Weaver's Week 2013-10-20

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Bringing new meaning to the phrase, "We report, you deride"!


Was It Something I Said?

Maverick / That Mitchell & Webb Company for Channel 4, from 6 October

Another week, another Channel 4 "comedy" panel show that no-one's going to watch. It seems that we've had millions of those in recent years: the rubbish one about advertising, the unfunny comedy one, the pop-nostalgia one that was so bad it lost half its length in the edit suite. So, is this going to be any better? Is it familiar from somewhere? Ah, yes.

Was It Something I Said? It's Quote... Unquote. For the digital age.

The reputation of that programme precedes it, in much the same way that the reputation of Conan T. Barbarian precedes him. Brutish, not funny, and a large waste of space to civilised society. We'd so rather it wasn't. We'd rather hear the host say,

Welcome to the show giving help by nebulous and undefined methods. It is "Something Is Aid".

Anyway. Celebrity husband David Coren Mitchell is our host, joined by regular team captains Richard Ayoade but Micky Flanagan. Like the host, one of the captains is witty, funny, and knows when to shut up and let the guests have their moment. The other gets the same qualities in the edit suite. As well as a guest contestant for each team, there's a guest announcer to read out some of the quotes and join in the discussion.

Was It Something I Said? A sample question on screen.

And there's a lot of discussion. In the opening round, DCM will read out a quotation, and offer three plausible alternatives. This statement about fashion. Did it come from flamboyant entertainer Liberace? Did it come from fashion queen and punk guru Vivienne Westwood? Or did it come from the Bad Shirt Casino's croupier Noel Edmonds?

Was It Something I Said? The same sample question on second screen.

Viewers are invited to play along at home by publishing the answer on a microblogging social network service. It's free to enter, and literally some people are playing along. In one question we saw last week, the grand total of five people had submitted answers. None of these answers was correct. It's a level of wrongitude that Myleene Klass would be proud of!

While these handful of viewers are submitting their answer, complete with an organisational octothorpe, the panel talks. And talks and talks. And our mind wanders...

This observational documentary looks at doormen guarding the entrance to a haberdashery exhibition for adult slimmers. It is "'So Me Thin'. Gisa I D".

What, they've given an answer? Lummee, that only took three minutes. With such an emphasis on the social media playalong, the panel needs to be able to converse intelligently about the subject without actually giving an answer, and without coming close to giving an answer. We don't feel that the programme is scripted, like Mitchell's own radio show The Unbelievable Truth, but we do scent that the discussion is planned and plotted, the host prods it along in certain ways so that he's sure to have the necessary filler material.

One question each in the first round, and then it's into the commercial break.

Was It Something I Said? The answer no-one gave was #edmonds2.

After the break, it's the Keywords round. The players are given key words from a longer quotation, and are invited to guess what the actual quote was. The problem here is that most of the quotes are really obscure, and David gets to award points based on a very loose approximation. Mercifully, he's not bound to award a point if he believes that neither side has earned it.

And again, this is an excuse for lots of studio banter and discussion. There's no playalong value to this question, the microbloggers have to sit through it and dream of other rounds where they might have buttons to press. Some of them have ways of exercising their thumbs. Some think about turning over to other shows.

Welcome to the telethon for the aunt of a retired tennis champion. It be "Some T. Hingis Aid".

Was It Something I Said? Was it Ayoarde, Byrne (comedian), Phil Daniels, Mitchell Coren, or The Bogeyman?

Eventually, we're back for the final round. A quote is shown, made by one of five people: the two people on the opposing team, the guest announcer, the host, or this week's bogeyman. The Bogeyman? Someone of the standing of Piers Morgan or Jeremy Kyle, shorthand for the uneducated and unashamedly populist programmes on ITV. Someone who the Channel 4 audience believes is in opposition to their values of tolerance and liberal speech and laughing at the plebs. (For clarity: We have no evidence that Mr. Morgan or Mr. Kyle are in any way intolerent or oikish. They're just used as lazy comedy stereotypes.)

So, was this something that someone who would appear on a Channel 4 comedy discussion programme would say, or is it something that this maroon would come out with? A misunderstanding of, literally, almost some entertainment value.

And, er, that's it. Viewers to Channel 4+1 get to play via a different microblogging account, viewers to the Friday repeat use the same accounts but get different questions, and viewers to shuffle channel 4seven are so few and far between that it's probably cheaper to send out answers using Fastext like they did on Bamboozle!. People who get a right answer are allowed to see additional out-takes and deleted scenes, which apparently counts as a prize now.

Was It Something I Said? Give yourself a pat on the side, you tried...

Interactive playalong games are an interesting idea, and there are elements of this programme that show promise. Ultimately, we get the impression that the show was built around the interactivity, and it doesn't really work without the playalong factor. ITV2 ran a similar experiment last month, and Crazy Beaches worked as a television programme without playing along. Y Lifft on S4C remains the best interactive show yet, the playalong added something to proceedings.

