Weaver's Week 2012-11-25

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We got so depressed by I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! that we turned it off. "Anyone can do better than that", we thought, because it takes a spectacular level of desperation to produce something so brain-sappingly trivial. Who cares if the MP for Narnia Beaversdam or some maid from Chelsea has bugs stuffed up their kecks? We cannot raise any enthusiasm for the story they tell. So it's back to the file of Anyones doing better than That, as our DIY Media survey continues. (If readers know something we might enjoy watching, doing or hearing, we're open to offers.)

Contents

2.8 Hours Later

Readers blessed with long-term memories might recall that about this time last year, we wrote about 2.8 Hours Later, the post-apocalyptic chase game, where the audience is the hero, heroine, or fodder for ravaging hordes of the slightly dead. It's taken on an un-life of its own this year, visiting half-a-dozen new cities. Thousands of people will never look in the same way at a green medical gown.

We're pleased to see that many of the audience have been building on Slingshot's work by making short films about their experiences. Being slight masochists, and interested in learning how the game is constructed, we've watched a lot of them. We've become slightly bored with "we found this footage" captions and wouldn't mind if we never heard "the theme from 28 Days Later" again. Rather than dissect Slingshot's semi-scripted performance, because that's bad audience etiquette, we've picked out three films that explain the evening in a novel and innovative format, and we think they work as standalone pieces.

All of these videos contain strong language, and scenes that younger viewers may find disturbing.

Is it fatal?

The year began in April, with a two-week residence in Glasgow. Andrew Georgiades made the trek from London, mounted a camera to his head, and shot footage of the entire evening. He's chopped it down into an hour-long documentary, including survival ratings, a scoreboard, and some very nifty comic book illustrations. In particular, we like the way he's captured some of the episodic nature of the performance – at times, it's almost a guided walk around a city centre, with sprints to get past the opposition.

After Glasgow, the production moved to Liverpool and Leeds, before returning to Bristol at the beginning of September. 2.8 Hours Later was first staged in 2010 as part of that city's IGFest of interesting and novel games, and it appears the organisers make a special effort for their home crowd. One of this year's locations was a deserted bank. Deserted apart from the one remaining clerk, driven slightly mad from the isolation. Maxallanhotmail published the video, which is of poorer picture quality than the others, and lasts for seven minutes.

The perils of getting rich and not getting out.

Finally, from the Manchester performance at the end of September, Sparkdz17 has a 23-minute piece, capturing some of the eventful locations – including the man trying to sell a zombie-proof house for a mere £25 million quid. This piece appears to be shot in an unusual aspect ratio, but appearances are deceptive – the editor includes helpful captions in the black space. Of all the performances this column missed, Manchester is the one we've heard the most praise.

In the past month, 2.8 Hours Later has turned up in Birmingham and on the Isle of Dogs. This column attended the London event, where there were some very interesting gameplay developments, though the route lacked an epic spectacle. We could certainly be persuaded to take part again, especially in good company.

The Line-Up

http://thelineup.libsyn.com/

A walking tour of Docklands (excluding the Canary Wharf development) on a chilly Saturday night doesn't appeal to everyone. Maybe Nick Gates' new competition does. We're reviewing episode two, the Guy Fawkes / Hallowe'en special, released at the start of November.

Competing in this episode were David Bodycombe, editor of questions for Only Connect (full disclosure: he's also the editor of UKGameshows.com) and Lewis Murphy of The Fifty-50 Show, which we reviewed last week. Mr. Murphy was a very late replacement for Mark Labbett of Only Connect and The Chase. This somewhat ruined Nick's "David versus Goliath" running joke, as Mr. Labbett is taller than anyone else in the world of game, with the possible exception of Richard Osman.

The Line Up consists of three rounds. Five questions in each round, one from each of a list of categories. For this episode, the categories were:

  • Geography
  • Girl groups
  • Kings and queens
  • Quizmasters of the 1990s
  • Things that go bump in the night

Before the recording, the contestants have been supplied with each other's questions – so David had sight of Lewis's questions, and vice versa. They don't get to see the answers. Nor are they told the difficulty level of each question – Nick has arranged for some of the questions to be easier than others.

Round one is Line 'Em Up. The contestants have picked a question from each category for the opponent to answer. Nick fires off the question and keeps score. The players take it in turns to choose categories, which may reveal strong and weak points. Round two, Make Mine a Double, is broadly similar – again, the players have ordained which question they'll lob in this round.

