Weaver's Week 2016-08-21

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While we wait for series to finish (Alphabetical and Taking The Next Step), there's a hole in the review schedule. To the postbag, in a section called


You Ask Us

The best versions of American shows

Ed L. Crinkle and Liv O'Europe asked for "a definitive answer on the 'greatest' UK adaptation of a US original game show format".

Faster than a speeding bullet, the UKGameshows pixies pulled out some useful data.

Our most-viewed US imports:

Gladiators Winners of the duel.

  1. Gladiators
  2. Blockbusters
  3. University Challenge
  4. Catchphrase
  5. Family Fortunes
  6. Fun House
  7. The Price is Right
  8. Are You Smarter Than a 10 Year Old?
  9. Play Your Cards Right
  10. Supermarket Sweep
  11. Blankety Blank
  12. Blind Date
  13. Wheel of Fortune
  14. Strike it Lucky
  15. Celebrity Squares
  16. Sale of the Century
  17. Wipeout (Paul Daniels)
  18. Name That Tune
  19. Finders Keepers (2) (CITV)
  20. The Apprentice

Others made the Best Shows top 50 at the Game Show General Elections. Greed, Jeopardy!, What's My Line? (all 2002), Total Wipeout (2010)

In the Hall of Fame, University Challenge regularly appears about seventh. The Apprentice had some popularity last decade, but has fallen away since. The Best New Shows included Are You Smarter Than a Ten Year Old (07), Total Wipeout (09), Blockbusters revival (12), Catchphrase revival (13).

Ah, but these are statistics. What of opinion?

Blind Date A lorra lorra laughs.

Gladiators, Blind Date, and Blockbusters became part of the UK's culture. "Can I have a P please." "Over to John Anderson." "The choice is yours." All of the shows ran for ages, and are defined by iconic hosts.

Blankety Blank also ran for ages, it's defined by many iconic hosts. The BBC show was very different from any other version, being almost a satire of big-budget celebrity panel games. What's My Line? is a timeless classic.

Catchphrase and Wheel of Fortune enjoyed long runs, though this column never loved either show. The Price is Right is easy to watch and has rarely been made with style. We'd stop to watch Family Fortunes, and still marvel at how it was on the primetime ITV schedule at the turn of the century.

Let's pick five where the version we saw was better than the import:

  • Gladiators. In its era, this was massive. Seriously, you cannot write a cultural history of the 1990s without discussing Robson and Jerome, those t-shirts that changed colour when they got warm, and Gladiators. The added ingredient: the National Indoor Arena. And Wolf.
  • Every Second Counts spent a long time on primetime BBC1, and never got repeated. It's a versatile format, guarantees a tense finish. The added ingredient: Paul Daniels' skill.
  • Win Beadle's Money added a local spin to the Ben Stein format. The added ingredient: we loved to hate Jeremy Beadle, it was no stretch to root against him.


  • Blockbusters, a simple quiz for young people. The added ingredient: the generation gap between the sixth-form contestants and old host Bob Holness.
  • Who Wants to be a Superhero emphasised the naive qualities of superheroes in general, and Stan Lee in particular, by making it a show for children. It made for a very different programme, we think a better watch than its Sci-Fi original.

Quiz me quick

Oliver Levy asked, "What's the most question-dense quiz show? Jeopardy? 100%? Old Fifteen-to-One?"

100% asked 100 questions in a (commercial) half-hour. It provides our unit of account: questions per 24 minutes, expressed as a percentage. 100% asks questions at 100%.

Jeopardy! won't beat it, asking no more than 61 questions in its half-hour.


Digging out an edition of Old Fifteen-to-One, we see 30 questions in round 1, 45 questions in round 2, and 27 in the final. That's a total of 102 questions, and still time for the 15-second credits.

(The edition in question: Chris Russon's episode from 2 November 1989. We've picked this as a fairly average episode: the first round ended with three down, five players with all lives intact.)

Despite its long and rambling questions, and its anti-intellectual host, University Challenge gets through the questions at quite a chop. We looked at the last four matches in the group phase last year, and found an average of 80 questions in a BBC half-hour (so 28.75 minutes or thereabouts). That's about 67% of the 100% 100%.

