Weaver's Week 2014-11-16

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Strictly Come Dancing

"We don't know what Teavee is, it's doing us in."


Strictly Come Dancing

BBC Entertainment for BBC1, reviewing the episode of 8 November

"Coming up in 90 minutes, the moment we've all been waiting for," says the continuity announcer. Yeah, The Chase With Celebrities on ITV+1. Between now and then, it's Strictly Come Dancing.

Why are we reviewing it this week? Two words: no Brucie. Mr. Forsyth has left the weekly programme, and the hosts are now Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman. We want to know if this has changed the show in any way? Just to confuse, Claudia isn't able to be with us this week, she's looking after her ill daughter. Rather than drag Bruce out of retirement, Zoe Ball from It Takes Two steps into the breach.

The series has been running for a month, and four couples have already been eliminated. The suggestion is that Judy Murray is going tomorrow; the suggestion's been that Judy has been going for the last few Sundays. Everyone else is going to the Tower Ballroom in Blackpool next week. After the first performance, we'll meet David Arch And His Lovely Lovely Orchestra.

Strictly Come Dancing This week's hosts: Zoe Ball and Tess Daly.

6.37, and the introductory spiel is over. First up is Simon Webbe from the pop group Blue. We have a video package: a brief recap from last week, and a lot of time with Simon's mother in Manchester. And then the performance, a quickstep. Simon is a professional entertainer, he can find the camera and pull a funny face down it. Every single time. A strong start: was it worth a standing ovation? Len Goodman's critique was scripted by Tim Vine, it's all one-liner and no comment. Bruno Tonioli gives advice, Craig Revel-Horwood gives constructive criticism (and gets jeers from the crowd).

Simon and his dance partner Kristina climb through the audience to the green room, where Zoe Ball talks to them. "Craig says you're one of the contenders," the line the producers want us to remember. Scores are announced in the traditional manner – judges holding up paddles with an integer from 0 to 10. The total for Simon is 33 from a possible 40. Zoe throws forward to Pixie Lott, perfoming soon. But not next.

Strictly Come Dancing Smile for the camera, Simon!

6.45, and Tess introduces Caroline Flack, a television presenter. "Family" seems to be the theme in the videos this week, and Caroline gets tips from her nieces on how to be a princess. She's dancing a waltz, to "Three times a lady" – sample lyric "Now that we've come to the end of our rainbow." Hmm. Are the producers setting up Caroline's story for a conclusion this week? The waltz doesn't allow dancers to look into the camera, and the performance finishes with Caroline facing away from us.

The judges give their usual lines: constructive critiques from Bruno, Craig, and Darcey Bussell, and some generic "could do better" from Len. All of the critics find something to praise, and give a total of 31 marks. Zoe gives the numbers for the public vote, and throws forward to Judy Murray getting tips from her son.

Strictly Come Dancing Caroline Flack's back.

6.53. A rumba for Jake Wood, which (apparently) is often performed on a ship. Jake and his dance partner Jeanette go to HMS Belfast, where they make a comedy skit. Well, comedy is a subjective thing... They're performing to "Strangers in the night", are the producers trying to tell us the pair isn't well matched? This rumba is mostly the woman being showy and the gent being stable for her to show off. This would be fine if the show were for professional dancers.

"Spatulistic", "too safe and too subtle", "slightly disappointed", "need to see your neck". The judges try to say something nice, but they're not impressed. A score of 27 demonstrates their distaste. Zoe throws forward to Sunetra.

7.01, and here comes Judy Murray, tennis coach and commentator. Back to the family trope, and we bump into Judy's son Andy, the defending BBC Sports Review of the Year Sports Personality award winner. According to Alan Dedicoat, there's a paso doble being performed here, ending with Anton du Beke being thrown in jail. And songs by The Clash are on primetime BBC1. Welcome to Strictly Come Dancing.

Strictly Come Dancing The scariest thing on telly tonight. Yes, Cyberdaleks, that includes you.

Darcey isn't impressed, Len is back on the one-liners, and the whole judge's comments section deteriorates into a messy and prolonged slanging match. In spite of her inept performance, Judy is welcomed to the green room as a conquering hero. A score of 18 includes a 3/10 from Craig. Zoe wears the judge's wig Judy had at the start of the performance, and throws forward to fish and chips.

