Weaver's Week 2011-11-27

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It's pop culture overload this week.

The X Factor


The X Factor

ITV, since 2004

This review looked at the shows transmitted on 19 and 20 November 2011

It's easy to deride The X Factor as formulaic television, populated by people with less talent than a pile of toenail clippings, and actually believing in its own importance. It's what we said last time we reviewed the show, six years ago. Nothing in the hugely bombastic introduction shakes us from this idea.

Peter Dickinson, the man with the biggest voice on television, steps into the world's largest echo chamber to tell us what we didn't see last week. Stars are moved. Planets wobble on their axes. Grassington is shaken to its core, as over the streets of London, a flying X appears, before smashing into Borough Market.

Out of the wreckage emerges a familiar face. It's Dermot O'Leary off of Big Brother's Little Brother, everybody! And he's surrounded by half-a-dozen women in catsuits! Whatever is the future Mrs. O'Leary going to say about this?

The X Factor Dermot announced his betrothal to Dee Koppang on The Xtra Factor that night.

Before we can find out, we're being introduced to the stars of the show. Louis Walsh, a man with many faces. Tulisa Contostavlos, a woman with something written on her arm and a surname that even Peter Dickinson can't wrap his tonsils around. Kelly Rowland, the talented one out of Destiny's Child. And Gary Barlow, the boring one from Take That, a popular beat combo from 1991.

The stars of the show sit behind a desk, from where some of them will introduce performers. We begin with Gary Barlow telling us that we're about to watch Craig Colton sing someone else's song. This week, Mr. Colton will be performing "Licensed to kill" from the 1989 James Bond movie of the same name. It's a song that requires a fabulous, rich, highly-toned soulful vocal. The performance lacks power, it lacks control, it lacks passion. At one point, we're reminded of Michelle McManus, and not in a good way.

The X Factor Craig Colton, representing Gary Barlow.

The other stars give their views on the performance they've just witnessed. Or, in the case of Kelly Rowland, some vapid nonsense. "Let me offer you some constructive criticism," she begins. "Er, er, I love you." Right. That's really going to help Mr. Colton improve. Others object to the song, which apparently is the choice of Mr. Barlow. "That's lazy critique," he says in his dull monotone.

"This isn't a song-choosing contest." Oh, but it is. The contestants don't sing themselves, they sub-contract that out to other people, and those tokens need to perform at their best. That song didn't allow Mr. Colton to give his best. There's much bickering amongst the crowd, and Dermot cuts to a commercial break.

Back on stage, Kelly is introducing the first of her three chips. Janet Devlin is on a well-dressed stage, with some trees (now devoid of leaves, it is the middle of November) and a bench. She's performing "Kiss me" from (er) "She's All That", a best-forgotten 1999 romcom. The song requires just the right amount of wispiness, breakable but not broken. She makes it sound effortless. Is this her comfort zone? We don't know, we don't care, all we know is it's the best performance of the still-young night.

The X Factor Janet Devlin, a tree and guitarist.

It's clear that The X Factor has had some attention and money paid to the presentation. Were this a BBC show, Miss Devlin would be performing on a bare stage, with only dry ice for company. And we note that Dermot is off screen for minutes at a time. He throws to the contestant, who introduces their representative. There's a karaoke performance, then the other contestants bicker, the original contestant has the final say. Only then does Dermot re-appear, fresh from doing something backstage, to give voting numbers.

And link to another ad break. It's only ten minutes since the last. During this one, ITV are plugging shows from their music department, and an appearance by Justin Beaver. Dermot's telling us all about The X Factor's apps, which apparently stop a Pearpad from rotting. Or something.

Kelly Rowland's second nominee is Amelia Lily, performing "Think" on the pretext that it was used in one of the "Bridget Jones" movies. The song needs a big brassy soul vocal; Miss Lily provides a soul vocal. Gary Barlow reckons that the performance was a semitone sharp; we took our perfect pitch and researched this. Yes, the singing was above the backing track, but it matched Aretha Franklin's original rendition. We disagree with Gary Barlow.

