Weaver's Week 2011-10-09

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Coming up, a possible new host for University Challenge, a squirrel tells all, and Victoria Coren says something that makes an old sexist pay attention. But first, the show that was going out when we published this column, so you've probably missed it.

The Beat Goes On


The Beat Goes On

Gallowgate / Group M for Channel 5, 24-31 August and from 18 September

Some shows clearly have "breakout hit" written all over them. Pointless, that was always going to get promotion from BBC2. The Chase, that was more than a two-week summer filler. Some shows have "of marginal interest" written on their birth charts, and never miss a chance to live down to that little expectation.

So it is for The Beat Goes On. It's been sat on a Channel 5 shelf since last year, and when they eventually let it go to air, they shoved it out after Big Brother. Not in the post-pub slot on a Friday or Saturday night, when it might amuse people too tipsy to care, but on the sober night of Wednesday at 11pm. After two weeks of failing to set the world on fire, the controllers took it off and bunged the remaining episodes out before Big Brother on Sunday. That's before the morning repeat of Big Brother on Sunday, a time when only sports fans, insomniacs, and this column even think about rising. So, here's what you're missing.

The Beat Goes On Dave Berry. Don't forget to miss him.

Apparently, he used to be a DJ on London radio, he's known as a cheeky chap, and we're sure that's true in real life. Precisely none of this comes through the screen, where he's one of thirteen (count 'em!) credited performers. There are also six human players of the game, and a computer is used to adjudicate one of the rounds.

Meeting the contestants is the first chore, and it is a chore, going on for quite some time. Like Only Connect, there are three people on each team; like Only Connect, they have a link between them; unlike Only Connect, 700,000 people aren't going to be tuning in to see what happens.

Round one is eventually upon us, and it's a Sing the Chorus round. Dave Berry throws out clues to a familiar pop song, and the contenders need to buzz in and sing the chorus to him. The buzzers play the contestants' names, but not spoken as on The Chase. No, these are singing buzzers, the contestants' own singing is used. Back to the game, where someone's singing Rick Astley's most famous hit, and scoring points when they perform one of the selected words in the chorus. Yes, it's a round nicked from Andrew O'Connor's daytime filler show Talkabout, except the careful preparation of that show is replaced by the lyrical brilliance of Stock, Aitken, and Dennis Waterman.

The Beat Goes On Naming the song from the answers is much harder.

The commercial break comes as a merciful release. Sadly, there's no Sisters of Mercy concert in part two, just some people hearing songs in headphones. During the adverts, they went backstage and were reminded of the dance steps that went with the tunes they're about to hear. Then they step up and perform them in silence. All the teams have to do is write down what they're seeing. Our card reads "The Random Dancing segment from iCarly, except iCarly attracts viewing figures this show can only dream about. And one of its hosts looks a bit like Victoria Coren."

Round three involves the The Beat Goes On House Band (Dave Bishop, Paul Dunne, Pete Murray, Steve Pearce, and Ralph Salmins). Each of them plays a different musical instrument, and one of them will begin by playing a popular tune. If the contenders don't recognise what they're hearing just from the horn line, another instrument will be added into the mix, but fewer points will be awarded. This process continues until all five are playing their instruments, or one of the contenders guesses correctly, or we note that they're showing Antiques Roadshow on UK History, and that seems far more interesting.

After another commercial break, round four is a Pitched Battle. A member from each team challenges the resident singers (Mark Daley and Francesca Hoffman) to perform a karaoke classic. The contenders will be given marks based on how close their tuning is to the resident "pitch-perfect" singer. They're not going to be marked against the original recorded version, as happened on Who Dares Sings! a few years ago. No, they're going to be marked against someone else's interpretation of someone else's song. It's a wholly unsatisfactory state of affairs, but it is the same for both sides, and the difference between the teams is about the size of Richard Hammond, whose Engineering Connections on National Geographic probably has more going for it than this show.

The Beat Goes On Flick Colby, RIP.

