Weaver's Week 2001-06-05

Weaver's Week Index

5th June 2001

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

Readers are warned that there are spoilers contained here.


Blathering in the press after housemate Penny dropped her bath towel live to an audience of tens on E4 and the internet feed. The head of her school jumped all over the media to decry her star employee. Given that the C4 show has to go out at teatime, they didn't show it. Writing in The Independent, Howard Jacobson contained the whole media storm in a small tea cup. "It isn't decorous, if you are an English teacher, to take your clothes off on television."

More pertinent to the game play was the crowd of screaming girlies outside the house. They're from Penny's school, and are chanting in her favour. Producers raised the prospect that this could be deemed Outside Contact, which is Strictly Not Allowed.

Paul suffers a sprained foot, and we find the answer to the age-old question: Is there a doctor in the house? Yes, but he's only allowed in the Diary Room, and can only discuss medical matters.

Producers have had to censor Big Brother footage on 1500 occasions in the first four days of the Channel 4 show. The cuts have been made because of the adult nature of some of the conversations being broadcast live on E4. Other cuts have had to take place when the contestants discuss the forthcoming election: such discussions count against broadcasting legislation and could land the channel in hot water.

On Thursday, Paul and Helen discussed who they would sleep with if the 10 people in the house "were the last people in the universe". As Paul began to reveal his choice, the sound disappeared and the following message appeared on the screen: "We apologise for the gaps in sound. This is to ensure that E4's live coverage is suitable for daytime viewing." The E4 feed runs on a 15-minute delay so the producers can edit out offensive or defamatory remarks made by contestants.

Davina is back, and looking lovely. She's the best host I can think of for this show; indeed, she's the *only* host I can think of for this show.

Before we can throw people *out*, we need to pick someone to go *in*. Weaver voted for Natasha, mainly to be nasty to Bubble. Josh got the vote, I suspect on the grounds that he's a bit of a looker. The one line description: Josh, 32, club promoter and second token gay. London. (Can one have two token gays? Discuss.)

Blubbery for Helen on Tuesday; the rather tedious Welsh bimbette blames herself for leaving Liz alone with the fire. This breaks one of the rules of the week's big challenge, hence they're 30% down for next week. This causes friction, and especially irks Bubble; Amma was left alone by Paul twice, and doesn't really answer the questions that the two pose.

Helen has her birthday. Choice between some posh shoes and a party for the house. It's a house party. Helen explains it, and it sounds like Ted Rogers explaining what the contestants missed on 3-2-1.

Penny gets over-protective when Stuart suggests he wouldn't sleep with her, as she's got something good with Paul. It all gets out of hand, every one's drunk, Penny comes up with "f*** you, a***h**e," and silliness abounds. Penny's deeply insecure, as if we hadn't guessed; Stuart is a bit of a prude which may not go down well with the public. In the house, it's pretty much gone within 24 hours; out in the voting booth, this may play in the memory.

Bubble gets a warning after trying to discuss The Outside World with The Doctor In The House.

By Friday evening: I like Liz, even though she looks like Emma Thompson; she's smart and savvy, a lot like Anna from last year. Narinder's naive honesty and Amma's honesty about her past are impressive. Stuart's on the way out, after his unforgiving outburst. Bubble is intensely irritating but has some form of charm that defies description. Dean is easygoing, Brian is high camp, and Paul is really, really dull.

My votes for eviction would be Helen, who is *really* annoying me; and Penny, whose insecurities seem to have no limits. Her kitchen routine makes Monica Geller seem normal.

But it's not my votes that count, it's the housemates'. Five votes for Penny, four for Helen. This is not an easy decision! As of press time, Penny is reported as an odds-on favourite to leave this week.

By Sunday, it's shopping day. Penny goes into the shower. No towel-dropping.

This week's task is for 60%, and is first aid training. Brian knows this, he's an airline steward. He gets annoyed at Bubble butting in while he's training Penny. The Pundit reckons Brian is the group clown, using humour to defuse potentially nasty situations. This is all a bit Rethian - entertaining us, informing us about psychology, and educating the contestants about first aid. Unless you're Bubble, and prefer to sleep though lunch and wash clothes while everyone else is learning about bandaging. It turns out that he's missing his daughter, and is getting a bit choked thinking about it.

By Monday, The Pundit has noticed that Liz is a dark horse and has been bonding well. Primitive sexual signals *and* major popularity. I ought to start doing this more often!

