Weaver's Week 2014-03-16

Last Week | Weaver's Week Index | Next Week

"I don't like the new format of the revenge of the eggheads on BBC-2 at 6pm", said Alan Sugar this week. "I do hope the original eggheads has not been dumped", added the occasional television critic.

Revenge of the Egghead


Revenge of the Egghead

12 Yard for BBC2, from 24 February

So, what is it that's got Mr. Sugar so rattled? The title role in Revenge of the Egghead is played by CJ de Mooi; in times past, he was an Egghead, then he left to pursue acting roles. Oh yes he did. Those didn't turn out so well — oh no they didn't — so he's back! Back!! BACK!!! The nominal host, the person who explains the rules and controls (!) the game is Jeremy Vine.

Joining CJ and Tim's Brother are five contenders. They don't know each other, but they must work as individuals to reach the final game, where they'll work as a team to win an amount of money that might be "a bit", or even reach the dizzy heights of "some".

Revenge of the Egghead Five face one

The contenders have ten lives between them, two each. Brother Vine asks a general knowledge question to the first contender. It's a decently taxing question, nothing too obvious, but nothing absurdly difficult either. There are no options, the contender either knows the answer or not. A correct answer will earn £200 for the team's pot.

After hearing the answer – or even before, if he's feeling particularly brave – CJ can challenge the contestant and offer an answer of his own. When he's wrong, CJ looks a bit silly, even when he's buzzed in to assert his superiority by saying "No, of course it's not Fresian". One thing to know an answer is not right, another to know the correct response. When he's wrong and the contender is right, CJ looks a right wally, and drops another £100 into the prize fund for beating the Egghead.

Revenge of the Egghead The buzzer started on 21 Questions Wrong, yanno.

But when the player is wrong, and CJ's right – and this happens a fair bit – there's a bit of jeopardy. In a minor piece of dramatic tension, the player is invited to put themself on the hot spot, a red circle at the end of contestant's row. At this point, CJ fumbles down the side of his armchair for something. A pound coin falling out of his pocket? The remote control? A slightly-melted sticky toffee? No, it's his Quiz Pad, stacked full of questions CJ has personally written himself. Of course we believe that CJ has personally written all of these questions himself, had them verified and edited by the Eggheads verifiers and editors, and only declines a "question writing" credit because it's rude to appear in the credits twice. This is the BBC, they would never mislead us on screen.

Once he's brushed the lint off his Quiz Pad, CJ asks a question, and puts forward four possible answers. The contender will either know the answer or not, but they must follow the 12 Yard tradition and witter on for some moments about the possible options before coming to a conclusion. A correct answer allows the contender to return to the row of players; an error will cost them one of their lives, and losing both lives means that player is out of the game. "The Egghead", we're told, "has taken his revenge."

Revenge of the Egghead A player faces one of CJ's handbaked questions.

Now, this section goes on quite a bit. Usually, players will get about half the questions right for money, CJ will call out about half of the errors, and on his questions will beat the players about two-thirds of the time. The cash building phase lasts for about 17 minutes, always ending when everyone has had the same number of cash questions. We find the building phase – even though it's interrupted by CJ's posers – goes on for just a bit too long.

Eventually, Vine Minor announces "the klaxon", a loud interrupting noise that really is phoning in its performance, being neither loud nor interrupting. It does herald the beginning of the end of the show, so we'll not be too harsh against it.

The remaining players – however many there are, and there's always at least one – gather together. They're able to pool their brains, share their expertise, and bring together however many lives they've got left. And, for the next three minutes, do absolutely nothing while they watch CJ de Mooi answer general knowledge questions. He'll get ten of them, and however many he gets right is the target for the contestants to beat. And beat it they must: there's no money for a draw, not in this game!

Revenge of the Egghead How much change is down the side of the seat?

After seeing CJ set a target, the players set off to give the nine (or so) correct answers required. They can get questions wrong, but each wrong answer will cost them one of their remaining lives. No-one will go on the Hot Spot, and CJ's Quiz Pad can stay stuffed down the side of the armchair to gather more fluff.

These questions are no harder than the ones in the main game, but that still means the contestants combined will fail on a third of the posers. And a single error means a life is gone: there's no faffing about with the buzzer, or anything like that. To get nine right, the players really need five or six lives in hand, any less and they'll need to be lucky.

Revenge of the Egghead The players confer in the final round

And that's the show. There are comparisons to be made with the successful teatime favourite The Chase: regular people face an acknowledged quiz professional. They play solo efforts against CJ (albeit everyone's solo effort here is intertwined with everyone else's), are likely to be penalised for wrong answers (a player won't be out until they've got four questions wrong), and bring back money for a joint cash pot at the end. Then they work as a team to score better than their opponent in order to capture that prize – typically around £2000.

There are comparisons, but they're limited. CJ plays a character, and we don't think it's yet a well-drafted one. Is he meant to be the big bad meanie, in the Dick Dastardly style? Is he meant to be superior to everyone, like Marvin the Paranoid Android? We don't think he's to be a tough-but-honourable quizzer like the Chasers, but that could be the producer's plan and we're not getting it.