Round five features the "Boogieberries" (Simon Barnum, Francine Cornell, Rebecca Leung, Chelsea Inez Seymour, Oliver Wheeler) who have been given lyrical dance routines to learn and perform in silence, hoping to tell the story of the song by their actions alone. It's a test of how well the teams know their pop music, and of the talents of choreographer Michele Thorne. She doesn't come up wanting, we just find the round terribly derivative of Ruby Flipper from the 1976 Top of the Pops repeats.

After this round, there's a clumsy edit, suggesting that a call-and-lose contest has been called-and-lost. The lower-scoring team are released. They're free to go, to leave, safe in the knowledge that only their friends actually saw them making fools of themselves on network television. The higher-scoring team have one more task: take part in one of those synchronised dance move games, because if all three members can hit the pressure pad at the right time, and it's the same time as the screen's telling them to, they could win a substantial amount of money.

It's a fiddly endgame, unlike the rest of the show there's absolutely no way we can play along at home, nor can we judge how well or badly the team are doing. We can see they're moving their feet, but we can't really watch all three at the same time. Eventually, the performance ends, and the prize money is totted up – in the episode we saw, £4800 for the team. Divvied up between the viewers, that makes ... our tenner's in the post, folks.

The Beat Goes On We're gonna stomp all night morning.

Our reaction when this show was over: "that's an hour of our life we're never going to get back." It's not a bad show in the way of Love Thy Neighbour and Red or Black?, it's just tremendously derivative, and the whole manages to be less than the sum of the parts. Dave Berry doesn't add much to proceedings, the show has as many regular contributors as a 1970s variety programme, and though the crowd in the studio are clearly having a good time, it doesn't come across on screen.

In short: this show's probably out-rating Men & Movies' airing of The Hindenburg Disaster. But we could be wrong.

University Challenge

Heat 14: London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine v Nottingham

Last of the first-round matches, and the teams know that 145 will bring them back to the studio no matter what. We've now seen the winners, and dickon_edwards asks, "Hey, does Birkbeck send a team to University Challenge? Or do mature students not count?" Birkbeck can send a team to this show, they actually won in 2003, but they've not made the televised stages this year.

The final diversity watch shows one woman on the panels this week, and Anthony_Cutt asks, "If you could have a female host of University Challenge, who would you have?" Good question. We're thinking of someone quick on the draw, who knows a lot, and who can banter a bit with the contenders. Or, failing that, bully them as Thumper does. Assuming Gail Trimble is unavailable, we'll nominate Alice Arnold. You know, Radio 4 newsreader, host of Listen Against, probably available for the Voice of the Questions on Channel 4's "The Bank Job" next year.

All of this is to rather conceal a one-sided start to the game, where the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine's highlight is no-one knowing a question about gravity. Nottingham leads by 85-0 after the first visual round, but LSHTM stages a comeback, with torments from Hell and wives from China. But not the sort who'll take a custard pie for their husbands.

It's clear that neither of the sides are football fans, because they don't know that "Queen of the South" is a club from Dumfries, and they could have had an approving look from Thumper. Thoughtfox notes, "I swear University Challenge is getting harder!" "I want you to multiply the number in the title of the starter song with the number in this song", is the instruction for the audio round, on numbers in the title of popular songs. "What's 16,500 minus 69 squared?" That's not "harder to answer than to ask", that's Numberwang! Nottingham's lead stands at 110-70.

Treaclecat1987: "University challenge – living life to the fullest !" We heartily agree. LSHTM have recovered from their slow start, to draw level at 110-110, and move ahead with help from Richard Trevithick. The second visual round is Name That King, no-one knows Edward I, and LSHTM has a slim lead, 130-110. University Challenge have nicked a round from Only Connect, asking people to complete a sequence, this time The 39 Steps in reverse order. That gives Nottingham the lead back, and they impress by knowing their Alberta from their Manitoba. Eh!

University Challenge London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine: John Bradley, Grace Eckhoff, Martin Harker, Michael Wallace.
Nottingham: Harry Dalton, Matthew Byrne, Lee Cooper, Ewan Pickard.