7.10, and Tess is in the front row with a cone of chips. Sunetra Sarker appears in the BBC soap opera Casualty, and has invited some other actors for support. Yay, the tunes of Tegan and Sara in the video clip! Ahem. This is a foxtrot with Brendan Cole, plenty of whizzing around to the music of John Legend. It is what it is, a Strictly classic dance, performed with no ornamentation. No props, no extra showmanship, just dancing.

Strictly Come Dancing Brendan Cole genuflects to talent.

Slight missteps are more obvious, but the good bits are amplified, Bruno dwells on the mistakes, Craig says "it would have been a beautiful routine" but for the errors. Looks like the producers want to peg back a strong performer. A total of 31, level with Caroline. Zoe throws forward to everyone in the second half of the show, including the other two favourites for the title.

7.18. Alison Hammond from CITV's Palace Hill was bottom-but-one last week. She's been bowling with her son. Charleston dance is all top hats and showing off, but there's a bit in the middle where dance partner Aljaz is strutting his stuff while Alison does jazz hands in the background. The audience stands up for this performance: have they fitted spikes to the seats?

Strictly Come Dancing Better at dancing than making picnic tables.

Enjoyable and stylish, Craig picks up on the jazz hands, and he gets booed for saying it's not the most technical routine. Why does the audience boo him for speaking truth to ten million people? Would they rather float away on a bubble of – er – babble? A generous 27 marks, and Zoe throws forward to Frankie Bridge.

7.26. "Next is Mark Hauer", an amalgam of Mark Wright and Karen Hauer. Mr. Wright is booked as the celebrity, he rose to fame on The Only Way is Essex. For this show, he is filmed with his footballing brother Josh. Mark and Karen are dancing a waltz, to a tune popularised by Barry Manilow. Again, it's a simple dance, ornamented only by leaves falling from the ceiling, and some very long camera shots so we can't see the detail.

Craig's comment is a simple one-liner, and for the first time tonight Darcey Bussell gives the main critique. The score of 31 is about par for the night. At this point, we find ourselves suffering from dance blindness: the performances are blurring into one. Steve Backshall is coming later.

Strictly Come Dancing Thank you, Frankie.

7.33, and Frankie Sandford from The Door has been in Spain with her "family", vocal group The Saturdays. Credit where it's due, The Saturdays have been going for six years, appeared on every reality show going, and always give great entertainment. So it is tonight: Frankie Bridge (as she's known now) performs a bright and colourful rumba to the sound of "La bamba" (The goat). She finds the cameras, hits her mark for the spotlight at the end, and keeps going at fifteen to the dozen.

"It's your worst dance yet," says Craig from the judge's table. We've not seen the previous half-dozen performances, but that doesn't stop it from being the best of the night. Other judges appreciate the quality, and a mark of 32. With no more performances coming up, Zoe plugs the The Facebook and BBC websites.

7.41. Pixie Lott is dancing a slow foxtrot to a Beatles number, "When I'm six-foot four", and her VT includes some footage with her grandfather. The routine begins with a prop mangle, and we reckon it would have worked far better as a lyrical dance number.

But that's not ballroom, it's the domain of So You Think You Can Dance, which hasn't returned after failing with the public. Yet the panel doesn't give technical critiques – faults with the lift, or with misplaced feet – they just comment on the emotional feel and general performance. We reckon that Strictly has become all about the spectacle and emotional impact. It's not Celebrity So You Think You Can Dance, but nor is it about ballroom any more.

Strictly Come Dancing She got a lotta lotta points.

The performance was great entertainment: Pixie connected with the camera, there was feeling in the dance, and while the judges can find something to criticise in the execution, they don't knock it. They don't have time: after Judy over-ran her slot, they've been gently cutting some of the judges' comments. Craig's entire comment for this is "Gorgeous". Darcey awards a coveted 10/10, in a total of 36. Zoe does some adding up after thinking of some numbers. "That's for you, Dad."

7.48. Steve Backshall from Deadly 60 is doing a paso doble, a very masculine dance. Steve goes to judo training in his video. Back in the studio, he and Ola Jordan perform to the Kings of Leon. A failure in the wardrobe department means that Steve has a waistcoat some sizes too small and without any buttons. What, that's to bring out the masculine qualities of the performance? Hmm, for values of "masculine" that have about one point.

