Weaver's Week 2014-11-30

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Later, John Humphrys talks about "big boobies".

The Great Interior Design Challenge


The Great Interior Design Challenge

Studio Lambert (an all3media company) for BBC2

When we come to take the poll of the year, we can be confident about some things. Two Tribes will do well, because it's great. Pointless will do well, because it's Pointless. City Limits Live will get no votes, unless there's a new category for "Best advertiser-funded show hosted by Kate Silverton tucked away in the weekend schedules of a pan-European financial channel that absolutely no-one watched".

And no-one will vote for The Great Interior Design Challenge. Not because it's bad television, but because it's interior design. And interior design is something that people either love or hate. A few folk say it's the most interesting thing they could possibly make a programme about. Everyone else reckons it's as dull as waiting for paint to dry, not least because half the time it is waiting for paint to dry.

The Great Interior Design Challenge Watch this space...

The Great Interior Design Challenge is in its second series of 2014, and 1.7m people see the programmes. It's doing something right. So, armed with a fresh cushion, and taking the batteries out of the remote, we settled down to watch some editions.

Tom Dyckhoff hosts. He is the living and breathing stereotype of interior designers, a cartoon made flesh. Thick-rimmed specs, balding with a stubbly beard, walking around with his hands in his pockets, dripping enthusiasm from every single inch of his being. Tom lives and breathes modern architecture, and his enthusiasm pervades every moment of the programme.

The Great Interior Design Challenge Where's Tom?

Tom introduces the show's judges. Daniel Hopwood looks like an accountant, square glasses, suit and tie, with a colourful handkerchief jazzing up his suit pocket. Sophie Robinson seems to take the lead on the judging: she says what she expects from the contestants, Daniel cross-examines her opinion to tease out his own.

Each show falls into three acts. The opening quarter hour is to introduce the challengers, and the challenges they'll face. The players have been given a budget of £1000 and two days at the house to do their work (both money and time increase later in the competition). Because, yes, they're doing real work in the real houses of real people. These real houses are in the same neighbourhood – a street in Wimbledon, terraces in Brighton, houseboats in the same marina. It's a fair competition for the players, and it makes the filming a whole lot easier and cheaper.

The Great Interior Design Challenge Here's how I plan to wreck your room...

The players are also given a week's head start, during this time they plan what they'll do with their construction time. None of this appears on screen, it's one of those little things waved away under the broad heading "the magic of television". We seem to notice this sort of handwaving trickery a lot on Studio Lambert shows.

Anyway. Each player meets their "clients", the people whose homes they'll be wrecking. We viewers also get to see a little biography of the player, or their work in previous rounds. Each player presents a "mood board", a collage of pictures and drawings to help explain what they want to do with the room. Reaction from the "clients" is going to be considered, but not always honoured. Will they change their mind by the end of the show? We'll have to see.

The Great Interior Design Challenge En route to a voyage of discovery. Or something.

Once we've met everyone, Tom gives a quick talk about the area, its architectural features and some peculiarities about the buildings. The judges seem to take these aspects into account – work in Edwardian terraces is expected to work with the period features, and be a bit different from brutalist concrete structures.

The middle act, about half of the show's hour, is the construction work. It's a bit predictable. Fans of industrial sanders, tune in at 7.13 for your daily fix of wood shavings. The show threatens tension: "John wasn't ready for what he found underneath the floorboards." As quickly as the tension's built, it's deflated. John hasn't found the headless corpse of a goat, he's found evidence of woodworm and will have to add in some woodworm treatment.

The Great Interior Design Challenge Daniel Hopwood and Sophie Robinson are the judges.

This goes on for half an hour. The judges visit each house to assess progress and offer advice. With a day to go, they'll throw in a Compulsory Object, something that has to be used in the finished room. Think of this item as a required element in Dancing on Ice: marks will be deducted if the item's missing, it's up to the contestant how to incorporate it.

By the end of the construction phase, it's clear that Studio Lambert has made this show with one eye for syndication. Some channel like Home 'n' Hammers will pick up this show as soon as they can. We can tell where each break will go, Tom gives a brief recap of what we're watching, even though we've been watching it without interruption for half an hour. And we can make a good guess at which bits will be snipped out: Tom's architectural tour will go, and some of the construction footage will also be left on BBC2 like so much scrapwood.

The Great Interior Design Challenge After the work is completed...

Eventually, with about twelve minutes to go, the working ends. The final act begins. We're treated to before-and-after pictures, so we can compare the rooms. The judges pass their comments, most of their comments have been foreshadowed earlier in the programme. The homeowners get to see their new rooms for the first time. It's the climax to each episode of Changing Rooms without having to sit through Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen. And the judges announce the winners and losers, and (in television terms) it's all with the minimum of fuss.

And that's the show. Nine heats take in 27 contestants and spit out 9 for the second round. Then only the worst leave in two subsequent rounds, before the last four progress to the semi-final, and two to the final.

We've heard it suggested that The Great British Bake Off has succeeded because there's something about a watching a process. Once you start watching someone making a cake, or renovating a room, you can't tune away. Perhaps that explains part of the success Interior Design Challenge has seen. It could be from people who want to improve their houses, the folk who like DIY and repainting rooms, and are looking for inspiration.

