Weaver's Week 2014-09-14

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Later: Channel 4 daytime, a purchase from the Challenge channel, bizarre news from Australia, and the latest from the CBBC massive. First, a statement. "I would like to read about a Richard Osman programme."

Two Tribes


Two Tribes

Remarkable Television (an Endemol company) for BBC2, from 18 August

Two Tribes starts with lots of advantages. It's made by Endemol's quiz division, which has earned a reputation for entertaining quizzes of quality. The format was co-devised by Glenn Hugill, a regular when Deal or No Deal was phenomenally successful. It's hosted by Richard Osman, an affable geek who is fast becoming a national treasure. And it's going out in the 6pm slot usually occupied by Eggheads.

The basic conceit of Two Tribes is simple: people are individuals. Before the programme, the contestants sat a 400-question exam. They replied yes or no to statements about themselves. For instance, "I'm a cat person", or "I think I'm a good team player." For the opening round, the seven contestants are split by one of these statements. It might be that four said "Yes, I'm a cat person", and three said "No, I'm going to be a scratching post when the feline revolution comes."

Two Tribes Do you feel lucky, sir? Well, do you, sir?

Richard Osman has a chat with the players about their attitudes. "Toby, you said you're a cat person, why's that?" Very often, the conversations will take a funny turn. The humour will come from the player telling an amusing and brief anecdote, or from Richard seeing an unusual and wry way of interpreting things. We don't doubt that there's a lot of host-contestant chatter recorded, we don't doubt that most of it ends up on the cutting room floor.

Without much fuss, we're into the meat of the quiz. Each tribe stands in a particular order, and will answer general knowledge questions in that order. Should a player give an incorrect answer, their individual spotlight goes out. The same question goes down the line to the next player. Should none of the tribe give the correct answer, all will be in the dark, and the round comes to a sudden end. Otherwise, 60 seconds of rapid-fire questions, every question has a correct answer from the team.

Two Tribes A right answer will restore the player on the right.

Some things are obvious: Richard will often say "to save your tribe" when there's one player left. A hypothetical player who knows everything will score a point on every question, but may have to do all the work herself. Some things are less obvious: it's never wise to pass. The question has an answer, even the most unlikely guess might be right, a pass is certain to be wrong.

We think that the questions in each round start at a moderate level, and get a bit more difficult before plateauing. We also reckon that the questions are a little bit harder than the typical Eggheads fare. There's good reason for this: in the early rounds, there can be four attempts to solve a question.

Two Tribes Eight to tie, it's looking possible.

Many of the questions are guessable. A couple of examples will suffice. "In Morse code, which vowel is represented by a single dot?" It could be A, it could be I, it's actually E. It won't be T (not a vowel), and it certainly won't be "pass" (not a letter).

Another example. "With nine letters, which month has the longest name?" Even if the first player miscounts and thinks the year ends with "Deceember", the others have a few seconds to think "September".

Both tribes, Yes and No, have their rounds. The tribe with more correct answers will remain in the contest, and goes back to the middle. When there's a tie, both tribes nominate one player for a head-to-head buzzer race. The players in the losing tribe play that same head-to-head buzzer race. A right answer puts the player in the middle. A wrong answer means they're going home, first of the night's losers.

Two Tribes The No pair have won.

We then get another statement to split the six into two threes, and then split the five into a three and a two. And, eventually, to split the four into a pair of twos. Here's why the players had to have 400 statements: it's to ensure all these splits are possible. Whoever leaves, they have to be able to find a 3-3, and then a 3-2, and then a 2-2 amongst the remaining players. Computers can crunch this and work out a statement tree, so long as there are plenty of options to choose from.

So we're down to four players, split into two Yes and two No players. This round is a buzzer quiz: first buzz gets to answer and must do so at once. First to five correct answers win, and incorrect answers go across for conferring and a bonus. It's the only point in the quiz where players may confer.

Losing pair from this round go home, winning pair split one last time. They get a chess clock endgame, each with one minute to defend. Whoever wins the final round has £1000 of vouchers. Richard tempts them with two alternatives: for instance, £1000 of garden equipment, or of home improvement work.

Two Tribes The two-minute drill is under way.

The music is jaunty and upbeat, Marc Sylvan is responsible. Dominic Tolfts designed the set, chunky and functional and a bit imposing.

The studio is dominated by a teal "Yes" and a purple-red "No". Massive writing in the front, lots of small detail on the wallpaper behind. Players stand at these desks for the rounds, returning to the middle between each round. Whether by accident or design, the teal and purple-red are very similar shades (if not the same) as the BBC is using for its coverage of the Scottish independence vote.

None of the personal questions is anything like as divisive. This is an alternative to heavyweight news. The personal questionnaire is a light and frothy mechanism to mix up the players, and the discussion is edited for giggles and to make sure the show runs to time.

At heart, Two Tribes is a pacy quiz: it'll get through about 70 questions in the half hour. It has time to introduce the players a little, talking about the statements shows the players are rounded people. We liked the show, it's something different from Eggheads.

