Weaver's Week 2011-11-06

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"In the name of God and Mammon, go!" – Boris Johnson.


2.8 Hours Later

Slingshot Productions, performed in Southwark and Borough, 27-29 October

8pm, Sunday 30 October.

This column is sat on the steps of St Paul's in London, visiting the nightly Occupy London general meeting. We're trying to follow an intricate discussion about whether to have talks about how to have talks about when to have talks to talk about a press statement. Interleaved is a debate on whether that statement should or should not contain two mentions of Clement Attlee, or concentrate on matters more general; the rest of the discussion asks whether this statement the other people are talking about should even exist. Even with our quick brain, we're finding it difficult to cope with a debate spiralling into four or five levels of recursion. We've been here before.

Wind the clock back to the previous evening, and this column has relocated about a mile-and-a-half south-east, to Bermondsey Square. What's going to happen is that we, amongst about 350 contestants, will attempt to reach a secret location somewhere in south London. We'll be told to pass through seven checkpoints, in order, and there will be tasks to slow us down. All we've got to do is arrive before 11pm. And try to avoid contact with the zombies, of which more anon.

We do get to a game show point soon, honest.

This is immersive theatre, this is promenade theatre. If the audience wishes to see the cringing survivor, they must trek up Bermondsey Street to see her. She won't come to them, the participants have to move. If they wish to see the man with a frying pan, they need to travel further up Bermondsey Street. The man with a pan is on the street corner, and his daughter is pawing at the glass of the building behind, blood oozing from a weeping wound. It's worth the trek, even though the audience has to navigate past a couple of fast-moving zombies to get there.

Contestants are then directed to a multi-story car park near Guy's Hospital. Holed up on the very top floor is the next clue, in the person of a very nervous survivor. Players who have bought their anti-gravity boots and can zoom up thirty metres in a single bound find this task easy. This column has brought everything we thought we'd need – water, food, map, pen, torch, Oystercard. But no anti-gravity boots. We'll have to take the long way up.

And it is a long way up. Four floors by the steps, made longer by pressure from above as people were reluctant to pass a door with a zombie behind. Then up six floors in the car park proper, spiralling up a ramp, spotting one of the undead, and spiralling back down again.

We'd be less confused playing invisible chess.

And so this went on. Move up a level, see the opposition in their green medical scrubs, run back down. Up and down. Left and right. One of the levels appeared to be a safe haven, where we could catch our breath and ready ourselves for the next attempt to push upwards. We could have been here all night, spiralling ever deeper into a concrete jungle until we wonder about bailing out. But eventually persistence paid off, we spotted a gap and went for it. The reward? Location three, but first we've got to get down the stairs. And you know what's waiting in the lobby of floor six...

And so the game progressed: a man in a priest's costume is chained to a church gate. There's a butcher, and a pub. There's a homeless wise man, a hen party that have turned into the undead, and a mad professor. And always the threat that, around the next corner, might be the enemy in their lurid green overalls. When a player makes contact with one of them, the player risks infection, transmitted in a way invisible to the human eye.

Now, all of this is very well, but what does it have to do with our stated subject, broadcast media game shows? Very simple: this is the closest we're likely to get to playing Interceptor. The seminal late-80s show had its contestants follow a course laid down in detail by the producers, avoiding the titular Interceptor, and trying to meet up before a strict time limit ran out.

Interceptor He likes it.

There are many points of difference: Thames Television could only afford one Interceptor, 2.8 Hours Later has a cast of about 60, dotted at strategic locations around the course. The telly show could afford to charter boats, cars, fire engines, and helicopters; contestants here might like a lift from a bicycle, but we'll have to hire out ourselves. Interceptor ran to a strict time limit, because it had a valuable prize; 2.8 Hours Later is played strictly for the fun of it, and the time limit is loose to the point of not being there.

Differences in the details, but not at the heart of the production. Players in 2.8 Hours Later are directly responsible for their own success or failure. Their orienteering skills are tested, both to translate the street map into what they're seeing on the streets, and to work out where the Interceptors are likely to be lying in wait. Skill and patience and tenacity are questioned, both in drawn-out conflicts like in the car park, and in speed of rection when things jump out from the dark recesses of a building. It's a test of physical ability, of being able to sprint 200m in 30 seconds after walking three miles, and while not crashing into people standing in the middle of the street.

The Banker's fan club meeting.

And, ultimately, it's a test of teamwork. Do players trust the anonymous person they've met that night, who is offering thoughts on how they might to avoid the bad guys, or will their orienteering prove even worse than Annabel Croft's? Should they trust other players at all? Is it everyone for themself?

