Weaver's Week 2017-06-11

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This week: the last review of the early spring season, and we're scooting through the last few months of Countdown.



Primal Media for ITV, 23 April – 28 May

The exit poll says: Wild Things, in a studio, with an audience. And with most of the fun left outdoors. Jason Manford hosts. Jenny Powell and Kriss Akabusi commentate.

The conceit of Bigheads is simple. Competitors wear the head of a celebrity, politician, sex pest, royalty, or ITV celebrity. These heads are massive, they dwarf the rest of the body. The player can see out through the mouth, but we cannot see anything of the player.

Bigheads Here are tonight's faces.

A series of challenges reduce the players from eight to one. The challenges have a theme, "celebrity hijinks". Because, of course, Victoria Saxe-Coburg-Gotha spent her days avoiding the paparazzi silhouette makers, and spent her evenings in nightclubs playing the latest wax cylinders.

Let's not think too hard about the historical inaccuracies, and concentrate on the games. We don't know any "official" names, so we're going to use friendly ones.

Bigheads Up the ramp, along the travelator, and avoid the obstacles.

First up is The One With the Bouncers. Four of the contenders run against a treadmill, avoiding swinging microphones. They're heading for a door, guarded by oversized animatronic bouncers who occasionally move their arm to let someone through.

Get knocked over by the microphones, or defeated by the bouncers, and it's back to the start – mount the treadmill and try again. Three of our Bigheads will get through, one will leave the contest here.

After this, The One With the Champagne. Three contenders are on a rotating turntable. Their task is to gather "champagne" pouring slowly from an upturned, collect it in glasses, and pour the contents into their measuring cylinder. Worst performer leaves here.

For two episodes, they replaced this with The One With the Microphones. All six contenders grab microphones from a revolving record: first four to reach the recording studio win.

Bigheads Sharking, not snarking.

Next, it's The One With the Shark. Two contenders are in a bed together. They're photographed by the paparazzi, and run away. The players have their ankles tied together. The slower player will be caught by a shark that is chasing them, and is out of the game.

All of these games are played twice, with competitors mixed up throughout. The last competitive game – The One With the Trophy – is a one-shot final. The remaining players are sat at tables, and need to get to the front and ascend a flight of stairs to collect a trophy. First player with their mitts on the trophy wins.

The winner takes part in a bonus round, The One With the Photos. The winner is strapped to a trampoline, and bounces up to get their face in a photo frame at just the right moment. This is much harder than it looks. £1000 for clearing the first level, £5000 for two photos, and £10,000 for anyone who completes all three photos.

Bigheads You could take a photo with Elvis Presley, Albert Einstein, or Amber Rudd.

New show, familiar feel

Between them, the challenges are new takes on old ideas. The One With the Champagne is a clear homage to It's a Knockout: swap Ed Sheeran collecting champagne for a bunch of penguins collecting ice cubes. The One With the Bouncers owes a lot to Gladiators, with swinging obstacles and running against a treadmill.

We found The One With the Shark to be weird. Why are the players' ankles tied together? The shark gobbles up the player: that's a metaphor, surely. Not the kind of thing we want to think about, especially given some of the heads are not so much famous as infamous.

Bigheads makes no claim to be smart, or clever. It's pure slapstick comedy, plenty of falling over in the style of Total Wipeout and its imitators. The only pause comes after each player is eliminated, when they get to take off their big head to show their real face.

Bigheads I was Queen Victoria, just for one day.

Except that between the games, Bigheads pads itself out with some footage backstage. "Mo Farah teaches Taylor Swift the Mobot," that kind of thing. It's blatant padding, adds little to the show, and we'd be better off without it.

Bigheads is daft and surreal. So is Wild Things, a competitor programme on The Satellite Channel. In our view, Wild Things is significantly better.

The first difference: Wild Things involves cute forest animals that look warm and cuddly and lovely. Bigheads has an awful lot of villains we can root *against*.

Bigheads There are reasons to jeer David Beckham, Queen Victoria, Taylor Swift, and Vladimir Putin.

Wild Things is a contest for couples, a test of skill and direction and communication. Bigheads is for solo players, much more brawn than brain.

