Weaver's Week 2013-12-01

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A captain, a celebrity, and a comedian walk into a studio.


Sweat the Small Stuff

Talkback for BBC3

Does the world need yet another comedy panel game about life's little irritants? The Beeb clearly thinks so, during 2013 it's commissioned two series of this programme. Nick Grimshaw is the host, moonlighting from his job as the Radio 1 Breakfast Show host. He's joined by regular team captains Rochelle Humes from The Saturdays, and Melvin Odoom from Pop Up Pop Quiz and Da Bungalow.

Four guests join the regulars each week, and they're an assortment of celebrities. This week, for instance, we had Georgia May Foote from Coronation Street and rapper Professor Green; bookings earlier in the series included Eurovision expert Ana Matronic, dancer Rachel Riley, and hair model Kelly Osbourne. The teams are balanced by a comedian – some of them are famous, like Joe Lycett and The Amazing Iain Stirling; others are less well-known, like Aisling Bea and Ian Smith (comedian, not Rhodesian).

Sweat the Small Stuff The panel's introduced through a fish-eye lens.

The basic concept behind Don't Sweat the Small Stuff is that one cannot cry if one's laughing. Life is full of little problems, the titular small stuff, and it's a waste of energy to worry about them too much. By laughing about these minor troubles, the show hopes to ease them into perspective. This tenor is set in the introduction, where Grimmy talks about each person, and then talks to each person, usually making a joke that's just slightly at their expense.

Sometimes, this conversation drags on a bit. Other times, it really drags on – in some of the episodes we've seen, it's seven minutes until the first round proper begins. If this were a proper game, the faffing-about factor would irritate us tremendously; even in this environment, we think the conversation doesn't merit quite such a long space.

As in all good programmes, there are usually four rounds; occasionally, one might be omitted to allow the others to be particularly entertaining. Usually, the opener is a "tell the truth" round: one of the captains briefly talks about a strange action, one that the viewers might expect to find taboo but not implausible. For instance, making a pass at a friend's partner – it happens, it's not something discussed in polite company.

Sweat the Small Stuff On the Quiff of Grimmy, I swear to tell the whole truth.

The Small Stuff researchers have been around the country, stopping members of the target audience and asking them if they've ever made a pass at a friend's partner. To ensure an honest answer, they're told to swear on The Quiff Of Grimmy, a holy relic — sorry, a *holey* and moth-eaten relic, invoking the power of the present Radio 1 Breakfast Show presenter to draw out an honest answer. The teams are invited to predict whether the random person said "yes" or "no", but mostly to discuss what quality about that person led them to the answer.

There's a hidden-camera filmed round, in which Melvin and Rochelle are challenged to complete various embarrassing tasks, or commit minor faux pas. This week, the captains were asked to brag about their exam qualifications to a complete stranger, and make out that their clothes were more expensive than the next person's. We're not sure what they're trying to achieve here: is it to find the emotional tipping point of the captains? Test their ability to act? To get lucky in selecting people who will believe any old rubbish?

A similar question arises from the "match the panelist to the quirky fact" round. Who is Rochelle's secret celebrity crush? Is it GTV hunk Lizo Mzimba? No, it's Trevor McDonald, the newscaster and voice of authority. Great man, but we're not sure why we're shown pictures of him at work and at play to a slightly sleazy backing track. Is it to confirm the sense of Rochelle's choice? Or to gently mock her honesty?

Sweat the Small Stuff Someone wants to look older than their years.

The final round is the "Sweat Box", inhabited by someone from the studio audience. They'll put forward something that is worrying them, and the teams will each come up with a way of lessening that problem. For instance, a gentleman who believed he was too young-looking was invited to count his blessings because he'll still look young when he's older; or to have a pen moustache drawn on his face. Points are tallied, winner declared, who cares, end credits.

We can just about see where the producers are trying to go here: these problems are small, those are far away, life is short, don't worry, have a giggle, and see that things will turn out for the best. For this to happen, we'd expect to be laughing with sympathy, chortling with the person. All too often, we feel like we're laughing at them, that the problem is an excuse to snigger behind our hand at the modestly-famous person. And that's not so fun.