Slingshot's designers Simon Evans and Simon Johnson have let it be known that they view 2.8 Hours Later as a parable of modern times, that it has some relation to the irresponsible economic practices of the last decades. About how it can be better to work as a collective than atomised individuals, and how malfeasance by a few can affect everyone. This column was pleased to be in a group of seven people, of whom precisely one had been touched by a zombie with 200 metres to go. Two emerged unscathed.

If this were a game about winning and losing, we might suggest another idea from Interceptor: of no-one knowing whether their journey is futile. We had to convince one player from another team to stay in the game after she was caught in the car park, and we would be a lot happier if our made-up-on-the-spot excuse was actually true. An early capture changes the game dynamic for that player, and for their group, and we don't think it's for the better.


The Week paid for its own ticket, transport, and accommodation for 2.8 Hours Later. The opinions expressed are those of this column, and may not be representative of other UKGameshows contributors.

This column received its first degree from Birmingham University, we hope to commentate on University Challenge without any particular bias for or against either side.

Overall, 2.8 Hours Later is not about winning and losing, it's about taking part. It's the experience, the sights and sounds, completing tasks one never expected to do, meeting people one never expected to meet. It's immersive theatre for our days. And it's more than a bit different.

Agents of radical social change.

University Challenge

Second round, match 2: Birmingham v Newcastle

Last week, HyperbolicGoat wrote, "I want a contestant on University Challenge whose surname is 'Aaaaargh' so when it zooms in on them it's like a horror film." What, as a Wilhelm scream?

This week, we've two winners from the top of the series: Birmingham were all over Trinity Cambridge on 11 July, Newcastle stormed past Queens' University Belfast a fortnight later. Now, has everyone's brain gone to sponge? Very possibly; in the first five questions, it's the only correct answer anyone gives. There's some confusion between the plots of "The Rite of Spring" and "Cinderella", which suggests that the team might not have seen one of these works. Very briefly: fairy godmother, pumpkin, ball, midnight, glass slipper, prince.

The microbloggers are interested in one of the contestants' introduction, in which he said "Hey, I'm Kirk Surgener". SoLenitive reckons they'll be saying "Wazzzzzup!" next year. The teams are perplexed by the plaque sent up on Pioneer 10, and we're perplexed that in ten minutes, the teams are a combined 7/17. Newcastle leads by 45-0.

Birmingham ups the ante with their first starter, and bonuses on cell division. Newcastle know the links between Little Billy Shakespeare and TS Eliot, and also know some nonsense verse. The side is taking a spectacularly long time to not give answers, the music bonuses are only the eighth set awarded, and Newcastle has extended their advantage to 95-20. And they don't know that Parry wrote the music to "Jerusalem". We're waiting for the Thumper explosion ... and still waiting.

Let's take some microbloggers. AdventureOfNess: "Haha, so far I've known 2 answers on University Challenge that no one else knew!" Richardroper: "I've just got two poetry questions right on University Challenge. I think that speaks for itself." NotFaulty: "They really like using questions on The Waste Land in University Challenge, don't they". And why not. Where's the Annotated "The Waste Land" when we need it? Cripes, a Tripod site. Mind the green scrubs, everyone. http://eliotswasteland.tripod.com/

Cooksey87: "Good lord this team on University Challenge is slow. So much deliberating only to get it wrong anyway!" Newcastle are so much quicker on the buzzer, but we suspect Birmingham know the bonuses they're not being asked. Birmingham do at least get some starters, including the second visual round on abstract geometric paintings, cutting the lead to 140-45.

Coups in Equatorial Guinea and Panama are the unlikely subject of a set of bonuses, and when Newcastle remember that the French for "cucumber" sounds like "Poirot", we're thinking Game Over. Newcastle promptly confuse Germane Greer with an American.

More from the microbloggers, because it's more interesting than the last minutes on screen. Graciesayslove: "I love the way my papps walks in the door, and before greeting us, answers a string of questions on University Challenge :)" Jeremy_Nicholas: "Great haircut on university challenge!" At the gong, Newcastle has won by 220-80. Newcastle were right in 32/62 questions, Birmingham in 11/34, overall accuracy was 43/77. Random Punter o'the Week is Rachelclarkef1: "bad week for me on university challenge, only got 20"

Next match: Durham v Homerton Cambridge

Only Connect

Quarter-final 4: Analysts v Technologists

"This show has become an institution, and let's face it, that's where most of our contestants should be." Staggering out this week are the Analysts, who analyse things; and the Techonologists, who provide specialised technology to solve problems. Ever so helpful, these descriptions.

