Weaver's Week 2013-08-04

Last week | Weaver's Week Index | Next week

The Chase is off. Off on its summer break. So, while Bradley researches the names of middle-European sports stars, and Mark hangs out with the stars of Baywatch, what's happening in their usual slot?

Mark Labbett with Brooke Burns at the Brooklyn Dodgers' baseball game.


Take on the Twisters

12 Yard for ITV, from 22 July

Whatever it is, it's generating a lot of hate mail. "This is the worst programme of the year!" said one correspondent after 19 minutes of the opening episode. A bit harsh, some of us watched Face the Clock (twice), and we've not yet hidden behind the sofa for I Love My Shirt on BBC1. "Why do I pay my license fee for this?" wondered another; it's a stretch to argue against the compulsory license fee because of one programme on a commercial channel.

So, what's getting people in a twist? It's eight coloured sandglasses, the centrepiece of a delicate quiz hosted by Julia Bradbury. In each episode, she's joined by four contestants. They'll play a simple game in four rounds and a final, one of them can win £10,000 or so.

Take On the Twisters They are red and yellow and green and purple and white and pink and orange and aquamarine!

Each of the four rounds is similar: players aim to light up six of the eight twisters, and they do this by answering questions. The player in control is given a question, and must then decide to "stick" (see three options and answer it themselves), or "twist" (give the question to another player, who will then see three options and must give an answer). A correct answer allows that player to light one of the twisters – call it out by colour, and put it in play for the end of the round. They'll also get the next question. A wrong answer on a "twisted" question gives possession back to the twister, who calls a colour. A wrong answer to a "stick" question means nothing is lit, and play passes down the line.

Each individual question therefore has two moments of slight tension: who will answer the question, and whether that answer is right or not. Often, this is very slight tension – the contender knows they know the answer, or knows they don't know and must work out who they can throw it to. We find that demanding questions are rare, and we don't notice them getting tougher or easier as the round progresses.

Take On the Twisters Five of the twisters have been selected.

Whoever gave the last correct answer in a round – whether to a question, or by passing that question – gets to play the cash builder round. They'll step to the front of the stage, and be given one minute of rapid-fire questions. There's no multiple-choice element here: straight question and answer. As soon as the minute begins, the six lit twisters are inverted, and their sand begins to run. After each correct answer, the player has the option – but not the obligation – to twist one of the timers, reversing its flow.

The aim is to keep as many of the spinning things in play as possible, because each of them hides some money, from £300 to £1000. Obviously, the most valuable timer contains the least sand, it'll expire in about 25 seconds; the cheapest will still run out of sand within the minute if never inverted. Whatever's still lit when the minute expires releases cash into that player's bank.

Take On the Twisters The studio design.

And then we repeat for rounds two, three, four, each the same as the last. There's only one additional rule for later rounds: if and when all eight individual twisters have been won, the value of all of them is doubled, so the top prize becomes £2000. Even when the first three rounds are low-scoring affairs, it's possible for a player to come from behind and win in the fourth found. Only very rarely will the last round be pointless.

The pace of these early rounds is slow. Typically, it will take seven or eight minutes for the players to give the six correct answers needed. This can be a very long time. Yes, The Chase will take almost that long for the individual chases down the board, but that's broken up by banter between Bradley, the player, and the chaser. Take On the Twisters has conversation and anecdote: it feels like Julia's serialising her life story, and encourages the players to tell theirs. This programme lacks any sense of urgency and pace.

Take On the Twisters Host Julia Bradbury.

Nor is there any visual indication of how far in the round we are: is this the third attempt to light twister four, or the second at twister five? A graphic could fit along the bottom of the screen, showing how many twisters had already been lit, and helping people who don't give the programme their full attention.

The main problem is that Take On the Twisters barely uses its stars. Including the final game, the twisters are rotating for a maximum of five minutes in the hour. Just miss the first cash round and it's ages before a viewer can twist again. Compare with Tipping Point, where the viewer is never more than a minute away from seeing a counter enter the machine.

Take On the Twisters How far along in the round are we?

We'd like the twisters to see more action: at the moment, it's like inviting Mr. Labbett to a quiz studio and sticking him on a bench in the corner to argue with the host. Could there be a solo round for each player (but how would that differ from the final?) Or a limit to the number of questions asked in each round (but what of deliberately getting questions wrong?) Or just starting with less time and/or fewer twisters in play?

As it is, the game reaches its conclusion after four rounds. The three players with the smallest amounts in their banks are thanked, and invited to leave the studio with nothing. The winning player has their money hidden – at random – behind one of the eight twisters. And then they have one final minute's quizzing, this time trying to keep all eight of the coloured monsters in play. Succeed, and we'll be very impressed, because they'd need to have given something like 13 correct answers to 10 questions.

Take On the Twisters Twist red, like we did last summer.

