Weaver's Week 2015-10-04

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This week, we're dodging the space bees and listening to lots of Welsh.

Y Gemau Gwyllt


Y Gemau Gwyllt

Boom Plant for S4C, from 7 September

Wales isn't just a land of song, or being decent at rugby. Wales has a lot of outdoor activities, and Y Gemau Gwyllt ("The wild game", we think) shows a dozen of them.

In each show, two teams of three children take part. They're assisted by presenter Tudur Phillips, and by Ems Davies, a professional adrenalin junkie. They're often joined by Betsan, Ems's pet border collie. The show begins with a sizzle reel, it shows white-water rafting, waterfall jumping, mud-running, rock-climbing.

Y Gemau Gwyllt Tudur and Ems are in Welshpool.

The introductions are brief and to the point – this show runs for 24 minutes, and doesn't have time to waste on fancy packages. More like "this is Rhodri, he rides a longboard."

The series is regionalised, Wales is split into six distinct areas. The south-west, Aberystwyth to Tenby. South-central, Swansea to the massive superstore at junction 32. South-east, Cardiff and Newport and Monmouth, where they might have just six Welsh-speaking children to choose from. Then the central belt, and Clwyd and Gwynnedd.

The children are drawn from that area, and they visit attractions in their local area. Yes, this keeps the budgets down, but it also means that every part of the principality gets to show its attractions. And what attractions they are! Near Cardiff, a rock face! Near Swansea, a camp fire! Near Llangollen, a canal!! Television has never been so exciting!

Y Gemau Gwyllt Actually...

We jest, of course. There are some properly exciting things to visit. Near Cardiff, a white water rafting course! Near Swansea, an assault course! Near Llangollen, an aerial zip slide!! We want a go!

Each of these is home to a challenge. We'll see some footage of the teams preparing, working out what they've to do, practising their moves. Then away they go. One challenge is done as a team, all of the members paddling their boat, or solving puzzles along a canal bank.

Y Gemau Gwyllt A team comes down the zipline. Colour us jealous.

The other challenge is for individuals. Who can scale this rock face the fastest? Who can splat eggs on target as they come down the zip wire? Points are awarded, and a winning team emerges.

Tudur and Ems are on hand to guide the teams, encourage them, give tips and praise where it's due. The players tell us their thoughts through pieces to camera. We don't know enough Welsh to comprehend whether these were "what I'm going to do is..." or "what I did was...", and it doesn't matter. We get the story.

So, points are awarded, and a winning team is found. Then comes the clever bit. The losing team goes away, confers with Ems, discussing the opposition. Who impressed them? Who did well in the challenges? Who was the most important person in their victory?

Y Gemau Gwyllt From the bottom, it's a long way up.

The losing team name the winner's most valuable player. That one person advances to the series final, where untold riches await. Or the honour of being overall champion, whichever is more valuable.

Now, we might quibble with a couple of the decision. Some of the challenges lend themselves to a judgement based on commitment and effort and speed and technique, roughly in that order. To judge on speed and speed alone doesn't quite work. And we find headcams and helmet cams to make giddyating viewing. But that might be a deliberate choice.

We do enjoy the static shot direction, even a low-budget children's programme bothers to pick its shows and look good on screen. Opening the gate and slowly moving down the runway, or tracking the assault course as the children will follow it.

Y Gemau Gwyllt Messing about on the river: one of many gorgeous shots.

Y Gemau Gwyllt isn't going to set the world on fire. It is a high quality children's programme, suggesting things that its viewers might do outside the house.



Rondo for S4C, from 24 September

Wales has long been the centre of app-a-long fun. Y Lifft, Ludus, Pyramid were all shows that worked on their own, but improved for the 15% of viewers who played on their tablet or phone. Most of these challenges on this show were reaction or skill games, there wasn't a quiz app.

Enter, stage left, Rhestr. The title translates as "List", and the players – three pairs – will be invited to complete some lists. If they do well enough, they'll become moderately well-off. We quickly see the teams before their first question, and chat a little more as the game goes on. There's enough chat and flim-flam that we notice it.

Rhestr The set is colourful and marked in linked hexagons.

Round one is a solo round for each team. They're given four items, and asked to put them in order. "List these tennis players from oldest to youngest." 30 seconds to complete the task and lock in their answer, the players are allowed to discuss their answer as much as they like. There's three points for getting the list correct, or one point for each answer in the right place.

Why 30 seconds? That'll allow the app to work – there are transmission delays in the chain, so the players are talking while the app-player can play. Host Huw Stevens can fill for ten to fifteen seconds, looking at the list the players gave, repeating it back to them. Eventually, he'll reveal how well the players did, and what the right answer is.

Rhestr Order these spices, from hottest to least firey.

Round two is "guess the picture". The teams are shown a blurry picture, it becomes clearer after each question. The questions have something to do with the picture. So we might see "which of the following isn't on the coast?" and "George Orwell wrote about which pier?"

Each question is on the buzzer, and only the first team to lock in their answer will get to guess what's in the picture. It's a familiar idea, and we guess that the app players score from the questions rather than the picture.