You have been watching this show. And now it's over. Was it Something I Said?

Only Connect

Series 8, Match Q: Press Gang v Bakers

Walls 358 and 359 later. Time to meet the last two sides of this series. The Press Gang are Emily Phillips, Richard Colfer, and Robin Seavill, all of them are puzzle compilers for the Press Association. Tim Spain, Matt Rowbotham, and Peter Steggle are the Bakers, so named because they're all bakers.

Connections! Lumiere is completely unhelpful; Dora the Explorer's backpack and The Sorting Hat give away that they're objects that can talk. Lumiere is from Disney's Beauty and the Beast]. People for the Bakers: José Rizal, Bernardo O'Higgins, Prince William I of Orange, Kemal Atatürk. All founders of countries: Philippines, Chile, Netherlands, Turkey. 2-1 to the Press Gang.

A pure tone. Biorhythms. Simple harmonic motion. Alternating current. They buzz, it's a sign that they know the answer. "They're all waves": it's good enough, sine waves the answer on the caption. Pictures for the Bakers: a rhinoceros, a permanent residence card, the sea between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and they go for colours. Not quite enough: the things have colours in their names, but they're not that colour. 4-1 to the Press.

Opening the St Peter's Jubilee door. Entering a Freemasons lodge. If you want Tony Orlando... dead giveaway. Knock three times, score two points. Music for the Bakers: something grand and classical, a slow sea piece, "Windmills of your mind", and a mouse on the stairs. Windmills, the link: Press Gang, the lead, 6-2.

Sequences! 5 cuts make 16 pieces. 4 cuts make 11 pieces. So how many pieces from 2 cuts? Four pieces, natch. It's the maximum number of pieces of cuts from a circle, and some of those 16 pieces would be indistinguishable from crumbs. Two points. For the Bakers, a brown button with a square of holes, a bowling ball, and a buzz. "A minty sweet". Things with fewer holes, like a doughnut. Three points, so the Press Gang lead 8-5.

Back to the Gang: West Yorkshire, Grater Manchester, West Midlands, and they'll go for Greater London. Populations, or surface area, increasing in size. Now, if 4 is inadequate, 3 requires improvement, they'll go for 1 outstanding, the grades in OFSTED inspections. Once upon a time, 3 was "satisfactory", but that's no longer satisfactory. 10-8.

2 (1990). "Need more than that." Vengeance (1995), and then there's a buzz, and a huge pause. Nor is it "A Good Day To (2013)". Close: it is the Die Hard movies, last word of the title, but the answer is "Hard (2013)". And on. 4th: Olivia Newton-John, 3rd: Prima Donna, 2nd: Mary Hopkin, and they'll guess at 1st: Janis Joplin. Bwahahahahaha. 1st: Sandi Shaw, which is correct for a bonus. Positions secured by BBC entries to the senior Eurovision Song Contest: sadly, the sequence didn't extend to next year's entry Paul Weller (23rd). 11-8 to the Press Gang.

On to the Walls, where the Bakers have Disney princesses, Ivy League universities, types of rice. They're stymied by not having heard of Princess Merida from last year's Brave*: none of these players has ever been a mother or a daughter. And what's the fourth group? And what's the exact line-up for the rice group? Time is not on the team's side, but their second guess does correctly come out. That last group: not Baz Luhrmann films, but Prokofiev ballets. Seven points!

The Press Gang start with films called "___ Story", and then look at what's left. Symphonies, types of dog, salads. "Utility" and "Wafu" are clues of interest, to the point where they don't quite know what they are. Ah! Wafu is a salad dressing, Utility a dog, and "Heroes" is a symphony by Philip Glass, based on the David Bowie work; all the nicknames are of 4th Symphonies. The last two groups remained in the grid when time expired, and the team offer "salad" not "dressing". Five points!

All of which leaves the Press Gang leading 16-15 into Missing Vowels. Closer than last week! Styles of cooking comes up first, and that goes to the Bakers 3-1. Things removed in the game "Operation" is also to the Bakers 3-1. Major railway stations is more to the Press Gang's taste, winning 2-1. Fictional rodents gives the nod to Rastamouse as the Bakers win 2-1. And TV series set in the 1950s is announced, but time expires.

All of which means the Bakers have won, 24-21, and they'll be back in the second round (winner's side). Press Gang drops into the one-and-a-halfth round.

This Week And Next

An all-Welsh battle in this week's University Challenge, with Aberystwyth taking on Bangor. It was the latter who got the first set of bonuses, on sovereign states that are members of the United Nations in their own right. And Bangor got most things right: all four members of the team had a starter before Aber combined for two of 'em. Three women on the Bangor side, the only female-majority side of the tournament. A question asked which European country joined the United Nations in this century. It's Switzerland, the last hold-out against the international body, and that event allowed Richard Osman to make his catchphrase of "an independent sovereign state that's a member of the UN in its own right."