The X Factor A hero shot of Amelia Lily. Careful, now.

In the land of camera operators, there's a pose known as the "Hero shot". It's a picture taken from about knee height, looking up to the subject's face, making them look taller and more powerful than they really are. We saw it when the contestants entered, perpetuating the myth that they literally stand above other critics. We see it for each contestant, but with Miss Lily wearing a short skirt, we feel the need to look away lest we see something we'd rather not.

There's a competition to see Olly Murs off of Deal or No Deal, and to travel to Las Vegas. And then there's another ad break. It's more interesting than that well-known rower David Walliams, who is this week's Surprise Guest.

In this week's Midweek Observer, someone suggested that The X Factor was missing the blub-fest, the tear-jerker, the emotional pull. "Bring back the journey" was a serious suggestion. Not until the clip before Kelly's final act, Misha B, had our emotions been tampered with. Here, it's full-on wailing, of a sort that would leave Britain's Got the Pop Factor standing. A sob story! Plaintive piano! Moody, colour-drained shooting! Blubbing on camera! Hugs with Kelly Rowland!!!

The X Factor Misha B (right) blubbing with Kelly Rowland.

Misha (we can't call her Miss B) is performing "I have nothing", from "The Bodyguard". This one we're not so familiar with, but we do recognise that it doesn't quite work for her singing style. Not that this is going to stop the contestants from rooting for her. "Manchester needs to pick up the phone," says Tuilisa. Were they worried about Misha's low place last week? Misha's blubbering, the crowd is chanting in a way we've not heard all night.

It's not actually rigging the vote, but it's a blatant signal to the viewers. Misha is better than you think she is. You are wrong to put her low down. There's going to be no evidence offered to support this thesis, The X Factor is simply going to play with emotions to make its point. And for those of us who offer another opinion, Gary Barlow has a message. "I disagree with every person watching this show." Thanks for the clarification, tush.

There's no ad break before moving on to the next performance, Tulisa introduces her group. Originally known as Rhythmix, they changed their name after a charity pointed out it had had that name for years. Actually, The X Factor organisation really dropped the ball on this one. Simco's response to the Brighton-based charity was insensitive and dismissive, putting his show's desires above an established good cause actually doing worthwhile things. Lawyer's letters didn't change minds at Cowell's company, lawyer's letters didn't even elicit a response. Only the threat of bad publicity caused a change of heart. Still, we must report that Simco has dropped its application to trademark the charity's name, and paid its legal fees, and continued on in its usual shameless way.

The X Factor Pick 'n' Mix mix it with The Saturdays.

In their clip, Trail Mix are name-dropping, seen with top pop band The Saturdays, and appearing on a red carpet with Jacob and Edward. But not Alice. On stage, they perform "Don't let go (love)", originally by soul act En Vogue. It's a great song to begin with, loud and raucous, and the group takes to it like ducks to water, helped by a great orchestration.

The other contestants are effusive in their praise. "We're looking at the next big band in the UK," says Louis Walsh. Now that Westlife have split, he knows there's a gap for a sensational group. Kelly Rowland indulges in obvious hyperbole with her claim, "You can be the best girl group to come out of the UK." What, even better than Bananarama? Even bigger than the spice girls? Even more funky than Red 'n' Pink, headliners in a free event at the Millennium Dome on 13 December, a gig we're gutted to be missing. Wish we could miss yet another break.

Gary Barlow is the final contestant, represented by Marcus Collins. He's performing "(Your love keeps lifting me) Higher and higher", which apparently is eligible for movie week because it appeared in "Ghostbusters". Bit of a cheat, that. So is the forty-piece gospel choir behind him. Mr. Collins gives a fine performance, one that has us in a better mood, but it does feel a bit sharp.

The X Factor Marcus Collins and 40 more friends than Gary Barlow has.