Almost inevitably, they won't quite achieve that, and some of the twisters will be dark. Some will be lit, and the player is offered a gamble. Sorry, sorry, a trade, because "gamble" suggests gambling, and that could incite the wrath of the Junior Anti-Gambling League. The trade is a flat-rate. £200 for each of the remaining twisters. It's a decent finish when the player hasn't dominated the game – £400 against a 1/4 chance of winning £2200 is not bad. £1000 against a 5/8 chance of winning £3600 might cause some thought. But where the player has thrashed their opposition, it tends to look ludicrous – there's £9000 behind one of these six twisters, and you're offering £1200 to walk away? No chance!

Inevitably, the hidden cashpot is revealed with the maximum of fuss, by Julia asking "is it behind red? Is it behind purple? Is it behind the one we're calling "blue" but is more a sort of aquamarine?" An electronic display beneath each machine reveals the answer. And this goes on until she finds the cash, or runs out of colours.

Take On the Twisters After four rounds, these are the scores.

The money is concealed by an independent adjudicator, and we wonder if it would be possible to have one envelope (saying which is the winning twister) or eight envelopes saying whether that twister worked or not. Such an arrangement would allow a natural two-shot of presenter and contender, rather than a close-up of twister and the player in a small box.

And that's your game. We don't think that Take On the Twisters lives down to the hyperbole. It's not the worst show in the history of television ever. It's not even the worst show in the history of television this evening, not while Scrappy Doo continues to stink up Boomerang like a sock stuck behind the radiator. But neither is Take On the Twisters one we've tremendously enjoyed: three episodes to prepare this review have been enough.

Only Connect

Series 7, semi-final 2: Francophiles v Cartophiles

"I can promise you fireworks", says our host. One of the Francophiles appeared in a credit card advert with Jennifer Saunders, and the side has two wins from two games. One of the Cartophiles took four years to play a game of chess, the side has two wins and a loss to get here. Walls 333 and 334 a bit later.

The Francophiles have the audio round, and absolutely no clue. "The band names all derive from slang terms". No. "The subjects have all been controversially imprisoned." Songs including "Nelson Mandela" and "Birmingham Six", and a bonus for the Carts. On their own question, there's the Ghostbusters' Cadillac, Bessie from Dr Who, Postman Pat's van, and the Rolls-Royce of Lady Penelope. The Carts give a long answer, it talks about number plates, and how they all end in "1". Right! Points 1, score (er) 2-0.

Remotoptic and Egokinetic and Sexadekal and Uniglossal. Are these all words worth 50 points in Scrabble? Ah, ones with mixed Latin and Greek roots, formed by reversing Greek-Latin words. Television, automobile, hexadecimal, monolingual is their usual formation. Victoria's impressed, but just the one point. Onwards! The self-declared king of Iceland; a prolific Welsh hymn writer; the male lead of "A Star is Born"; and the team's going for it. People whose first name starts their surname, as in Kris Kristoffoson, Jurgen Jurgenson, William Williams, and we didn't need Magnus Magnusson. 4-1.

For the Francos, it's Judit Polgàr, Danica Patrick, Charlotte Brew, and a buzz. Women who were first to compete in men's sports. It's enough: not necessarily the first, but all competed against men on equal terms. Two points. Which leaves pictures for the Cartos: Nelson's Column, a swimming pool, Wales, and they're going for it. Things that are used as colloquial units of measurement, good for two points, and good for a 6-3 Cartophile lead.

Only Connect (2) Still confused by an earlier answer: Colin Kidd, Josh Mandel, and Mark Cooper.

To Sequences, where we (or the Francophiles) begin with 1969 Swansea. Then 1995 St David's, and they're going for it already! Cities in a country about the size of Wales, namely Wales, and concluding with 2012 St Asaph. Three points! For the Cartos, it's Bully, then Patty and Selma, and Mr Krabs. They're thinking characters in The Simpsons, and go for Montgomery Burns. The first one that came to the captain's mind is not a good enough reason. Then Victoria causes a million heads to hit a million hands: Bully is from Bullseye, Patty and Selma are twins, Mr. Krabs is (er) a crab from Spongebob Squarepants, so it's signs of the zodiac, and they're looking for a cartoon lion, like fanfic fave Simba. 6-6.

Sound the Five Point Klaxon!!!!5!!!!! 3rd mate is Flask, so the Captain is Ahab, and that's the order of command on the Pequod of Moby Dick. A whale of a score for the Francophiles, especially in the semi-final! For the Cartos, a precious metal, a Mini Cooper, some cloth, and they're having to guess at a crown. No. The Francos know it's Mad Men: Sterling silver, Cooper, Draper, and Johnathan Pryce. 11-6.

Back to the Francos, with some capital letters. EUSTACE, HERE THE FRENCH DO BATTLE, AND THOSE WHO WERE WITH HAROLD FELL, so we're not at the Arc de Triomphe but the Bayeux Tapestry, and the narrative says HERE KING HAROLD WAS KILLED. The one with the arrow in the eye, and a chap being hit with a sword. Two good points. Cartos close the round: the auditory meatus, the tympanum, and they're debating whether to go for three or two. They do go for three, but it's not the Ossicles (they're next), nor the Stirrup. The Cochlea. All of which leaves the Francophiles ahead, 13-6.