The final round, Last Orders, uses the last question in each category. For this, the players don't submit the playing order until after playing round two. That'll be because the questions increase in value – the first question in round three is worth one point, the fifth and final question will be worth five. To ensure there's no cheating, the recording briefly stops while Nick confirms the order of questions in this last round.

Each show contains some decently entertaining questions – this is because they're written by the professional question setters of quizquizquiz.com. The questions themselves tilt a little towards the pop culture end of things, which is about right for the competitors and the audience. From this, and the knowledge of the contestants, and the way the contestants and host can talk about the topics even when they don't know the answers, we get an entertaining show. With a tight time limit for each question – ten seconds for a response, and discussion not allowed to turn to wittering – the show keeps on moving at a decent pace. Thirty questions in 25 minutes is a good pace: not so fast as to be rushed, not so slow as to drag at all.

From this episode, we learned that B*Witched will be making an appearance on the current series of Only Connect, but will that be as a team on the celebrity specials? We learn that postcode area FY (Fylde) could be anywhere, and that Chile is long and thin.

And we learn that no-one actually remembers the 1990s girl band Shampoo. Is power-pop-punk going to be the sole domain of this column? Jacqui and Carrie brought the catchphrase "Girl power" to the pop culture consciousness some weeks before anyone had heard of the Spice Girls. They managed to get their single "Trouble" included in the soundtrack to the Power Rangers movie, and we maintain that the first seven seconds of "Delicious" are amongst the greatest pop-punk moments of the twentieth century. They took their name from the reason for not dating boys: they were always washing their hair. Writers of a fanzine about the Manic Street Preachers, Jacqui and Carrie made their public debut in the video clip for "Little baby nothing".

Shampoo from 1992.

Nick points out that, in their day, Shampoo were "a legend in Japan". What of the current holders of that title?

Legend In Japan

We said that we were going to use some off-topic credit, and here it is. There's only the most tenuous link between Legend in Japan and game shows – the best we can find is how some of the group took part in the World's Biggest Kazoo Orchestra for Comic Relief last year, under the direction of Maestro winner and celebrity lookalike Sue Perkins. That, and we wrote about an ancestor group a couple of years ago. They fit into the theme of DIY media because, rather than accepting One True Voice as role models, they do everything themselves. They write songs, book gigs, perform, and even roll their own cigarettes.

Legend in Japan are loud – they describe themselves as alt-punk, and are certainly drawing from the same well of vibrant energy as the 1977 punk-era Top of the Pops repeats on BBC4. The "alternative" side is reflected in one simple fact: Legend in Japan perform actual songs. There are real melodies in there, honest-to-goodness tunes that one can hear and hum. Layered on top are lyrics that tell a story, because they've been written by someone with a sharp eye, bags of experience, and a wicked turn of phrase.

Having great songs is a start, but only a start. A really great band has got to have presentation skills, a reason to start watching and keep watching. This column popped along to the album launch in Hoxton earlier in the month. This wasn't just a turn-up-and-play event, there had clearly been some thought put into the evening. The pub had been decorated with tinsel and bunting, but slightly dishevelled and deflated as though the fun had been and gone. And there was a sign on the door, reminding us of the album title.

It's out on a free download.

Care was taken in the presentation of the music, too. Guitarist Pyro played in a Spiderman suit, for reasons that we cannot possibly explain concisely. Eloise on bass did her best to distract by having one of the lenses of her glasses fall out in the opening number. Martin the drummer made sure that time was kept, the show continued to roll, and Shabby didn't bash her head into the cymbals while he's hitting them. Almost inevitably, eyes were concentrated on the lead singer, and Shabby revelled in that attention. A born performer, a charismatic entertainer, and possessing that indefinable star quality, as well as a great voice.

It quickly became clear that the band were pumped full of nervous energy, and that translated into a blistering performance, and into an increasingly relaxed mood. The bunting was going to come down sooner or later, and it turned out to be sooner. Balloons were going to come off the wall and fly around the crowd, and someone had the forethought to bring bubble mixture.

Their songs aren't going to be to everyone's taste, those who cannot handle loud guitars are not going to be impressed. They are to our taste, and here are two standout moments. "Getting out alive" is a blast of energy, from the initial detonation on the bass through to the staccato, accusatory snap of the opening line. "You! Are not!", and even from the safety of the side of the crowd we can almost feel the phlegm hit the microphone. We're still reeling from that punch, they're crashing through like a juggernaut and are into the chorus already. "I'll tell you one thing about this life..." glides up and down the register, only to come back with another punch. "You aren't! You aren't! Getting out alive!"

