Weaver's Week 2001-04-24

Weaver's Week Index

24th April 2001

Iain Weaver reviews the latest happenings in UK Game Show Land.


The lead story on the BBC's daily showbiz programme, LIQUID NEWS, last Tuesday. Speaking to Tom Brokaw, Anne Robinson pointed out that the US contestants are far more likely to answer her back - one of the things that made the celeb specials here was that the contestants weren't in awe of the host. Working for a rumoured USD 8 million, Robinson said that there were so many noughts on the end it's unreal. "What will you do with the money?" "Spend it, of course," missing the opportunity to use (T)WL's *other* catchword. Robinson also suggested that Brokaw's jacket was not up to scratch, which seems a misjudgement.

Suggested names for the obligatory celebrity edition - already in the pipeline, apparently, include Martin Sheen and Hillary Clinton.

Further comment on the comments on the gameplay come in The Weakest Supplement, after the main business.


It doesn't stop there for Anne Robinson. WEAKEST LINK is up against Chris Tarrant's WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE for Best Entertainment Show at the BAFTA Television awards at the end of the month. Channel 4's huge success BIG BROTHER is also up for a gong for Best Innovation. The BAFTAs - Britain's highest television honours - are voted by industry insiders, not the public.


Edition 3000 of Channel 4's long-running pun-fest COUNTDOWN airs this Friday, April 27. 5:25 on Channel 4.


Channel 4 News anchor Krishnan Guru-Murthy is to present a new gameshow for the broadcaster. Krish, who rose to fame on BBC's NEWSROUND in the early 90s, will front an afternoon show, NUMBER ONE, this summer.

Ten contestants will battle each other in a game of strategy and general knowledge for a cash prize of up to £2,500. Contestants move around podia - ranked one to 10 - according to how successful they are at answering questions. The person on the lowest ranking podium is eliminated at regular intervals. Sounds a bit like the utterly anodyne MOVE ON UP from Channel 5's first summer to me.

46 half-hour episodes will go out in the 4pm slot later this year when 15- to-1 takes its regular summer break. It will be made by Initial TV, an off- shoot of Endemol Productions.

Krish joins other people who have moved from the newsroom to quiz shows. Jeremy Paxman still hosts Newsnight and University Challenge, while Martyn Lewis quit to host Today's The Day for six years. Kirsty Young won't want to be reminded of The People Versus, though Robin Houston (100%, One to Win), Richard Whiteley (Countdown) and Gordon Burns (Krypton Factor, A Word In Your Ear) all started in local television. I can only think of one person who went from game show to newsroom; ten drogna to anyone who can name names.


In her first major role since BIG BROTHER, Davina McCall is to front a major new entertainment show for ITV. Members of the studio audience of OBLIVIOUS will "discover" they have been unwitting participants in the show.

Secret filming techniques will follow the audience during the weeks running up to transmission of each programme. Participants can win money without even knowing it by answering questions correctly or behaving in a certain way while they are being filmed. Once they get to the studio, contestants get the chance to gamble the money they have already won and increase it.

Oblivious: co-production between Mast Media and Tiger Aspect. Executive producer Mark Linsey, producer by Barbara Lee. Concept by Mast Media co- founders Mark Baker and Steve Havers. 6x60m.


For those readers who thought the US version was poor viewing comes this news from over the Atlantic. The last seven contestants in the secluded Copenhagen house jumped ship and left the program on Easter Saturday morning. Three of them were soon persuaded to return, and after four hours of negotiations with TvDanmark management, a fourth participant decided to join them.

Three of the most popular inhabitants stood firm on their wish to call it quits. "We voted Big Brother out," they declared.

And finally: Moira Stewart hosted the first series of classic The Adventure Game in spring 1980 before becoming a BBC newsreader that autumn. Those who got the correct answer will find a clear plastic disc encasing an orange pentagon popping out of their computer right now.


Like those colour advertising supplements that fall out of the weekend papers, this will be of limited interest to many readers. Apologies if that includes you; please move on to the next message.

Gameplay in the US edition of (T)WL has come in for comment on alt.tv.game-shows and elsewhere. Apologies for not attributing each comment individually, and for anyone I've inadvertently missed.