"No-one has improved the way you have," says Gary Barlow. So? We've never seen Mr. Collins before, we quite probably won't again. He was good, but not brilliant in the way Between Names and Janet Devlin were. We expect to see Craig Colton and Misha B in trouble for tomorrow's results. Possibly Amelia Lily if the emotional blackmail worked. Voting by SMS and 0898 phone opened at 9.21, and phone votes will close in the Sunday result show. SMS voting closes at midday.

In the interim, we were expecting to read some insightful commentary by chart-topping rapper Lady Sovereign, but she was ill with a cold and didn't watch the show. Voodoo Hussy's singer Shabby was impressed, reporting "Little Mix just smashed it and looked awesome doing. I hope they don't win so they actually do well..." Winning the public vote on The X Factor seems to be a poisoned chalice, only Leona Lewis from the seven previous champions has carved out a strong career. Many of the losers have gone on to greater success – witness the domination of The Jls, One Direction, Olly Murs, Jedward.

Elsewhere, Reggie Yates asked a question worthy of Get 100. "Where's the new single by Westlife in the chart?" All 23 previous official Westlife singles have made the top ten, a streak stretching back to the last millennium. Their new record has been written by Gary Barlow, pop's Mr. Disagreeable. Such is his sure-fire ability to write popular hit songs that it enters the chart at ... number 32. (THIRTY-TWO), as they say in Teleprinterese. That's almost as bad as his Children in Need of Assistance single, a smash miss at number 24. Has the record industry over-estimated the talent of Gary Barlow?

The X Factor The queue to disagree with Gary Barlow stretched all along Upper Ground.

Such questions are in our head during the Sunday results show. The contestants reprise their over-the-top entrance, and there's an inevitable voting reminder. The vocalists perform "When you're gone", our favourite Bryan Adams number, mostly because half of the vocal is by a better singer, namely Melanie C of the Spice Girls.

Mr. Adams pops out towards the end to join the performance, and offers the performers some tips. Write your own music. Perform live as much as you can. He's veering dangerously off-message, these are two things The X Factor really doesn't like its contestants to do. Sing other people's songs, ones that are co-written by people in Simon Cowell's employ. Bryan Adams' greatest hits album is in all good record stores now.

The X Factor Bryan Adams: proof there is life outside manufactured pop.

There's a recap of last night's show, more reminders of how to vote, and then a performance by Rebecca Ferguson. She's another of the chosen ones from last year: she didn't win the public vote, but Simon Cowell believes he can make her a star. Not from that song, he won't: there's more life in this column's pet hamster, and he's been dead almost twenty years.

Lines close at 8.25, after the ad break, and Gary Barlow repeats his claim that "it's not a song choice contest". Bruce Forsyth, host of Strictly Come Dancing, suggested that all the rows on The X Factor are scripted. Perhaps not to the word, but we do get the impression that this segment had been rehearsed.

While the votes are counted and verified, there's another performance. The X Factor wants to be the new Top of the Pops, and what better way than to include the country's number one song. Rihanna sings -- no, mimes -- "I'm funneling in a house of fail", or something along those lines. It's actually the worst miming since All About Eve sung on TOTP without moving their lips. Lady Sov is feeling better, and tells us, "Rihanna has ANOTHER album coming out ?!? Have a rest darlin". We agree, leave the space for people who have been off the scene for a couple of years and who would be welcome back.

The X Factor The top talent. And Rihanna.

Another break, and the result is upon us. The contestants stand with their tokens, and the news of who's safe is dragged out for the maximum of tension. Marcus, is safe. Frozen Embryos, safe. Misha B, safe. Janet, safe. Once the last two are confirmed, we're into more commercials. That was no more than four minutes of actual programme.

The final section is the sing-off. Unlike other programmes, the final two have another chance to perform. Craig Colton has a piano ballad of "Will you still love me tomorrow", with unnecessary melismas. Amelia Lily does a stripped-down "You and I", a recent Lady Gaga song, and adds something to the tune. Both performers belted well in their performances, but Gary Barlow disagrees, claiming that Amelia "shouted it". Here's why everyone watching the show disagrees with Gary Barlow: he is factually wrong.