The Technologists kick off with Private Wilhelm, Jelly Babies, Mandrakes, and David Sutch. They buzz to say they haven't a clue. "Screaming" is the answer, apparently; Wilhelm's scream became something of a horror film cliche. A bonus for the Analysts, who get the audio question with "Candy Man" and "Ghostbusters". The songs are all performed by people with the name "Jr", and if Harry Connick is reading, Victoria would like a word.

Shall we continue with the game? Rope and Phone Booth and 24: are these things that happen in real time? If so, how come each hour-long episode of 24 lasted for 42 and a half minutes? Never mind, a point for the Technologists. Actually, given the television world loves live episodes at the moment, any danger of Only Connect Live?

The Wick o'Twisted Flax o'Doom has some pictures. A mobile phone. A wellington boot, a cowpat, and we claim two points. A custard pie completes the set, and the Technologists suggest they're all pies, such as Wellington Beef pie. No, no, and thrice no: these are things that can be flung, and flung in world championships.

The Technologists go from the cardiac cycle to A in Morse Code, it's a dot and a dash to a point. Groups of three things for the Analysts: they see the Yorkshire forced rhubarb triangle, and the slave trade triangle, and score three points, taking a 4-2 lead.

Round three is upon us, but not until round two has yielded. The Technologists get the Wick out of the way, with drug trade. Apparently, it's series of "The Wire", which (equally apparently) falls under the definition of culture. What looks like Greek mythology for the Analysts, until Shakespeare and Pope pop up, and reveals that it's naming conventions for planetary satellites. Wonderful feint in that question, and two points.

The Technologists appear to have heraldic positions, and it's not "passant" but "dormant" for lying down. The lion dormant for the Analysts, who are so completely stumped by the pictures that they try to give the connection. "Pacific" is the answer Victoria wasn't expecting to hear from the Technologists, but does, because it's right: the pictures describe oceans in increasing size.

A bonus is followed by two points from the Wearers of the One Ring. Quiz deity Mark Labbett (champion in series 2) reckons that "should have been converted for more". Quiz viewer Rallish has "gone back to getting nothing." It's a capital two points for the Analysts, picking up motorways with junctions on the M25. They lead, 8-5, which is also the range of speeds on that road. Mikebirty is annoyed at "London centric questioning – why aren't they asking about the jurassic park motorways" It's almost as if last week's documentary about the M25 went out nationally, rather than in the Don't Scare the Hare Memorial Slot in London only.

Grid 115 for the Analysts, and after the "Buffy" wall some weeks ago, we can spot five possible characters from Skins. The Analysts start by clearing up some skin conditions, which reminds us to review Big Brother next week. Plants growing in the earth, and gossip columnists are the other connections, they reckon. But will the team know their Skins, or can we palm them off with re-runs of As If... The plants are actually poisonous, and members of The Saturdays? Good try, there's a Frank(ie|y) there, but no chocolate mousse. Six points!

The Door (l) Frankie Sandford from The Door (r) Dakota Blue Richard as Franky Fitzgerald.

Types of tower appear to be the starting point for the Technologists, playing Grid 116. Television families might be a false lead, they can't get a set from the five they've got. Will the team be victims of crime? They will get the group of participants in a scam, but don't have enough time to sort out the groups: families in British sitcoms and Roald Dahl protagonists. Six points!

14-11 is the Analysts' lead going into the Missing Vowels round. It lasts no time at all: the Technologists go 4-0 on amphibians, but the Analysts strike back 3-1 with lines from "God save the Queen". Lipids is a limp 1-1 draw, and autobiographies of 2010 will not change the result. The Analysts have it, just, by 19-18.

Only Connect (2) "It's the end of your journey," says the host.

No! Please don't do this, Victoria. Leave it to The X Factor.

Next match: Into the semi-finals with Listeners v Antiquarians


Happy new year, Mastermind! This week's edition features a new, even more menacing interpretation of the theme tune. It comes direct from the Don't Scare The Hare memorial stage at Salford, and is recorded in jaw-dropping high definition. Quite why, we haven't a clue; experience has shown that Mastermind works perfectly well in the very low-definition world of radio.

Anyway, shall we begin? Let's begin. Andy Tucker is the first of this year's 96 (count 'em!) contenders, and his specialised subject is the Memoirs of Robert Bruce Lockhart (1887-1970). Lockhart was Britain's man in Moscow when the Tsar was overthrown in 1917; a year later, he was involved in a plot to assassinate Lenin. He was exchanged with a Soviet diplomat-turned-spy arrested in the UK. His autobiography, "Memoirs of a British Agent" (1932) was turned into the film "British Agent" (1934). A perfect gentleman? A perfect round, finishing on 18 points (0 passes).

Follow that, Simon Spiro. He's taking Human Parasites, which we think we've covered in sufficient detail already this week. The contender begins by giving the Latin name of an animal, when the common name was on the card. There's a mention of "Chagas disease", which sounds funnier than it is, and he's very lucky to get a question beginning clearly after the buzzer, and finishes on 15 (1).