Chaletfan has another idea to make the show more interesting: "If my old uni had entered University Challenge, we'd have done an interpretative dance to answer every q. It would have been magnificent." Knowledge that the aggregate magnetic flux is always zero puts LSHTM on 140, and though they don't retake the lead, the bonus "Iona" puts them on 145, sufficient to knock St Anne's Oxford off the repechage board. There's still a match to be won, and Nottingham do well with three on bits of the body. Seanandrew1 tells us, "People who put plastic containers in dishwashers should be shot." We entirely agree. Italian artists allow Nottingham to go 45 points clear, and plot points from The Count of Monte Cristo make it Game Over.

Yoga positions and emblems of the Soviet Union allow LSHTM to cement their place. At the gong, Nottingham have won, 215-155. The stats: LSHTM 22/48 right, Nottingham 34/59 with two missignals. Random Punter is seth1979: "Is clearly a genius. 9 questions right on university challenge."

Next match: London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine v Homerton Cambridge

Only Connect

Heat 8: Rock 'n' Rollers v Trade Unionists

"Some people like to watch programmes with Peter Andre. Good news: we've got lots of flashing coloured lights". Victoria, you liar. It's 7.30 on Thursday for flashing lights, on Top of the Pops. There's to be no random dancing from this Sam Puckett look-a-like. The Rock 'n' Rollers are mainstays on the Scottish rock music scene, and Victoria asks if the Scots do rock music better than anyone. Of course they do, and we could wax lyrical on reasons why for the rest of the column, and probably the rest of the year. The Trade Unionists are all members of the executive council of a trade union, but Victoria won't tell us which. Nasty.

The Rollers won the toss, and lead with some islands and the team ekes out the answer: one island, two countries. There's coloured writing and an unusual typeface for the Trade Unionists' first question, but where would we see red "Drama" and orange "General Fiction"? Trivial Pursuit? No, we did that last year. It's actually Penguin Books' colour coding, nasty.

Worthy of the Wick o'Twisted Flax o'Doom, which itself is hiding Tycho Brahe and The maid in the garden. One of the Rollers is touching their nose, and that's enough to clue the team in: these are things and people who lost their nose. One point. Audio for the Unionists, with December '63 and the 1812 Overture. No, you didn't hear "Summer of 69" on this show, unless there's a 20-minute delay from University Challenge. A point.

What's in the Eye of Horus? Vector and Dynamic Ribbon and Swoosh, and they're going for sporting marks. No, and please don't give any more tradenames, the Unionists get a bonus point for getting the somewhat more generic corporate marks. They have the pictures: a ration book, some antlers, railway tracks, and that's two points for, er, Points. So the Unionists lead, 4-2.

Round two, what's fourth? The Missing Vowels round. Oh, sorry, what's next in the sequence? "Five alive, ten again..?" They're going for "This little finger on my right," which is wrong, but very close. "Bite and right" is the answer, the rhymes from "Once I caught a fish alive". Nock and Fletch and Shaft can only mean that we're leading to the Head, because it's the world of arrows, and two points to the Unionists.

Pictures for the Rollers, a bloke, a diamond ring, a key on the piano. Not even a sniff of a guess from the Rollers, and the Unionists have a guess that vaguely fits. The actual answer is Index, because that was Ralf Little and Middle C. Biology for the Unionists, going from the system to the organ to the tissue to the individual cell. Good trade unionists appreciate the way cells (or workers) link to form a whole system.

Space shuttles is the final connection for the Rollers, who need confirmation the fourth to go up wasn't Discovery, but nor was it Enterprise or Odyssey. Atlantis was the fourth to fly into space; Enterprise was the test shuttle, used for a handful of landings in 1977. The Unionists see 3: Man, 4: Protocol, and gamble on 6: Sense. It's a good one, being the film title with ordinal numbers. And it's a good round for the Unionists, who lead by 11-2.

The Unionists get their grid, and start off by looking at characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Would this show really go for something so obvious? There's a set of birds of the paridae family, or "tits" as they're referred to on the show. They'll be showing a squirrel with its nuts on The Great British Bake Off next. People with the forename Isaac is the next group. Aargh! It's not: these are hymn writers, Charles Wesley and Cecil Alexander and so on. Former national capitals and variant forms of Elizabeth bring up the rear. Seven points!