Rhestr Is it a biscuit?

After the break, round three is "odd one out" – spot the answer that shouldn't appear in a group of four. Again, these are questions on the buzzer, and each requires just the one answer. Huw says "your 30 seconds starts now", though a team will buzz in after about three. The tail is wagging the dog; the app leads the broadcast as Huw has to fill for twenty seconds, with some of the smallest small talk ever. "Do you like the Spice Girls? Do you play their songs in your brass band?" Toes are curling up at this blatant filler. Eyes are strained as the answers zap on screen, and fall off screen, and come back on screen, each time accompanied by a whooshing sound effect. It gets old.

There's a similar problem in round four: a list of three answers is given, and four options to fill the list. Again, it's on the buzzers for the teams to answer in a microsecond. App players have a long time to complete their game, and it spoils the programme for the viewer. Great news for the 15% of viewers who are tapping keys, but not for the 85% who want a good quiz without so much filler.

Rhestr They're not asking after celebrity chefs.

Does the final round make up for this disappointment? Not really. It's familiar from Wipeout, the Paul Daniels / Bob Monkhouse show from about twenty years back. Twelve candidate responses, the list only contains five right answers. The teams have 60 seconds thinking time to indicate which answers are right. Huw will say how many are right, but not which ones. Unlike Wipeout, they're only allowed to submit three sets of answers. This should be a fast and frenetic final round, but it goes slowly.

The contestants in the studio get £200 per correct answer in their final submission. If they haven't won the full £1000 prize, the balance is offered to the viewers in a web-or-postcard competition. Yes, a show staging a write-in contest! But there's no way to enter through the app, which is really very bizarre.

Rhestr The link is something to do with Marilyn Monroe.

We've noted that the later rounds, in particular, suffered from having to wait for the app to run its course. We noticed that one show managed to have seven men in the studio and not one woman. Even given that it's a Welsh language programme, seen by a few thousand people, how is this possible?

There's one other problem with Rhestr: the questions are a bit simple. Who was prime minister between Tony Blair and David Cameron? Which tennis grand slam event comes between the Australian Open and Wimbledon? Did Marilyn Monroe marry Tom Cruise? The only ones that this column had to think about were specifics about Wales: order towns by population, name the one not on the coast.

There is a good quiz show involving its own app. Rhestr isn't it; indeed, Rhestr isn't doing much more than playalong In It to Win It did on the red button in 2003. But as a test ground for the technology, a way to prove the development is working and learn from it, Rhestr has value.

A Song Against Europe

The BBC made a massive song and dance about its Eurovision Song Contest entry. "The public's going to be involved! Anyone can submit! The fans get a say! So do professionals!" We're less impressed.

Eurovision Song Contest The BBC can do better than this.

From what we can tell, things are similar to last year, when they found a credible song and ruined it with abysmal staging. There's an open call for the public to send in their songs. The public submissions will be filtered through OGAE, the fan club for people who treat the Eurovision Song Contest with extreme reverence.

For the first time in some years, members of the Songwriters' Academy will be invited to submit ideas. A long-retired record company executive will nudge shoulders in the industry.

Eurovision Song Contest The BBC can aim for this.

The Beeb sends out mixed messages about what happens next. The press release says, "Songs from all routes of entry will be included in a final shortlist, which will be presented to a professional panel and the public, who will have the final say on which song is taken forward to represent the [BBC] at the Eurovision Song Contest in Sweden in 2016. More details regarding this will be announced in due course."

From this, we read that a biddable jury and a pliable public will combine to choose the BBC's entry.

But Graham Norton's quote is different: "the public will get the final say". Guy Freeman, the man in charge of BBC Eurovision, also says "with the public having the final say". Really? Like they did this year, when RAI's entry by Il Volo won the televote, SVT's entry by Måns Zermelöw won the jury vote, and won overall? If the public determine the winner, what's the point in the professional panel? Other than to manipulate public opinion towards the Beeb's preferred result?

Will the panel be allowed to show up the BBC's failures over the past two decades? Will Wogan be critiqued for laughing at other countries? Will Norton be criticised for telling us how and how not to vote? Can the BBC take this as a serious contest, taken seriously by serious broadcasters and taken as a joke by joke broadcasters?

Eurovision Song Contest The BBC can aim for this.

Ewan Spence is even more cynical. "Whatever happens this year, that blame will fall either on the public or the professional panel. Watch carefully for 'the public will choose' to be emphasised at every possible moment to get the deflection ready if needed."

So, hypothetically, what if the BBC asks viewers to choose between songs as poor as "That sounds good to me", "Even if", and "Flying the flag (upside down)"? The public will have made a poor choice, but it was not allowed to make a good decision. Will we have the alternative to say "All your songs are rotten, go back and find something less rubbish"?

Eurovision Song Contest The BBC can aim for this.