Sweat the Small Stuff From the right angle, the teams look like they're coming out of a tunnel.

Why is there an entertainer and a comedian on each side? We don't know. All too often, the comedian is marginalised, not contributing much to the discussion, and not getting much chance to be funny. Other times, the celebrity is on the set and contributes nothing of merit, as James Arthur did. Perhaps we'd like Don't Sweat the Small Stuff more if it wasn't so formulaic, if it didn't book people because they fit into little stereotypes.

As it is, the programme is perfectly fine, but not one we'd go out of our way to see, and we've enjoyed it less as we've seen more of it.

Only Connect

Series 8, Match V: Board Gamers v Science Editors

Win some, lose some. Both of these sides have tasted both victory and defeat, but whose cake is made of connect-o-spot? It might be the Science Editors, whose captain is a keen amateur baker. It might be the Board Gamers, who would rather play Pokémon Guess Who and The Chairman's Game than Monopoly*. In a month's time, walls 388 and 389 might be a terrible game for Christmas afternoon, testing the resilience of Aunt Maude's new tablet to firm pressing, while Uncle Richard downs a tablet of the aspirin variety.

Let's play Only Connect. That's the badger. The Science Editors kick off, with "wheat, rice, potatoes, etc". They're staples, thinks the team, but they have to see three more clues to confirm — it's staples. One point won, or four left begging? The Board Gamers want to ride the lion, but it's music clues: a woman singing opera, Bob Marley, a scratchy old 78, and Tom Jones Tom Jones. The guess is relatives, mothers in particular. "Mama told me not to come", "Mother and child reunion", "My Yiddish momme", and "Mia madre aveva una povera ancella". 1-1.

Back to the Science Editors: Dungeons and Dragons is 1 to 10, Harry Potter 1 to 17, World of Warcraft 1 to 100, and they go for the number of levels in each. Er, no. When did Harry Potter have levels? Aureus is 1 to 25. Nor is it species. It's gold-to-silver conversion rates: one gold coin makes this many silver ones. For the Board Gamers, it's Kniphofia, "Fighting AIDS through Pop Culture", 500-800 degrees C, and Have Flea on bass. That'll be the giveaway: red hot; the Chili Peppers, the Red Hot* organisation of the early 1990s, and the red hot poker plant. 2-1 to the Gamers.

Wick o'Twisted Flax o'Doom for the Science Editors: Incognito, Unbeknownst, Misnomer, Nonchalant. "Have they got something in them?" Loan words from French? Goodness, no! All start with negative prefixes? Not enough: there's no positive opposite – you can't have a nomer or be cognito. Pictures for the Board Gamers: a chord, the words "have solved" underlines, and that's enough for Jamie to reach for the buzzer, then think about something else, then buzz in. They have achieved perfection: a perfect fifth, perfect tense, with a perfect game and binding to follow. The Gamers lead, 5-1.

Perfection Nick Knowles only pays for perfection.

On to Connections, where the Science Editors begin with pictures: a perfect fifth (yes, the same picture we saw a minute ago), a building, a bronze medallist, but it's not a second hand. It's a half-pint of ale; the picture is from the French Quarter, and Half anything will do for a bonus. On their own question, the Board Gamers have February with the holes filled in yellow. Same for August, and Hywel explains it's July with no shading, for it has no holes in the letters. 9-1 to the Board Gamers.

4th is Iudaeorum, 3rd is Rex, 2nd is Nazarenus. What's on first for the Science Editors? Kristos is close, 1st Iesus scores the two points. Will the Board Gamers score liberally? Clem Davies, Jo Grimond, Jeremy Thorpe, and then that well-known resident of Stoke-on-Trent, Charles Kennedy. No. Alex Salmond. No, he's of the SNP. It's David Steel, the last leader of the Liberal Party before its merger with the SDP, after which things get murky with two successor parties. 9-3.

