Weaver's Week 2003-07-26

Weaver's Week Index

26th July 2003

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

If you're following the tip in last Saturday's Grauniad Guide, full details of the fashions in this week's Countdown follow later.


1.4 million votes cast last week, they split almost exactly 2:1 to get Nush out. It's the most votes cast in a single eviction this year, but well behind the same stage in previous years.

The Reward Challenge was to find a needle in a haystack. Or, to be strictly accurate, some slightly oversized foam needles in a bundle of straw roughly the size of a small car. Jon found one easily, someone else took most of the rest of the time to find another, so the 60s-themed Reward Room remained open for two evenings.

Celebdaq divvies: Nush £6.28, Scott £3.84, Ray £2.74, Cameron £2.07, Steph £1.65, Gos 0p, Fed 0p, Tania 0p. In comparison to last year's bundle: Jade 92.9p, Kate 44.7p, Alex has been thrown off Celebdaq, he is No Longer Famous!

Instead of a Cash Challenge, there was a second Reward Challenge. Big Brother invited contestants to speak for ten minutes on three political topics: should parents smack their offspring; gay and lesbian marriage; and the monarchy. A 75% success rate in matching the housemate to the statement would earn a party. In reality, this was a device to put edited highlights of the contestants' political views on the prime-time clips shows, perhaps slant the vote one way or another, and certainly encourage people who have strong opinions to vote for or against a particularly outspoken candidate. Ever alert to the realities, Cameron gave a waffly non-answer to the marriage question, avoiding the "no" answer he appeared to want to give. The contestants failed the stated challenge, but succeeded in the real challenge, so Thursday turned into Christmas Day for the festive five.

One way of viewing the finale is that it's The Final Battle between Cameron and Jon. Cameron, playing for himself, receiving votes in the normal way. Jon can't be voted for, so has to play by proxy. He has made no secret that he disliked Cameron, and did everything he could to promote primarily Scott, but also Ray, Nush, Steph, and anyone else who might possibly beat Cameron. On his exit, Jon called for the crowd to vote for Scott. In the end, though, the forces of Tickle were defeated by the innocent charm of Mr Stout.

Strangely, Big Brother Breakfast didn't pick up on this interesting aspect, concentrating on the collection of erstwhile housemates on the sofa. What's the collective noun for Big Brother contestants, an ejection of housemates? Less strangely, BBLB didn't rock the boat by mentioning this theory, preferring to have yet more shots of Dermot O'Bleary's dancing. With no cricket on Friday, BBLB should logically have aired on C4; instead, they showed a FRIENDS rerun.

It's not been a good year for Big Brother's Little Brother. The daily fanzine show put all its editions on Channel 4, rather than E4, and has lost a lot of its sparkle in the transfer. The interviews on the show have never been the most searching, but this year's editions have been more tedious than informative. The weekly gimmick of superimposing Dermot's mouth on the contestants' bodies, and a poor attempt at their voices, shows just how few good ideas the show has.

A better year for Channel 4's breakfast show, which recruited every evicted housemate on every possible day, and became the fanzine that BBLB had been in previous years. There was a madcap sparkle almost every morning.

A desperately bad year for the Grate British Public, who voted out the house's four biggest characters in the opening four weeks. Those who got bored with the show, those who are unhappy with Cameron's victory, only have themselves to blame.

It's been a mixed year for the producers. The double eviction was a desperate last throw of the dice, hoping to boost voting and viewing figures and stave off negative press attention. In retrospect, this tactic might have worked well if only Jon had remained in the house at Cameron's expense. Jon's belated return to the programme was an admission that the double eviction strategy had been an error. The resulting hole in the eviction schedule was filled by Lisa; whenever this column thinks "She's going" less than ten seconds after she arrives, she was never going to do anything more than provide a little voting revenue.

On the upside, the intercontinental switch was a work of genius, forcing Cameron out of his shell, and is the primary force behind his win. The reward room has been tremendously well worked-out, even if some of the challenges have made all-too-brief television. And with the exception of last week's opera task, the cash challenges have been genuinely challenging.

So that brings us to the final four.

Steph's gameplan must be her reworking of the plot of ITV's glossy soap Footballers' Wives: not particularly demanding, not that engrossing, but passable wallpaper.

Kate's winning strategy last year was to remain in the background in early weeks, settle into the middle of the group, and slowly rise during the final weeks. This year, Scott got the first two parts of that strategy about right, but did only one thing that we might interpret as interesting. Perhaps he should have made some more waves before Cameron returned to the house, as the Scotsman took centre stage after that week.

Ray's gameplan has come right out of the Sex Pistols playbook: get pissed, destroy.