Louis Walsh is factually right, saying "We're looking for a ready-made pop star". Not a talent who can write their own songs. Not someone who will have a long career. Just someone who can be used over the next year, perhaps longer, and then replaced by a new model. With the contestants split, the public vote determines that Mr. Colton leaves. If he's the sixth-best performer, we're glad we missed the others.

The X Factor A hero shot of the judges: Barlow, Rowland, Tulisa, Walsh.

And we're glad that we watched this week's show. We enjoyed it far more than we expected to, probably because we know not to take it seriously. Nothing will come of The X Factor, it's an entertainment, a way to pass the autumn evenings.

University Challenge

Second round, match 5: Christ Church Oxford v Manchester

We remember very little about Christ Church Oxford's 270-105 win over Bath; it was the night of the riots. Not many people remember much about Manchester's 255-70 victory over Selwyn Cambridge, that took place on the August bank holiday (except for viewers in Scotland).

Thumper praises the smart suits worn by the CCO team, but it's Manchester who give us Garibaldi, and score perfectly on questions about "Look Back in Anger". CCO give us words ending in "-uff", and fail miserably on questions about football clubs. OK, Thumper can't pronounce "Willem II" (will-em tway) correctly, but there's no excuse for the Oxford side thinking Antwerp is a Dutch city.

Neither side is able to work out how many Astronomical Units there are in a light day, but there's a race to the buzzer: when Alabama = Albania and Georgia = Gabon, what does California equal? A side certain to be out of contention in the football standings, so Canada is correct. Name That Former Soviet Socialist Republic from its name in the local writing is the first visual round, after which CCO has the slenderest of leads, 50-45.

Questions on "Victorious" for CCO, from which we can conclude Thumper failed the re-auditions for HAHS. Manchester re-take the lead with "Albert Camus", and then gets Confusing Clues in the Missing Vowels Round, such as "Iodine" and "Odin", both of which would appear to Victoria as "DN". The closest we get to a Tuesday Morning Quarterback this week comes in a set of questions on the Torino Scale, about the problem of near-earth objects. Quite how one gets from American football to asteroids crashing into the planet is lost in the mists of time.

CCO know their Newspeak from their Esperanto, and the audio round is pieces from coronation anthems. "At which king's coronation was this used?" "Queen Elizabeth II". And Thumper ... completely fails to snark. He's going soft! Manchester leads by 105-90, and it's The Theme from "Pendulum" Off Of Gladiators. Or The Theme from The X Factor, by association with a somewhat lesser show.

Does no-one know their Irish presidents? Microblogger Sinead Egan does. "Woah – just got an answer on University Challenge that NONE of the contestants knew! Boom! I is a genius (Answer: Erskine Childers)" Place names in Lincolnshire, and a missignal from Manchester, help CCO to pull within 5, then two starters go begging before someone knows that a tesseract is a four-dimensional cube. CCO don't do too well on biographical details of British prime ministers, then pick up a missignal on a question asking after first wives of Kings Henry. Good heavens, that well-known PKittens lookalike is microblogging. Sue Perkins: "One of my favourite hobbies is bellowing the answer 'Dick Francis' to every question posed on University Challenge."

No-one can recognise the grave of Johann Strauss in the second visual round, at which Manchester leads 135-125. The five minute warning passes with CCO answering some Very Big Questions, on Very Big Things. Here, they score a very small number of points, precisely none. CCO aren't allowed "violins" where "Stradivarius" is required.

Two more starters should win it for Manchester, and they get one with the number of legal opening moves in chess. Christ Church aren't going out without a fight, interrupting the next starter before we've heard it, and scoring on pilgrim's ways. Two starters are dropped, then Manchester is able to add up some trigonometric values, and that's game over in our book.

But the contest continues, Thumper asks more questions, Manchester has more points, and at the gong, BBC4 is already showing their flying birds, and The Chase's Paul Sinha says, "and now the main event."

