins, 466 pts), 101-36

Dressing room riders is the opening gambit from Jeff Stelling. Edward McCullagh is from Northern Ireland, and since he won his eight games in February, he's moved jobs and is now at a supermarket. Andrew McNamara is a teaching assistant from Ponteland, his five wins came in March and April. Edward offers an invalid six in the opening round, allowing Andrew to steal it, and THINE his lead was five. Edward is aware of UNAWARE, it's a winner, and he could have put an S on the end for an extra point. He is able to FESTOON the studio and has INDORSED his score with more winners – the latter is a legal term. Edward almost achieves perfection in a tricky numbers game, but slips up at the end, so it's 22-12 at Alistair McGowan's Impressive Poetry Corner.

We return with EPONYMS, like Bother's Bar, named after it's owner Mr. Bar. There's GRADIENT in the next round, but ODERATING* from Andrew is never going to score. SCALDS and NOVATES are more winners for Edward, whose opponent hasn't scored in four letters rounds. He gambles on six small numbers, and picks up ten points. So does Edward, the first time both have scored in the same round: it's 60-22 at the interval. Normal service in the next round, as UPSTAIR lifts Edward's score further; he wins when both players offer LEGGIER in the next round. Edward proves his worth by getting the last numbers, and brings up his century with the conundrum. A commanding performance.

Countdown Second seed Edward McCullagh.

QF3: Tom Barnes (3rd seed, 8 wins, 822 pts) lost to Mary Adie (6th seed, 5 wins, 498 pts), 73-83

Mary has had to give up a trip on a seaplane to be with us today. Hope it's worth it. Gregg Wallace is in Dictionary Corner, and he's talking about some show called Masterchef. Susie Dent confesses her general ineptitude at all things sporting. Nowt wrong with running away from the football. There's a difference in the first round, as Tom offers TIEFING^, which is fine except there's only one "I" in the selection, so Mary's TEEING wins. It's left to DC for the winner in the next round, CHATLINES. What happens if you call 0898 COUNTDOWN? Does Jeff give you four from click ... brrrrr

That'll be why he's leaving. The next selection is MEDIOCRE, a winner for Tom. Equality in the letters and equal inaccuracy in the numbers means Tom leads 30-28 at the anecdote. UNMIXED is Mary's offer after the break, and it's a winner! Gives her the lead by five points. There's another winner a couple of rounds later, OVULATED the only eight in the round. Mary picks four large numbers, as Tom did earlier in the show, but it's the octochamp who comes away with ten points. 56-53 to Mary at the interval.

Susie's Origin of Words feature was on stepping up to the line, and that's certainly what these contestants have done. We're heading to a BLANKET finish, thanks to two JOINER people and a couple of flat rounds. They're DOTTIER than each other, the three points remain into the numbers, and Mary goes four-large again. Tom gets within four, Mary's within one, and she's ten ahead going into the conundrum. Which is worth ten points. Mary buzzes on 28 seconds to say "Gooserun", which is never right. Tom buzzes on 28.5 seconds to say "Newergoose". No. Someone in the audience asks if it's one of Jeff's EROGENOUS zones, which it is. Mary Adie has upset the applecart, she'll meet Edward McCullagh in Thursday's semi-final.

Countdown Securing an upset: Mary Adie.

QF4: Ned Pendleton (5th seed, 8 wins, 664 pts) drew with Andy McGurn (4th seed, 8 wins, 702 pts), 89-89 (Andy wins on tie-break)

Jeff begins the show talking about baked beans. Lovely. Ned Pendleton is from Covent Garden in London, and since his octochamp run in February he's been hosting couch-surfers. Andy McGurn is a social worker from Leeds, and forgot to mention his girlfriend Reika when he won his eight, as promised. That's bad, but the letters are worse: 4-4 in the opening round. Ned tunnels to success with DUNNIES, then it's sixes for two letters rounds and a simple numbers round (if a four-large can ever be simple), so 33-26 at the anecdote.

Both players go for NOTABLES afterwards, then Andy offers DISCOERS*, but it's not in. Ned's given DISCOES, and that's just fine, and doubles his lead. Everyone's being PROFANE in the next round. Ned comes up with OATHED*, but that verb form is not in the dictionary of everyday words; that allows Andy to trim the lead to eight points. It's another ten-all numbers game, with two very different methods of reaching the target, and Ned leads 65-57. Sixes and eights in the following rounds, and then Andy strikes back. TOMATINE, a compound found in the tomato plant, and the scores are 79-79.

