Weaver's Week 2001-10-15

Weaver's Week Index

15th October 2001

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

This week:

- A cautionary tale of remaining United

- Millionaire alumni crop up in strange places

- And we begin the race


First round, match 11: Downing Cambridge -v- Newcastle

Downing lost a close-but-not-that-close match to Newcastle in 99, and had the misfortune to finish as the 5th highest scoring losers.

Newcastle beat Open and South Bank before losing to Warwick in the 96 quarterfinals. Honour was restored after a winning draw against Warwick in the 2000 opener, then defeating Jesus Cambridge before losing to Keble Oxford in the quarters.

Paxman's jaw drops during the introductions, as Downing's captain introduces himself as Peter Kitson, from Newquay west Wales, studying a PhD into fornicating pheasants of the 17th century. "It's amazing what you can get grants for these days."

Downing gets the better start, but Newcastle comes back. Newcastle gets a lucky break as Paxo accepts "Dundee" for "Dundee United" - two quite distinct football sides. The Toon also gets a set of biographies of US talk show hosts (Springer, Winfrey, Lake.) Downing is answering literary questions. Incorrectly.

The music round sees Newcastle begin a slow march forward; many starters, few bonuses gives the side a brief lead. Downing can't get many bonuses, and we're set for a to-and-fro finish. At the gong, Newcastle has the win, 225-220. That Dundee error proved vital.

But! By the time the teams came back to film their second round matches, the production staff had spotted that Dundee and Dundee United are different teams. So, knock five points off, and it's a 220-220 tie. Kit everyone out in the same shirts, and film the tiebreak starter. Newcastle gets the tiebreak, the victory, and safe passage to the second round. Downing will be back as one of the highest-scoring losers at the start of next month.

Men of the match are Peter Kitson (Downing) for 102 points, and Steve Walker (Newcastle) for 94. Downing took 20/34 bonuses, Newcastle 21/36.

Loser standings, after 11 of 14 matches: 220 Downing Cambridge 185 Hull 150 Edinburgh 145 Cardiff

Next: St Andrews' -v- Churchill Cambridge. Screaming girlies please note: William Windsor will *not* be appearing.


David Edwards, Second UK Millionaire, appeared on last Wednesday's edition of Radio 4's X MARKS THE SPOT, and made a very good fist of it. Presenter Pete McCarthy almost had to resort to tap dancing to fill the show.

That was the last in the current run of X, replaced by Frank Delaney's English language panel game, SAY THE WORD. BRAIN OF BRITAIN continues on Monday lunchtimes and Saturday nights.

Millionaire host Chris Tarrant made a guest appearance at Scotland Yard on Friday, answering questions about the Major Cough-Up Case. A press spokesperson helpfully said that Tarrant was not under suspicion, something we knew already.


Four teams are invited to travel the planet for a prize of £50,000. First, however, they have to survive an audition process. In an attempt to recapture the excitement, suspense, and drama of POPSTARS, SOAPSTARS, POP IDOL, and WHEN WET PAINT DRIES, the first two hours go behind this process. SURVIVOR spared us this gripping process.

Finally, we have four teams of two. All mixed teams, all the contestants are twentysomethings. They're travelling with two camera staff, one more than those LOST have to lug around. The opening leg is to get from London to Constantinople within five days on a budget of just USD 280 (as narrator Keith Duffy put it: the dollar equivalent of 200 pounds.)

We have a problem straight away. All four teams are identical at first glance. There's not an obvious difference between them. SURVIVOR had a wide mix of ages; here, everyone is of an age. BIG BROTHER overcame that problem by giving the contestants massive exposure.

Not quite learning the lessons of WANTED, the teams are given a Silly Thing To Do en route, something that is not at all related to the main task of getting to Constantinople. In this case, it's buy a souvenir t-shirt from Dracula's Castle, or a Papal souvenir from the Vatican. They need to use the appropriate local language, Romanian or Latin. Not speaking any Latin, the teams are allowed to use Italian. Carry on at this rate and they'll allow the travellers to end up in Istanbul, not Constantinople.

In the early stages of the episode, we don't see much of any of the teams, cutting roughly once a minute to another side. This doesn't help to introduce the teams to their audience. It's also something to which LOST has paid attention, dwelling on one team for some minutes, allowing a full storyline to play out. Towards the end of the episode, the narrative splits between the two Romanian and two Italian teams, which helps a lot.

Neither do we get to see much of the lifestyle of the places through which the teams travel. Lost spends two-thirds of the week in the drop zone, allowing insights into the cultures of Russia and Africa. All we saw of Rumania was a rich guy's mansion. The contestants loved the country, but we don't see why.

This is certainly a grower of a show, especially if the finishes are as close as this week's. The main prize will be awarded solely on the basis of the last leg; intermediate prizes (lots for the winners, less for anyone else making the deadline) are in hard cash, for use on subsequent legs. This could be a huge weakness as the series unfolds, falling into the same trap as daytime shows.


Usual disclaimer here, times subject to variation at scheduler's whim, demands of news department, or poor ratings. Concentrating on new series and those with variable times.

Saturday sees ITV's CHALLENGE OF A LIFETIME shifts to 5:30. No excuses for missing FORT BOYARD at 6, then, especially as it's a MOLE special. With any schaudenfraude, we'll see Glenn Hugill get locked in. Bubble and Amma from Big Brother 2 appear on NIGHT FEVER at 7. Don't forget to miss it. Anne Robinson guests on PARKINSON at 10:10 on BBC1.

First of a new series of THE MOLE on C5 at 8pm Sunday. Over on BBC Choice, DAVINA'S CLOSURE features Ms McCall and Anna Nolan of BB1 getting people to apologise for misdeeds. Also Monday at 9pm.

Show on a not widely available channel of the week: NATIONAL GEO-GENIUS begins on The National Geographic Channel, 9pm Sunday, repeated through the week.

There is no WEAKEST LINK daily, it is pre-empted by snooker from Preston. WEAKEST LINK weekly airs as normal Wednesday 8pm BBC1.

LOST! this week: C4, Mon 10:35, Tue 10:30, Wed 10:55. Repeat late night Saturday.

MILLIONAIRE returns to regular solo programming from Tuesday's episode. About time, too.

THE RACE drops to one, action, episode from this week, Thu 10pm on ITV2. Repeat Saturday evening on ITV2.

Not quite game show of the week: HAVE I GOT NEWS FOR YOU, BBC1, Friday, 9pm.

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