Weaver's Week 2023-03-19

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Splott on the landscape! Two shows from the television suburb of Cardiff; in a short while, Only Connect finds its champion. But first, we can see Jason Mohammad in the studio, which is always a good thing.




Nimble Productions for S4C, from 26 December 2022

The show where three team-mates compete against a sports star in "virtual reality". Although, this is S4C, and "virtual reality" could also be described as "computer graphics shown on a back-projection cloth".

The team each stands behind a podium, on one side of the studio. There's a large scoreboard on the back wall, but it's only used for graphics – there are no photo questions in this show. The set is decorated with floodlights; silhouettes of a cheering crowd are on the wall.

Pen/Campwyr Time to light the lights... oh.

We very quickly meet the team, then it's straight into a round of questions. All questions are this or that, presented as "Who was the manager of the Welsh football team at Euro 2018 – Rob Page or Rob Brydon?" Questions are asked in turn, up the line – start with Joey, then Jeffy, then Jamie, then back to Joey.

There's a clock for this round, though we don't get a clock on screen or any way to measure the time. One point for each question, it's converted into an advantage for the next challenge.

Once time is up, the team finds out they're playing against which Chaser. Sorry, against which champion? Will it be James Hook, the rugbyman? Tash Harding, the international footballer? Or will it be Huw Jack Brassington, mountaineer and endurance athlete?

Pen/Campwyr The sports stars: Hook, Harding, Brassington.

The first challenge always seems to be cycling. The team-mate takes their advantage – one second per question, plus one second to make a show of it – as a head start. They're cycling on fixed bikes in the studio, and their progress is shown on bars at the bottom of the screen. There's also a screen showing progress to the players.

The contest is over if the champion catches the civilian. If that happens, the civilian wins £50 for each of five "zones" they reach. Should the civilian reach the end first, the prize gets doubled to a maximum of £500. It's all put in a "cash stash" (a Welsh term which translates as "cash stash").

Pen/Campwyr Cycling in the darkened studio, progress is just about visible on the screen ahead of the cyclists.

Another round of questions, another challenge from the sports bank. Could be golf, hit the ball as close as possible to the hole in two shots. Could be rugby, a penalty shoot-out. Could be football, a penalty shoot-out. Yes, Pen/Campwyr doesn't have 12-Yard's trademark quiz penalty shoot-out, Pen/Campwyr has an actual penalty shoot-out against an actual computerised goalkeeper. Eleri Sîon gives us an over-the-top commentary.

After the ad break, another round of questions, another challenge. It's usually rowing, using a rowing machine and a display on the screen. The show's title – Pen/Campwyr – is a pun. It's a joke in Welsh, it's based on "pencampwyr", the word for "champion". See what they did there?


Anyway. The team have all played their event, all have put some cash into the pot. But only one of them can win it. The player who's got the fewest questions right on the show so far is out of the game; and if there's a tie, it's a number question, like "How many people fit into the stadia of Cardiff and Swansea football clubs?"

The remaining players have some more this-or-that questions. Unlike in the main game, these questions are on the buzzer, and the contestants are allowed to interrupt. Indeed, they're encouraged to interrupt – Jason will continue to ask a question even when it's been interrupted. One point for a correct answer, one off for an incorrect choice (and remember, these are all 50-50 choices).

Pen/Campwyr Which sport did they do on Splash!: water polo or diving?

Whoever's got the more points after 90 seconds wins the pot, it's usually close to the maximum of £1500 (€ 1700). Although, seeing as how the three players have applied as a team, and worked together as a team, aren't they just going to split the money afterwards? It's a bit of an anti-climax to the final.

Pen/Campwyr is a high-budget show for S4C. By their standards, it's got a big prize – £1500 for a half-hour show is broadly similar to BBC daytime prizes. There are famous faces, names you've heard of even if you don't regularly watch S4C. And the questions tend to be reasonably accessible even if you don't know much Welsh. The sport event is perhaps the weakest part, it's a pair of people rowing or cycling in a darkened studio. We've enjoyed watching the show, and it's proven we know a little more Welsh than we thought.