What's in for the Rollers? Lots of Monopoly pieces, but that looks like a red herring. How's about people called Jesse? Things that can be prefixed by "Steam", that's come out. Jesse Boot was the one they didn't pick up earlier, that group now emerges. The last two remain stubbornly concealed: even after revelation, there's some theatrical lighting accessories, and things that can be driven. Four points!

Only Connect (2) Back to the fretboard.

Well, that's looking like Game Over: the Trade Unionists lead by 18-6. The lead only increases with some food named after places, and bodily fluids has us hoping for the bell so that the Rollers aren't completely outclassed. There's always space for Things Collected in Blue Peter Appeals, this year's is money from selling cakes; and Teams in Major League Baseball mean the Trade Unionists win with 29 points, only a score ahead of the Rock 'n' Roller's score.

"And if you're still waiting for Peter Andre, pffffft," says Victoria. He probably went to Don't Scare the Hare, expecting a larger audience. The fool!

Next match: Social Networkers v Antiquarians

This Week And Next

Dana Domestic isn't the only Irish game show contestant to run for political office. Barry Caesar Hunt from The Apprentice Ireland is set to stand in a by-election for Dublin West at the end of the month. He'll be hoping to do better than Katie Hopkins from the UK's 2007 series; she stood as an independent candidate at the last European Parliament elections, and failed to beat Mebyon Kernow. We can only think of one game show regular who has gone on to greater political success: Robert Kilroy-Silk, who turned the excruciating flop Shafted into an only slightly less cringeworthy eight months with the UK Independence Party.

Their fate lies in their hands: to share, or to give Have I Got News for You a clip they'll repeat at any opportunity?

Which brings us to an oh-so-surprising announcement from the Channel 5 press people. Amy Childs is to make a new show for C5. Readers may recall Miss Childs from her appearance in the recent Celebrity Big Brother, for which she broke a contract for ITV2's The Only Way is Essex. Clearly, CBB was being used to promote other programmes on the same channel. Or other products produced by the same media empire, as the "Kerry and Lucien" monster is on the cover of OK! magazine. They're on and off more often than the Blackpool illuminations.

Ratings in the week to 25 September, and ITV are back! 11.1m people saw The X Factor, 5.5m for Family Fortunes. No game shows in BBC1's top thirty, which is bad news for Secret Fortune. The Great British Bake Off takes third place, with 4.25m seeing the goodies. QI had 3.4m, University Challenge 2.75m, and Come Dine With Me led for Channel 4, 1.95m. Antiques Master bowed out with 1.7m viewers, and The Million Pound Drop is regularly scoring similar figures on the weekend.

Big Brother's best night was the Tuesday nominations, with 1.65m, but ITV2 had the whip hand, with 1.85m seeing Thursday's Celebrity Juice, a full 300,000 ahead of that night's BB, and 40,000 ahead of Deal or No Deal's jackpot win that day. The X Factor Us debuted with 1.46m viewers, ahead of The Xtra Factor (1.27m) and The Bachelor UK (1.25m). X Factor on ITV-HD made 1.06m people happy.

The other big digital noise: Come Dine on More4 attracted 760,000, The Only Connect 645,000, Mock the Week on Dave 505,000, and the finale of Britain and Ireland's Top Model 400,000. Big Brother's Bit on the Side had 270,000 on 5* at 11pm, Masterchef Australia on Watch 220,000, Pointless arrived on Challenge to 95,000 viewers, and Food Network tugged 80,000 for Cupcake Wars.

Low expectations for High Stakes (ITV1 and Channel, 8pm Tuesday), as viewers to UTV don't see it until 11pm, and those watching STV have something else entirely. Elsewhere, Signed by Katie Price (UK Living, 9pm Monday) follows around the Eurovision reject in search of better grammar, the return of Celebrity Coach Trip (C4, 5pm weekdays), and there's a special edition of The Write Stuff (Radio 4, 6.30 Wednesday). New runs of Fferm Ffactor (S4C, 8.25 Wednesday) and Have I Got News for You (BBC1, 9pm Friday). Next Saturday's talent shows: Strictly at 6.25, The X Factor at 7.45, and there's a half-hour crossover.

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