Back to the Science Editors: Just begin, Nearly new, and Andrew Cosgrove knows the link and has to work out the fourth. "Walk out the door"? No. "Merry Christmas". No! AA Milne's poem "The End"; barely more the link no-one got. On to the Gamers: 4th Hôtel-de-Ville, 3rd Temple, 2nd Bourse, so what's first? Where are we? Stations on the Paris Métro, they think. Gard du Nord? Gare de l'Est? No, this isn't stations, it's arrondissements, and 1st is Louvre. Still 9-3 to the Board Gamers.

The Board Gamers kick off their connecting wall with cats, of which there are six, but Jamie's gameplayer fingers don't waltz over all the possible combinations. They're also seeing types of sherry and places in Mexico; we're seeing inhabitants of islands around the UK, like Cameron Stout the famous Orcadian. There are clues "Let's Hang On" and "Silver Star", and "Rag Doll" has an unusual capitalisation so it might not be a cat. The island groups come out in the final moments, the first group was Spanish alcoholic drinks; Diurach is from Jura? The final group is songs by the Four Seasons, which they miss. Five points!

Here is the news! One of the Science Editors' clues is O'Hanrahahanrahan, a dead giveaway to fans of The Day Today*. They start with singular versions of books of the Bible, and continue with a shot at game birds. The Editors forget that Alan Partridge was in there, but they do find a set of words that begin with a silent letter. Francolin was the game bird they didn't know, and Collaterlie Sisters was the business correspondent. Five. Five. Five. (5.)

Only Connect The Science Editors are looking for inspiration.

Looking at the score Victoria, we see the Board Gamers lead 14-8. Remember how the Editors dropped four points on the first question of the show? Costly. Impressionists contains Cezanne, Gaugain, Degas, but no Rory Bremner, that was last week. 2-2, then "Words that contain COREN in order" is a series of remarks on our host. 3-1 to the Editors, but a set also known as Papa goes to the Gamers by 4-(-1).

Which means the clanging chimes of doom sound for the Science Editors, who leave us with 12 points. The Board Gamers have a total of 21, and will have to come back and do it again, with even more difficult questions.

This Week And Next

University Challenge reached halfway through the second round, this week featuring Bangor and Southampton. Bangor handily beat Aberystwyth, Southampton overcame Loughborough in the second-chance saloon. Bangor got the first starter and all the bonuses, and Southampton picked up a missignal. Southampton's extra match may have helped them buzz in on a question asking after a word made from three middle initials; they did well on Pantone Colors (sic) of the Year. Quite how they can know what the colour of the new year will be before it actually happens, we've no idea. Southampton also did well with streets and landmarks in New Amsterdam.

Eurovision Song Contest The Copenhagen Principle?

Southampton did well about a lot of things, including the Copenhagen Principle. Not something to do with singing a Scottish folk song while prancing around barefoot on the stage, but something in theoretical physics. The only gap in their knowledge was on women's fiction, the team made token offers for three questions on the Orange prize. They were, however, perfect on songs the BBC declined to play on the radio. And they scored on ancient roads, theoretical philosophers, and the Oxford comma. Bangor (remember them?) finally got another starter with the second picture round, by which time they were 200 points in arrears. They get another one, on archaeological eras named after Wales, but the damage is done. In the end, Southampton are winners by 335-60. Bangor's bonus conversion rate was a superb 78%, Southampton's a measly 62%.

Seen Darryn Lyons lately? Thought not. The Deadline and Celebrity Big Brother person has been elected mayor of Geelong. He'll be remaining in Australia for a long time hence.

The BAFTA Children's awards were dished out last weekend. Game shows didn't do so well, only Sam Nixon and Mark Rhodes won, sharing the Presenter accolade for their Big Friday Wind Up. Game of the Year was Skylanders Giants, Most Popular Video Game went to Despicable Me: Minion Rush, and the Multiplatform award to Kinect Sesame Street TV.

Jaw-dropper of the week came on Fferm Ffactor. The finalists were asked to make a video promoting their local markets. One of them had members of the Young Farmers' Club dressed in animal onesies, and people grooving to "Oi've got a brand new combine 'arvester", but in Welsh. A bit like that. We're never going to be able to unsee it.

