Weaver's Week 2012-07-01

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In Australia, we hear that Letters and Numbers, their version of Countdown, is to come off air after only a few months. The replacement will be Countdown, the British version of Des Chiffres et Des Letters. So, if you're reading this down under, turn the screen upside down, because here be spoilers.



Finals Week, June 2012

QF1: Jonathan Rawlinson beat Rob Gibney, 101-77

"Let's wish Prince William a happy 30th birthday," says host Nick Hewer. Nick, mate, if we wanted gratuitous displays of patriotism, we'd be watching Big Brother. Dictionary Corner guest Penny Smith says her 30th is some years ahead, which is absolutely true: it must have been her mother we saw on The Krypton Factor in 1995.

The Krypton Factor Penny Smith's Mother (left) with Gordon Burns.

Who are these people? Rob had four wins in April, his loss to Nathan Steggles was by 93-92 and was our pick as Heat of the Year. Second in that category was Jonathan Rawlinson's third game, where he came within one point of a perfect match. Jonathan has won the last eight games to get here, ending Ben Nicholson's hopes of a finals week place.

From the form-book, this looks to be the highest-quality game before the final, and Rob is guessing already – he offers ZOINKS! in the opening round, but Susie Dent doesn't find it in the dictionary. It's the only difference at the anecdote, where Jonathan leads 33-28, and Penny is going to tell us about things mothers say. After the break, Rob declares FIRESIDE, and Jonathan declares nothing, and Rob has the lead, and Jonathan doesn't, and the universe ends.

Except it doesn't – Jonathan was briefly behind in one of his heats. He hits back with DEPLANE, a word that's much to Penny's disgust, and has the lead again. Is anyone going to shout out HEINOUS? Just us? Jonathan tends to pick the most difficult selections – five vowels, four large numbers, and the latter extends his lead to 63-49 at the interval. "EELPOUT?" asks Nick of one of Jonathan's later offerings. It's valid, natch, and his one-large selection seals victory. We were convinced Rob would give a good game, and so it proved; the scoreline flattered Jonathan.

QF2: Jack Worsley beat Mark Murphy, 75-52

Jack is our number two seed, and spent precisely one series as the number one seed – he won the last heat in December's run, completed eight wins in the new year, and remained top of the board until Jonathan completed his eight wins in the final heat. Mark came immediately after Jack, winning five games without ever breaking a century. We're not expecting a close game.

Nor are we expecting Nick to remember Sonic the Hedgehog. But the game does end up splitting faster than Sonic and Tails: Jack gets a winner in the opening round, and another before the numbers, to lead 38-23 at the anecdote, during which Penny tells us about the time she went with a bunch of Army blokes to find Orinoco. Why'd she go to Venezuela, surely he's around Wimbledon?

A pair of disallowed words allow Jack to pull further ahead, but Mark pulls back when Jack misses an obvious seven. Even as he's declaring five, Jack realises he's missed the points. He pulls them back in the next round, and scores on a six-large numbers game to lead 63-30 at the interval. EIDOLON is another winner for Jack, but Mark comes up with the winner PACIEST. Eidolon? The spirit image of someone, alive or dead. Mark is dead already, but pulls back further when Jack blobs up the numbers game. It wasn't a close game, and we'll put Jack's relatively poor performance down to rustiness. He'll need to do better on Thursday.

Countdown Quarter-finalists Mark Murphy (left) and Rob Gibney.

QF3: Victoria James lost to Peter Lee, 73-80

In the opening monologue, Nick Hewer pervs over the women tennis players at the Wimbledon Rainwear and Cagoule Expo. Spewgusting! He introduces "Victoria" and Peter Lee. Peter is a meteorologist from Dublin, and it's Victoria James. She's the payroll manager for Arsenal, winners in yesterday's most interesting and important football match. Arsenal beat Birmingham 4-2, and must surely now win the league. There are those who will prefer the men's football: Lady Sovereign wrote, "I feel sorry for people who don't watch football .. You have nothing to get excited about tonight." Oh, but there's Ashleigh's choice on Big Brother: will she stop Conor's party, will she send Sheivonne and Lauren to bed early, will anyone care in the morning? No. Sov was right: there was nothing to get excited about there.

We do have something to get excited about here: octochamp Peter's eight wins in late February included four centuries. Victoria will put up a fight: her six wins in early February were of a strong standard, she needs a good day and Peter to make errors. And it's Peter who strikes first, winning in round two, after which there's parity and 37-30 at the anecdote. He over-extends himself with "Stone ages", which is A) capitalised and 2) two words, allowing Victoria to close to a point. CARBIDE and WHITEN allow Peter to extend his advantage, and then there's a guest appearance by the star of Only Connect. Question editor David J Bodycombe once imagined the live stadium version: Old Trafford full of people shouting EP-SI-LON! EP-SI-LON!