Two Tribes Graham. Grow up. Choose a side.

Countdown Update

This week's low-budget community show that we're going to damn with faint praise is Countdown. Well, look at it. No action, everyone's sat down. They use physical letters and paper, the show could only be lower technology if they scored in Roman numerals.

It's been a month of two halves: we left with Tricia Pay half-way through her octochamp run (total of 857 points). Mark Davies followed her, and won eight on his bat (844 points). In a best-of-five contest, we'd favour Tricia over Mark, but finals week is one-and-done. A single mistake, or a moment of genius, could let Mark through.

Russ Thornton won one match, then David Stanford won 7 games. While the octochamps were knocking off centuries with aplomb, David never scored in the 90s, and lost his eighth match to Szelong Ng with a score of just 47. Like Szelong, Paul Bradley and Jamie Ilett-Jones also had one win, and Farhan Ahmed had two victories last week.

The people from the World Records Company dropped by the Countdown studios, so they could mark the 6000th episode. This column is a purist on this point, we choose not to count the 20 or so special episodes transmitted a decade ago, when Channel 4 showed cricket. Nor do we count two episodes never shown for legal reasons, or the primetime celebrity shows, or Countdown Masters, or 8/10/Cats/Countdown. We reckon episode 6000 will go out on 2 October.

But this is splitting hairs. Countdown has been around for almost 32 years. It's the only UK game where many contestants are younger than the show. We're pleased that it's still going on, and we hope to chronicle Countdown for many years hence.

This Week and Next

Deal or No Deal is coming back to Channel 4. The blocky broadcaster has agreed to show Noel and the Bad Shirt Casino until the end of 2015. It'll include the show's 10th birthday (on 31 October next year). In a desperate effort to drag viewers back from Tipping Point... Er, we mean, in a remarkable new development the likes of which we've never seen before, the studio player will have a Make Me An Offer Now button. Pressing this will force the unseen Banker player to make an offer.

Weaver's Week 2014-08-31#31 Questions

Bizarre news from Australia, where the government has announced the end of community television. Communications minister Malcolm Turnbull has pulled the licenses from local channels, such as C31 (home of 31 Questions) four years before they were due to expire. The minister claimed the stations could pump out their programmes over the internet, because no-one in the world has ever watched 31 Questions online. Surely the purpose of a free-market government, which the present regime in Australia claims to be, is to encourage diverse viewpoints, and not to entrench the position of major Liberal party donors. Er, er, we mean – actually, that.

Viacom has finally completed its takeover of Channel 5. New corporate synergies include Nella the Knight, a children's programme to go on Milkshake and Nickelodeon. There will also be 10,000 BC, a "reality entertainment" programme going out on Channel 5 and "M"TV.

The Challenge channel has made another smart purchase: episodes of The Chase Us, the North American version of the ITV teatime hit. It'll be on screen in about a month's time. There are some differences from the UK version: teams of three play, there's more animosity between player and Chaser, and the cashbuilder round is in units of $5000. The role of Bradley Walsh is filled by Brooke Burns, a quizmaster with an equally fast delivery. Rather than the revolving cast of Chasers, there's just the one, "The Beast" (played by Mark Labbett).

OK, and The Beast's puppet stunt double.

University Challenge welcomed Bath (Phil Herbert, Scott Kemp, Miles Thomas, Henry Rackley) and Glasgow (Jonathan Gillan, Christina McGuire, Daniel Hill, Erin White). The histories of the institutions seemed much longer than usual this week, but it was the usual three minutes. The mascots: Bath had a scarf, Glasgow a teddy bear with mortar board.

Straightaway, the questions made no sense. "These questions are about British monarchs... I want the monarch and the country where this battle took place." No, that's not a question about a monarch. It's about a king or queen, and some other fact. Precision, purlease. Glasgow raced to a 75-0 lead, extended with a missignal from the Bath side.

After seven heats, the repêchage standings:
  • Manchester The Team Everyone Wants To Beat 160
  • Sussex 150
  • LSE 140
  • Sheffield 130

One of the bonus questions asks after political parties of certain European countries. There's a clear change in the audio quality, allowing us to conclude that Paxman cannot correctly pronounce the political parties of B*lg*um. The audio round features questions escaped from Only Connect, being three songs by bands associated with a particular geographic place. Glasgow got that, and led by 120-30.

Bath were guessing out of desperation, at one point relocating Ben Nevis from the Scottish Highlands to the Yorkshire Dales. Well, given that Yorkshire has recently staked a claim to most of France, this isn't as outlandish as the host made it sound. The Bath team did stage something of a comeback, but it wasn't quite enough to bring them back. Glasgow's winning score was 190-120

To Only Connect, where the History Boys (Rob Hannah, Craig Element, Gareth Kingston) are back. They competed in series 2, and were knocked out by the Rugby Boys on their first appearance. On the other side is someone else who will be appearing on the Challenge channel in five years' time. We don't know which Oxonian (John Jenkins, Ian Hughson, Justin Floyd) will follow in the footsteps of Mark Labbett.