We have a tie, with two rounds to go. CECIL doesn't help break it, throwing up a target of 600 in a selection with 100, 8, and 2. There's a handshake before the (first?) conundrum, UNTOACRIB. Time passes. Ned buzzes on 18 seconds to say "Curbation?" But no. Andy has time, but doesn't have a clue. "Incubator" was the answer that evaded them both. The second conundrum is ONIONPIGS. Ned rings in on eleven seconds to say "Snooping". No. Andy buzzes to say "Poisoning", and that's his victory. Countdown doesn't get tighter than this!

Countdown The defeated quarter-finalists: Michelle, Andrew, Ned, Tom (clockwise from top left).

SF1: Adam Gillard (9 wins, 1020 pts) beat Andy McGurn (9 wins, 791 pts), 108-52

Jeff and Rachel are discussing their holiday plans already; Rachel wants to go glamping – a glamorous form of camping. We're not here to see Susie Tent, but the first semi-final. The first four letters say what we're all thinking about Jeff's puns: DIRE. We'll miss 'em when they're gone. Andy takes the lead in the opening round with ADMIRES, and both are PRECISE in the next round. Adam's next winner is bleeped out by the John James Parton Memorial Swearing Machine, but Gregg indicates that it was similar to BLISSES, just a letter shorter. Can we say "DIALOGUE" on national television? Yes? Another winner for Adam, there. He goes on to achieve perfection on a six-small numbers game, so leads 31-14 at the anecdote.

After the break, just two CORNETTI are on offer. There'll be more of that on the new run of Popstar to Operastar, we've no doubt. Eight and six each when play resumes, but Adam sends his RETINUE in for another winner. LUNATION is another winner, and with the lead over 30 points it's difficult to see Adam losing from here. Andy manages to lose his thread on a two-large numbers game, so Adam is ahead by 67-28 at the interval.

The game formally ends as a contest when Andy offers FUMATED* in the penultimate round. Really, though, there was only the one winner after Adam pulled away at the end of the first period. Andy knows he's finishing his career, and picks the only combination he's not seen: three large. It's simple, being 575 containing 10, 50, and 75. The only question in the conundrum is whether Adam can solve it and bring up his century. Would grain? WOODGRAIN it is, and Adam's done it yet again, ten centuries in ten games.

Countdown Andy McGurn.

SF2: Edward McCullagh (9 wins, 997 pts) beat Mary Adie (6 wins, 581 pts), 120-41

"This series seems to have flown by," says Jeff. Probably because it has: the first game of the new year was on 10 January, barely 22 weeks ago. Last year, the spring series ran on a fortnight longer. Edward says his target is to exceed 1000 points for the series, Mary says that no-one ever knows what will happen on Countdown. We do: a bad pun from the host. Edward HOOVERS up in round one, so does his opponent. Edward picks up some TANGELOS, which is a winner, and SOLARISE in the last letters round of the period. Perfection on a four-large numbers game gives Edward a 39-13 lead at the anecdote.

Eights in the first round back, then Edward comes through with PANTOUM, a Malay word. It tips the lead to 33, and we really can't see this game going any other way. He considers risking NUCLEATES in the next round, which would have been allowed, but CLEANEST is still a winner. "I'm not CALM" confesses Mary, as Edward gets another winner; an easy numbers game means Edward leads 78-31 at the interlude. And the winners keep on coming – MONIKERS, NEURONE, MOUSSED bring up Edward's century with two rounds to spare. Top score of the series – Adam Gillard's 126 – is safe, perhaps only because Edward didn't risk that nine-letter word. Edward pulls off the conundrum in barely a second, to record a convincing win.

Final: Adam Gillard (10 wins, 1128 pts) vs Edward McCullagh (10 wins, 1117 pts)

As we see, there's barely anything to choose between these contenders: eleven points in over 1100 is nothing. Even so, Edward says he's feeling "less than hopeless"; is this a reverse psychology on his opponent? Dictionary Corner's task is to beat the champion and his runner-up in any round. Just the one.

Straightaway, we're able to separate the contenders: Edward starts with BROWNIES, the only eight-letter word in the selection. The next selection very nearly spells out Aphrodite; it's eights all round. Sevens in the next, followed by proof that both players are TWISTED. It's like the early stages of a gladiatorial combat, this, one has made an early strike, his opponent seems unhurt. Adam picks six small numbers, nothing above 8, and a target of almost 800. It's Edward who is able to declare within ten, picks up five for his effort, and leads by 35-22 at the anecdote.