"You're supposed to dance with Ola, not break her", says Bruno. That was just too brutal, too powerful. It was like he was doing battle with an alligator and will be presenting Zoe with a new handbag. The numbers total 28, and Zoe throws forward to a leaderboard. Pixie won, Simon second, with Judy some distance back at the bottom of the board. Thanks to the ties above, Judy's rubbish performance gives her a jury ranking of 4, rather than 1 for being stone last.

Strictly Come Dancing Budget cuts hit the costume department.

Lines open at 7.56, lines will close at 8.25. There's just enough time for a recap of the performances and voting numbers, and then the credits roll. "Grab a partner and keep dancing." At least Tess's sign-off makes sense.

Right, we're off to The Chase. By the time we'd seen Paul Sinha demolish the team of celebrities in the final (17 questions, 17 correct answers), the results show was being recorded. Judy had enough support to finish at least 7th in the televote, ranking above Alison Hammond and Caroline Flack. Alison left the show.

We Have a Tie, Team

How can we tell Judy had support? Assume Caroline finished 10th, Alison 9th, and Judy 7th. That left Alison on a combined 5+2=7 points, Caroline on 7+1=8, and Judy on 4+4=8. In a tie, the televote is preferred, so Caroline finishes second-bottom. Were points for ties shared, Judy would likely have been in the bottom two. She only remains because of a particular and a peculiar tie-break rule.

There are sound reasons why Strictly has the rule it has: some years ago, ties late in the series meant a televote couldn't possibly save one contestant. But the rule now has a perverse result: rubbish performers are staying in, better ones are going out, and it's all because of the way the votes are tallied.

Strictly Come Dancing isn't the only show with strange tie-break rules. Bother's Bar recently noted that Alex Trebek's Jeopardy is to abolish its tie rule. No longer will players be declared joint winners of the game, and come back on the next programme. Instead, there will be an additional clue to determine the day's one and only winner.

Brig reckons, "The closest equivalent we've got in the UK is using extra conundrums to break ties in Countdown". Yes, Countdown uses an extra conundrum to determine the winner when scores are level after 15 rounds. University Challenge has designed its tournament to be a knockout show, and reaches for an extra buzzer question at the gong. Only Connect uses a special Missing Vowels question when its shows end in a draw. (Even the celebrity specials, where a winner need not be declared.)

Eggheads An away fixture for Pat, Chris, and Barry.

Some shows are built to engineer a draw. Eggheads, where it's common for the round to be tied after the multiple-choice questions, and we go to the straightforward quiz bit. The X Factor is known for its drawn eliminations. "We're. Going. To. Deadlock," declares Dermot O'Leary every flippin' week. Simon and Gary vote one way, Louis and Tulisa another way, it's a 2-2 draw, and the public vote decides. It's as if the sing-off is done to extend the show to a full hour. What? Oh.

Other programmes reckon a draw is unlikely. On Pointless, two teams will occasionally score 200 on the same round, and they have to lose just one. Open-ended questions are extended to another answer, quiz rounds are thrown out. A draw is often possible even when correct answers are given. They arrange things so a score draw is impossible in the head-to-head final. Richard Osman is involved, and he thinks of everything. Over on Fifteen-to-One, a draw is a draw. Players who finish the final level on points and lives will each find a place on the finals board, and will each get an invitation back to the next series. Ties on the finals board are settled by a play-off before the game.

Some shows make it impossible for a draw to occur in the first place. Perfection requires one side or other to get the board completely right, and when one player does it the team cannot. Who Dares Wins, Pressure Pad, Going for Gold, and other turn-based programmes make it clear whose move it is, and who can lose. The Chase is constructed to avoid tie breaks. In the solo round, the player moves before the chaser; in the final, the team must score more than their pursuer, a tie goes to the chaser.

French show Tout le Monde Veut Prendre sa Place had one all-powerful champion. That included the power to break ties. If there was a draw in the qualifying rounds, the champion decided who would go through and who was knocked out. For the final, the challenger had to score more than the champion: a draw was not enough.