Whatever CJ's characterisation, he needs someone to work with. Vine (J) probably can't fill that role, seeing as how he's asking the questions and ensuring fair play. CJ's character needs someone else – a sniggering sidekick like Muttley, a naif like Arthur Dent, or someone who will both challenge him and give him an excuse to perform. Perhaps Mr. Sugar was right, and this programme would work better as Revenge of the Eggheads, pair CJ up with some other resident nasty person. (But the other Eggheads are far too nice!)

The cash building round goes on just a little too long. Perhaps we might give the contestants an excuse to interact with CJ early on: Jeremy talks with the player and gives them one life, then CJ asks a question to earn another life. The players starting with one life would be helped by a shorter main game, but this would reduce the money available. Hmm. It's an idea, it might not work, and we're really talking ourselves out of it.

Would there be a way of the contestants picking up on CJ's errors in the final round? An extra life for a stolen question might work. Again, an idea, gels with "beating the Egghead bonus", might not work.

Revenge of the Egghead These players have now won. Now CJ can take his revenge.

Our final problem with Revenge of the Egghead is the whole "revenge" thing. Why is CJ taking revenge against these people? What's his beef against these random people? What have they done to upset him? We have a suspicion that this show was going to be called Return of the Egghead, until they realised that was a title they could use once, and couldn't use for another series.

The prize is low, it's difficult to see any individual player walking out with more than £700, and that feels a bit too low for a just-in-prime-time programme. But the questions come along at a fair clip, we'll usually get through about 40 in the half-hour programme. And we have to remember that all shows take a little time to get it right. Even Eggheads. Even The Chase.

Ultimately, we find the show more watchable than Eggheads, but that's hardly praise. More watchable than the opening half of The Chase on ATV+1? Possibly: switching to BBC2 at the first ad break might be the best tactic. Viewing figures have declined from 1.3m for the opening episode to barely a million in overnight flashes this week.

University Challenge

Group Phase 4, Match I: Manchester v Southampton

Well, this isn't the match we expected. In earlier phases, Manchester lost in phase 1 to Trinity Cambridge, but won in phase 2 over Cardiff. Southampton beat Queen's Belfast in phase 1, and lost to Somerville Oxford in phase 3. Winners will take a spot in phase 5, the semi-finals, which we guess will be arranged to avoid a re-match.

"What is this?" asks Thumper before reeling off a potted biography of a location. It's a better beginning than "Where am I?", because a smart alec contestant could correctly answer "Sitting at a desk in a studio near the Trafford canal". Is it possible to have an orthogonal set that isn't a set of dimensions? Is "BBFC" acceptable for "British Board of Film Censors (Latterly Classification)"? The marginal decisions seem to be going in Manchester's favour. Again.

The first visual round is on locations of international treaties and the decade in which they were signed. We thought it was easy, but we remember when Give Us a Clue did "The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk". Manchester's lead is 55-15, and it grows with a couple more starters. Then Manchester drops a missignal, Southampton pick up the pieces, only for Manchester to score strongly in the next starter and bonuses. Going into the audio round, Manchester's lead is 110-35.

For the audio round, we're revisiting the gory days of ITV Play, specifically the "What number am I thinking of?" call-and-lose contests. The producers play a snippet of pop music, and ask the players to add up all the numbers. All the numbers? But no! In the snippet "Seventy-four, seventy-five", the producers expect 149. Viewers of 0898-gate shows know the answer is seven and seventy and four and seventy-four and seven and seventy and five and seventy-five, and ten for the V in each seventy, and one and five and four for the IV in five, giving a correct answer of 334. Obviously!

University Challenge Southampton: David Bishop, Richard Evans, Bob de Caux, Matt Loxham.

While we're working on that, Southampton have been buzzing and picking up missignals, Manchester have been picking up the leftovers, and by the second visual round – satires of Yankee political figures – their lead is 155-60. Southampton secures another missignal on the next starter, and Manchester prove inept at two-letter words in a well-known word board game. That just about wraps up the game, Manchester's winning score is 200-80. They got 18/36 bonuses, exactly half, and that's enough for Thumper to call it "a fantastic performance". Never mind the facts, feel the editorial.

Queen's Belfast and SOAS next week.


Second phase, match 2

Five contenders, one final place. And one transmission that was interrupted by some atmospheric interference on the telly, so we've had to fill in some blanks from subtitles files. Never had this trouble with analogue television.

Chris Kilbride (Vincent van Gogh) started with the standard question about only selling one painting in his own lifetime, and pressed on from there. Ninety seconds goes nowhere, the round is a bit more life than work, and the contender makes 6 (1).

Tim Allison (The Black Death) seemed to suffer more than most from this year's curse: questions that really do rabbit on, and a host who discusses answers. 9 (0) feels like a poor return.

Brian Chesney (Musketeer novels of Dumas) That's the novels, not the television version with animated dogs. They didn't come up, almost everything the show asked of him did. 11 (0)

Andrew Craig (Field Marshall William Slim) The subject was a senior officer of the Allied army in Burma during the second world war. A round to educate as much as to quiz resulted in 9 (0).