After the break, we bring on the retiarii, both are SPEARING at each other, while Dictionary Corner (still haven't beaten the gladiators) are messing about with GRANNIES. Not during transmission, purlease! We'll declare AMNESTIES for that, because both players pick up the maximum in that round. Edward is still on for a maximum game ... not any more, because he only declares five. Dictionary Corner have completed their task for the day, their winner is MATCHUP. In today's series final matchup, Edward doesn't trust Rachel to pick his numbers, so one large it is. It's not a tricky game, and Edward's lead is 83-70.

Into the final part, and Adam might have to take a few risks if he's to recover this deficit. No-one can accuse him of playing an INSULAR game, it's no more isolated than Edward's, so seven each. Adam needs to VARIATE from his opponent's word, but they both put up the mathematical term. In the final letters game, there is a break: CURIO loses to CARDIO. But it's in Edward's favour, and he now leads by nineteen points with twenty to earn. One large in the numbers *should* wrap it up, it's a target of 139, but both players are scribbling towards the end. Are they there? 139 each, ten points each, and that's game over. The conundrum is academic – Adam guesses incorrectly on about 20 seconds, and the number of people who know that ARGUETOSS is an anagram of STEGOSAUR can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Edward has won, 113-94.

Countdown Edward with the Richard Whiteley Memorial Trophy.

Both victor and runner-up offer congratulations and complement each other, and then comes the moment of the presentation, only slightly soured as Jeff reminds us that the new series begins on Monday. For this is Edward McCullagh's moment, the latest in a long line of Countdown champions.

This Week And Next

News reaches us that Eurovision Song Contest really has proven to be a great boost to Jedward's career. The big-haired Irish duo have been invited to appear in the middle east, and on Pop Idol Albania. Last Sunday's newspapers also reported that they performed for a visiting dignitary, which might explain why he left the country before nightfall.

Speaking of Eurovision, it seems to have become the testing ground for future pride festival bills. On the main stage at Birmingham Pride last weekend were Eurovision winners Katrina and the Waves, and appearances from Eurovision losers Scooch and Josh Dubovie. Absent from the bill were any of the squillions of overseas winners or competitors. We do wonder if there's more than a coincidence here, if the BBC's policy towards Eurovision is being shaped by gay men and (if so) whether this is going to help, hinder, or not affect its chances of winning.

Jo O'Meara was also on the main bill, though S Club (6|7|) never appeared on Eurovision, she is a Celebrity Big Brother alumna. Half of this column's faves Voodoo Hussy played a less predictable set in a smaller tent. Half of a five-piece band? Hurry up Liz it's time.

We hear that the Castaway island of Taransay is up for sale. Though it wasn't actually a game show, Castaway 2000 was the apotheosis of the fly-on-the-wall observational game show and overshadowed Survivor terribly; it's best remembered for Ben Fogle. Two million quid buys the island off the Scottish coast.

Normal service resumes in the ratings to 22 May, where Britain's Got Talent leads with 9.8m viewers. The Apprentice has 8.1m, and HIGNFY records 4.65m. The Cube and Sing If You Can both fall just short of 4m. The Apprentice You're Fired leads on BBC2 with 2.85m, Great British Menu had 2.35m, and The Million Pound Drop Live was Channel 4's biggest game show with 2.3m viewers.

We're slightly glad that the run of Celebrity Juice is coming to an end, because we're just about out of superlatives to describe its success. 2.25 million people saw this week's episode, making it more popular than new primetime Come Dine With Me (a mere 2.05m). Britain's Got More Talent Auditions was seen by 1.03m, and 960,000 saw the main show on ITV1 HD. CBBC's School of Silence had 355,000 viewers, making it far more popular than Dating In the Dark (230,000 on UK Living).

Secret Dealers returns to ITV this week (3pm daytimes, not STV); readers in North America can expect to see it remade as Buried Treasure in the near future. There's also last year's run of Fort Boyard on TV5 (8pm Monday), and the So You Think ... You Can Shove This Around The Schedules and On Its Grave Dance final (BBC1, Saturday 7.15 and 10pm), neatly avoiding Bungalow house band Creamy Muck McFly ... in The Cube (ITV, 8.40).

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