Weaver's Week 2014-09-07

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The transfer window from 2013 has finally finished. BBC1 is making great use of their new sharp-shooter The Great British Bake Off, but did it prove more effective than the old codger Dr. Who. BBC2 introduces its new signing Only Connect; was it more interesting than University Challenge.

For BBC4, Monday night was the end of the world. And we mean that in a most literal sense: the highbrow channel ran a documentary about asteroids crashing into the planet. We rather wished that to have happened during August, for reasons we'll get into later. But first, we look at ITV's other Triallist.

Gift Wrapped


Gift Wrapped

12 Yard for ITV, 18 – 29 August

The summer's second show to get a run-out at 5pm was this programme. It's presented by the married couple Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford. The contestants were all betrothed to be married.

Gift Wrapped The hosts are also a married couple.

After a very brief introduction to the couples, round one is to answer a board of nine questions. For instance, what's the last word in the abbreviations NATO, RSPCA, IMF, etc. One wrong answer ends the round, and whichever pair has the best score gets to unwrap one of the five presents on their gift list.

Repeat this round with different categories. Scores are represented by coloured bars beneath the desk, in Going for Gold style. Unlike Going for Gold, this opening round drags. It really drags. Two passes along the row makes for a very long game, and we found ourselves reaching for the double-speed button.

Worse, this second pass is rendered somewhat redundant by the next round, filling in the one missing entry from a list. For instance, "stripes on the Hungarian flag". There's a gift from the gift list for each correct answer. Two couples will get to five correct answers, the third will leave with nothing. The problem is that the questions tend to be moderately easy. Omitting Italy from "Six Nations rugby sides" is the toughest possible answer, but it's still gentle. Very often, one wrong answer will lose the game.

Gift Wrapped The contestants should play, not pass.

Two couples progress to the next round, multiple-choice questions with three possible answers. There may be more than one correct answer, and the team must give the exact combination of right answer(s) to get the point. Get it wrong, they'll have another go next time round until they get it right. The Pressure Pad endgame does something broadly similar.

The visuals on Gift Wrapped are uninspiring, and this round suffers the most. The options are shown on a computer display board, and the result of each guess is shown on that computer display board. We only get a reaction shot after we know the answer, and that dulls the effect. Oh for a caption along the bottom of the screen, picking out the answers and letting us see the reaction in real time.

Each question is directly associated with a prize, and it would have been nice if the question was somehow relevant to that prize. It could be a close link (the prize is One Direction dolls? Ask a question about One Direction) or a looser one (ask about pop music in general).

Gift Wrapped Where's the reaction shot in this picture?

Losing couple leave with nothing. Winners get to play for their five gifts, and for a luxury holiday. This round is Talkabout redux: one of the players has five seconds to name as many things in a category as possible, the other is to name the category from the answers. Each category correctly named wins the associated prize.

And again, this could be better. The holiday is an all-or-nothing question six, and questions one through five have no bearing on the day's star prize. We'd rather work up the gift list, where prizes are ordered from cheapest to most expensive. Give the winning couple the cheap and comedy bottom prize. "Just for reaching the final, you've won — a doughnut maker!"

Then six chances to win the remaining five prizes, working from the bottom up. First miss adds tension. Second miss costs the holiday. Each question is for something significant, it's got jeopardy throughout. Get two answers right and the couple win a slew of modest prizes. Get four and they've won all the prizes they wanted.

Gift Wrapped Look what you could win. You asked for it.

For a show emphasising relationships, there was very little discussion of the couples. We'd rather cut the second pass down the line, have a bit *more* chatter with the players through the game. Yes, we want to swap out some quiz and replace it with chat. The couple's stories are bound to be more interesting.

The show doesn't use the relationship factor at all. Nothing in the game exploits the engaged couples gimmick. It doesn't need to be played by married couples, it could just be close friends.