Victoria pulls back when Peter fails on a sneaky numbers game, so it's 57-43 at the interlude. Just when the match looked to be going quietly, Victoria comes up with CAPSULE, halving the gap. A simple numbers game means it's a crucial conundrum. Both are a bit good, 5/7 and 6/8. Peter buzzes in on thirteen seconds, but his guess is wrong. Victoria? She let's the clock run down, and her steady performance has just been pipped by Peter's strong but patchy performance. He'll need his A-game to beat Jack.

QF4: Suzi Purcell lost to Nick Hall, 86-80

Suzi made eight wins in late May, recording one century. Nick had siz wins in late April, a top score of 96. There's not much between the players on paper, and we're pleasantly surprised when both players begin with a round maximum – Suzi with PAVANES, then Nick has JOINER. It's evens in the letters round, and a simple numbers round leaves Suzi ahead 30-29 while Richard talks about GP blunders and lies in the Daily Express (prop: R. Desmond).

After the break, there's a niner – TUTORIALS – missed by everyone, including the dictionary dwellers. This column got it, which might speak to the quality of the show today. Or not: it's the only letters round we'll win all week. There's another niner two rounds later – MANUTDNEO turns into OUTMANNED, eighteen for Suzi, and Nick incorrectly spells his word in the next round, and after Susie Dent has talked about pub names, and Suzi Purcell has blobbed a numbers, she leads 60-58. Two flat letters rounds are saved when Nick pulls back with BAROQUE, and scores on a tricky numbers challenge. Which means we have a crucial conundrum, which even we get, but not before Nick's spotted it, and made a small upset.

Countdown Quarter-finalists Victoria Lee (left) and Suzi Purcell.

SF1: Jonathan Rawlinson beat Nick Hall, 108-54

"What did we do before the invention of the cash machine 45 years ago?" asks Nick Hewer. "I don't know, I wasn't born," retorts Rachel Riley. Phil Hammond is wearing a shirt depicting the bird 'flu bug magnified 50,000 times. We're expecting this game to be a clear win for Jonathan, and he OUTPACES the opposition in the opening round, and pulls further ahead when Nick's forced to declare a dodgy seven (MAIL-OUT), which takes a hyphen. The score at the anecdote is 39-24 in Jonathan's favour. Dr. Phil celebrates by discussing the NHS's new matrix model of management, which even Nick Hewer doesn't understand. He'll be fired.

Nick Hall invents another random word, and Jonathan wins with HANKIES, bringing up his personal 1000 points, and this show is only going one way; it's 76-47 at the interlude. Attention in the third part is confined to how large Jonathan's margin of victory will be, and if he'll maintain her perfect record on the conundrums. When Nick buzzes, we think he won't, and when time expires, Dr. Phil hints it's a medical term. ENTERITIS, apparently, and a mere 90% conundrum success rate for Jonathan. But it's 100% in games, and he's in the final.

Countdown Nick Hall.

SF2: Peter Lee lost to Jack Worsley, 88-91

Well, this is a complete annoyance. Heavy rain this morning flooded the cable television junction box for our street. And we're talking seriously heavy rain, 10cm deep right across the road. We can't view proceedings from a tape of the show (it's 50 minutes of black) nor from catch-up (which requires a working cable connection), and we refuse on principle to watch television on any device other than a television. So we're going to have to interpolate, constructing this review from James Robinson's recap on c4countdown. Thanks, Mr. Robinson.

Here's another reason why it's a complete annoyance: we had this down as possibly the most competitive game of Finals Week. Not much to choose between the players, and so it proves in the opening rounds. Jack has a made-up word in round three, and is beaten in a tough round four, so Peter takes a 37-24 lead into the anecdote. More equality in the second period, but Peter's "Wallie" is rejected, allowing Jack to narrow the gap. With his six-small numbers selection, Jack overturns the gap, and is 63-60 ahead at the interlude.

The three point lead remains through the final letters spell – PACED and WAXIER and two of about a dozen seven-letter words. And then it's Jack's numbers, and he pulls off a magnificent solve to seal the win. Peter gets the conundrum, making the score properly reflect the game. We're gutted to have missed it.

Countdown Peter Lee.