Perhaps the closest equivalent to Strictly is the Eurovision Song Contest. The rankings of a professional jury are combined with the ogling public. But where there's a tie in the jury ranks, it's split by a show of hands. The worst entry would get just one point from a possible 25. Not, as in Strictly, 6 points because there were ties above.

Each show has its own way of breaking ties. Strictly is unusual, because the tie-break clearly distorts the result. They apply the rule fairly, it may be an unjust rule to begin with.

This Week and Next

Congratulations to Declan Donnelly, who has announced his forthcoming marriage. Giving his love, his eternal love, to Ali Astall, his manager.

The Week has a broad brief, we reckon anything on game shows is within our remit. But we can't be experts in everything, some other writers do things in their own style. The newish 4 Your Excitement site (4ye.co.uk) covers Strictly Come Dancing every week. It gives more coverage of The X Factor than we care to (ie some). Becky Fuller and Sara Hunter Smith cover their shows in text and video with a voice of their own. And they watch some very obscure shows. Danielle Hutley has watched more of Rupaul's Drag Race than we thought existed; she gives a taste of the show from its memorable contestants.

Tumble Champions for ever.

They're not bothering with tie-breaks on Tumble, the gymnastics show isn't going to be recommissioned. This comes as a surprise to absolutely no-one. Bobby Lockwood will be the Reigning Tumble Champion for the rest of his career.

Johnny Elichaoff, one of the dealers on Four Rooms, has died. The antiques dealer will also be remembered as manager of rock bands including Tears For Fears and Fairground Attraction; and for his marriage to Trinny Woodall.

On University Challenge, Trinity Cambridge are still around to defend their title, beating Leicester by 220-140.

Only Connect featured Robert Peston, captain Patrick Marber, and cook Sophie Grigson. They're the Noggins, up against the Curiosities. Steve Jones is the geneticist, Kate Mosse is the novelist, and Kevin Eldon is wearing a Dennis the Menace polo shirt. Why, yes, it's the annual edition supporting Terry Wogan's Appeal on Behalf of Children in Need of Assistance, donations to http://bbc.co.uk/pudsey

The Noggins go into bat, with the music question. Some strings, the Devil's Galop, "That old devil called love", "Better the devil you know". The team buzz, think for ages, then Sophie shouts "Devils!" Where'd that come from? 666 points for serendipity, 665 deducted for guessing. We have no idea what any of the Curiosities' clues mean, but the Noggins turn out to be Quarkbeasts. In a breach of Only Connect protocol, Victoria dishes out a bonus point because the Curiosities know where "Quark" came from. Bonus points? Never had this nonsense on BBC4.

Only Connect (2) Peston holds on to the news.

Pictures for the Noggins are revealed in double-quick time. Again, Sophie works it out after 50 seconds: great people. Legend, Mensch, Diamond, Goodman. We're amazed that the BBC has allowed the next set to be broadcast: words like 'basket', chambermaid references, parodies of carols, jokes about lavatories. "Saucy English humour" suggests Patrick, but it's not close enough. These are concepts banned by the BBC editorial standards department in 1949.

Are we still on air? Welcome to Only Connect. "Ris a l'amande, Greenland, Lego, Sandi Toksvig." Another ten year conversation later, they call "Danes" for a point. Another quick reveal for the Curiosities, another long conversation after the buzzer, another point as it's fictional detectives with an s on the end. 4-2 to the Noggins.

"Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is", the three clues on an Only Connect sequence. "Have a guess", says Victoria. Both teams do. Neither get "...not putting it in a fruit salad." The wit of Miles Kington there. Pictures for the Curiosities: topiary, benefits form, bulls. Not "Old bull and bush", not "gore". It is, apparently, bush, a dole form, gore, and then comes kerry. Which, according to the setters, is a list of losing US presidential candidates. Charity special, move on.

Apply salt, lick hand, drink tequila, bite lime. Robert Peston's routine before going on The Today Programme is worth two. Dutch courage before facing Humphrys. Self-referential question of the week is the phonetic spelling of "Only Connect", and some heavy prompting from Victoria gives two to the Curios. "Say what you're seeing." Have they got Mr Chips booked for the Comic Relief special?

Only Connect (2) Kate Mosse gesticulates.

