Weaver's Week 2024-02-04

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Well, that was close.


Only Connect

Presentable for BBC2, 17 July – 29 January

Only Connect (2)

Sixteen teams made a journey last year. Maybe they admired the endless mudflats around Lydney, or the magnificent architecture of the Severn Crossing. Perhaps they endured the Head of the Valleys road, or the interminable dark of the Severn Tunnel. All of the teams made it to Cardiff, where they could admire the castle, breathe in the fresh harbour air, and sample some of the local delicacies.

And then the teams went to an industrial estate in Splott, where they filmed Only Connect.

Only Connect (2) Will, Sam, and Jack - the Thrifters.

By the time of the final, we were down to two teams. The Thrifters – Will Chadwick, Jack Karimi, Sam Haywood – took their name from a shared love of pre-owned things. The Also Rans – Harry Heath, Claire Barrow, Dan Afshar – were all in the Mastermind final we saw in 2021.

Unusually, the match didn't begin with a discussion of the toss; this also happened in the Thrifters' quarter-final. Across the other 26 episodes, the team winning the toss chose to select first on 15 occasions, and defer their choice to the Walls on 11 shows. Of such fine margins are victories made.

Only Connect (2) Can Harry, Dan, and Claire gain redemption?

Perhaps the question writers were hinting at something – the first was character names made up in a hurry: from a directory name Bill Clay, from a Kobayashi mug, from a newspaper headline "Police doubt fire..." It's a point to the Also Rans. They came close to the music clue, which were soundtracks to dances from John Travolta films – but the name "John Travolta" just didn't come out of anyone's mouth. In such fine margins may defeat lurk.

Thrifters had dropped the picture set – a complicated group of faces, where one supplies goods for the other, such as Butcher to Cook or Miller to Baker. But the Thrifters blew the game open with three points on paired hand signals, the combination uses all fingers and thumb. "Fine-four" – a thumbs up, and four fingers. "Call me – scout salute" – thumb and little finger, then the three middle fingers. Three points there, a big return for a wise gamble.

Only Connect (2) Bear with us on this one...

Only Connect prides itself on taking very complex concepts, and making them impenetrable until someone explains what's going on. A classic example with these clues – dactyl D – anapest U – trochee N – iamb A.

What is happening!?

Well, those are poetic "feet", the rhythms of verses. A dactyl goes Daah-di-di, like "PO-e-tree". Anapest goes "di-di-daah", like "un-der-STAND". Trochee, that's "daah-di", "PO-et". And an iamb, "di-daah", "de-FINE". But what about the letters? Well, D in Morse code is "daah-di-di", U is "di-di-daah", N is "daah-di", A is "di-daah". So the clues are poetic feet, and the matching Morse code letters. Well done if you understood that at home, the teams didn't score on the most Only Connect question ever.

Novels published in an author's second language fell for the Also Rans, and it was 3-2 after the Connections round.

What's next?

Will it be Suncatchers, Antiphons, Stitchers, Suncatchers again? Or will it be Gardners, Isotopes, Video Nasties, Mercians? These were the teams defeated by the two finalists. All were great fun to watch. Suncatchers, a scratch team put together by the production staff. Mother-and-daughter team of Gardners. Antiphons, fans of choral music. Isotopes, took their name from the Springfield baseball side. Stitchers, young and energetic and made their own clothes: a sprinkle of glitter bringing extra joy to this series. Video Nasties, we think another side put together by production. Mercians, doing the Midlands proud.

Only Connect (2) Elizabeth, Rachel, Thea - winners of the Best Dressed Award.

And we could give similar short tributes to the other seven teams, those not on the finalists' path. Everyone involved with Only Connect always says how much fun it is, how the production staff take really good care of the teams. And it shows on screen, a relaxed contestant is able to give their best for the camera.

Also Rans gave their best in the opening sequence. After identifying a painting where the subject was facing away from view, they were given "Elizabeth Il on coins". Without knowing whether she faces left or right, the team identified it was one, the third clue would be something face-on to the viewer, so the answer would be someone facing the exact other way – like her successor as model on the coins, Charles Ill. Also Rans didn't need to know everything to get three points.

Only Connect (2) Back, side, front, other side.

Letters in alphabetical order when written down – apparently it's "a, aitch, arr, bee". Eh? If you say so. Getting in the head of an Only Connect question setter can be difficult, and often involves lurking under bridges and in caves, but sometimes you've got to sacrifice a lot for the win. Although both teams knew that the next sequence involved railway stations, neither spotted that it was stations of increasing length, from St Pancras International all the way up to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

Thrifters pulled a spectacular solve of their own – given "21 Nepal – 231 Serbia", they worked out that the numbers related to the vowels, and the final answer would have to be a country using all five vowels – and Mozambique might be the unique answer. It felt like the Thrifters spent all night working out the right code – "4 – 1 – 3 – 52 Mozambique" for three points. Again, the team hadn't taken the two-point clue, didn't need the two-point clue, they'd gone for it on three.