Those flags are coming down.

And then there's the song in fourth position. Now, this is an important place, because people who haven't seen the band before might think that ten minutes is enough, and repair to the bar for a pint o'lovely. To prevent this, the fourth song needs to be catchy and varied, promising a vista that wasn't apparent from the earlier numbers. "Absent friends" meets this requirement, beginning with a grungy, lollopping guitar riff, then kicking into a skittish rhythm that never quite goes where we expect it to go. Just when we think we've got our head around the song, there's a rap break to add even more layers to the onion.

Yes, Legend in Japan are loud, energetic, and punky. And they their songs are as catchy as anything. In a forty-minute set, we reckon there are at least as many hooks as the cloakroom at the Royal Albert Hall.

Already, this vigour and class has taken them to great places – the hugemungous Rebellion punk festival in Blackpool, support for the actually famous OPM. We have a suspicion that this story doesn't end with "Welcome to the Pity Party".

Only Connect

QF4: Wintonians v Wordsmiths

"Welcome to the natural home of devoted quiz obsessives". Within rounding error, that must be 2% of the country's population. One of the Wintonians can grow a beard in a week, but had to be told the motto of their old school. The Wordsmiths have been singing their team song, which sounds almost as good as Oasis.

Wintonians are batting first, and think it's something to do with children. Or is it chevrons? Each clue seems only to add to their confusion, and their guess – chevrons – is brave but wrong. Nay, it's people who lead processions, and the Wordsmiths manage to work out what they all lead. And a bonus. On their own shot, the Wordsmiths work out the year linking the Communist Manifesto and the Football Association, "1862 or 1863, whenever it was." And then Alfie Moon and Kat Slater. Not in Bethnal Green, not on Christmas Day, but things that happened in London pubs. No score.

Audio for the Wintonians, who have "Tutti Frutti", "It's Like That", "Nothing Compares 2 U" (which loops round), and the guess is "they're all written by someone else". Noooo. Not just too vague, but wrong. "Let's stay together" the final clue, but the link is not "they've all got the letter U in them". And then the penny drops. It's Little Richard, DJ Run, Sinéad O'Connor, and Al Green, all ordained ministers. No score. For the Wordsmiths, it's Prince and Oslo and Leyton Orient – not only have they changed their name, but they've changed it back, from Orient and Christiania and that strange squiggly thing. Two points.

White bull for the Wintonians, then a swan, and they think it's Zeus's disguises. "Didn't he do something terrible as a swan?" Well, yes, and three points. Pictures for the Wordsmiths: an ice skater, some trigonometric functions, what looks like BBC4's Engrenages, and a galaxy. Spirals gives the point, and the Wordsmiths have the lead, 4-3.

Sequences are next: for the Wintonians it's "The Premiership" and "Today with Des and Mel" – oh! "Soccer Saturday" on Sky Sports, and we can hear the screams at The Fifty-50 Show from here. Sadly, Matt Baker of The One Show isn't the current Countdown host, and nor is Countdown going to be a valid answer for Nick Hewer's career. The Apprentice the answer on the card, Nick Hewer's Guide to Being a Grumpy Grouse probably acceptable. The Wordsmiths have a wordsmithery question: scientific units with symbols E, F, G, H, so Henry is the right answer for two.

Interesting stuff for the Wintonians – "Hey, not too rough" and "Hurt me plenty" and "Ultra-violence". Next is not "insanity" nor "Hit me baby one more time". The connection is not Victoria's Valentines messages, but difficulty levels in Doom. "Nightmare!" would be next. Around the World in 80 Days for the Wordsmiths, and the plans of Willy Fogg was Stop 8: London; the plans of the Wordsmiths are two points.

For the Wintonians, it's monarchs and years. Long-lived monarchs, ones who celebrated their Golden Jubilees, and the team just about buzz in to say "Elizabeth in 2012". Wrong on two accounts, it's "Elizabeth II in 2002". A casual bonus for the Wordsmiths, and they have the pictures. A Walkman, a picture of someone, Canterbury Cathedral, and just as the team get the idea, time expires. The "someone" was Trotsky, the Wintonians say "Gallop", and get the point. They still trail, 9-4.

Only Connect (2) Never heard of the Galloping Gourmet: Paul Baker, David Norcott, Andrew Steen.

