Weaver's Week 2012-01-08

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Jokerunning: "Oh god, this is going to be totally impossible isn't it?"


The Only Connect Championship Of Champions Of Champions

Or, Stainer Versus Bramall-Stainer

Crossworders v Epicureans

The Crossworders won in series 1, back in 2008, and became Champions of Champions at the end of 2009. The Epicureans won series 4 at the end of 2010, and won their Championship of Champions at the start of last year. Captain Katie Bramall-Stainer reports that her cat threw up over an Only Connect champions' trophy. But it wasn't hers! It was her husband David's. He's captain of the Crossworders.

This is going to be difficult, particularly if Victoria persists in calling it the Champions4 match. That's not until the end of series 8! The Crossworders have things like volleyball and basketball – these were, apparently, all created at the YMCA. The teams don't score here. Audio for the Epicureans: "Panic" from the Smiths, "Radio" by Talking Heads, some blues song, "Radio ga ga" and they're thinking about hanging the DJ. Not quite: David Stainer knows his emo acts, Panic! at the Disco, Radiohead, Lady Gaga, and a bonus point.

Rebuses for the Crossworders: Q is to B, U to N, P to D, and Z is to Z. Neither side offers an answer, which is a capital error – if these are in lower case... The Epicureans have politicians and years, and reckon it's that they all came to office after the death of their predecessor. They were assassinated, but, yes. A well-earned point, and this column actually got it as well. We're doing well.

"Transcending existence", "syntactic independence". Are we talking complete loads of rubbish? Absolutely, the later clues allow the Crossworders to zoom in on absolutes and a point. Pictures for the Epicureans include the Cenotaph and London Eye and the Eiffel Tower. Things that were intended as temporary structures but show no signs of going away, like the point they've just earned. The scores are locked at 2-2.

Only Connect (2) Brewis, Bramall, and Bell: all enjoy fine food

Round 2 begins with dates for the Crossworders. 1792, 1848, and they go for 1945. But it's not. The Crossworders had the right idea, but the wrong date – it was French republics, and the fourth began in 1946. There's a mathematical sequence for the Epicureans, which seems to be converging somewhere. It's not 1, but Ian Bayley reckons it's 1/2, seeing as how it's cosines of 15, 30, 45, 60 degrees. He's right for a bonus.

Words for the Crossworders: Qattara, Turfan, Lake Assal, which rather ruins their idea about the Dead Sea Scrolls. No, it's depressions on the surface, so Dead Sea is worth two points. Pictures of old white men for the Epicureans, and though they try to buzz, they're just out of time. The Crossworders go for Elgar, as he's on a £20. No, it's actually the Philosophers' Song by Monty Python, so obviously Hegel. We have no idea what any of this means.

Women US Supreme Court judges, ending with Eleanor Kagan, and three points for the Crossworders just like that. For the Epicureans, rows are blue, green, purple, so row 4 is orange. Really? Or red? Really? No, not Space Invaders. No, not the gay pride flag. It's the colours of a solved Only Connect Connecting Wall. Victoria throws a spectacular tantrum. "It's almost as if you don't watch the shows! You picked up your trophy and then stopped seeing the programme!" The Crossworders lead 8-2.

Only Connect (2) Blue and green and purple and turqoise. Obvs.

Now, can the teams see a turquoise line in their own time? The Epicureans begin with some boybands, before even this column can identify them, and then take approximately a minute to sort out some computer viruses. They're also thinking about methods of emergency contact, but the final group is completely alien to them: it's acrobatic dance moves. Five points!

That was grid 154, this is 155. Not that it's working online, prompting microblogger Steven Perkins to improvise "In the absence of a play along wall, I have resorted to furiously tapping on my TV screen."

Ian Bayley begins for the Crossworders with a set of mathematical structures, then there's a shot at reference works, particularly dictionaries. "What was Funland?" asks David Stainer. There's discussion of the ideal gas constant, the three-body problem. "This means nothing to me." Central characters in Graham Greene novels are an easy point, but the last one? Programmes on BBC3. Seven points!

Which means the Crossworders are ahead by 15-7 going into the Missing Vowels. "Something to defend or extend," says David Stainer. Remember, if scores are level at the end of this round, it's a toss-up question for the captains. No pressure.