Only Connect (2) A point gained is a point earned.

A bonus followed after the Also Rans missed an Only Connect double meaning. Prime ministers were clear, but what's with the numbers? 67 Wilson – 71 Thatcher – 73 Blair. So it must be 72 Major, then working back 68 Heath 69 Wilson 70 Callaghan. So what's the numbers? 77 Johnson as odd numbers not divisible by three? The Thrifters knew: prime numbers! Prime ministers and prime numbers. So 79 Sunak; around these little things might defeat lurk.

Neither team scored on the picture question, Bond villains spelling out BOND. All that effort to search for Bond villains, find a picture they can instantly identify, and still recognise when it's shrunk down to a really tiny picture on the screens in the studio. All that effort for no points. 9-5 to the Thrifters.

Many of this year's contestants have said that they take part in the Connections Online Quiz League. It's wholly unrelated to the programme we're talking about today, but appears to provide a useful proving ground for serious contestants to hone their skills – and for us mere mortals to prove how little we know.

"Do we have any doubts?" "No."

Only Connect (2) Horned Viper? What's he doing here!

Why are there six hieroglyphs on the wall, wondered the Thrifters. A lot of frantic pressing, a lot of false pressing before a group emerged – it was synonyms for "frugal". But the rest of the sets eluded the team, though the connections were simple – words beginning with dances, taking "heavy ____" before, and those OC friends. Just five points.

The Also Rans didn't know it, but they had something to tilt at. They tilted at it, and hit it firmly into next week. By extracting the words with "mountain ____", the wall began to fall apart. One of the team had spotted a group ending in plural pronouns, and when that went the rest lined up. Poets and four more hieroglyphs, and they'd made it look easy. Ten points!

Only Connect (2) MDN GH TTT HBLR.

Which meant the Also Rans took a one point lead into Missing Vowels. Through the tournament, the Thrifters lost their first Missing Vowels by a point, then gone +5, +3, +4 in this final round; the Also Rans had gone +8, +8, +1, +2. It looked as if history would repeat itself as the Also Rans got the first two Events in US History That Didn't Take Place in a State, only for the Thrifters to take the second pair.

Calamity for Thrifters as they lose a point on the first Title of Songs where Something is Replaced by a Rival – "Midnight at the Blur", rather than the "Oasis"? That doesn't go for a bonus, the Also Rans can't quite pull out the answer in time, and this set ends in a point for both sides.

Demonyms and What Else They Can Be – like The Irishman and Film. That falls into the Thrifters' wheelhouse. And, after two questions, the 90 seconds in the studio have elapsed, Missing Vowels is over.

Only Connect (2) Victoria cannot bear to look.

The end of the round, the end of the contest? Maybe not: we've had two tie-breaks and two one-point wins in the last few weeks, and this feels like another. But which?

The winners, by one point – it's the Thrifters!

Only Connect (2) Unbelievable scenes in Cardiff!

Only Connect is a silly little show. Nobody gets rich from it – the series winners get a small Perspex trophy, and that is the only physical prize. Nobody gets hurt, it is a battle of wits and quick thinking without swords, without fists, without even sharp words. And because the stakes are so low, the only thing one loses is the chance to come back and do it again – at least in this series.

And yet, the shock of victory is palpable. This means something, this abso-blimmin-lutely *means* something. The Thrifters have put in the hard work, and have earned the reward. Entry to the Only Connect hall of fame. Veneration by their fellow geeks. Casual viewers saying, "yeah, you did OK".

Much applause from the defeated rivals, there's genuine friendship and bonhomie between all these teams. Our winners pick up their small Perspex trophies, and everyone goes backstage to eat pains au chocolat and raid Victoria's secret gin stash. Now we know why she didn't touch a drop all series, being pregnant with daughter June.

Only Connect (2) A group hug for a well-connected group.

Only Connect will return in the summer. Until then, we have some specials to tide us over.

Poll of the Year 2023

Results were announced in the UKGameshows/Bother's Bar Poll of the Year last weekend.

Popmaster It's still number one.

A slight surprise in the big category, as Popmaster TV was voted most popular new show. The original radio spot wanted to be the University Challenge of pop music; to our eyes, the telly show was the Single Elimination Only Connect Circa Detroit Bankruptcies – too much depended on the rub of the green, too many questions fell away for no score.

The other category winners were Squid Game: The Challenge (streaming and online show), and Only Connect (best programme in production); neither was a particular surprise. Rise and Fall got the most votes in worst new show. It wasn't as interesting or as well-considered as Studio Lambert's The Traitors, and wasn't as car-crash bad as the same company's Love Thy Neighbour. Contributors said the show lacked coherence, didn't justify the huge promotion from Channel 4, and felt like it was made up as it went along. We can understand why y'all voted it the worst show of the year gone by.