But we think the biggest factor is the hosts and the judges. They do a little education, they explain what they're looking for and judge honestly. Yes, the criteria they'll use are telegraphed through the episode. When we hear "Kate has a history of taking on too much", we know Kate will later take on too much. Chekhov's gun always fires, it always fires for a reason.

The Great Interior Design Challenge Judge Daniel demonstrates how our head feels.

That's not to say we understand Interior Design Challenge. It speaks a language of MDF and fireplaces, a code we don't comprehend. We have a primitive idea of home decor, but nothing more, and we've not learned anything practical from watching the programme.

Countdown Update

Craig Beevers, a Countdown champion in 2007, has been named Scrabble champion of the world. Well done to him.

Countdown Craig Beevers in his television days.

A parade of 8 and 1 has passed through the studios in Leeds West. George Ford had eight wins at the end of October, seven with scores of 100 or more, a good player but we fear he'll not get past the semis. Gwenni Sorokin and Jamie Jardine each won one game, then Laurence Killen won eight matches. He blew hot and cold: where George was consistent, Laurence had errors in many games, but when he was on form, he could be close to a maximum.

After that, a single win for Malcolm Fletcher, for Edward Byrne (Countdown contestant), and for Andrew Avery. Rachel Evans broke the chain when she won two. Antoinette Ryan looks set to be our final finalist, three centuries in her first three games promises much.

Seven more heats before Finals Week. In a change to the schedule published earlier in the year, Countdown will have its final on 19 December, not Christmas Eve. This is unfortunate, because we've already scheduled alternative content for the Week of 21 December.

The seeds:

1 Dan McColm 8 wins 942 pts
2 Tricia Pay 8 857
3 Mark Davies 8 844
4 George Ford 8 832
5 Laurence Killen 8 794
6 David Stanford 7 624
7 Paul Worsley 6 647
8 James Wall 4 397

This Week and Next

The Children's BAFTA awards were presented. Dick and Dom were the big winners – scooping the presenter award for Appsolute Genius, and the comedy award for Diddy Movies 2. Only one game show won an award, Junior Bake Off cooked a win in the entertainment category.

The International Emmy awards were presented. Three British winners: Stephen Dillane won best actor as Karl Roebuck in The Tunnel. Utopia took best drama for Kudos and Channel 4. Educating Yorkshire won non-scripted entertainment for Twofour and Channel 4.

Friends forever!

SMRTV has named its performers for next year's Senior Eurovision Song Contest. The song from San Marino will be sung by Michele from last year's Junior contest, and one of The Peppermints from earlier this month. We look forward to the Austin and Ally vibe on stage in Vienna.

More Eurovision Song Contest alumnus news, and Zlata Ognevich from the 2013 senior contest has a new career. She's no longer being carried by a Ukrainian giant, she's making laws in the national parliament. Eurovision, taking over the world one legislature at a time.

Eurovision Song Contest Giant steps.

On University Challenge, Magdalen Hurrah Hurrah We're Going To Beat The Oiks Ford came up against the oiks of the Open University. And won, 225-130. The show contained a shocking swerve, of the sort we thought they'd stopped years ago:

Q: How many pairs of rabbits can be produced from a single pair in one year, if it is assumed that every month, each pair begets a new pair, that from the second month becomes productive? Which 13th century Italian...?

At this point, one of the teams interrupted Thumper's meanderings and answered the second question. We say: any question beginning "How many pairs of rabbits" and expecting the answer "Fibonacci" belongs on a surrealist pastiche of a quiz show.

Open have been mistreated by the producers. Blackballed for fifteen years, then put up against Leicester and Magdalen, two of the other great sides in the tournament. With Manchester The Team Everyone Wants To Beat due to appear next week, we don't think there will be much of interest in the bottom half of the draw. Have the producers rigged the draw so that Trinity, Magdalen, and Manchester all play each other in the Prolonged Group Phase next year?

Only Connect reached its last second-chance round, between first-round losers Qi Elves and Nightwatchmen.

Heads down for the Nightwatchmen as they pick the music question. "It's awful!" Dudes, you just dissed Jason Donovan. You'll earn our unmitigated opposition for the rest of your time on the show. Which, given that this column always backs a loser, will be the rest of the series. Bonus point to the Qi Elves, and the Elves will get our support for the next (checks clock) 24 minutes.

Unusual typefaces look like inscriptions somewhere. Not statues at the library, not above doors, but on a £2 coin. "We get paid in biscuits" say the Elves, proof that the custard cream is now negotiable currency. They score with Bens – Uncle, Nevis, Gentle, and a rat gangleader.

Nations and elements combine in an ISO3166-2 country code list – Australia is AU is gold, and so on. A hard-earned point for the Nightwatchmen. (Checks calendar) TOO EARLY!! It's only 24 November, and you can't mention "All I want for Christmas is ___" songs. Festive songs are from dawn on Advent Sunday (today as you read it) to nightfall on Boxing Day. Never mind hating the Nightwatchmen, our opprobrium transfers to Gratuitously Early Festivusness. 4-1 to the Qi Elves.