"The eighth round between the two finalists is a best-of-five question playoff. If there's a tie, it's SUDDEN DEATH. I can't speak for Cunning and Doyle's reasoning, but this format is exactly the same a penalty shootout in football. (Soccer.) Best of five, with sudden death if tied. It's a format very well known in the UK." "In an effort to draw out the suspense, Anne Robinson reads out the question slower than usual. She did this in early episodes of the daily show, but seems to have stopped the irritating habit after the initial batch of shows. The initial run also featured the two finalists stepping forward to the centre podium in turn, with the other stepping aside. Very irritating. Very amateurish." "The question is read in its entirety before an answer is given."

Could be an NBC rule - both daily and prime-time editions allow interruptions. Interruptions were not allowed on MASTERMIND."

"If the team reaches the $125,000 level in a round, would the round end, or could they add more money to the pot? If the amount *banked* reaches the target, the round comes to a crashing halt with a different piece of music, and what passes for praise from the host. They still have to vote someone off, though."

It has happened two or three times on the UK prime-time edition, and (at least) once on the daily. Usually in the first or second round, when the questions are easier and the tactics can be bolder.

"Time and again contestants were getting a lot more questions wrong than right in each successive round. The square root of 121 is 27? The group that sang "Water Falls" was the Fugees? The Carlsbad Caverns are in Idaho? Who knew? These contestants didn't! *This*, I think, is the main part of the attraction of the show. The contestants *are* coming across as dunces and know-nothings. Yet, on the standard game show, the host glosses over the mistake. Here, it's fodder for the end-of-round abuse recap. The host vents the viewer's frustrations with the contestants." "Why isn't Anne running down the clock berating people that THEY CAN'T BANK ANYTHING AFTER AN INCORRECT ANSWER??!! I suspect that she doesn't expect them to bank $0. It so rarely happens here, but does come in for comment at the end." "The contestants knows after 4 questions, the value of the questions goes up DRAMATICALLY (10K, 25K, 50K, 75K, 125K)...and they wanna get the most money. Over here, the ramp tails off quite quickly, especially on the daily edition. A 20-50-100-200-300-450-600-800-1000 chain makes it advisable to bank £200. Even prime-time's 50-100-200-500-1000-1500-2000-2500 encourages banking £500. Both times, that's 20% of the target. A similar "bank after four answers" strategy in the US edition nets less than 10% of the target." "$27,500 just doesn't sound so piddly - you could buy a decent car with that kind of money. Valid point. However, a similar performance here might be £1250 prime time (£550 daily) which is half-way to the target for the round." "While there is a potential for a $1 million payout on this show, I'd bet against seeing any jackpot come close to that amount. The daily goes for a £10,000 jackpot, and usually pays £3000, give or take £500. Prime-time has double the jackpot, and thanks to a more generous ladder, tends to pay around £8000." "Which is the best strategy to go get the most money. Get rid of the weakest players in the first 4 rounds, then get rid of the strongest player when there are 3 left. Tends to be the way it's played here, certainly when there's one player clearly stronger than the rest. As Nick Gates pointed out, the show doesn't select *the* strongest link, but a link about 2/3 up the strength scale." "On the side-bar topic of contestant eligibility: the rules of the various networks and producers generally state that you can only be a contestant on *any* broadcast game show once in a year and twice over a ten-year period (and usually once on a particular show in your lifetime). Perhaps because the UK has a smaller pool of contestants, I don't know of any restriction covering cross-show appearances. Indeed, Kevin Ashman has won everything except MILLIONAIRE, and David Edwards Millionaire won MASTERMIND in 1990."

There is a general rule that you can't return to a show. FIFTEEN TO ONE now allows returns after a five-year period. Interestingly, I've seen a couple of contestants return to THE WEAKEST LINK daily, and been acknowledged as such by Anne.

"Millionaire's rules state that you can be in the final ten twice in a "series" (which they now seem to define as the entire year from the beginning of the fall season to the beginning of the next fall season) UK MILLIONAIRE's only restriction is to prohibit people from returning to the hot seat, and that only came in after Caroline Hughes nearly made a return trip last autumn. Contestants are encouraged to call again and again, some making four or five appearances in Contestant's Row before making the centre."

Quotes from Mark Jefferies, Judge Justice, Mike, Alan Mitsugi, Jeremy Soria.

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