Final: Jonathan Rawlinson vs Jack Worsley

With the cables still out, it's to our back-up DTTV connection for the final. Spit and polish and hope it works. "I hope that a brunette 19-year old male will win the title", said Rachel in the introduction. Yeah, that works. "It's the first time two members of One Direction have been in the final" adds Dr. Phil. The game's going to be of a high standard. Jack begins with the winner SANTERO, a religious healer in Mexico. "Bags of time to go," says host Nick Hewer: on University Challenge, that's time to write "game over".

But not on Countdown, even though the host resists an opportunity to drop a pun when a letters selection ends "IOIO". Jonathan gets a six from that round – PITOHI are earthenware jars, and 1pt is the gap. Jack brings up his 1000 points in round four, and extends the lead with a cunning six-small numbers round, and thanks to some rubbish letters selections, it's 27-19 at the anecdote. There's OUTRAGE from Jack afterwards – not because he's been reading the Daily Hewer, but because he's got a seven and Jonathan's only got a six. There's going to be an upset here!

Countdown Jonathan Rawlinson, the number one seed.

In later rounds, it's almost a game of pass the paper, as both players are coming up with precisely the same words. It's similar in the numbers, where both players are spot on. Jack's lead is 65-50, and Jack's RESUMING is surely going to give him the game: Jonathan requires snookers. But SLUICED will do, it's enough to reduce the deficit to 16 points. The letters are against him – indeed, they're poor letters, just two eight-letter words available. But, again, Jonathan comes up with the goods – MAGPIE is his second winner in a row, ten points the gap. It's on! It's on!

A stinker of a numbers game – both players get one away via the same route, and we're going to a crucial conundrum. Jonathan's never been beaten on the conundrum, and he's only ever missed the one. Jack, four of ten. TINYROLES is the scramble, and for fifteen seconds, both players are haunched over their monitor. Jonathan looks up on about twenty seconds, considers, presses on 25, and offers "Tensorily". It's not, it turns out to be STORYLINE, and here's the storyline of the series: Jack Worsley wins the first game of the series, other stuff happens, Jack Worsley wins the last game.

Countdown Jack Worsley, the champion.

This Week And Next

Not much in this fortnight's OFCOM report. It turns out there were no scheduling irregularities when ITV put out The Big Quiz (2) on 15 April; the fact that the programme was scheduled at all is outside OFCOM's remit. The regulator's investigations unit is looking into a competition on Heart FM's broadcaster in Devon, into the 7 May edition of Britain's Got Talent, and into a hole the gas board have dug outside the office. "It's not the fact of the hole," said a spokey we've completely made up to voice our own point, "but the fact that they've dug up the entire width of the pavement and we're having to walk on the grass verge. Which, in this weather, turns into the mud verge."

Channel 4 launches its latest spin-off channel this week, 4seven. That's DTTV channel 47, and less obvious places on cable and satellite. The whole idea is that Channel 4 shows off the best of its programmes, and adopts a "flexible schedule". The 9pm programme on 4seven will be a repeat from the same slot on Channel 4 a night earlier, but shows at 8 and 10 will be decided very close to transmission, a lucky dip for the viewer. For that reason, we can't preview the channel's schedules in advance, because they don't know what they're showing in advance. Countdown fans will be pleased that their (our) show goes out at the very sensible time of 5.15pm (and 9.15am); there's another chance to miss Deal or No Deal at 6. The whole business strikes us as an opportunity (albeit ever-so-slightly missed) to show that Channel 4 and everyone involved has moved on from B** B*****.

At the Broadcast Digital Awards, the Best Game went to The Bank Job (Head to Head). You know, the one without that George Lamb.

A very quiet week in the BARB ratings world. With no game shows making the top 30 on BBC1 or ITV, Mock the Week is on top with 2.5m viewers. Antiques Road Trip comes second on 2.15m, and Big Brother takes 1.9m on Thursday night. What happened then? Ah, who cares. Come Dine with Me was Channel 4's biggest, 1.7m viewers; 8 Out of 10 Cats scored a year-best 1.5m from being on straight after the England game, and Jimmy Carr being slightly less unappealing than Gary Lineker. Slightly. Amongst the digital channels, Famous Family Fortunes pipped A League of Their Own, both just over 700,000 viewers; Come Dine with Me on More4 had 530,000.

July is clearly ITV's month for flinging out all its summer programmes, because they expect the International Festival of Jingoism and Taxdodgery to prove popular in early August. Coming up this week, ITV has Tipping Point (5pm weekdays), and Hell's Kitchen Us is back (ITV2, 9pm Mon). Vernon Kay says Let's Get Gold (ITV, from 9pm Thu) and the new Andrew Lloyd Webber casting show Superstar begins next Saturday (7.15pm). And Challenge has classic Going for Gold (1pm weekdays).

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