My final three: Liz, Brian and (probably) Dean.

As last year, there's gavel-to-gavel coverage of BB in "Heat" magazine, with nary a mention of...


Publicity from an anxious network stepped up a gear Wednesday, with tabloids filling their front pages with tales of Charlotte Yellow's nights of wild passion. Another front page "revelation" Saturday was countered by "revelations" about one of the Big Brother contestants Sunday.

Charlie Parsons, creator of Survivor, said in a newspaper interview over the weekend that the inspiration for the show was his experience of boarding school in the early 1970s, which he said encouraged an ethos of "survival of the fittest". Parsons, 43, told The Telegraph that five years spent at the all-boys Tonbridge School, in Kent, provided basic ideas for the development of the television game show in which contestants are marooned on a rat-infested tropical island.

He said: "Boarding school was an isolated world where you had to fight for yourself. People had to face the threat of bullying and inevitably some people came out of it scarred and hardened. I remember one of my teachers at Tonbridge always used to bellow at me, 'it's character-building', which it certainly was. Survivor has a lot of that - it encapsulates that kind of psychological experience in a game show. Every one of the Survivor contestants will have a life-changing experience."

The blues find a lot of dead rats at the start of episode 4. "It tastes like chicken" is the response. Over on the yellow beach are two dead sharks. It tastes like, er, chicken. At Camp Bleu, Zoë is beginning to annoy the others. If she doesn't shut up, she'll get the other viewer to turn off, never mind the rest of the tribe.

The reward challenge is the clincher to where I've seen this whole thing before. It's one of those balls in a maze thing; guide it to the exit without dropping through the holes. Best score from three balls wins. Four around the edges control the tipping structure.

Yes! It's an only slightly-larger version of a game on THE CRYSTAL MAZE, which makes this show the new Aztec zone; and Mark Austin is the new Ed Tudor-Pole. Bad luck.

And here's a novelty: the yellows come away with a narrow win. Their prize is something else from the Channel 4 bag of game show goodies: three live chickens. Feathers flying everywhere. (Readers can insert their preferred commercial line here.)

Swampland is the venue for the immunity challenge. 20 masks around the swamp, first team with them all back wins. Race relay-style. Cue lots of shots of people running around for no obvious reason.

Major confusion abounds: it looks like there were 20 masks planted for each team, but they only needed 10. What a mess; the show has been fibbing at us from the start, and now the rules seem to be changing in mid-game. Oh, yellows are first with 10, though blues appeared to be playing for 20.

Zoë and Jackie hatch a plot to vote Sarah off, to weaken Eve. Richard is angry with Jackie, but Eve thinks Jackie is unreliable. By the morning, Eve is leading Sarah, Richard and Jackie in voting Zoë. On the water run, they don't discuss voting. Oh, just get to the action, this is as tedious as it gets. Does anyone follow this? Does anyone really care? BB prohibits contestants from discussing their vote, which seems far better than this alternative.

  • Finally*, to the hut. Yellows never bothered caking themselves in mud. The results. Zoë 2, Sarah 5.

There now follows a message from a man leaping about in an orange suit: "I have two words for you! Sarah Odell, Game Over!"

A very long continuity announcement before Monday's episode - apparently, one can take part in interactive voting via OnDigital / DVB sets. Which button tells us how long to go till an interesting bit?

Day 14, programme 5. Hey, we're a third of the way through this already. Hurrah! Eve is still sore about losing Sarah. Rather than fib for the million, Eve would "sooner go home poor, happy and a nice person." Hey, only one of those is impossible.

The reward challenge involves diving down to the bottom of the bay, and bringing a letter back to the surface. When one team has eight letters, Mark starts a 30 second timer. The team with the longest word wins.

"I'll have a wetsuit please, Carol." Well, at the end of the count down, the Blues have a four, JURY. But we judge the Yellows have a six, CHANGE. Given that the teams picked their own letters, this was a rotten selection by the Blues. No change to the result, as the Yellows win chocolate, beer and alphabet spaghetti.

The following night is very wet. Camp Blue is cut in half by flooding from blocked logs. I suspect the night-cam shots were not contemporaneous.

Immunity challenge: the bit everyone remembers from THE KRYPTON FACTOR. The assault course. Under logs, along trees, up a mud face, overhead walkway, down cargo netting, through the biff-baff, the muddy pool, a long sprint to the end. Chalk this to the yellows. Except there's another DQ, owing to another Rule Not Made Clear Beforehand. While the capricious nature of the rules has now hurt both sides, I would seriously have hoped that a big budget production of this nature would spend *something* on a coherent rule-book.