Only Connect

Semi-final 2: Analysts v Trade Unionists

"Things don't get much bigger than this. Though, as the name suggests, they do get a bit bigger".

The Analysts have been put into bat, with "Stark Raving Reasonable", and "Ruly Mob". Yes, these are slogans from the "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear", a political protest in the Potomac Drainage Basin last year. These days, it's all more serious. "The Beginning Is Nigh".

The Unionists have "La Strada" and "Oscar Wilde The Musical", but no, there's aren't all absurdist plays. Nor were they banned. They are ones that lasted precisely one performance, much to Victoria's chagrain. She talks about a play where a woman stands next to a papier-mache toilet, reciting "The Waste Land", all because "toilets" is an anagram of T S Eliot. Grief.

Pictures for the Analysts, a house being sold and a yellow miniskirt and a half-eaten hamburger. "Things added to the RPI". No, but close: these are economic indicators: the Big Mac index, and apparently people don't buy underpants in a recession. Who knew? "Sorry guys". The Unionists have picked the audio question, "The gasman cometh", "Friday I'm in love", "Happy days", and two points. Slash Bang Horror is "Gutted that Rebecca Black's 'Friday' wasn't mentioned." It's worse than that, the last clue would have been Sting's "Seven days".

"Gentlemen only, ladies forbidden", and we claim five points. "To insure promptness" has the Analysts buzzing with false etymologies for acronyms and score three. Wick o'Twisted Flax o'lovely! We have somewhat less clue for the Unionists' set, Jezebel and the Burghers of Prague, apparently there are statues of all these in Czechoslovakia. No, these are all things that have been defenestrated – thrown through windows – including a former Czechoslovak foreign minister. The Analysts have the lead, 4-2.

Only Connect (2) Paul Steeples, David Lea, Paul De Ath. Analyse this!

Round two has arrived, and the Analysts have Attack, Decay, Sustain. They know roughly where they are, but have to guess. Fade? No, Release is the bonus for the Unionists, who know their ASDR envelope, as used in sound processing. The Unionists have a tennis player, Jay Leno, Kaye Adams, so who comes next? "Elron Tubbard" is the offer, Elle Macpherson is the editor's choice, because the player was "Ai Sugiyama". Two points.

Back to the Analysts, with "Time and Chance" and "The Path to Power" and "The Autobiography". Ah, the grey man's excitingly-named journals, followed by Tony Blair's "The History of the English-Speaking People". Er, no. "A Journey" is the answer no-one gets. "Neoprotero" and "Paleo" and "Meso", so we're clearly in archaelogical eras, so what comes next? "Ceno", because they can all be suffixed by "...zoic" for geological eras. A bonus for the Analysts.

January 1st, and 8th, and 27th. What? March 5th (or 4th), because it's cube-numbered days of the year. Spectacular answer, completely foxed us. Two points. The Unionists have countries and years, going backwards in time: France 1960, UK 1952, Soviet Union 1949. Again, the Analysts pick this up: USA, 1945.

Wall 128 for the Unionists, who trail 8-5. They start with statistical distributions, then go for Scots people, but that's a red herring, and think about Christian iconography. Things you can dispense, including Advice and Pez – great link, that. Stars of the "Lethal Weapon" series are the last link, and it's the one they spotted from 12 clues to give themselves an advantage. Ten points!

Wall 129 has the Hidden Transmission Indicator of the Week, customs on US Thanksgiving Day. The team are bogged down on dances, of which there are about half-a-dozen, but they finally come out with half the time gone. There's a set of ice dancers, and the final group looks to us like beef dishes. Close: spice mixtures, as the team said. Ten points!

Only Connect (2) Colin Whorlow, James Hastie, Nick Atty. You nion if you want to.