Things beginning with three vowels, that's a nasty starter, and goes 2-1 to the Epicureans. Mash-ups are the order of the night, and Two Films Merged goes 4-(-1) to the Epicureans. Major football venues, the Epicureans score one. But it's not enough! The Crossworders shade it, 15-14. David Stainer is generous in victory, "Rode our luck there BIG TIME. Well done Epicureans." Well done Crossworders, too, and they now go on to meet the champions of Mastermind.

Only Connect (2) Can nobody beat these eggheads?

University Challenge

Group phase, match 2: Balliol Oxford v Pembroke Cambridge

We were tickled to read Peter Peston's column in last Sunday's The Observer. He was complaining that there hadn't been enough Jeremy Paxman on his screen over the Christmas period. This column's been getting its stuffing from Christmas University Challenge, a slightly-easier-than-usual confection, won by Trinity Cambridge over Warwick. Both teams featured a former student winner, with Robin Bhattacharyya triumphing over Daisy Christodoulou.

Tonight's is the fifth Oxbridge clash of the tournament, with that series level at 2-2. There have also been two Oxford derbies, both won by Oxford. Balliol have participated in both sorts of contests, beating Homerton Cambridge and Merton Oxford in close games; Pembroke dispatched St Anne's Oxford and Nottingham with little fuss.

The new year begins with ... neither side working out that women can play "Hamlet". C'mon people, it's the twenty-first century. Women can do anything these days, they can even appear on University Challenge, as one pioneer is doing this week. With just two of the first six questions answered correctly, we hear "Your bonuses are on error". By the end of the set, the score has reached 4/10.

Things don't improve much before the visual round, which is on cross-sections of planetary interiors. Pembroke's lead reaches 70-0, and it's only going in one direction. Augsburg finally puts Balliol on the map, and the scores start moving up at a rate slightly faster than a sock with a candle in it. (Trust us, this doesn't go up in any way. Other than "in flames".) The audio round is on film music, but no-one remembers that Incredible Games character The Dark Knight, so the Pembroke lead is 130-45.

Hang on, does that mean the audio round's going to be on music by Hans Zimmer? Go for it! For gold! Oh. As a contest, this is somewhat less gripping than watching someone struggle during the Four In A Row round; it's game over as a contest, and even witty questions (making the word "ska" from scientific units) don't disguise the one-sided fare. At the second visual round – scientists on stamps – Pembroke's lead is 210-75.

At the five-minute warning, Thumper is asking questions about people whose names begin with Greek letters, like Iota Omicron Omega. Balliol weren't bad this week, but Pembroke were better on the buzzers in the first quarter, and Balliol's surge in the final quarter was just a little too late. At the gong, Pembroke has won it, 240-160.

The overall accuracy rate picked up in the end, to 59/89. Balliol were right in 24/50 questions, Pembroke in 35/65, and there wasn't a missignal all night.

Next match: Worcester Oxford v Newcastle
Then: Clare Cambridge v Homerton Cambridge


Heat 7

Feast or famine for civilian Mastermind at the moment: after two weeks off, we've two episodes tonight, but nothing next week because The Great Sport Relief Bake-Off is on, and it's only on there because there's no Celtic League rugby and BBC Wales doesn't have an opt-out. BBC Wales does have an opt-out this week, so the two episodes here will air next week. Hope that's clear to everyone.

How many retired archdeacons have we had on this show? Hughie Jones is one, and he's offering the Cambridge Apostles (est. 1820). The Conversazione Society, as it's formally known, was founded by George Tomlinson. It claims to be an intellectual secret society, and (from our brief research) operates in a similar manner to a sorority. Some members of the group attained notoriety after being exposed as Soviet spies in the 1950s. The contender answers steadily, scoring 10 (2). Read more: a considered history*.

Sarah Waller takes the Life and Work of Antonia Forest (1915-2003). Forest wrote children's books, and is best-known for the Marlow series about a family from a well-ordered middle-class background. Long out-of-print, these books have been re-issued in the past decade. Forest herself moved from Hampstead to Bournemouth, and converted from Judaism to Catholicism. This contender moves from point to point, finishing on 14 (2). Read more: Autumn Term*.

Guy Tozer will tell us about the French Revolution (est. 1789) Robespierre, Necker, the Girondins and the Montagnards, le Comité de Salut Public, the storming of the Bastille, and the guillotine. It's a lot to squeeze into two minutes. A lot to get through, a lot covered, and the contender ends on 13 (2). Read more: a short introduction*.