Right, what's in the wall for the Cartophiles? Fish, but they're not immediately coming out. Battles? That's a group, leaving Hastings. He turns out to be part of the Scotland rugby team. People who are experts at things proves to be a group. The battles are ones where the monarchs were killed, and the fish are flatfish. Ten points!

For the Francophiles, it looks like we're beginning with racehorse trainers, thanks to Sam Goodyear's translation of horseracing terms into French. Then there's a lot of organs, before someone asks "what's Cetti's?" The rest of the groups fall out: warblers and porcelain factories. Ten points!

Grade inflation: the Francophiles still have their lead, 23-16. Missing Vowels are amongst us, and begins with some film crew professions. Slow scoring in this group, 1-1. Political factions is to the Cartophiles' taste, winning 2-1. Scottish inventors and their inventions falls to the Francophiles, 4-(-1). Opposites in German, just the one point, to the Francophiles, and the first appearance of the szelig on network television.

All of which means the Francophiles have won, 29-19. They're back in next week's The Final, featuring so much lateral thinking even widescreen won't be broad enough.

This Week And Next

Britain's Got Talent It's 'er again!

We were intrigued to note that a couple of musical works have been released from the recent Britain's Got Talent series. Gabz Gardiner released the single "Lighters"*, a lovely if completely disposable piece of pop-funk. Third-place finishers Richard and Adam* have rush-released a full album, including many of Simon Cowell's all-time favourite songs. Hear the gents' version of "Ave Maria". Wonder if their version of "Hallelujah" is better than any you've heard. Groan at the inevitability of "The 'Unchained' melody" appearing a-blimmin-gain. And do remember to wear disposable clothes for the title track, "The impossible dream", because Britain evidently needs a Robson and Jerome tribute act, and the backing band's got eggs.

University Challenge Trinity: Matthew Ridley, Filip Drnovsek Zorko, Ralph Morley, Richard Freeland.
Christ Church Oxford: George Greenwood, Andreas Capstack, Ewan Macaulay, Phil Ostrowski.

To University Challenge, where Jeremy "Thumper" Paxman compared the architecture of Trinity Cambridge and Christ Church Oxford, both sides have won a series in his chairmanship. The opening question is the Non-Hidden Transmission Indicator, being about princes called — er, John. Trinity get off to a cracking start – getting their first six bonus questions correct. Two weeks ago, the sides barely got any bonuses in the first half, and not many in the second.

The quality of play tonight is tremendous: the first eight starters are answered correctly, as are two-thirds of the ensuing bonuses, and when the teams don't know the plot of "Meet Me in St Louis", Thumper notes "we've found a chink in your armour!" A hallmark of this year's series of Counterpoint has been contenders giving a wrong answer, only for it to be a correct answer shortly afterwards. So it is here, when Radiohead is first incorrect then right. Anyway, Christ Church try hard, and we suspect they're amongst the 16 best sides in the contest, but it's not certain we'll see them again, and suspect their highlight is going to be shouting "Pollux!" on network television. Trinity are doing a good impression of being amongst the best four, even the guesses come right. Trinity's final winning score is a very handsome 300-150.

A couple of matters arising. The first visual round featured a map of Britain, indicating counties. We're surprised to see that these are the historic counties including Middlesex, a map not used outside the studio since 1965. And on the Christ Church desk: is that something for the Game Show Hat panel to consider?

University Challenge D'ya think we should tell them the Brooklyn Dodgers moved to LA?

Ratings in the week to 21 July, when The Apprentice finished with 6.75m – that's down 1.5m on the prior week, but this show was two hours long. In It to Win It bowed out with 4.45m, and ITV's Mr and Mrs secured 3.35m, just ahead of Tipping Point Lucky Stars on 3.2m. University Challenge returned to 2.05m viewers, barely ahead of Big Brother on 1.95m. Bit on the Side had its biggest audience on Tuesday when Emma interviewed a lab rat who had been removed from the cage – 1.1 people heard the lab rat's account.

Over on Channel 4, Million Pound Drop had 1.2m viewers, and ITV4's coverage of the Tour de France had 1.175m tuning in. A mere 965,000 for Only Connect on BBC4, now twice as popular as E4's Skins. Hell's Kitchen on ITV2 brought 715,000, and 440,000 for QI XL on Dave. For the first time in a very long time, Sunday's repeats of Come Dine with Me on More4 fell short of the channel's top ten.

In a late schedule change, BBC1 has cancelled tonight's Celebrity Mastermind, so they can promote CBBC's Dr Who instead. The things they'll do to spoil Tipping Point! No such luck for Radio 4 listeners, who will still be subjected to a new series of Quote... Unquote (3pm Mon). Don't forget to miss it. The proper series of Mastermind begins on Friday (BBC2, 8pm) with a round on the Muppets. And everyone's favourite furry creatures will be back the next day with Pointless – er – That Puppet Game Show (BBC1, 6.45).

To have Weaver's Week emailed to you on publication day, receive our exclusive TV roundup of the game shows in the week ahead, and chat to other ukgameshows.com readers, sign up to our Yahoo! Group.

Last week | Weaver's Week Index | Next week

A Labyrinth Games site.
Design by Thomas.
Printable version
Editors: Log in