Which means it's 18-15 to the Analysts moving into the final round. Andrew Taylor has a tip for microbloggers: "To save time and avoid spoilers, in this round, just type the vowels." It's the Analysts who win the first group, people who have had airports named after them, 2-1. French names for the Mr Men, that's 2-0 to them. Game show catchphrases, on which we claim four points, and the Unionists two. Air pollutants give them a couple of extra points, but it's not enough. The Analysts have it, 22-20.

Next week: the Third Place Play-off

But we have another piece of housekeeping, the University Challenge result. Manchester won by 215-155. They got 32/64, Christ Church Oxford 23/54, overall accuracy was 55/91, and Random Punter o'the Week was Philip Noel: "My housemate has got 5 questions right on University Challenge. Which means I did by association."

Next week: UCL v Warwick


Heat 3

Robin McGhee is first up, telling us about Led Zeppelin (1968-80) According to the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, "Led Zeppelin combined rock, blues, and folk to create an amazing and timeless sound that has been the main influence to an incalculable number of rock groups over the past three decades." Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham were the members of this rock god band, they recorded eight albums, and are best remembered for the complex "Stairway to heaven" and for one of the themes to Top of the Pops. The contender knows what he knows, and gives prompt passes to those he doesn't. It's an interesting tactic, leaving him on 9 (7).

John Marshall is next up, discussing British speedway 1945-1970. Racing of motorbikes on dirt tracks began in Australia in the early 1920s, coming to the UK in 1927. After the war, speedway could reasonably argue to be the second most-popular spectator sport. Unlike football, it wasn't of interest to television, attendances fell, and many teams were disbanded. There was enough interest to keep the sport ticking over, aided by sporadic coverage on ITV's "World of Sport" and more recently by satellite channels desperate for anything to show. It's not quite a perfect round, there was one error in there, but 16 (0). Sixteen right! Well done, sir!

Sue Collins has been researching Maximilian I (1459-1519), the Holy Roman Emperor from 1493, and King of the Romans from 1486. At this date, the Empire ruled much of mainland Europe, from its seat of power in Vienna. Maximilian expanded the Empire, marrying the Queen of the Netherlands, incorporating Hungary and Bohemia by treaty backed with his military, and Spain by the marriage of his son Philip. The contender knows a lot, but leaves some pauses wide enough to drive a monastery through. Still, 11 (1) isn't to be sniffed at.

John Benyon takes two minutes on The Russian Revolution. At this point, we glare in the direction of Mastermind's publicists for not providing sufficient detail to allow us to write this blurb before the programme. Do they mean the revolution of 1905, of Bloody Sunday and the establishment of the Duma? The revolution of February 1917, when the Tsar fell? The revolution of October 1917, when the provisional government of Kerensky was toppled by the Bolsheviks under Lenin? The revolution of 1991, when the Soviet state apparatus was swept away like dust, with Boris Yeltsin wielding the broom? It's actually none of these, it's the religious sect the Cathars. What? Never mind, the contender was expecting that, and scores a remarkable 17 (0). That is a perfect round!

Robin McGhee begins with flavours of cheese, and England's footballing Coles. After a strong start, the contender falls into something of a pass spiral, but is rescued by the unlikely hero Ken Clarke. The final score is 18 points and a similar number of passes – we lost count there. Sorbets and the German for train station help Sue Collins to a good start, but she continues to leave pauses between answers. But many answers are correct, and the final is 20 (7).

Now, John Marshall knows about Pathe's cockerel, and tourist attractions in Greenwich, then Pepys's diary and the blitzkrieg give him the lead. The specific detail of the Roman army is another point, and then he's asked about the specific act of throwing someone out of a window. "Scoring a point on Only Connect", obviously. Wagner's relation to Bayreuth takes his score to 31 (5).

Fifteen for John Benyon to win, four will put him somewhere on the repechage board, that's how he got through to last year's Brain of Britain final. Somehow, we think he's coming back. Yehudi Menuhin, fox hunting, and the career of Freddie Trueman get him over that early line, then Orson Welles and a language of the Aztecs give answers we'd never have known. Mr. Benyon makes it look easy to score a dozen and more points – John Stonehouse brings him level, districts of Istanbul confirm his victory. The final score of 34 (0) is tonight's highest. We'll wager money on John Marshall coming back in the new year.