Deputy Prime Ministers is spotted by Peston for two, ending with the aggreable Nick. Saints days in December, working backwards to the 25th (so our Five Point Klaxon of "New Year's Eve" was silenced.) It's 8-6 to the Noggins.

On the walls, the Curiosities have some containers, and swift movements. Children from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are another group. Table ____ is the final group, and the key was Charlie Bucket and Veruca Salt being in different groups. Ten points!

Noggins have characters in Peter Pan, leaders in the Brownies, types of house, and flavours of port. Simples! Ten points!

So, 18-16 to the Noggins as Victoria dons the silly ears. Confirmation that we have now reached Peak Facial Hair: the first group is People With Beards. Dr Seuss books is also a 2-1 win for the Noggins, and there's only time for one Booker prize winner, "Bring up the Bodies". That'll be the Noggins, winners by 22-18.

Corrections, clarifications, and other matters arising: St Nicholas's Day is 6 December, not 25 December. Patrick Marber is remembered as The Day Today reporter Peter O'Hanrahahanrahan, and his catchphrase ("Peter! You've lost the news!") isn't even his. Auditors have signed off the European Union's accounts for 2013. Just as they've done for 2012, 2011, and every year since 2006. The EU's accounts are accurate, legal, regular and reliable. Humpo asserted on the Today programme that the accounts had not been audited. This is inaccurate, irregular, and unreliable.

On Mastermind, the inaccurate, irregular, and unreliable host told four more contenders to "go away". Will Howells played his part in Osmans Take Over The World, by taking the group Suede. The Osman in this group was Brother Mat. One of our favourite groups, we reckon we got nine from the comfort of our armchair. Will did much better, getting a Perfect Round: 15 (0). Needing eleven to win, the contender required a few more than eleven questions, but never looked like losing. 28 (1) is the final score, and that includes a boggy final half-minute when he'd already won.

Sarah Millard read the Life and Novels of Charlotte Bronte. She made a good start, but the final moments were wobbly. 12 (2) grew quickly, but again she fell on a question she knew – remember Michael Heseltine? – and struggled thereafter. 25 (4) won't be enough for the semis, we fear.

David Gregson spoke about Peep Show, the sitcom starring celebrity husband David Mitchell. The contender enjoyed researching for this show, enough to reach 10 (0). "Bastille? No, nor me" said the well-researched host about one general knowledge question: the final score was 19 (2). And Graham Haworth took The Battle of the Atlantic, naval warfare 1939-45. The contender took decent shots at questions, missing as many as he hit. A bit like the Germans, then. 8 (0) doubled to 16 (5) in a nervy second round.

BARB ratings in the week to 2 November.

  1. Strictly Come Dancing continues to build, reaching 10.95m on Saturday night. The Apprentice took a distant second place, 7.6m saw the bacterial videos react to penicillin.
  2. Anyone seen The X Factor? Thought not. Just 6.85m stuck around for Saturday's performance show. Pointless Celebrities is nipping at Cowell's heels, 5.75m braved the prospect of Bonnie Langford.
  3. 3.15m saw Louis Spence flipping on The Chase with Celebrities. 3.1m saw The Apprentice You're Fired. 2.85m for University Challenge, and 2.6m saw McBoosted on Keep It In the Family (3).
  4. Celebrity Juice had its best rating of the autumn, 2.06m caught Richard Hammond and Jessie J. The Great Interior Design Challenge returned to BBC2, and 1.6m people enjoyed it. We're going to have to look at this further. Coach Trip came back to 1.1m.
  5. 620,000 for Xtra Factor on ITV2. Amongst the imported shows, Masterchef Australia (255,000 on Watch) was ahead of Bigg Boss (Big Brother India, 195,000 on Colours), and both eclipsed The Face Us 2 (125,000 on UK Living).

I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! returns (ITV and 3e, from Sunday). Secret Dealers (ITV, 3pm weekdays) would be interested in the vintage material on I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue (Radio 4, 6.30 Monday). The finals of Cog1nio (S4C, Tue) and Junior Masterchef (CBBC, all week), and of the All-Island School Choir Contest (RTE1, Sun). Pointless Celebrities (6.10) goes sporty next Saturday, Strictly is at 7, and X Factor at 8.

Photo credits: BBC, Presentable, Parasol.

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