Jeremy Platt works on the Life and Work of Gustav Mahler (1860-1911). A native of Bohemia, Mahler wrote grand classical music with an imposing style. He chose to concentrate on symphonies, producing nine massive works chronicling battles between good and evil. The beginning is strong, the ending a bit weak, and 11 (2) the final score. Hear more: Symphony No. 1*.

Archdeacon Jones ... well, he's still scored many more points on Mastermind than this column ever has, finishing on 15 points and almost as many passes. Dr. Platt begins with monkeys, then gets the Have I Got News for You regular who became mayor of London. No, the original HIGNFY regular who became mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. He goes on to confuse Sunderland with Madrid, a very easy mistake to make, and finishes on 19 (7).

File:Election ken livingstone.jpg Ken Livingstone on Election. Other game show regulars may be candidates.

In what may be a deliberate move by the question setters, Mr. Tozer faces a question about the Cambridge Disciples Spy Ring of the 1950s. He starts slowly, but then picks up speed, including the correct answer to Mark Labbett's favourite question of the recent Only Connect series ("engage" in a rugby scrum). He finishes on 24 (7), so cannot make the repechage board.

And it means Sarah Waller needs eleven to win. She kicks off with a crêpe Suzette, knows about kettling, bubble and squeak, and (just to prove that she knows about things other than cookery) where to find Poet's Corner. Next to Prose Straight Line, we would have thought. The final score is 26 (10), enough for the win.

Heat 8

Completing the hat-trick, with the third episode of Mastermind to begin on the BBC in the last 95 minutes. This may be a little too much black chair action.

Eric Banks will be talking about Major Battles of World War II (1939-45). Again, it's a lot to squeeze into two minutes. Again, the contender shows mastery over a wide subject, scoring 13 (1). Watch more: documentary on battles*.

Nick Reed is taking English Football League grounds (est. 1888). In the last century-and-a-quarter, 141 sides have played in the Football League; their grounds have ranged from ramshackle sheds in a water meadow (Thames United) to some of the finest stadia in Europe, such as the Riverside in Middlesbrough. Almost inevitably, the round begins with a question about Old Trafford, a vigorous stone's throw away from the BBC's new outpost, and a stadium that hasn't seen regular Football League matches since 1992. He manages to run up a tennis score, 15 (0). Read more: this year's guide*.

Mel Kinsey tells us about Watergate and the Fall of Richard Nixon (1913-94). Five people were arrested for breaking into the Democratic party offices in the Watergate hotel. It eventually emerged that members of the opposition party were on a secret "enemies" list compiled by Nixon, there was a cover-up over secretly taped telephone calls, the public found his excuses completely implausible, and he was resigned in summer 1974. We learn that the official unit to investigate leaks was "The Plumbers", doubtless headed jointly by people called Dinah and Rod. 12 (2). Watch more: All the President's Men*.

Derek Walker is the twelfth and final person into the hotseat tonight, and he's got the Satirical Works of Juvenal (c.70-140). These pieces are sharp criticism on the excesses and hypocrisy of Roman society. Though the text claims to be a historical record, they are clearly topical commentary. 10 (1) is the final score. Read more: those satires in full*.

Mr. Walker returns to the chair, eating carrots and gazing at the flag of South Africa. The round continues to pick up points sporadically, finishing on 21 (4). Mr. Kinsey knows about the Philips "curve", a piece of economic nonsense; and that flags and banners can be called "bunting". He ends the round on 22 (6). Eric Banks knows the characters of "Treasure Island", the origin of the Barbican, and has a couple of notable guesses. However, he has many more incorrect answers and passes, to finish on 22 (8).

All of which means the repechage board remains as it stood, and Nick Reed needs just eight to win. Which fruit was popularised by Mark Twain? The huckleberry. Lovely little question, that. Yes, it's thirty-two years since the invention of Newsnight With Future Mastermind Host Peter Snow, and the round concludes on 29 (3). A clear win.

* Purchases from these links will help to support the UK Gameshows servers.

This Week And Next

Kerry McGregor, performing on The X Factor.

We regret to report the death of Kerry McGregor, aged just 37. Singing from a wheelchair, and blessed with a powerful voice, McGregor entered two phenomenal singing competitions. In 1997, "Yodel in the Canyon of Love" would have won A Song for Europe, had she not been up against Katrina and the Waves' obvious winner. And in 2006, McGregor made the televised final stages of The X Factor, from where she was eliminated early.

And we regret to report the death of Bob Holness, gold to gold in 83 years. A full appreciation will be published here next week.