We noted that the show included a same-sex couple. This outcome is statistically likely. Same sex "civil partnerships" were about 2.6% of marriages according to the most recent data {1}. By random chance, we'd expect 0 or 1 same sex couples, any more than 3 would be suspicious.

Revealing the presents makes part two a blur of questions and gifts. Many of those gifts are going to be forgotten by the final. The sponsors want their moment in the sun, but it becomes really difficult to keep track of who's leading. We're not sure there's an elegant solution.

It's a daytime show: no audience, no atmosphere, no set budget – the player in the final round leaves the studio, they don't get an isolation booth. There is a certain charm about the show, and it's a very novel spin on the list quiz. It would really benefit from an audience, the monastic Only Connect silence doesn't suit this show. Nor did it bear up to repeated viewing: two episodes and we thought, "oh no, not again", and turned off to something less dull.

Gift Wrapped Rickrolled!

This is a shame, because Gift Wrapped was a novel spin on the list quiz. With a bit more glitz and glamour, a few tweaks, and an audience for Eamonn to bounce off, this could work in the 8pm Wednesday Heartwarming slot. Or in the Sunday teatime slot of Catchphrase and Prize Island.

{1} "Most recent data" for marriages and civil partnerships: provisional figures for England and Wales covering 2012. Our assumptions include that engagements are of similar length, same sex couples weren't waiting for full marriage in 2014, and that same sex couples are as likely as opposite sex couples to apply for a television game show.

Win It Cook It

Win It Cook It

Plum Pictures for Channel 4, from 4 August

This week's low-budget community show that we're going to damn with faint praise is Win It Cook It.

Simon Rimmer is the host, a bald chap who (apparently) has achieved modest fame as a television chef. He has brought a selection of 12 ingredients to the studio. Some of them are usual items, golden syrup or mushrooms. Others are a little unusual – mackerel or tinned mixed veg.

There are also two pairs of people. One of them will cook a dish. The other will win ingredients for that dish. Because this isn't a simple show where members of the public are surprised by ingredients. No, this is a show where members of the public answer quiz questions to win surprise ingredients.

Win It Cook It Simon stands in front of today's ingredients.

The quiz element is almost incidental to the programme, and is dealt with briskly. Two rounds of questions, best of three, everything's on the buzzer, first to two points gets to pick between ingredients. Do you want the scollops or the mackerel? The herbs and walnut, or the salad and noodles? That leaves six ingredients, and because the same quiz round is getting repetitive, the last question allows the player to pick three ingredients from what's left.

The net result is that both sides have a lead item, two accompaniments, and three condiments. They must use all of these ingredients in the dish they cook. They don't have to lead with the lead, they can use it as a flavouring, but the mackerel must be in there somewhere.

Win It Cook It then spends about 12 minutes watching other people cook. Simon Rimmer has a guest chef to help him commentate, and both professional chefs will talk with the cooks while they're working. The show stands or falls on this major segment, and this column finds few things more tedious than people talking about cookery. We'd rather be watching Tipping Point. We'd rather be watching the opening round to The Gift List.

Eventually, time expires, the professional chefs taste the food, declare a winner, and present a luxury food hamper.

Win It Cook It Two of the final dishes.

We'd expect this sort of programme from a student television station, seeing as how it's based on stereotypical student life. "Oh, what have I got in the cupboard today? A tin of mackerel, some noodles, a bit of golden syrup, and some slightly ragged lettuce. Lovely."

The show from Plum Pictures has a low budget. It's clear that there wasn't time for re-takes or drop-ins, and the resulting programme is raw and unpolished. For some viewers, that's a refreshing change from the glossy and perfect world of Nigella and Jean-Christophe; for others, it just looks a bit cheap. Add that to a basic format that bores this column senseless, and we just couldn't stick with the programme.

Neither could the viewers: we understand that Win It Cook It (at 4.30) was attracting fewer viewers than Countdown (at 2.40). That's the death knell for a Channel 4 daytime show, and the second half of the series has been repositioned to the less obvious slot of 1.40.