Rise and Fall Going ... down.

The general consensus was that streaming had had a very good year. It's certainly been a great year for the sides of buses, saturation advertising for Double Oh Seven Road To A Million and Tell Sid The Challenge. And it's certainly true that streaming companies have had lots of money to make their shows – but is that because interest rates were very low, and the banks were prepared to loan money at approximately 0% interest? Will the rate rises of the last few years put the brakes under this streaming extravagance? We'll find out in a couple of years.

A couple of questions came up in chat.

- Which 90s daytime format is the best and should be brought back immediately? Crosswits has never been adequately replaced, and we would love for a mashup between those crosswords and Lingo with its word detection. We'll also bring back Masterteam (1), a very flexible format, which could be spun out to a full 30 minute show with questions about the place where the team lives.

- Which long-running show has had its day? Surely we cannot ask any more questions about chemical elements, capital cities, and countries; Pointless needs to expand its sphere of knowledge or step back from daytime.

In other news

Steve Brown has died. He was a bandleader and musician, wrote themes for Wonky Donkey and other cuts for Saturday Night Takeaway. His long association with Harry Hill included TV Burp, Alien Fun Capsule, and all the original music on Stars in Their Eyes. Perhaps we'll remember him most as Glen Ponder from the television series Knowing Me Knowing You With Alan Partridge; perhaps we'll remember him as the composer on CITV's classic Spy School. Steve married comedian Jan Ravens, they had two children; he since married Deborah Cornelius.

Cut 4 Channel 4, everyone's second favourite channel, has announced another round of cuts, and a "fewer, better, stronger" idea that almost worked for the BBC circa 2008. The Box music channels will close, as will the channel's expensive office in Horseferry Road. Rise & Fall will not be coming back, which will be a surprise to absolutely nobody.

No surprises either from ITV, where Deal or No Deal has been recommissioned. Four celebrity episodes and an unknown number of civilian matches will keep Stephen Mulhern on our screens – and safely off our streets. A sharp stare at ITV's press office, which trumpets how Deal or No Deal achieved a 38% increase over Tipping Point in the same period the year before, perhaps forgetting that Tipping Point was kicked into Drop Zone Five by the men's world cup of sportsball. That said, Deal still emerged ahead of where Tipping was in 2021, so the general point stands.

Deal or No Deal He'll be back.

We had hoped to have a review of The Traitors this week. We'd rather take a bit longer, and let everyone catch up, and make the commentary as good as the show, which is very good indeed. Should be with you next week.

Quizzy Monday

Some tremendous general knowledge scores on Mastermind this week. Dan Hudson scored 16 general knowledge points, a total of 26, and finished second. Stephen Dodding gave 17 correct general knowledge answers, all 12 in his specialist subject of the mediaeval cathedrals of England, and won the game on 29. Congrats also to Laura Cooney, perfect on Dolly Parton and a score of 23 would win more often than it loses. Lest we forget, some of the other heat winners this year remained in the teens.

University Challenge is a marathon, not a sprint. In the repĂȘchage final, Open raced to a 75 point lead over Trinity Cambridge. "You'll still get going, plenty of time" said the Cambridge-educated host, cheering on the Cambridge team, and they responded to the bait. Chemical compounds, common names of insects, and it was neck-and-neck for half the game. Open made another strong push, with fashion designers and video games of 1999 falling to their advantage. But Trinity would not be beaten, they took the last five starters and ran out ahead by 190-170.

Redemption Week on House of Games, and there's got to be an extended cut of Jeff Stelling miming Last of the Summer Wine to Sophie Duker. Across the week, it was a very close match between those two and Gaby Roslin; Babatunde Aleshe brought more smiles than points, sadly. Redemption Weeks are always kindly, the equivalent of a Third Place Playoff elsewhere.

Quiz digest

A miscellany of trivia and nuggets we've learned from watching game shows recently.

  • There are 775 rooms in Buckingham Palace. 188 of them are staff bedrooms, and 92 are offices. So, if they had to clear out Westminster Palace, that's surely enough to house all the working MPs. (House of Games)
  • Richard also asserted that San Marino are the worst football team on the planet. This may be true amongst men's national teams, but isn't so in the women's game – the FSGC avoid doing the double by not having a women's team. And we'd still make San Marino the favourite against Fort William.

Fancy going for a very long walk in the country? Am Dro! has you covered (S4C, Sun). Fancy putting some glad rags on? RuPaul's Drag Race Versus the World is your spot (BBC3, Fri). Fancy some great food with Maddie from Wolfblood? It's the Young Masterchef final (BBC, Mon).

Pictures: Presentable, 12 Yard, Studio Lambert, Steve Brown, Remarkable.

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