Only Connect

The third-placed play-off and the final

Only Connect (2) Nobody dared do this on Strictly Come Dancing.

Scrummagers took the all-important third place, beating the Morporkians by 23-20. Great spots included sports people who won and promptly retired, and also completing a Latin square of names (Vera, Enid, Rita, Adam).

The Third Place Playoff has some entertaining questions too entertaining for the main quiz, like "Snarky points from 20 January 2021", and "Introductions for Poets Laureate in the style of the rhyming couplets from Albertville 1992". The walls had sets of words "Play ___" and "___ off". And Missing Vowels concluded with nesting terms for nesting dolls.

Only Connect (2) The Crustaceans head for the final.

All of which brought us to the grand final, the Strigiformes against the Crustaceans. The Crustaceans (Dennis, Elia Cugini, Alex Hardwick) are tough-skinned quizzers with lots of wins under their belt. The Strigiformes (Jonathan Taylor, Joshua Mutio, Jonathan Williams) have left everyone else owling with the gentle pain of defeat.

Only Connect (2) Nobody knows anything. Welcome to Only Connect.

"I know nothing!" The cry of three million viewers tonight, and the first connection, from Manuel in Fawlty Towers to a bunch of racist politicians. Infamous newspaper headlines – "Ban Ki goes to Hollywood", "Is this the rail price? Is this just fantasy?", "Super Calley go ballistic, Celtic are atrocious", and "Foot Heads Arms Body". (We'll come back to this later.)

Near misses from both sides on near misses in the AMPAS awards; there was also an Oscar round on Mastermind, and some coverage on KYTV this morning. Songs from musicals based on operas ensured we didn't need to hear anything by Andrew Lloyd Webber, well done writers. And well done picture researchers, finding shots of sports people doing their eponymous sporting moves. "Where's Wally", hidden in the clues, so it's 4-1 to the Crustaceans after Sequences.

Connections is next, beginning with a dog from each of the largest countries. A question about spelling out "pope" in people's names goes over our heads, but the Strigiformes get it for a bonus, then add three on a poser about reducing in number. Neither side scores on definitions of CMYK, but the Crustaceans pull one back on an increasing number of national capitals. They add three from a music connection, songs by Cosby Stills Nash and Young. It's 8-5 to the Crustaceans.

Both sides get a wall of numbers. It's the final, they push the boat out in unexpected ways. Crustaceans get caught on a spoof group of multiples of 21, and miss album number titles. Strigiformes nail everything, getting square numbers in binary. And they've taken the lead – 15-13.

Only Connect (2) Is that numberwang?

And that brings us to Missing Vowels. "Competitors in notable duels" includes Strigiformes versus Crustaceans, natch. That set goes 3-1 to the Strigiformes, and they score all four points on incremented proverbs ("Three heads are better than two", that sort of thing). Though the Crustaceans pull back with two on planets and their rain, the game is up. Strigiformes win, 22-16.

Only Connect (2) Winners of a significant duel, the Strigiformes.

With the Only Connect dancers doing their tango, and Victoria sneaking all the chocolate from the green room into her handbag, we'll take our leave. Next week, the space will be vacated by the new series starring Michael Portillo. The well-travelled man will provide minor technological support, mostly asking people to power-cycle their devices and restore them to working order. Printers, toothbrushes, other household devices. Look out for Michael Portillo's Massive Turn On.

In other news

Bill Tidy has died. Best known for his drawn cartoons, poking fun at those who wield power and those who hold high office. Bill hosted shows in the area, including Draw Me and Quick on the Draw; he also fronted the utterly obscure topical quiz Legal Brain. Bill was a regular and welcome guest on Countdown, and gifted contestants the original art he drew on air. A regular panellist – and occasional host – of The News Quiz on Radio 4, Bill was also responsible for the winner's trophy for It's a Knockout. Bill Tidy was 89.