Rebecca Wickens is next up, with the Life and Work of AC Swinburne (1837-1909). An alumnus of Eton College and Balliol Oxford (though he never received a degree), Swinburne wrote poetry in a Romantic, faux-mediaeval style, and achieved his greatest successes early in life, being dubbed "Britain's Best Poet" before his 30th birthday. A tale we'll be hearing a lot over the series: good start, falls away a bit towards the end. 12 (3) is a good score.

John Snedden will tell us about the Siege of Malta. At this point, we growl at the BBC press office, for not providing enough information to determine which siege of Malta. Is it the one in the Second World War (1940-43) repelling Italy, or the one in 1565 defending against the Ottomans? Locally, the latter is known as "the Siege", but given how this is a UK show... The contender knows what he's submitted, the 1565 edition, and knows all about the 1565 edition. He also has a perfect round, finishing on 17 (0).

Back to the stage comes Rebecca Wickens, who knows about Hotspur of Northumberland, Goya's black paintings, and the remarkable head-first dive of the gannet. Wouldn't catch Peter Duncan making such an elementary mistake. This contender's final score is 23 (5).

Simon Spiro was one of the Cambridge Quiz Society, runners-up from the 2009 series of Only Connect, and bantered with Victoria Coren about the possibilities of mind-controlling parasites. We're not going there. Instead, we'll welcome questions about Oasis, and holistic detectives, the town of Witney, and the Apocrypha. Will 27 (5) be enough? It just might.....

John Snedden needs eleven to take the lead, and an automatic place on the repechage board for the rest of the year. Though he knows the SAS, and Birmingham City's recent victory, there are gaps in his knowledge, and it's perhaps a bit closer than the contender might like. The final score is 30 (4), and that may well prove sufficient to see him again.

Andy Tucker, a Brain of Britain finalist, needs 13 to win, and from Edith Piaf, he's under way. He might have guessed "cauliflower ear", but even the guesses count. The grapefruit and the mouth of the Po are amongst the answers converted by this contender, St Ives pushes him past the winning post, and then he rushes on to finish on 36 (2).

A remarkable score. Now, it looks as though John Humphrys' desk has been infected by carrot juice left over from That Show We Don't Talk About. There will have to be an exorcism, done in the proper fashion, and televised. That'll happen next week, and Mastermind proper resumes on 18 November. After one whole heat!

This Week And Next

The listeners' edition of Round Britain Quiz is always worth listening to, and this year's was no exception. The teams were perplexed by some wonderfully taut teasers, such as this from Mark Noad. "If five contains four, and six contains nine, but eight and nine each contain only one – how many will you find in seven?" It's available as a podcast for the next three weeks, we reckon. http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/r4quiz

Ratings for the week to 23 October showed The X Factor retaining top spot, 10.7m saw Sunday's results show, compared to 10.35m seeing the dances on Strictly. Last year, the gap was around 3 million viewers. Have I Got News for You was seen by 4.65m viewers, University Challenge topped BBC2 with 3.05m, Deal or No Deal was Channel 4's biggest game show (1.85m) and Friday's Big Brother led for Channel 5 (1.7m). There was a year-best for Strictly on Two (2.3m), and Never Mind the Buzzcocks came back to 1.8m.

ITV continues to lead on the digital channels: 1.91m saw Celebrity Juice, 1.325m for The X Factor in HD, and 1.075m for Xtra Factor and The X Factorus. A League of Their Own scored 990,000, and Only Connect was seen by 805,000 people. It means Only Connect has made its debut on the Combined Digital Channel Top 30, landing in 24th position. Elsewhere, Big Brother's Bit on the Side recorded 405,000, Play Your Cards Right on Challenge 185,000, and S4C's Fferm Ffactor 69,000; all are year-best performances.

Two big highlights for the coming week: Brain of Brains (Radio 4, 3pm Monday) is the occasional challenge match between three very clever people indeed. Masterchef The Professionals (BBC2 and BBC-HD, Monday – Thursday) is the annual contest between professional chefs. Also this week: Young Choristers of the Year (Radio 2, 8pm Sunday), repeats of Deal or No Deal (Challenge, 8pm weekdays), old Jest a Minute (Radio 4Xtra, 9.30am Monday), Who Wants to be a Millionaire (ITV, 8pm Wednesday), and the story of The Bullseye Killer (ITV, Monday evening). The England men's football team play next Saturday, BBC1 retaliates with The Best of Tonight's the Night (5.55) and Strictly Come Dancing moves to 6.55. The X Factor begins at 8.15.

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