Does anyone have a supply of eggs? ITV's announced a new singing competition. Rising Star is based on the innovative, popular, and wildly successful Flash Vote on The X Factor; people register their approval for the act on the screen, and if enough people like it, the performer continues in the contest. Otherwise, a trapdoor opens in the floor and they're eaten by a pit of crocodiles. (The press release is a bit sketchy on this point, and we may have some of the details slightly wrong. It could be alligators.)

Of course, ITV has an uncanny ability with talent series at the moment. The X Factor is falling faster than a Justin Bieber single, no thanks to its policy of booking people whose most creative work is their tax return. Britain's Got Talent has turned into a throwing contest, Stepping Out probably isn't coming back, and Your Face Sounds Familiar has disappeared underneath the waves never to be seen again. With such a pedigree, it's difficult to see how Rising Star can fail. Unless the crocodiles work out how to open the trap door from underneath, or the show gets a transfer to Channel 4.

No crocodiles on this week's Mastermind, they're saving that for the celebrity editions from 23 December.

  • Adrian Gorst (Robert the Bruce) was a contender for the Scottish throne, he was backed by Dougal McDougal, won at Dundee but lost at Bannockburn. 10 (1) is increased thanks to a question on 70s comedy The Good Life, which will be on BBC2 this month. We've not actually checked the schedules, but we're sure it is. There are a few slip-ups on the way, the final score of 22 (2) feels a little light for the win, but is entirely respectable.
  • Tony Marwood (Life and Career of Lester Piggott) answered strongly on the flat-racing jockey with interesting tax arrangements. The subject couldn't dig it: the contender could, his 11 (0) is only slowly enhanced in the general knowledge phase. He dropped a few we'd get, but scored with some we have no clue on. 20 (0) isn't quite enough for the win.
  • Julie Aris (The Simon Serallier novels of Susan Hill) answered all the questions on the fictional detective, but some wrong answers took forever to clear up. It's a modern series of books, discussing CJD and the pair of Charles and Camilla, and the contender reached 13 (0). The contender is entirely right to have "tomato" accepted when the host has "tomato purée" on the card, and takes the lead with about 45 seconds to play. By this time, she's had a pass, but successfully runs up the score to 27 (3). A couple of passes in the closing moments might cost her a place as a high-scoring loser. If that's necessary!
  • Euan McCulloch (Life and Career of Hugh Gaitskill) scored on the Labour party leader, chancellor, and loser of Election '59. No losing here: the contender had a Perfect Round of 14 (0). Knowing that he'll need to double his score to win, the contender has a slightly wobbly start, recovers, wobbles some more, recovers again, then stalls for an absolute age on the fruit known as the "crepox" – an apricot. It costs him such momentum as he had, and the round peters out to finish on 24 (4).

So Julie Aris is through as a weekly winner, and comes back in the new year.

BARB ratings in the week to 17 November, when Strictly had 11.45m, I'm a Celebrity returned with 11.25m, and The X Factor had 8.6m. Pointless recorded its highest daytime audience ever, 4.65m for Friday's celebrity edition. BBC2's decision to counter-schedule against Only Connect is paying off: 3.9m for Masterchef The Professionals, and Victoria and Clare and Alice were reduced to 965,000. 1.85m for the Buzzcocks-Dr Who repeat on Thursday, 50% above any other edition this year. Celebrity Juice ended on ITV2 with 1.65m, Get Me Out of Here Now 1.3m, and Come Dine with Me led on Channel 4 with 1.25m. This week's surprise satellite star is Junior Bake Off, 430,000 watched CBBC for more cake tips.

A good week for the talented: Strictly Come Dancing gets the Friday Night is Music Night treatment (Radio 2, 8pm Fri), the BBC New Comedy Award reach the semi-finals (Radio 2, 10pm Mon and Tue), and Michelle McManus has an authored documentary about the music of the Western Isles (BBC Alba, 9pm Tue). Eastenders cast members are on Pointless Celebrities (Sat 6.20), Dick Strawbridge is on The Chase (Sat 7.15), with Strictly at 7.10 and X Fac at 8.15, followed by I'm a Celeb at 9.45. And what of Brendan from Coach Trip? Brendan's Love Cruise begins this week (More4, 9.20am weekday mornings). Don't forget to miss it.

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