Only Connect (2) Dick Fosbury (1947-2023), whose career was not a flop.

We must also note the death of Dick Fosbury, the well-known high-jumper. News broke about his death a few moments before he was on screen as a clue for the Only Connect final. This is either a remarkable coincidence – seeing as how the final was recorded almost a year ago, and questions would have been set somewhere around Christmas 2021. Either a coincidence, or it's the work of Perry Fripp, the mezzanine-level deity of game shows. Our chants to The God Organisation have not been directly answered.

Taskmaster continues Another six sets of celebrities will be given silly things to do by Alex Horne and Greg Davies, because Taskmaster has been renewed on Channel 4 for the next three years. There will also be a children's edition, where young people are given silly things to do by somebody else.

Complete incompetence department (1) No edition of Fighting Talk last weekend. The sports talk battle show saw a cease fire. There had been management interference in the operation of the sports department, and an apparent diktat that it's wrong be in favour of basic humanity and playing by the rules you've written. Management asking sports people to break the rules, never a good idea.

Many of the BBC's freelance sports presenters made themselves unavailable for work. That includes the host and guests, so Fighting Talk wasn't made, and Colin Murray's hair has never looked so washed. Listeners will be interested to hear that management has backed down, and Fighting Talk will be back on air this week.

Complete incompetence department (2) By and large, the organisation of this year's Senior Eurovision Song Contest has been exemplary. The BBC has accepted the chalice, it's conducted a fair and transparent bidding process, local talent will combine with representatives of UA:PBC and faces known across the continent, and the audience will have lots of displaced Ukranians because they were reserved tickets.

Could Ticketmaster organise a party in a bakery?

Sadly, the rest of the tickets were sold by Ticketmaster. The industry-leading behemoth has a reputation for being completely unable to cope with even slightly popular events. Every time they try to sell tickets online – whether it's Eurovision, or Taylor Swift, or Justin Bieber, or The Upper Bublington Soggy Jazz Festival – Ticketmaster cannot cope. People are thrown out of the system by arbitrary computer errors, and it's only luck if any tickets are bought by genuine fans and not scalpers.

There is a better way. The BBC could organise sales by asking people to put a cheque in the post, indicating which performance they wanted tickets for (and where in the arena, and how many). A draw would select the lucky winners, and everyone else's cheques would be returned, torn into several unbankable pieces. Or they could go for a more modern system: fill out a web form, authorise a credit card, and conduct an electronic draw until the hall is full. Only the winners have their credit cards debited.

But this would be a fair system, it wouldn't reward the ticket touts who seem to have the jump on Ticketmaster's system, and wouldn't channel fans' money to an exploitative and inefficient monopolist. So it'll not happen, and Scalpers George will make a profit off genuine fans' backs.

Court news Two men have been charged in connection with sex crimes on The Voice of Holland, allegedly committed during 2018. Further details were not given, and the names of the accused will not be released in line with standard privacy rules. Last year's series of The Voice of Holland was taken off air by RTL when allegations first surfaced, and has not returned.

Michael Foot, 1913-2010.

"Foot Heads Arms Body" cropped up in the Only Connect final. We've never been able to establish the provenance of this too-good-to-be-true headline. It's attributed to The Times, but that paper's digitised archives don't show any such headline. A former editor at The Times suggested it may have been dummy copy, inserted from time to time while the subeditors come up with a suitable headline. Or it may have been published in another newspaper – it's even short enough for The Manchester Guardian to spell correcty.

We can imagine that the headline could have arisen during September 1981, when party leader Michael Foot led a delegation of Labour politicians to talk with Leonid Brezhnev and the USSR government in Moscow. But, again, we can't find a smoking headline.