And they'll fall further behind as the Wordsmiths get first crack at the walls. There's characters from Blackadder, then a group of belts come out. Prisons and people whose surnames begin "van ___" are in there. Blackadder and prisons are the last two groups to try, but in spite of the care they take, it doesn't quite come out. Bob Parkhurst the one that confused them. Six points!

Walls 236 and 237 on the website, as the Wintonians step up. Sisters in pop music is a quick win, and then they note that "Richard of York Gave Battle In Vain" is in there. So are towns in Yorkshire, as are some building societies – that one comes out. Was there a battle of Battle? Is Southwell a London borough? An Archbishop of Croydon? Apparently so, but no! It's churches known as Minsters; battles and boroughs are red herrings. Seven points!

Which means the Wordsmiths lead by 15-11 into the final round. Parents of twins get us off, and allow the Wintonians to win 3-1. Beauty products is another 3-1 win, bringing the sides level. Business consultant buzzwords goes to the Wordsmiths by 2-(-1), and the Wintonians pick up the last point on archipelagos. It's not enough, the Wordsmiths have scraped it, 19-17.

More from the quiz harder than a Glasgow landlady next week, and are those semi-finals in the schedule? Or are they just pleased to see us?

This Week And Next

University Challenge finally got into its second round this week. Pembroke Cambridge beat Lancaster by 200-140 on 1 October, and Bath overcame Liverpool by 125-110 in the All-Science Special the following week. It was very nearly another All-Science Special this time, only Tom Foxall of Pembroke is taking an obvious arts subject (Classics). This categorisation is slightly dubious, Economists claim to have a basis in science but we don't see it. For instance, the Pacman defence to a hostile takeover, where the pursuing company is one of the ghosts, and their target is Pacman, and then Pacman eats one of the power pills and gets to swallow up its pursuer. That, apparently, is economics and not video games.

There were suspiciously short introductions to the show, the lead changed throughout the opening exchanges, and not until the audio round did Pembroke pull significantly away. An audio round containing Oasis and Rod Stewart: we can hardly think of anything less palatable. The water at 7°C they serve in the English department? It led to the headline of the week University English Faculty water machine 'slightly too cold', say students. It was one-way traffic after this. Pembroke continued to increase their lead, and wrapped up the game with knowledge of Italian cheeses and four-letter words that are reduced to one letter for the Missing Vowels round. Pembroke's final score was a walkover: 255-75.

To Mastermind, which is gently moving towards its second phase, but not before the new year.

  • Aileen Lucas (Graham Greene) ran into sand when thinking about the novelist, closing on 5 (4). Her general knowledge round was significantly stronger, and she finished on 20 (6). A slightly better specialist round and she could be a weekly winner.
  • Charlie Tinsley (Geoffrey Boycott) had a staccato round on the cricketer, ending on 8 (1). A slightly slower and more error-laden second round closed on 21 (3).
  • Sean Howley (US military aircraft since 1945) scrambled well, but was a little off-target late, to finish on 10 (0). No such problems in his general knowledge round, which was hit after hit after hit, ending on 29 (0).
  • Mark Kirby (Futurama) scored well on the Matt Groening show cancelled more often than Dr Who, making it to 12 (0). With a pass on St Bernadette, he ensured he had to score eighteen to win; five questions and three passes later, it was clear he wouldn't reach that stiff target. The final score was a respectable 24 (4).

The International Emmy awards have been dished out. The Amazing Race Australia has won Best Non-Scripted Entertainment On the Planet. Congrats also to Black Mirror, Charlie Brooker's won the miniseries category.

We've also come across the International Children's Emmy nominations, only a month after they were announced. Game shows nominated – both in the Non-Scripted Entertainment category – include Energy Survival (NRK Norway), which appears to be an action-adventure show; and In Real Life (YTV Canada), where children do stunts related to spectacular jobs. Mutter mutter CBBC spectacular mutter.

Good news for Pointless, it's been recommissioned for another year's worth of episodes, including some more celebrity numbers. That's roughly one episode for each centimetre of Richard Osman's height.

Pointless Another job lot of these, purlease.

OFCOM has completed its investigations into this summer's run of Big Brother. What happened is that Channel 5's website combined the regular narrative ("Jay is in the garden preening himself") with ways to vote people out, and did this all in the one set of computers. There weren't separate computers looking after publicity and voting. The system was able to cope with 400 page views per second, but then it started to go slowly, and eventually fail. Channel 5 noted that most of the web views were for publicity, and decided to turn off the internet voting system.