Emma Laslett (Eurovision Song Contest since 1981) had one of the subjects we might like to take. We note that this round was mostly about Old Eurovision, only three questions asked about entrants since 1992. 9 (0)

Chris Kilbride returns to the chair with a mission to set a target, which he achieves by making 16 (2). He won with Paul Robeson on 3 August. Tim Allison took the show on 25 October with the works of C S Lewis, and he has a mission to set a potential winning score. This he achieves, with only a couple of mistakes allowing some hope for the others 22 (1)

Andrew Craig was the winner on 15 November when he took Military Aircraft of World War One. Here, he starts with a bit of a wobble, continues with a round that's as much miss as it is hit, and finishes by trying to incorrect himself, but the host takes the first answer – closes on 19 (0).

Emma Laslett was runner-up a month ago when she took Samuel Beckett, albeit with a higher score than any of the winners this week. Perhaps the inclusion of a question about "International Winter Sports Week" was a transmission indicator, this show might have gone out during the Wintry Crass Spectacle of Jingoism and Commercialism. It's a decent score, never quite looks like a winner, and peters out to 18 (2).

So Brian Chesney (17 January with Catherine the Great) needs twelve to be sure of victory. He gets four on the spin, guesses at another one – correctly – and knows that James Last was from Germany, and not as we thought an invading alien from a hostile planet. After eleven right answers, the contender finally gives an incorrect answer, but the game is won by then. 24 (1) is his winning score.

University Challenge Chris Kilbride, Tim Allison, Andrew Craig, and Emma Laslett congratulate Brian Chesney.

This Week and Next

We're two weeks from a remarkable review of a wholly exceptional programme.

Brain of Britain had its second semi-final. It pitted three favoured contenders – Brian Daugherty has done well on Mastermind, Dr Gary Grant has won that show and made the final of Only Connect, Dag Griffiths won Fifteen to One, and Alison Hardie won her heat so can't be underestimated. Very little to choose between the contenders in the opening rounds, in part because round two had two questions go for bonuses and no other scoring. It all blew open in round three, when Dag Griffiths scored five in a row, earning a bonus mark, a round of applause, and a six-point lead over all the opposition.

After that, someone needed to come back with a five of their own, and quickly, but the closest we got was a four from Mr. Griffiths. He won by a clear margin, answering just less than half the questions in the show. After 28 in the heat, he scored 22 in the semi-final, which was a round shorter. Moment of the week was the final answer of Dag Griffiths' five: the response of "testicles" brought forth thanks from the host for his polite answer.

Staffing changes to some of the best-known shows. Michel Roux Jr is leaving Masterchef The Professionals in order to spend more time with his commercial endorsements. Cheryl Tweedy is returning to The X Factor; she left in 2010 to spearhead The X Factor Us, but failed to make it past the first audition.

Television Legend Chris Tarrant is in poor health, he suffered a minor stroke while flying to the UK this week. Best wishes to him, and we're still angling for his long and healthy retirement.

Chris Tarrant No wonder Noel Edmonds is out of work!

Archive television website It's About TV has a piece about We Interrupt This Week, the topical-for-1978 quiz on PBS America hosted by Ned Sherrin. A good companion for the re-runs of 3-2-1 on Saturday evening.

Court news, and we reported recently on the case about Must Be the Music. The 2010 series went out on British Sky Broadcasting, and a couple claimed that it was based on a format they'd been pursing with BSkyB for some months. The judge disagreed: though there were similarities between the show and the offered format, there were some sizeable differences, and BSkyB demonstrated that most of the commissioners hadn't seen the rejected pitch. The full judgement runs the gamut of television cultural references from MobileAct Unsigned to Blue Peter.

BARB ratings time for the week to 2 March.

  1. The Voice had a long battle programme, and it slips to sixth in the BBC1 lists with 8.05m viewers.
  2. Saturday Night Takeaway (6.3m) and Dancing on Ice (5.4m) were also major hits; the first civilian episode of The Cube (3.65m) fell short.
  3. Though Dragons' Den had 3.25m, we see University Challenge (3.08m) is behind The Chase (3.11m).
  4. A sterling performance by BBC3's new series Hair, 885,000 for the Tuesday premiere, 640,000 for a Thursday repeat.
  5. Wrestling was top on the Challenge channel, but positions 2 to 10 were all taken up by Who Wants to be a Millionaire (165,000 to 110,000).

Been missing Only Connect? There's a Sport Relief special (BBC4, 8.30 Mon) starring Charlie Brooker and Val McDermid, and pitting Arnold against Balding once more. Sport Relief also has a Pointless Celebrities (BBC1, 5.15 Fri) and climaxes with an evening's entertaiment (BBC1, 7pm Fri). Elsewhere, a new run of Catchphrase (ITV, 7pm Sun) goes up against The Taste Us (More4, 7pm Sun), and it's goodbye to Reflex, shunted into the graveyard of 3.45 next Saturday afternoon so as not to hurt The Voice UK live show (BBC1, 6.45).

Photo credits: 12 Yard, Granada, BBC Salford.

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