There's no mention of the series Your Country Needs A Great British Song Contest For Europe Factor Strictly On Ice. For all we know, the decision could be taken behind closed doors, or by the audience at a recording of Only Connect. They might pick their tune during an edition of CBBC's Saturday series Yonko and Shannon Lark About in a Soggy Field, or in a rebroadcast of Steve Wright In the Afternoon from 1980.

And after the song's been picked, will the performers have input on how they're going to perform the song? Can we have better staging than on The X Factor? Will the staging tell a story, and will that story match the song? The BBC completely failed here in 2015, it took a bad idea and forced it into the song.

Eurovision Song Contest Wake up! Another country wants you!

Since the press releases emerged, Jedward have said they want to represent the BBC. Good. John and Edward know what they're doing. They put on a fabulous show, and they'll stand up to the BBC bods. That they've cultivated fans all over Europe is a bonus.

We hope that the BBC will have an embarrassment of riches, and won't be a national embarrassment. We hope.

This Week and Next

Good news for Sam and Mark fans, the dynamic duo are the new hosts of Junior Bake Off. "I hope you rise to the challenge (LIKE A CAKE!)" said Mr. Hacker of Wigan.

Good news for Matt le Tissier, the latest professional footballer to reach the Countdown studio. And he's doing rather well, winning three matches with very tasty scores.

Quiz update

Heat 12 of University Challenge featured Clare Cambridge (David Tremain, Sarah Binney, Olivier Grouille, Ellie Warner) and Warwick (Hugh Osborn, Emily Stevenson, Ashley Page, James Leahy). Clare took an early lead, Warwick caught fire in the middle portion of the game, and pulled ahead to win 195-100.

Match 12 on Only Connect was the last Second Chance round, between the Road Trippers and the Builders. A very low-scoring first round saw just three correct answers, one of them a little generous. Things picked up in Sequences, where both teams missed big points – the Builders could have had 5 on threatened species, the Road Trippers went for 3 on men's football world cup winning captains. The Builders took 2 from their own question, and a bonus from the Road Tripper's one.

Ten points apiece on the walls, where "characters from Dangermouse" appeared. Coincidence that this was on the same day as CBBC's new run of Dangermouse? Builders were thus ahead by four going into Missing Vowels; their win was by 29-17, a big swing in the final round.

Hive Minds had its second semi-final, between the Mendelians and Pascallywags. The latter team had the better of the early questions, but Mendelians overtook them in the two-answers section of the opening round. "We're much more familiar with Boesch than members of The A Team", said one Pascallywag.

The 'Wags proved far better on triangles than The Importance of Being Earnest, as the second stand-up stanza made little difference. The match was lost on the Superhive: Mendelians found four of the seven answers, but took them all out of the grid to chase a red herring, and then didn't have time to put any back. No score, and it's difficult to win from there. Even harder when the Pascallywags solve the hive perfectly, even without knowing that the cittern is a stringed instrument. The 'Wags won, 28-19, and come back for next week's grand final.

Christine Harrison won Mastermind; she scored 11 on Silent Cinema of the 1920s, and 15 points on general knowledge. Fifteen on general knowledge says "serious contender". Alex Bryant, Ed Greisl, and Tony Scarfi also took part, and finished with scores in the high teens.

Eurovision Song Contest She's counting the layers!

BARB ratings in the week to 13 September.

  1. The Great British Bake Off remains the most popular show in the known universe, 12.35m people watched this week's Victorian-themed show.
  2. The X Factor attracted 6.9m for its final auditions. Pointless Celebrities was seen by 4.15m, and Keep It in the Family (2.93m) just beat University Challenge (2.82m) and Bake Off Extra Slice (2.78m). There were 2.05m for Celebrity Big Brother.
  3. Great British Menu has 1.9m viewers, and Six Degrees of Separation pulled 1.3m. A poor figure for Mastermind, 1.35m on a full-network transmission, but it still beat Sarah Millican Hijacks Deal or No Deal (1.1m).
  4. Celebrity Juice remains top of the non-PSB pops, with 1.08m. Xtra Factor had 565,000, and Duck Quack's (sic) Don't Echo took 390,000 viewers. One Hundred and Eighty had 350,000 on KYTV Oneviewer, and about five people on KY Sports.
  5. Ratings coincidence of the week: 34,000 viewers for Masterchef on the Good Food channel, and for Codi Canu Cwpan Rygbi'r Byd on S4C. Nos da, blantos.

Stand by your loaves, it's The Great British Bake Off final (BBC1, 8pm Wed). Stand by your honey, it's the Hive Minds final (BBC4, 8.30 Tue).

Elsewhere, sports stars take part in various challenges on Eternal Glory (ITV, 8pm Tue). This year's hopelesses on The Apprentice are named (BBC Red Button, from Tue), and Landscape Artist of the Year comes to Sky Arts (8pm Tue). It's their old Portrait Artist competition, shoved into the video player the wrong way round.

An Only Connect Celebrity Contestants reunion on Pointless Celebrities next Saturday (BBC1, 5.30), then it's Yet Another Hollywood Week on Strictly Come Dancing. Bo-ring!

Photo credits: Boom Plant, Rondo, EBU / ÖRF, Remarkable Television.

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