This Week and Next

University Challenge welcomed Liverpool and Sheffield. Liverpool (Ben Mawdsley, Jim Davis, Dachman Crew, Hugh Hiscock) weren't featured in the documentary, and have used no mascot. Sheffield (Andrew Trueman, Nathaniel Asprey, Jonathan Cunliffe, Claire Greenwood) were featured, and have decided against using a live cat in the studio. The doc didn't mention that the Sheffield side are all medical students. It's good to know what the producers think make for useful television.

Perhaps they might have applied it to the main game. Liverpool got the first starter, and though Sheffield remained close for the first quarter, it quickly looked like Liverpool were going to win handsomely. Sheffield did just enough to keep in touch, narrowing the gap to 20 points with two minutes to play. But Jim Davis expanded the acronym SETI to widen the gap to a second starter, and it wasn't going to be a contest after that. Liverpool won by 155-130, and we would be surprised to see them in the quarter-finals.

It's the end of the world on BBC4, where Horizon is discussing asteroids crashing into the planet Earth. However, no-one's watching that, they're sticking to BBC2, where Only Connect is just starting. The Politicos (Ross Goodwin, Joe Kerrigan, Thomas Williams) take on the Felinophiles (Simon Turmaine, Helen Lippell, Simon Koppel).

This might be the tenth series, but there are likely to be lots of new viewers tonight, so Victoria gives a very brief explanation of the rules as she goes on. The first question comprises four clues that are all terms used on That Other Wiki. {2}

Victoria continues to explain the rules: teams will be hearing the clues in the music question, and seeing pictures in the picture one. That's a lovely joke by the question editor: four pictures that evoke famous BBC4 idents. You know, the sort of thing introducing a documentary about the end of the world, or a brainy quiz. What? Oh. Politicos take the first set, 6-3.

Only Connect (2) For new viewers, BBC4 is a channel you don't watch. Shameful.

Sequences comes next, we'll see three clues but the teams have to tell us what comes fourth. "You're hoping to see a bra?" asks Victoria of the Felinophiles, trimming a letter off "brandy". More difficult is Suriname – Mexico – Costa Rica. Last two letters are the first two of the next country, which leaves Canada as one of a few possible answers. Well done if you got that at home, and well done if you got the later link going three points, two, one, pointless. That round allows the Felinophiles to storm ahead, 13-8.

Four groups of four, and some red herrings on the Connecting Walls. Which, we note, are not published on the Only Connect website for viewers to play along. That happened in earlier series, and may well return later. Politicos get stuck on a group of sharks, only spot one group and three links, so score four points. We got caught chasing characters from Animaniacs. Those are the facts. Felinophiles prefer their wrestlers and their London lanes, spotting two groups and three links. It gives them an 18-12 lead.

Mssng Vwls is the final round, phrases with the vowels removed and the consonants respaced. "GL FBL L" is, of course, a golf ball, and fits into the round of balls smaller than a tennis ball. Animals and their noises is a big win for the Felinophiles, and seals the win by 24-14. Only Connect uses a similar structure to University Challenge: two wins qualifies a side for the quarter-finals, two losses eliminates them. We'll come back to this in November, when we must.

Only Connect (2) What animal and noise is missing its vowels? {3}

Animals and their noises also gave the most remarkable answer we've heard this year on a game show. Welcome to Only Connect, the show where the host discusses bra and cocks.

{2} Players of That Other Wiki might have scored points by adding this verified fact to the Only Connect Series 10 page, but a power player has scored big by deleting that information. And, indeed, all the other Only Connect series pages. Might be a big personal achievement, but the meanspirited editors responsible are denuding the world of information. It only serves to make TOW look like a complete and utter joke, a place where actual facts disappear because some self-appointed egotist hasn't heard of them.

{3} Cuckoo.