However, we know that Only Connect is rigorously researched, and fact-checked to the n'th degree. (An Only Connect fact-checker writes: Should there be an apostrophe in "n'th degree" there? And did you spell "correctly" correctly?) To soothe a long-running intellectual itch, shared by many people, we'd be interested to learn how the fact-checkers were satisfied.

RTS Programme Awards Nominations are out! Here are the game shows and performances in the final three:

Winners to be announced on 28 March.

This fortnight's Quizzers Digest

  • RTÉ's most popular television show is Dancing With the Stars, their take on Strictly Come Dancing. The break just before the results brings in €47,000 – the same as the license fee from a village of 300 homes. (RTÉ)
  • ITV sells a 30-second spot in Saturday Night Takeaway for about £35,000, which is about the same money – but ITV's potential audience is about 10 times as big as RTÉ's.
  • In 1947, the BBC tried to broadcast the pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk. Oh yes, they did! With a certain sense of irony, the broadcast was plagued with problems, the smallest being that the engineers had to go to Croydon. (Screen Plays, via A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts)
  • The centre of the galaxy is sung by Calley from Grange Hill – it's in the general direction of Sagittarius. (University Challenge)

Quizzy Mondays

How would Only Connect work on radio? They had a fair shot on this week's Counterpoint, asking for the connection between two or three items. There was some music played, but nobody asked the contestants (or host) to sing.

Mastermind had its last heat. Stuart Field scored 10 on the tv series Jonathan Creek, and posted a remarkable GK score to reach 27 points. A couple of times, he'd started to give his answer before Clive Myrie finished his question; interruptions aren't allowed, but Clive seemed to speed up with the urgency and began a question just on the buzzer. James Haughton took Christian Huygens as his specialist, and also scored 27 marks. Stuart won the tiebreak 2-1. James will be back, we're sure of it; Stuart could be a strong contender in the semi-finals.

Michael McPartland won the first semi-final. Perfect on his specialist subject (the real-life Great Escape), Michael was excellent at general knowledge, swerving from Ice-T to Tchaikovsky without missing a beat. Even the errors were very reasonable guesses. A score of 27 means he'll be one to watch in the final at the end of April.

Mastermind also asked after the host of You Bet, Play Your Cards Right, and The Price is Right. The contender knew the answer, of course.

Play Your Cards Right It's a Brucie bonus!

University Challenge continued the Group Phase. Royal Holloway London beat Robert Gordon by 170-85, the lead reached three figures in the first ten minutes and there it stayed. Royal Holloway impressed with supporting characters from The Hunger Games movies, and prepositions attached to French verbs. Robert Gordon proved adept at map projections, and blue plaques in South Yorkshire – even if they misplaced Sheffield in West Yorks.

Bristol beat Newnham Cambridge by 205-110. The night was decided on the opening question – Newnham buzzed in too soon, picked up a penalty, and Bristol got everything right. Newnham got this far with some speculative buzzes, and we always feared that the high-risk strategy would lead to defeat at some point. But Newnham remain a wonderfully entertaining team, everything's played in great spirit, and we cheer for any team knowing Juno Dawson and Alice Oseman. Bristol, however, knew about cholera, and depictions of Hercules, and paintings of Shakespeare, and whatever "Justified true belief" is. (Apparently, it's that Tammy Wynette was the queen of country music.)

Channel 4's got some big shows for Sunday, The Great Celebrity Bake Off returns, and Rise and Fall begins. BBC1 replies with Race Across the World Canada (Wed). New editions of The Chase Celebrity Special, too (ITV, Sun).

Doing good things for charity season continues, as Challenge Anneka returns (C5, Sat). Asking the difficult questions, Eggheads (C5, weekdays) gives more employment to Jeremy Vine. Eamonn Holmes returns with Farm to Feast: Best Menu Wins (BBC1 NI, Fri).

Pictures: Nimble Productions, RDF West, LWT

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