Nominations are out for the National Television Awards, the biggest popularity contest this side of BBC Male Sports Personality of the Year. The Most Popular Reality Show category features The Only Way Is Essex, I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!, Come Dine with Me, and The Apprentice. Most Popular Talent Show nominees are The X Factor, Strictly Come Dancing, Dancing on Ice, Britain's Got Talent. Most Popular Entertainment Presenter will be from Michael McIntyre, Dermot O'Leary, Ant & Dec, Keith Lemon. Take Me Out is nominated in Most Popular Entertainment Programme, and the Panel Gameshow final four are Celebrity Juice, QI, Mock the Week, Have I Got News for You.

At the end of last year, OFCOM slipped out another of its broadcast bulletins. Here, the regulator introduced a new rule, and applied it retrospectively. Back in September, Friday night editions of Big Brother began bang on 9pm, and used a word beginning with F three times in the half-minute bit before the opening titles. To bowdlerise the offending comments: "Are you [stuffing] crackers?" and "Stay the [stuff] out of other people's business." OFCOM claimed that this was an "unduly abrupt" transition to adult material. Channel 5 disagreed. OFCOM decided that they were right anyway. This column believes that OFCOM should recall its previous decisions, that viewers know what they're getting from Big Brother, and that they had been warned that the programme contained "strong language from the start." It appears OFCOM is applying rules in a capricious manner.

Elsewhere in the bulletin, we noted that OFCOM had received a complaint that someone on The X Factor had tried to influence voting patterns. By what dastardly mechanism were they swinging the ballot? Sheer force of performance? A persuasive argument? Making the audience cry? No, apparently, someone was using hypnosis on the programme. How would that work? "Look into my eyes ... look deep into my eyes ... you are feeling sleepy ... very sleepy ... a million love songs later ... you are now asleep... too asleep to call for my representatives... blast."

New judges have been announced for Britain's Got Talent. Alesha Dixon moves over from the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing, and David Walliams has prioritised this over his latest canoeing endeavour. Let's face it, he's been out-sported by Helen Skelton. The new judges have not denied claims that Britain's Got Talent exploits its competitors by not paying them the standard wages. But then, no-one's asked them. Yet.

Channel 4 had some stunt programmes, mixing up hosts and formats. Davina McCall played The Million Pound Drop Live (not live) under the guidance of Phil Spencer from Location Location Location. Come Dine with Me was graced by the 2011wipe Dramatic Reconstructions Department, or Made in Chelsea as it's known locally. And Countdown was invaded by 8 Out of 10 Cats, with the participants being sexist swines. Caitlin Moran, the world's best Wulfrunian, noted, "A Susie Dent pen that shows her naked, and Jimmy Carr staring at Rachel Riley through binoculars. Great." Indeed it did.

Quickly through the festive period ratings, supplied as ever by the BARB. In the week to 11 December, The X Factor finished with 12.1m viewers, barely 50,000 ahead of that week's Strictly. Mastermind pulled in 2.1m when it was shown nationwide, and Only Connect's final had 760,000 going "wha..?"

Strictly closed its year with 13.35m seeing the final performances, surely the year's top game show. Masterchef The Professionals left us with 3.8m viewers, and ITV's top game show was The Big Quiz (2), 5.3m had nothing better to do on Friday night. The X Factor Us led on the digital channels, 780,000 saw the final elimination, Only Connect's Wall Night was seen by 675,000 people.

Christmas Day Come Dancing was that week's biggest game show, 8.5m saw the foxes trotted. Family Fortunes ended the year with 6.1m viewers, just ahead of HIGNFY. The Cube pulled 4.95m on Christmas Eve, and Millionaire scored 4.6m. Civilian University Challenge was BBC2's top, with 3.1m; the Christmas specials scored from 2.5m down. Celebrity Juice was seen by 2.15m, and 8 Out of 10 Cats just missed 2m. World's Strongest Man pulled 1m viewers to Channel 5, and The X Factor Us ended with 910,000. And Home for the Holidays? Didn't trouble Channel 4's top 30.

Two big series begin this week: Dancing on Ice (ITV, 6.30 Sunday) and The Great Sport Relief Bake Off (BBC2, from 8pm Tuesday). Nick Hewer takes over Countdown (C4, 3.10 weekdays), The Exit List reaches ITV (8pm Tuesday, not UTV), and The Million Pound Drop Live returns (C4, 9pm Friday). Next Saturday's talent shows are missing, presumed having a rehearsal.

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