Weaver's Week 2014-06-01

Last Week | Weaver's Week Index | Next Week

"Hello! I want to be ejected. Thank you!"

Ejector Seat

Ejector Seat

Remarkable Television (An Endemol Company), 27 April – 6 June

ITV certainly knows how to make its teatime quizzes look spectacular. The Chase has the resident quiz boffin sitting on a higher plane than everyone else. Tipping Point has a huge machine, all bobble points and moving shelves. Even the disappointing Take on the Twisters had the largest collection of eggtimers this side of a chicken farm.

For Ejector Seat, the spectacle is in the seating arrangements. Six special chairs, complete with a couple of desk lights and some LEDs around the edge. The contestants will sit in these chairs throughout the programme. Being of a certain age, we're reminded of another television celebrity with a magic chair, but Operation Yout00b would rather we didn't discuss him.

Ejector Seat The chairs light up! They tip back! Do they make tea?

The programme begins with a brief qualifying round: general knowledge questions on the buzzer. A single right answer qualifies the player for the first round proper.

It's a brisk opening round, reminding us of Greed or Shafted, because it's more concerned with finding a loser than any number of winners. The first person to give a wrong answer loses their place in the game, otherwise whoever's left when five right answers loses. Except, on this game, no-one loses.

Ejected, that's what happens to failed contestants. Their seat slides backwards, it comes to a halt, sirens blare, and then the seat tips backwards into a cloud of dry ice. We see a replay, then a shot from a camera on the chair, before it rights itself.

Ejector Seat Ejected!


The bit-of-a-wasted-journey opening round? An excuse to get this set-piece into the show as quickly as practicable.

Once through this, we're into the main body of the quiz. Working from left-to-right down the line, host Andi Peters has a brief chat with the contestant, then asks them a general knowledge question. A right answer? "Sit tight". As if the player was going to go anywhere, strapped into this contraption.

"You're on the move" is the response to an incorrect answer. Andi will read out further questions, while the players' chair moves backwards, away from the host and back towards the end of the studio. The seat and its passenger will only stop when the player gives a right answer to one of Peters' posers.

During this first pass, the chairs move at a sluggish rate. Next time down the line, they speed up; should the round go to a third or fourth question, the chairs will move faster still. A clever little tactic to ensure the game doesn't end *too* quickly.

Ejector Seat Sitting in the magic chairs.

Just before the player falls off the end of the runway, they slip into an area marked in red. In this area, they're able to press a Panic Button. It allows a lifeline: the chair stops, and the player is asked a multiple-choice question. Get this question right, the player moves forward to the end of the red area, but they'll never be able to panic again. Get it wrong, the player moves backwards to the other end of the red area and is ejected.

Eventually, a player will be eliminated. All of the remaining players will move back to the start, and another round will be played in exactly the same style. This is a problem: there's nothing between the fifth minute and the middle advert break that we've not already seen.

Ejector Seat Who's in the lead?

Rinse, repeat, and a round of three players. We found this round to be clunky and less elegant than the rest of the format. All three players are on the buzzer, and the first to give a wrong answer – or the last remaining after the others gave a right answer – is moving backwards.

This is clunky in two ways: first, the show re-uses elements from earlier in the show. It's mixing the initial elimination round with the stop-moving-backwards-on-a-right-answer mechanism from the last half hour. It looks fresher than it actually is.

The other clunk is that Andi has to tell us who needs to answer the questions. It's not apparent who is in – the directors could be using the coloured lights around the chair to tell that story, but they choose not to. A terribly small thing, and one of the few clear criticisms we have for the format.

Ejector Seat Andi Peters: better than we expected.

When we heard about this show, we planned a line of snark. "Ah, they're throwing the worst performers off the show. And they're getting Andi Peters to host. But who presents in part two?" This attack crumpled under the weight of facts: Andi is actually a good host. He relates to the contestants, he understands the game, and his clear diction allows him to get on with the questions without fuss.

Peters is good; the direction is superb. Every shot tells a story, the camera lines are set superbly. We're able to take views from just the right angle. See a chair pass another chair. Watch the wrinkles on the player's brow and the unease spreading over their face. We weren't surprised to see the director was Julian Smith, his previous works include Don't Scare the Hare and Big Brother. Whatever criticisms we have of those shows and the formats, we cannot fault them as well-shot programmes.

Ejector Seat has its own style manual – Andi Peters always refers to "seats", never "chairs". And it has a distinctive visual grammar. The story is told through physical objects, by putting actual chairs on an actual track. It would be far cheaper to use computer-generated graphics, but far less satisfactory. The on-screen graphics are kept to a minimum – captions for when the Panic Button can be used, and for the resulting question. There's a sign saying "Ejected", and a clock in the final round.

But we get ahead of ourselves: there are two players still in the game. They'll take part in the final elimination. Again, the first person to give a wrong answer or the last person to give a right answer will start moving backwards. Andi will keep up the stream of questions until both seats are stationary, only then will he draw breath, acknowledge the score, and resume play.

Ejector Seat I'm going to win!

By now, we've weeded out the weakest players, and should be left with two of the strongest players. In turn, that generally leads to close and tense finishes. The players on Ejector Seat probably wouldn't get many trips to another quiz with iconic seating – Mastermind. What these players lack in brainy quizzing, they make up for in character and personality and how well they come across on screen. It might not be the best for pure quizzers, but the casual viewer would much prefer entertaining television. That's why Ejector Seat is on ITV, and Mastermind is stuck away on BBC2.