We'll not skip over our favourite question of the week: Pope John XX, "The Traveling Wilburys Vol 2", the 1986 Australian Open, and eleven days in September 1752. We hear that John XXI was incorrectly advised there had been a number 20, the Aussie tennis moved from December 85 to January 87, and the Wilburys album was a joke.

"Guernsey, Jersey, could be anywhere" is the History Boys' conversation, leading to clothes named after places. The pictures are things that were insured by Lloyd's, three parts of the body and one Titanic. That went down well. (Too soon? It's been 102 years and one unforgettable Céline Dion song.)

7-4 to the History Boys at the end of the first round, and then they sound the Five Point Klaxon. Given "Moore: Dr Kananga", they move quickly to "Dalton: Le chiffre", which apparently is the first villain faced by the Bond actors. British singles champions at Wimbledon (men and women) is the final link, and helps the Oxonians peg back the lead to 15-7. Memo to BBC2 viewers: Only Connect is a hotbed of feminist thinking. Dead white men will only get you so far.

Oxonians get first dibs at the Connecting Wall, and see penguins and musicals and Jamaicans. There looks like a group of things beginning "Elbow", such as "elbow spin". What does Macaroni have to do with anything? It turns out that Grease isn't "elbow grease", and the "elbow macaroni" is a small tubular pasta. The musicals are actually John Travolta films. Seven points!

Buns and Shropshire and types of boots seem to be in the History Boys' wall. They spot fictional dogs, but they turn out to be playwrights. One group of words beginning with animal names is sneaky, and spotted. Five points!

The gap is narrowing: the History Boys lead by 20-14. Things that come in 12s doesn't split the teams, TV talent shows help the History Boys, but no difference in things containing cabbages. The History Boys are the winners, 28-19.

Two Tribes We don't have a picture of a cabbage. This is obviously not a cabbage.

We did get to see Mastermind this week, in spite of its one-off move to 7pm. Very much a game of two halves.

Ian Clark offered the Siege of Constantinople in 1453. He took things a little more slowly than some others, and secured a Perfect Round of 15 (0). His general knowledge round is going to be memorable for John Humphrys' remarkable impression of Peter Sellars on The Goon Show, and the contender's deadpan reaction. He scores 30 {THIRTY} (0 passes).

Diane Hallagan came within an ace of a perfect round on BBC TV series House of Cards, without going at a tremendous pace she made 16 (1). Twice, she stumbles over the answers, expecting the questions to be shorter than they are. At least once, she changes her answer to get it wrong. In a week of little things, Diane was undone by a few wrong answers towards the end – 28 (3) her final.

Derek Heyes took FA Cup Finals at the Old Wembley, 1923-2000. One advantage of taking a football subject is that the contender can bark out surnames. "Hughes!" "Murphy!" "Chapman!" 11 (0) turned to 20 (2), but he missed the Obvious Quiz Answer at the end. John Milton brought 9 (2) for Mark Roman-Gold, the contender seemed to be stronger on the Life than the Works. 15 (3) his final score.

BARB ratings in the week to 31 August.

  1. No data for BBC1. We don't know how popular The Great British Bake Off Bingate was.
  2. The X Factor came back with 8.35m. The Chase With Celebrities came back with 3.8m, beat the stuffing out of Through the Keyhole (3.35m).
  3. Bake Off Extra Slice had 3m on BBC2, beating University Challenge (2.75m). Celeb Big Brother with 2.15m tuned in, goodness alone knows why.
  4. Moments of ratings grace: Two Tribes 1.52m, Scotland Decides Salmond Versus Darling 1.51m.
  5. 1.08m for Xtra Factor on ITV2, 1.02m for an 8/10/Countdown repeat on C4. The Got to Dance final (558,000 on KYTV Europe UK) was less popular than a year-old repeat of Through the Keyhole (576,000 on ITV2). KYTV has chosen to hide its new programmes behind a paywall, the result is no-one sees them.

Congratulations to the CBBC massive, voting Bobby Lockwood as the winner of Tumble final. Well done to the Celebrity Big Brother audience, sitting through that zeebfest was a feat of stamina. Random voting by falling asleep and the viewer's nose hitting the app made Gary Busey the winner.

Advance notice for an unexpected series of Counterpoint (Radio 4, 22 September), Pressure Pad moving to BBC2 (from 22 September), and a head-to-head battle on 26 September between Strictly and X Factor.

This week: some classic Quote... Unquote (Radio 4 Extra, 6pm Tue), and a vintage Release the Hounds (ITV2, 10.50 Thu). Pointless Celebrities (BBC1, 6.40 Sat) include Johnny Ball and Pat Sharp, The Chase With Celebrities (ITV, 7pm) will hit the road, and Through the Keyhole (ITV, 9.20) is a celebrity square.

Photo credits: Remarkable Television (an Endemol company), RMITV, GSN.

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