Vernon Kay


Woof! TV for BBC3 (repeated on BBC2), 2 July to 26 August 2004


Amiable pop-culture quiz from the school of gameshows whose titles don't actually mean anything when you think about it.

Two members of the public take part, each teamed up with a celebrity of the opposite sex. The pool of celebrities majors on BBC Three presenters and Radio 1 DJs, many of whom won't necessarily be immediately recognisable to BBC2 viewers. A lot can ride on being paired up with a good celebrity - some, like Joe Cornish and Lauren Laverne, are full of the sort of pop-culture knowledge that comes in useful on a show like this, while anyone who gets saddled with Claudia Winkleman has clearly had A Bit Of A Wasted Journey.

The rounds are several and reasonably varied. The first is always a "name the celebrity" round - either Spoonerisms ("Reggae superstar who likes his doughnuts wi' jammin'" - Mob Barley) or Themed Celebrities, for example people whose name includes an occupation ("She had the choice of roofing or politics" - Margaret Thatcher).

After this warm-up there's a picture round, which takes one of several forms - identify the celebrity whose face has been eliminated from a picture, or place three news stories in chronological order, or identify a celebrity or news story from a series of cryptic clues presented in photographic form, among many other variations. A nice one-off was Tate or Tat? - which artworks are genuine, and which have been knocked up by the production team in their lunch hour?

A sound round follows, usually Guess the TV theme / movie theme / advertisement / catchphrase / etc. It's all unashamedly - but not overbearingly - nostalgic, and the uncredited voiceover artist who reads catchphrases in a Scottish lilt is a nice touch.

Image:Headjam_jay.jpgVernon Kay, fresh from waxing a chump like a candle

Another picture round, and then it's A Year To Remember. "Everyone has a year in which they think they were paying attention", claims Vernon, which is a questionable premise but it'll do. The players get a question from their choice of four years, generally all from the 80s and 90s, and a correct answer frequently occasions a clip from the archives, the emergence of an appropriate prop from under Vernon's desk, or an impromptu performance of "Ice Ice Baby". Not all of these outcomes are necessarily equally desirable, but the clips tend to be things that haven't been seen in years. Which is nice.

One more sound round and then it's into the closing straight. First, there's Take A Gamble - the MOTPs stake up to five points on their celeb answering a multiple-choice question correctly. There's only three possible answers, so it's not that hard for the celebs to stumble into the correct answer by dumb luck. Just as well, really, or they might as well simply rename the round "Lose Points Here".

The final round of the contest proper is "name things that begin with the given letter" - 60 seconds on the clock, the letter changes after every third question, a point for each valid answer. It rarely results in the lead changing hands, but the potential is certainly there and it's a great playalong-at-home round.

And at the end of all this, the winning MOTP gets to play the exciting endgame, bafflingly also called "Headjam" (you'd think they could come up with a different name for either the round or the show, wouldn't you?). Eight questions, not very difficult ones ("What's the capital of France?" - that sort of level), but the contestant only answers after all eight questions have been asked, and must give the eight answers in the correct order. They can get help from their celebrity on one answer (if they need it). It's not quite The Krypton Factor, and Vernon does give plenty of time between questions for the contestant to create a mnemonic for themselves in any way they see fit, but it's a fairly tense finale, and gives plenty of scope for shouting the answers at the TV screen.

So overall then, what manner of a show is this? It's a jolly friendly little show that tolerates and even encourages a mild amount of outright geekery, has enough flexibility in its format to allow for fresh variations on familiar rounds, and generally qualifies as Good Clean Fun as defined by the relevant EU directives. If only Vernon could be persuaded not to launch into "Ice Ice Baby" at the drop of a hat, though...


"Good choice!"

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