Eventually, we have a winner. So far, they've won nothing but the honour of winning the show. Andi is about to change that, with three rounds of questions. The seat begins each round stopped, and will only start moving when the player gets a question wrong (or fails to answer). It'll stop again when the player gives a right answer. So, give right answers for 45 seconds and they'll win money.

The prizes mount up: £500 for surviving one round of questions, £1000 for two rounds, and £10,000 for making it through all three rounds. It's difficult not to win £500; to win the jackpot allows only a handful of wrong answers across the questioning. And there's no risk: win £1000 and that's safe.

Our summary: Ejector Seat relies on its gimmick, and benefits from some top-quality presentation and staging. The game itself sags in the middle. We have enjoyed watching the shows, and we wait for the almost inevitable ITV Celebrity Edition.

This Week and Next

Phase C of Only Connect features heat winners: this week, Heath Family and Europhiles. A low-scoring first round saw the panels beaten by the 27 Club and by Ouagadougou (not a Black Lace song, but the capital of Burkino Faso). We were impressed that someone's tucked in the Oct 31 = Dec 25 number base joke; the Europhiles had a 2-1 lead, and that's the best showing by Europhiles all weekend.

Ejector Seat Verynicewoman, Geraldine: no votes.

Sequences began with a mortal blow from the Europhiles, landing the NATO alphabet shifted by one letter (so Like, Movember, Nscar, and the answer Oapa.) They nearly got the start of the 2014 Tour de France, suggesting Bradford. Close, very close, but no cigar – it's actually just down the Yorkshire Riviera, in Leeds. Start is by the Richard Whiteley Memorial Roundabout, and discarded drinks cartons will be collected by another local game show star.


Back to the game! We have no clue how anyone is meant to know Stephen Fry's novels in reverse, or even Stephen Fry's novels, or even who Stephen Fry is. When was the last time he appeared on BBC4, eh? Europhiles got a nice simple set on Canadian prime ministers, from ten-second wonder Kim Campbell to the present incumbent Stephen Harpic; the Heaths took three on the most easterly, southerly (etc) capitals of the world. The Europhiles still led, 8-4.

Walls needed to be good for the Heath Family. Walls were not good: a group of paralympians was obvious, but there were so many ways to bring them out that the team didn't bring out a single group, and missed two of the other connections, so two points. Europhiles only managed to isolate one group – Afrikaans loan words – but had spotted the other links, and scored five. The 13-6 lead turned into a 21-8 rout, thanks mostly to Europhiles captain Mark Seager. Being good at Missing Vowels isn't a surefire winner, but it will never cost a team the game.

ITV has been promoting its forthcoming series of Celebrity Squares. We knew that Warwick Davis would host, now we learn that Tim Vine (punslinger) and Joe Wilkinson (8/10/Cats/Countdown irritant) will be fixtures in the big boxes. We don't have an airdate for this series.

Nor do we have an airdate for Tumble, the latest working title for the BBC's celebrity gymnastics programme. Lewis Smith will be joined by fellow professionals Beth Tweddle and Nadia Comeneci, with Alex Jones (from Actually The One Show) hosting. BBC1 promise this for "summer".

Promoting his new TV3 show Sitting On a Fortune, Brian Dowling has been talking about his unexpected eviction from Big Brother last year. Apparently, the Channel 5 producers didn't have the grace to tell him that his services weren't required. And, er, that's about all he had to say. Other than watch his new show, except we can't, because TV3 doesn't broadcast to the UK.

The Royal Television Society in Scotland is hosting its own awards ceremony, for broadcast and technical excellence. There's precisely one game show nominee: Jim Hunter, for sound production on shows including Comic Relief Does Glee Club Live Final. Winners will be named on 11 June.

BARB ratings in the week to 18 May.

  1. Britain's Got Talent is back at number one, 8.25m just pips The Eastenders (8.1m).
  2. Masterchef reached its conclusion, with 6.6m seeing the winner crowned. 5.1m of those stuck around for Have I Got News for You.
  3. Big Star's Little Star (3.25m) and Catchphrase (2.8m) continue to prove successful, but there's no top thirty place for Amazing Greys.
  4. The Big Allotment Challenge finished with 1.7m viewers in its Thursday slot; there were 2.2m on Tuesday night.
  5. Other channels: 1.6m for Celeb Juice, 1.06m for More Talent, 990,000 for Come Dine with Me, 865,000 for Only Connect, and The Chase beat the wrestling on The Challenge Channel with 190,000 viewers.

Coming soon, The Challenge Channel Smackdown: Shaun Wallace versus Giant Hayricks for the straw-weight championship. Before then, Big Brother (C5, 9pm Thu), The News Quiz (Radio 4, 6.30 Fri), Fifteen-to-One The Celebrity Edition (C4, 8pm Fri), and 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown (C4, 9pm Fri). Britain's Got Talent reaches its final (ITV, 7pm Sat) and goes up against World Cup Pointless Celebrities (BBC1, 7.40 Sat).

Photo credits: Remarkable Pictures, YTV. That'll be marvellous!

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