It wasn't always this way. Back in the 1990s, University Challenge had sharper and snappier questions, and packed more of them in. A quarter-final in 1996 (Imperial College over Exeter) asked 99 questions in its slot, 82% of the 100% speed.

Daphne Fowler Daphne Hudson?! She answers questions, doesn't she?

The People Versus gave us our title, Kaye Adams promised to "quiz me quick". In its daytime edition, players had four minutes to get 15/28 right. Were there no waffle, that would have promised around 140 questions per show. But they had to burble, and do The Bong Game (shudder!) and rarely beat 30 questions in a commercial half-hour. 30%.

What about The Chase? Four solo rounds of a minute (typically 10 questions), then individual chases typically last about 6 questions. The final asks about 25 questions of the team, up to 27 of the Chaser. That's around 116 questions in a commercial hour (43 minutes). 65%.

ITV's newcomers have big question stacks. Cash Trapped asks twenty-one in the first round (15 buzzer plus six categories), 11 in round 2 (five buzzer and six categories). The solo rounds average seven questions each, so 42 there, and we'll get about 10 in the final round. Call it 85-90 in an hour, up to 45%.

Alphabetical (which we'll review next week) has eight one-minute solo rounds, 19 assigned questions, and about 45 in the final round. That's about 165 questions in an hour: fast, but 83% is not Fifteen-to-One fast.

Every Second Counts is a contender. If you count each response of "Cook" or "Sinker" as a question, we've 6 rounds of questions (at least 3, at most 9, average 7), plus six bonus questions, plus at least 30 in the final. It's about 80 to 90 in a half-hour, very decent for primetime. Still only 67%.

The Weakest Link

The Weakest Link? Anne was able to sustain 9.5 questions per minute, plus an average of 9 in the final. Plus, if you will, 7 asks of "who do you think is the weakest link?" That's a total of about 190 in 45 BBC minutes (44 clock minutes), so about 104%. We didn't realise Link was as fast as Fifteen-to-One.

Mastermind is the current holder. 18 minutes of quiz in each 28.5 minute show. On 12 August, that meant 131 questions. 110% of the 100% pace, and faster than Anne or Bill.

But the fastest show we could find is a surprise. Sale of the Century banged the questions out – and it banged on about the prizes. Almost four minutes of the 24 minute show was a lavish description of the prizes, but Nicholas Parsons was going to ask as many questions as he could.

We looked again at Daphne Hudson's episode in 1983. There were 106 general knowledge questions in the main game, 5 in the final, and 5 "do you want to buy this?" In a commercial half-hour slot, that's a sustained quiz velocity of 111%.

100 questions in 24 minutes is 4-and-a-sixth questions per minute. As we've seen, most hosts can get through 9 or 10 questions in a minute without trouble – that's a peak rate of 220%-240%. In The Chase, Bradley can crank out 27 questions in two minutes of playing time, but with interruptions when the Chaser makes errors.

Parsons and Fowler got through 33 (THIRTY-THREE) questions in two-and-a-half minutes. That represents a peak speed of over 310%

Sale of the Century

Three times the pace of William G Stewart! Faster than a speeding Bradley! Nicholas Parsons, you are a legend!!

Countdown Update

Since the end of June, Countdown has had a number of champions. Norm Ahmad lost his first defence to Andrew Fenton. Andrew's octochamp total of 728 included a couple of 10-max games late on. Rachel Sheridan won one match, then Stephen Fuller took six wins – all with modest scores of around 80 points.

Aidan Linge took three wins; his four-match total was over 75% of Stephen Fuller's seven-match total. But Chris Leaney won on a tie-break, only to lose to Stephen Bloom on his first defence. Stephen lost a close match to Cammy Lovatt, then Annie Humphries came into the champion's chair.

Annie took eight wins, with a total of 775 points and three centuries. She's the number one seed at present. A new champion will be found on Monday.

This Week and Next

Deal or No Deal

Deal Me Out Channel 4 has confirmed that Deal or No Deal will not go back into production. There are about 60 episodes still to be aired, and the programme will play in theatres towards the end of the year.