Because there's nothing said in play, Bigheads has to narrate all the games. Jason Manford meets the competitors and explains in the studio. Jenny Powell delivers the main commentary, Kriss Akabusi adds snorts and guffaws. Compare to Wild Things, where Kate Humble and Jason Byrne need only set the scene and add occasional notes.

The biggest difference: Bigheads is the same every week. Wild Things mixes up its games – always finishes with the Ten Grand Chase, always started with the Race to the Forest, the bits in between change from week to week. Bigheads is same, same, same.

Bigheads The whole show is recorded in one studio.

Bigheads has done some things well. It's got a good pace, even in the backstage footage we're never bored for long. The format allows plenty of other ideas, though the studio setting limits the possibilities. While the humour isn't to our taste, some viewers will love it. The challenges have a consistent theme, and perhaps clung too closely to tabloid excesses.

We didn't love Bigheads. If there's to be a second series, we'd need much more variety, something different from one show to the next.

Countdown Update

Have we not reviewed Countdown since early April? We apologise for the oversight.

Short runs for Mandy Spencer (2 wins), Shane Heylin and John Warren (1 win each). James Qualter and Berkan Chelikhan were both good players, both had 4 wins. Berkan is likely to be the reserve player for Finals Week, and only a conundrum lost him the champion's chair to Nick Smith (3 wins).

Charlie Neill (3 wins) had an unaccountable loss to Chris Ducker (1 win). John Robertson (3 wins) followed, but he was blown away by Stephen Read (8 wins). Stephen achieved 8 centuries, 7 scores of 110 or better, and five games where he scored the maximum in ten or more rounds. His total of 915 points makes him a clear number one seed.

Amber Cotton (2 wins) took over the title, but lost to the next octochamp. Moose Rosser scored 828 points, five centuries, and looks set to be the number three seed. Jeff Clayton, who impressed in March, looks to be number two seed, and we hope the seeding lets them meet in the semis.

Chloe Hutton took one win, then James Slater took the chair. He has won six so far. Unless something very strange happens, James will be in finals week, but relatively low scores mean he'll likely be in the bottom half of the draw.

Countdown finals week begins on Wednesday 21 June; motor racing means there's no match that Friday, and the final is on 30 June.

This Week and Next

No Countdown on 23 June, but we do have an edition of The Crystal Maze. The new series from Bristol kicks off with a celebrity special; civilian shows begin the following week. Channel 4 continues its effort to recreate everything ITV show of the 1980s, with a pilot episode of The Price is Right. Any word on the Interceptor revival?

Kevin Ashman (Egghead) retained the World Quizzing Championship, beating Didier Bruyère (Oenophile) into second; Pat Gibson (Egghead) was third. Tom Trogh and Ronny Swiggers completed the top five. Ian Bayley (Crossworder) and Mark Grant (Crossworder) finished in the top ten, and we believe Dorjana Širola (twice University Challenge champion) remains the highest-placed woman.

Kevin Ashman He's still number one.

BARB ratings in the week to 28 May.

  1. Top game was This Territory's Got Talent (ITV, Sat, 10.05m). Top non-game show was Cup Final Match of the Day (BBC1, Sat, 7.5m). Expect a series.
  2. Have I Got News for You (BBC1, Fri) had 4.5m, and Take Me Out (ITV, Sat) takes third place on 2.65m.
  3. Big on BBC2 were Bake Off Creme de la Creme (Wed, 2.1m), Great Local Menu (Tue, 1.95m), and Antiques Road Trip (Mon, 1.35m).
  4. Celebrity Eggheads (BBC2, Mon, 1.19m) just beat Celebrity Juice (ITV2, Thu, 1.17m). Taskmaster (Dave, Tue, 785,000) and More Talent (ITV2, Sat, 640,000) round out the digital top three.

Next Saturday, three singing shows clash. BBC1 launches Pitch Battle, ITV continues BBC The Voice of This Territory Children, and BBC4 has the Cardiff Singer of the World Lieder Prize Final (contest begins Tue). Channel 5 revives Blind Date. Earlier in the week, physical comedy on Celebability (ITV2, Thu).

Photo credits: Primal Media, quizzing.com.

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