This Week And Next

And now, a short series called People We Don't Expect to See in One of The Commercials on Junior The Apprentice.

  1. Emily Parr, off of Big Brother 8.

That was People We Don't Expect to See in One of The Commercials on Junior The Apprentice.

And now, a slightly longer series called Shows we Don't Expect to See in the OFCOM Moaning Minnies Report.

  1. Bad language on Blue Peter, 18 October. Ed Sheeran deliberately edited his performance to avoid the rudey.
  2. Standards on Only Connect, 10 October. What can possibly be wrong with Victoria discussing how amyl nitrate has other uses than an antidote to cyanide poisoning?

Shows we Do Expect to See in the OFCOM Moaning Minnies Report: The X Factor, where 102 separate complaints are summarily dismissed as completely baseless. Three complaints against The X Factor are proceeding. So is one against Candy Bar Girls, which is odd, we didn't think Jo Off Of Shipwrecked being stood up was offensive, at least not under the OFCOM code.

We regret to report the death of Angie Dowds, the fitness instructor from ITV's show The Biggest Loser UK. The trainer, 42, was found at the foot of Beachy Head in Sussex.

We hear that Talkback Thames will formally split itself asunder in the new year. Thames will be the label attached to entertainment shows, comedy entertainment will retain the Talkback name, factual shows will be attributed to Boundless, and scripted comedy comes from Retort.

Another week, another narrow win for The X Factor over Strictly Come Dancing – 11.85m to 11.4m, both bests for the year. There's a third entry from the ITV show – The X Factor Standby Filler was seen by 9.05m when forces loyal to Frankie Cocozza invaded the Post Office Tower, and had to be repelled by the Buzby Brigade. None of this concerned I'm a Celebrity, which returned to 11.15m viewers. 5.35m for HIGNFY, 4.75m for Young The Apprentice, 4.45m for the Millionaire special, and 4.1m for The Cube. There was no The Chase with celebrities, unless one counts twenty-two men chasing a plastic ovoid around a building site in north London.

University Challenge topped BBC2's rankings, and its own year-best, with 3.45m viewers, and for a show that didn't air in Wales. Masterchef The Professionals returned to 2.95m, QI and Dancing on Two both had 2.75m. Celebrity Juice left us with 2.27m viewers, beating all game shows on Channel 4 (Come Dine with Me was best, 2.2m) and the Big Brother final (also 2.2m). Moving Wednesday's show to 9pm fooled a lot of people, its figure of 1.45m was about half-a-million down, but broadcasting Bit on the Side live from the garden meant it left 5* with a bang and 444,000 viewers.

Behind Celebrity Juice came ITV's HD game shows – 1.4m for The X Factor Results, 1.35m for I'm a Celeb, 600,000 for Standby Filler. A League of Their Own attracted 870,000 to The Satellite Channel, and 740,000 saw the first Only Connect semi-final. Blankety Blank (155,000) and Don't Forget the Lyrics (110,000) both came to Challenge; so did Deal or No Deal, not that it troubled the top ten. Rhydian's variety show on S4C attracted 82,000 viewers, making it more popular than Shipwrecked on 4Music (70,000). There's a moral in there.

We're certain that this week will see ten squillion viewers watch Impossible? (C5, 12.10am Monday/Tuesday night), and absolutely no-one will watch Four Weddings (UKTV Living, 9pm Thursday). Some shows we're not sure about: The Renovation Game (C4, 10.55am weekdays), It's All About Amy (C5, 10pm Thursday), Matt Cardle: Into the Light (ITV, 11.35pm Thursday). We do know it's the beginning of the end for The X Factor, semi-finals 8-9.30, followed by the end of I'm a Celebrity. Like its host, Strictly rolls on, next Saturday 7-8.

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