It was game over at 8.11 when, with Bangor 100-15 ahead, Thumper said "there's plenty of time." There's never plenty of time! Aber made a decent shot at a comeback, but confused their polka with their tango, and the gap increased from 45 to 75 in no time at all. Aberystwyth weren't yet completely beaten, recovering to 25 points, but they never quite looked set to challenge for the lead. That was in spite of some very good buzzes, to answer questions on potatoes and calcium carbonate. Bangor got the Michael Gove memorial question, on dice that aren't cubes, and that sparked something of a late spurt. The final score: Bangor win, 230-110.

University Challenge Aberystwyth: Simon Thomas, Matthew Campbell, Ned Bishop-Harper, Daniel Guy.
Bangor: Owain Jones, Daisy Le Helloco, Catriona Coutts, Anna Johnson.

The transfer window has opened at the BBC. The Great British Bake Off has signed to BBC1 from next year; the fee is undisclosed, but is believed to include something for the squirrels. The show is attracting ratings indistinguishable from those of The X Factor, and wants to leave BBC2 clear for slightly less popular shows, like Top Gear. Or Only Connect, which has moved from BBC4 to BBC2. Host Victoria Coren Mitchell is seeking to remain more popular than her husband's panel game.

BBC4 is going to take on three trialists for pre-season friendlies, The Knowledge (a BBC in-house production), Enigma (from Only Connect makers Parasol), and Eliminate the Impossible (from Victory Television of 5 Minutes to a Fortune). The Clangers have been re-signed for BBC Parliament, proving more intelligible than that Andrew Neil bloke, who has been sent on the back of a cow to BBC Over the Moon. Breakaway wasn't picked up in last year's transfer window, when the entire Afternoon Entertainment squad moved from BBC2 to BBC1, and it's now gone to seek its fortune in China. It's not clear whether host Nick Hancock will remain in post.

It's understood that BBC2 offered BBC1 access to the Mastermind play-offs, but baulked when told that the price was the remainder of the contract for Citizen Khan.

  • Richard Holness (Asterix) was the victim of some very microscopic plot points: what colour was Asterix's chariot in one of the books? What was the name of a one-page character? There's not even a mention of the English-language translator, Anthea Bell, sister of Martin. 8 (0) is increased courtesy of The Million Pound Question: where's the Riverside cricket ground? The contender spots that, and keeps the pace up well, finishing on 21 (2).
  • Daniel Adler (Life and Works of Puccini) got the Nessun Dorma question out of the way on question two, and suffered a little from Humpo struggling with the Italian. 9 (0) feels like an underestimate, but while the contender offered answers, many of them were close but not quite right. 21 (1) would just give him the lead.
  • Betty McAlister (Life of George IV) began with a tremendously long question on the Brighton Pavilion, and never really gained confidence in reaching 9 (3). Almost straight away, her general knowledge round falls into a pass spiral, and it finishes on 16 (10).
  • Pete Collin (Robert E. Lee) took questions on the Confederate army general. A slightly nervy performance, but a good one: 11 (1) turned out to be enough for the half-time lead. The second round has a wobbly start, and that continues through a shaky middle and a rickety end. With eleven needed to win, the contender probably can't afford to pick his questions, and ends up passing a bit too much, ending on 19 (8).

So Daniel Adler wins a low-scoring contest. With a slightly more favourable set of questions, he could be a dark horse next time out.

BARB ratings for the week to 6 October, when Strictly (10.35m performances, 8.85m results) comfortably beat The X Factor (8.15m Saturday, 7.85m Sunday). The Great British Bake Off is nibbling at the heels with 7.75m. Elsewhere, HIGNFY returned with 5.55m, Pointless Celebrities attracted 4.1m. Through the Keyhole finished with 3.65m, Big Star's Little Star entertained 3.45m, and University Challenge had 3.15m. Saturday's celebrity edition of The Chase (2.9m) barely beat the daytime show (2.85m). Surprised to see Tipping Point in ITV's top 30, a score of 1.85m is brilliant at 4pm, but abysmal for the rest of ITV's peaktime output.

That Mitchell-Coren battle? 1.2m for Was It Something I Said?, 960,000 for Only Connect. Celebrity Juice had 1.35m, A League of Their Own Series 7 took 655,000, and beat Xtra Factor on 580,000. Living's new hype The Face UK is turning into a bit of a flop, 165,000 viewers is behind Masterchef Australia (215,000 on Watch) and barely beats the Indian version of Big Brother: Bigg Boss airs on Colors channel, which started reporting viewing numbers this week, and pulls an audience of 135,000.

It's the grand final of The Great British Bake Off (BBC2, 8pm Tuesday). If you missed Andy Akinwolere on Fort Boyard this morning, it's probably on ITV Catchup, and he's on Pointless Celebrities (Sat 5.40). Don't forget that clocks go back next Sunday, so less of an excuse for missing the next Boyard. Celebrities on The Chase next Saturday include Christopher Biggins, it's movie week on The X Factor, and ancient joke week on Strictly Come Dancing.

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