Last year, OFCOM noted that internet voting had failed during the Big Brother final, and gave Channel 5 the benefit of the doubt. No such leniency was extended this year, not least because Channel 5's computer system wasn't designed to prioritise voting. Indirectly, we learn just how many people are watching Big Brother – 1363 viewers had active votes outstanding, an average of eight votes each.

In June, Conor McIntyre made threatening and sexist remarks towards another lab rat, mimicking an act of sexual violence. OFCOM noted that, unlike two other cases noted here, Conor was not given a formal warning, or threatened with exclusion from the studio. Not until his exit interview, five weeks later, was Conor seriously confronted about his words. OFCOM's decision is that this was an offensive broadcast, and wasn't justified by context.

Conor was subsequently given a hero's welcome.

Two days later, one lab rat used the word "gorilla" when referring to a black contestant. She was given a formal warning to future behaviour, and robustly apologised on the same episode. In July, another lab rat suggested people from India ate with their hands. He was hauled over the coals within minutes. On both occasions, OFCOM found that offensive behaviour was set in context and properly challenged with yellow card warnings.

Reading between the lines, we suspect that OFCOM could have supported the broadcast of Conor's abuse had it been challenged with – at least – a yellow card. The show would certainly have improved had he been ejected, his continued presence could have been editorially justified, but wasn't. Channel 5 must live with the consequences of its inactions.

Strong language was the problem on spin-off show Bit on the Side, when a lab rat from the distant past suggested that this year's crop had mental health problems. Just not in so many words. This was offensive, but it did elicit an apology on the same programme, and it was broadcast after 11pm. That's enough for OFCOM to mark the complaint resolved. Falling outside OFCOM's remit: people who still define their lives by an appearance on Big Brother.

OFCOM has closed an "undue prominence" complaint into Celebrity Big Brother, and almost 50 distinct complaints into the summer run. With no fewer than 2085 complaints logged during the series, that represents almost one and a half per viewer.

The regulator has decided that Louis Walsh's dithering on The X Factor didn't break the voting rules. Actually, we think the 1329 complainants had a point there; the format is transparent, but changing votes – as Walsh appeared to do – is verboten. The regulator noted the use of a well-known word beginning with "f" in Styled to Rock on The Satellite Living Channel. They've kyboshed a moan that Jewish Mum of the Year was religious discrimination, and a complaint about bad language on University Challenge of 22 October was also rejected. The word they used was actually "sheepshank".

The BBC has rejected this column's idea of a rotating Director General, and decided to appoint Tony Hall permanently. We'll be honest, we nicked the idea of a rotating chief from Chelsea FC, where everyone will manage the team for one game.

BARB ratings in the week to 11 November show that ITV is waving the white flag. Strictly Come Dancing had 11.4m viewers for the Saturday show, easily topping the 10.1m for I'm a Celebrity, and The X Factor's puny 8.25m. HIGNFY secured 5.45m, Pointless Celebrities a year's best 5.1m, and Young The Apprentice 4.35m. Friday's primetime special of Who Wants to be a Millionaire (3.2m) was almost beaten by Tuesday's teatime regular The Chase (3.15m).

University Challenge also fell to The Chasers, a mere 3.1m saw the match. QI and Masterchef The Professionals both had 2.7m viewers, and a rare full-network Mastermind 2.25m. 1.7m people saw The Making of QI, and 1.6m for Channel 4's top game show 8 Out of 10 Cats.

More bad news for ITV, it's being beaten on the non-traditional channels. The last new Celebrity Juice won with 1.86m viewers, but Only Connect had 1.004m, beating I'm a Celebrity... Now (920,000) and Xtra Factor (720,000). Strictly's dominance is such that Take Me Out is doing well on ITV2 – a Sunday teatime repeat had 545,000 viewers. Figures for The Satellite Channel are not available, so we don't know how A League of Their Own slotted in. Junior Masterchef brought 385,000 to the CBBC channel, and Masterchef Australia 240,000 to Watch.

A new run of Brain of Britain (Radio 4, 3pm Monday); a new run of UK's Strongest Man (Challenge, 10pm Monday) for the brawn fans; a celebrity run of Masterchef Australia (Watch, 7pm weekdays) for the food fans. Saturday has ITV teatime quiz hosts Austin Healey and Tim Vine on Pointless (6pm), with Strictly moving to 6.50. The X Factor goes live at 8pm, and is followed by the end of I'm a Celebrity (9.30).

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