We'd like to give a detailed report of Mastermind, but The Cable Corp has completely failed to make this episode available on catch-up. Thanks for nothing, and we mean that quite literally.

So, looking only at the subtitles file, we see that Mike Foden was the winner. He scored 13 (1) on The Prisoner, advancing to 21 (3) in the final round. All of the other contenders did similarly well – Sidin Sunny got 8 (2) on Champagne wines, finishing on 15 (3). Graham Gowland took the Manhattan Project to build a nuclear bomb, reaching 9 (1) – his final was 15 (5). And Lena Gazey (Tina Modotti, photographer) went from 11 (1) to 19 (7).

Mastermind is at 7pm next Friday, except for viewers in Wales, and possibly except for people trying to watch it on catchup.

BARB ratings for the week to 24 August.

  1. The Great British Bake Off remains the most popular show on telly, with 9.3 million viewers. Doctor who? (9.2m)
  2. The high drama of Tipping Point Lucky Stars attracted 3.1m, with 2.7m sticking for Famous Family Fortunes.
  3. No data for BBC2 this week. Celebrity Big Brother launched with 2.6m viewers, of whom at least 2.6m thought "who the heck are *you*" to most of the lab rats.
  4. The Friday night musical hour ended with The Singer Takes it All (C4, 750,000) beaten by The Kate Bush Story Running Up That Hill (BBC4, 806,000).
  5. Assuming we can class KYTV Europe UK as a new channel (it's almost as old as Channel 4), Got To Dance S5 (700,000) led the new channels. We also note 450,000 for Mock the Week repeats on Dave, the highest rating this year.

There's an opportunity for a 12 hour Game Show Marathon on Monday. Start at 12.05 on Channel 4 with repeats of Celebrity Coach Trip and Come Dine with Me, then a new edition of Win It Cook It. Then hop over to BBC1 for Pressure Pad (2.15), over to BBC2 for Celebrity Masterchef, catch the end of Countdown on Channel 4, then turn to ITV for Who's Doing the Dishes (4pm). Stick around for The Chase (at 5), or turn over to Pointless if you'd rather. Then flip to BBC2 for Two Tribes (at 6), Eggheads, Celebrity Antiques Road Trip. University Challenge (8pm) and Only Connect might wake up the brain, Celebrity Big Brother on Channel 5 (at 9) will switch it off again. 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown is on Channel 4 at 10, then back to 5 for Bit on the Side. And finally, back to ITV for the second half of Famous Family Fortunes, finishing at 12.35am.

Strictly Come Dancing has its launch show (BBC1, 8pm Sun); the full series begins in a few weeks. Biggest new series of the week are likely to be the return of Would I Lie to You? (2) (BBC1, 8.30 Fri), and Celebrity Juice (ITV2, 10pm Thu). ITV also has a new run of Celebrity Squares (8pm Wed), but that's opposite Bake Off, and we suspect the audience on ITV+1 will be substantial.

The new appalong show Pyramid gets a test run (S4C, 5.25 Mon), Just a Minute reaches episode 900 (Radio 4, 6.30 Mon), ITV2 has comedy-reality-prize show Bad Bridesmaid (9pm Thu), and the BBC New Comedy Award is back (4xtra, 10.30 Fri). And it's the end of Celebrity Big Brother (C5, Fri).

Last night of the Proms next Saturday, so no Pointless (but yes to Celeb Mastermind at 5.10), and the Tumble final at 6pm. ITV's schedule is sensibly static: Through the Keyhole at 9.20, The X Factor at 8, and The Muppet Show at 7. The wha'? GSN, who make The Chase US, have turned the star of the show into a felt puppet. We expect him to appear on a Christmas Special, alongside Roland Rat, Zig (or Zag), Hacker T. Dog, and Soo.

Mark is cooking up another quiz treat.

Photo credits: 12 Yard, Plum Pictures, Parasol, GSN. The Asterix character is Obelix, and Rick will never "make you cry".

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