James blames himself for the yellows' loss. But it looks like Jane to go in the pre-vote. Or Charlotte, who has counted the number of times Jane has called her an "old woman." (Four, plus one "dog.") Or Adrian, useless round the camp.

Eventually, the ballots are cast. Jayne 5. Adrian 1. So much for the secrecy of the ballot. "My kid kept coming into my mind. That's where my heart lies."

My final three: Couldn't actually give a monkeys.


Major problems for Survivor. Monday (28th) saw 5.3m viewers on the night, for a share of just 25%.

5m is regarded as a fine audience for a new show, but it's poor returns for the hype and expensive of Survivor, which cost £9m to make. Hit shows on ITV will normally win an audience share of more than 35% and sensational shows - such as big Coronation Street episodes - can command more than 60% of the audience.

An ITV rep said the broadcaster had not expected Survivor to be an instant hit. "In the US, Survivor took three weeks to build an audience." Then again, the US version was only screened once a week - not the twice a week scheduling pattern ITV has adopted.

From bad to worse as Tuesday's interview show with Uzma pulls just 4.2 million (21% share). Big Brother, running 90 minutes later, managed 3.7 million (18%).

No Survivor on Wednesday, but a major coup for Big Brother. The scores on the door for the 2200 slot: Big Brother 4.4m / 22%; BBC1 News 4.3m / 21%.

There was a Survivor on Thursday. There was another new low on Thursday. Survivor 4.4m / 22%. Big Brother took a slight fall, to 3.7m / 19%.

Greed averaged 1.2m / 5.7% over the weekend, a very respectable figure for Channel 5.

For Friday, BB's nomination show at 2230 drew 4.1m / 27%; the daily update at 2030 managed 2.6m / 14%. Survivor, interviewing Sarah Odell, took 6m / 29% at 2000. Saturday's BB compilation took a disappointing 1.8m / 9%.


Big Brother has been so much more compelling than Survivor right from the start. It's simple and all set up beautifully to get you into the characters. Survivor is tricky, and doesn't feel as real. Maybe it's because we know it happened ages ago, and the contestants always know when they're on camera. There's too much time spent watching stunts, too little getting into the characters until they're voted off, and then what's the point of getting to know them - we won't see them again! Above all, it looks like they're having a crap time - and the viewer does too. The mob at Chateau BB are having a fun time, and it shows!


Interesting viewing, the credits to WEAKEST LINK USA. "Pursuant to the rules of the game, contestants may alone or in concert, devise, discuss, and exchange playing strategies prior to the taping of the show. Such strategies do not assure any specific result."

The following reproduced verbatim from The Times' diary:

"The Weakest Link has discovered its own weakest link: its links aren't weak enough. So it is on the look-out for weaker ones. Despite Anne Robinson's apparent scorn for the ignorance of the contestants she throws off the set each day, producers want even dimmer ones.

"We've been getting too many quizzy types, an insider told me. So we are actively trying to find less knowledgeable people for the next series, who will do really badly and then make a bit of a fuss when Anne calls them stupid." [Readers may insert their own punchline here about a) politicians or b) commissioning editors for ITV. Or both.]


STUPID PUNTS - A BBC2 post-watershed comedy panel show, starring Patrick Kielty and four celebrity panellists. Will the celebs manage to guess correctly as they place bets and speculate on scenarios? For instance, just what would a former celebrity sink to to earn a fee? Opening a fete? Dressed as Postman Pat? Speaking Spanish? Or... fronting Survivor? Recordings on: Fridays 29 June and 6 July, 5pm and 8pm at the BBC Television Centre. Email tickets@bbc.co.uk

Also set to appear soon:

FRIENDS LIKE THESE - Series three of the chum fest is on BBC1 next Saturday at 6:35. Original hosts Ant and Dec have moved exclusively to ITV, their comedy show SLAP BANG starts at 6:20. Former footballer Ian Wright hosts.

WINNING LINES - Series three of the balls fest begins at 7:30, also on BBC1. Original host Simon Mayo has moved to afternoons on Radio 5, so former children's presenter and TALKING TELEPHONE NUMBERS host Phillip Schofield steps in.

DEFECTORS - Challenge TV, the channel that plays game shows most of the day, begins its new format on June 11. Check listings magazines for details.

The shows may be over, but the games go on:



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