Noel Edmonds will not be retiring. He'll present Cheap Cheap Cheap for Channel 4 daytime, whether that's the format or budget is yet to be confirmed. There will also be pilot shows in primetime: Sell or Swap is based around the bit of Swap Shop no-one liked. And there's a new big money game in a studio.

Rumours over the weekend that Blankety Blank was going to get another revival. ITV is again associated with the broadcast, and they'll doubtless still miss the point of Wogan's version.

Particular slapped wrists to A Demi Grauniad. The media department of The Observer constructed a whole article around "who will present?" without establishing there's a show for anyone to present. It's like an architect saying "the top of our tower block has got to be a banana" without getting the land to build the skyscraper.

ITV has told us about Tower of 10, which Brig Bother described as "Big Money Topranko! for the daytime market". Warwick Davis will host.

University Challenge saw Emmanuel Cambridge (Tom Hill, Leah Ward, Bobby Seagull, Bruno Barton-Singer) take on The Blokes of Nottingham (Joseph Meethan, Wester van Urk, Hugh Smith, Isaac Cowan). Emmanuel picked up penalties on the first two starters, but won the match by 175-135.

The verb count: reading 2, studying 4, doing 2.

Only Connect ended section A with the Korfballers (Taissa Csaky, Niall Sheekey and Michael Jelley) versus the Channel Islanders (Sean McManus, Caroline McManus, Tabitha Osborne) – the latter represent Guernsey. Korfballers won the match 25-13.

Very much a game of three halves: Korfballers took the opening round 4-1, but were blitzed in the second 7-0. The Channel Islanders picked all three of their connections for two points, and grabbed a bonus. But the Korfballers came back with a perfect Wall, and scored 11 on Missing Vowels. The show featured cameos from such CBBC successes as Gordon T Gopher, Baron von Greenback, and Sex and the City.

The Channel Islanders do come back in the repêchage for high-scoring losers: they tied with the Bardophiles and Cousins on 13 points. The tie-break, apparently, is score after two rounds. CI had 8, Bardophiles 6, and Cousins are out with 4.

Mastermind was won by the reigning Counterpoint champion. Daniel Adler scored a Perfect Round on the Danish drama Borgen, and won the show with a score of 31 (and 0 passes). James Haughton reached 27 (0) after taking the men's football world cup since 1982, it puts him joint-top of the high-scoring losers board. Richard Gill (26) and Helen Lippell (25) did very well, but it looks like scoring is up this year.

BARB ratings in the week to 7 August.

  1. Coronation Street the most-seen show, 7.35m viewers. University Challenge the top game show, with 2.85m.
  2. Close behind: Catchphrase (2.8m) and Dragons' Den (2.75m). Cash Trapped debuted with 2.65m, fell to 1.65m as the week went on. Only Connect was seen by 2.3m, Big Brother 2.1m.
  3. 1.8m for Robot Wars, 1.65m for Catsdown, 1.6m for Mastermind. 1.05m for Eggheads, and 820,000 for Bit on the Side.
  4. Coach Trip Road to Ibiza grew to 435,000, the top multi-channel programme for E4. Hell's Kitchen (415,000 on ITV2) and QI XL (335,000 on Dave) followed.
  5. Master of Photography is falling, 78,000 is down almost 50% on last week.

Bake Off is back (BBC1, Wed). So is last year's winner, on The Chronicles of Nadiya (BBC1, Wed). But also Bake Off An Extra Slice (BBC2, Fri).

Monday is a good day to launch new series. See: Think Tank (3) (BBC1), Debatable (BBC2), Make Me an Egghead (BBC2), and the short-run 500 Questions (ITV). ITV are switching off for an hour next Saturday, but it's not opposite The Getaway Car (BBC1). Phew!

Ending this week: Taking The Next Step (CBBC, Mon), Alphabetical (ITV), and "Celebrity" Big Brother (C5, Fri).

Photo credits: LWT, Granada, Central, Regent Productions, Anglia, BBC Scotland, Initial (an Endemol company)

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