"Oh, man, what is the last Wallace and Grommit film?" "I'm sorry for the pain. And by sorry, I mean I enjoyed it hugely." The Nightwatchmen entertained the host and failed to score; the Qi score three on LMNO reflected. Simple crossword clues beheaded to a Wallace and Grommit answer (4) give us Prelate, Relate, Elate, Late and two for the Nightwatchmen. We'll have more of that.

Later, the Nightwatchmen get "Broken hearts" "Sibling feuds". You blighters!! You blighters!!!!! Ben is worth two points this time. Best self-referential question in years! We haven't laughed as hard since Alex Guttenplan!!

10-6 to the Qi, and they extend their lead on a very simple wall. Tennis players from the 1970s, gloves, terms in bridge, and things they'll find in a kitchen. But if Qi Elves get paid in biscuits, what need do they have for a toaster or a stove? They don't play bridge. Seven Points!

Nightwatchmen have a wall with Eggheads, garden shrubs, musicals, and words that sound like countries. Their blank spot: Barry, CJ, Judith, Kevin are not from The West Wing. Seven points!

Revenge of the Egghead Also: not the Baywatch star.

17-13 into Mssng Vls, and things seen at children's parties is a 2-2 draw. Slickness is 4-0 to Qi, and Former European States goes 2-1 to the Nightwatchmen. They get one from forenames of detective partners, but it's too late. 24-18 to the Qi Elves, so the Nightwatchmen suffer the Curse of the Week and go off spouting sports cliches.

Matters arising. Ben the rat was from a film, and Michael Jackson provided the soundtrack. Some correspondents wondered if "Laos" and "louse" are homophones: the Oxford Dictionaries reckon they are, and that'll do for us.

For one of the connections, the Qi Elves offered "had a sibling who worked in the same field". "Sibling rivalry" was the model answer. Were the Elves right? Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland both acted, Jack and Bobby Charlton played football, Liam and Noel Gallagher were in a band together. But the Freuds knock out their answer – Lucian painted, Clement was a cook and raconteur, Stephan ran an antiques shop.

Mastermind continued. "The ultimate test of nerve and knowledge" claimed the host, betraying his trademark cavalier lack of accurancy. Philip Isaac' was this week's winner. He gave two minutes on Allo 'Allo, a BBC sitcom from the 1980s. 13 (0) was a perfect round – Mr. Isaac's speech is naturally very slow. Good general knowledge took him to a final score of 26 (2).

Gillian Taylor spoke about the ship Empress of Ireland, which collided with another ship and sank. Some questions were about the ship's earlier career, when it was as shipshape as the round: one wrong, 14 (0). Leading at halfway, and a strong start to her second round, but it fell apart in the middle and took time to recover. Too long: 24 (0).

David Good took the Sasanian Empire, found in modern Iran and Iraq about 23 centuries ago. The round began with a long speech by Humpo, and a pass by the contender. He got into his stride, finishing on 8 (2). Strong general knowledge took him to 23 (4), neither he nor we knew that Lee Mack rode Red Rum while working as a stable lad. Steve Wilson answered on Marc Bolan, the T Rex singer-songwriter. The contender knew his subject, not quite to perfection, and scored 8 (1). Second time around, cautious play took him to 16, and a late pass spiral to (6).

BARB ratings in the week to 16 November.

  1. Strictly Come Dancing continues its complete dominance, 11.45m saw the Saturday show.
  2. I'm a Celebrity launched to 9.45m viewers, with The Apprentice pushed to 7.8m, and the increasingly irrelevant X Factor on 7.2m.
  3. Pointless Celebrities has arrived. An unexceptional show was seen by 4.9m viewers (and that doesn't count Scotland, where it went out an hour earlier). The England football match on ITV was seen by 3.5m, and that was fully networked.
  4. Masterchef The Professionals boomed in with 3.4m, Celebrity Juice pulled 1.66m, 8 Out of 10 Cats 1.15m, and Get Me Out of Here Now 1.12m.
  5. How irrelevant is Cowell's show? Xtra Factor pulled 444,000 on Saturday, and fewer on Sunday. Cbeebies' Swashbuckle had 535,000 tuning in. Avast ye scurvy landlubbers! Cook Line and Sinker a-hoy!

(Or something like that, we never understood Swashbuckle. Far too complicated. Give us something simple, like Only Connect.)

Highlight of the week has to be Phillip Schofield's 24 Hour Live Television Marathon (ITV3, from 11am Monday). He'll be going live for a day, and will revive the halcyon days of Nation 217 as we watch him watch I'm a Celebrity.

A couple of shows are reaching their finals: The Great Interior Design Challenge (Tue, BBC2) and Fferm Ffactor (Wed, S4C). Pointless Celebrities (6.10 Sat) includes Danny Wallace and Stuart Maconie, with Strictly following at 7. The Chase welcomes Kian Egan and Sharron Davies, X Fac follows at 8. The I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! final comes next Sunday, 7 December.

Photo credits: Studio Lambert, PBS/EBU, SVT/EBU, 12 Yard Productions.

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