Cameron's gameplan comes from the Oleg Gordievsky Guide To Concealment: when in doubt, be enigmatic. His non-answer in the diary room this week spoke volumes. It also comes from the Joey Tribbianni Picture Book Of Daytime Soap Acting: make it abundantly clear when you're emoting. Cameron's gameplan also comes from the shelf marked "Successful! Strategies For Winning Public Competitions."

Overall, this year's Big Brother hasn't scaled the dizzy heights of 2002 - the highs weren't as high, there wasn't that feeling of a non-stop drama unfolding. In its own way, though, this year's show has been quite the marvellous ride. Big Brother has ensured that the contestants have brains, and has taxed intellect as much as anything else. With all the characters leaving the house early, more tender flowers came to the fore. Many people would argue that there were better candidates than the winner in at the start, but few will begrudge the winner his victory.

We'll see more of Jon, we'll see more of Cameron, and Anouska could well find her way into the ranks of D-list celebrities. The others should enjoy their remaining six weeks of fame, it'll all be over by September.


Duncan Bickley -v- Said Khan

Duncan Bickley is best known as the man who lost £218,000 on Millionaire. Since then: Wipeout, The People Versus, Number One, Dirty Money, Stake Out, Sale of the Century, Brainteaser. Commentator James Richardson reckons that Duncan Bickley has the most to prove, especially on numbers and letters.

Said Khan has done (adult) Blockbusters, Greed, Mastermind, Weakest Link, 100%, One to Win, and The Machine. He's untested on words, but does speak a lot of languages.

Duncan Bickley will be under pressure if he gets the opening questions wrong, while Said Khan is feeling the pressure. James fancies Said Khan by a nose.

Both contestants are adopting the relaxed but formal stance: Duncan Bickley's hands behind his back, Said Khan's ahead of him. In the general knowledge round, a classic Millionaire question: which creatures live in a formicary. It's neck and neck through this opening round, until Duncan Bickley has a long think on one question. Said Khan wins the round by 2.5 seconds, but he's also lost the disadvantage of answering the first question in the next round.

Numbers is over in a flash: Duncan Bickley doesn't get a question right until his last ten seconds, and Said Khan keeps 35 seconds in hand.

Contemporary Knowledge sees the second Rick Stein question of the series, and no advantage at half time. Then Duncan Bickley uses his last switch, and runs into a tricky set of questions. Said Khan runs out the winner by an unexpectedly large 26 seconds. James wonders how anyone can have missed the promotion for The Matrix: perhaps because they're not interested in motion pictures?

It's all looking a bit one way traffic now, especially as Duncan Bickley gets some questions that require thought, and gets them wrong; Said Khan's are far more immediate, and he keeps 46 seconds.

No surprises, then, to see Said Khan emerge victorious, with 2:09 remaining on his clock. That put Said Khan in second place on the finals board, and probably a meeting with Clive Spate or Gavin Fuller in the next round. The bottom half of the draw will contain Olav Bjortomt, Dee Voce, and Graham Nash.

Next: Michael Penrice -v- Michelle Hogan


From where do they get these contestants? Of the forty questions in the opening round, the total number correctly answered by the contestants on the first pass without assistance was: 4. Four. Ten percent. A sample run: For instance, "How many lines does a sonnet have?" "Four. Pass." In fairness, the first round questions were very difficult this week, and the second round set comparatively easy.

One player had the not-at-all-bad idea of playing every question herself, and not involving the brokers. She may not be getting the bonus for ten correct answers, but she's not spending anything with the others. This helped to take her through to the second round.

The home player had the not-at-all-bad idea of feeding her cats instead of watching the show. Actually, that was a very bad idea indeed; the player got the first question wrong, and almost got shouted at by Mel. But not quite. It's a rule-busting £400,000 rollover to next week.

For the second week in a row, there's a Quibblesome Question. Last week: "With which club did David Beckham make his professional debut." The correct answer is Manchester United, for whom Mr Beckham played in the League Cup in 1992; the required answer was Preston North End, where Mr Beckham played some league matches in 1994. This week: "'Lucky Man' is the autobiography of which American actor?" Michael J Fox is Canadian.

This column may have made a running joke about Davina's pepto pink dress last year, but that's no excuse for Mel Sykes to wear black every single week. This column really does like the format, but it's currently got the wrong host. Can we bring in Ray Cokes in a double-or-quits manoeuvre?


In the third heat:

Nigel White, British Parliamentary Elections since 1900, stumbles on the First Answer Rule - that's the only one John can accept. Mr White has 11 points and one pass. Martin White, Life and works of Maurice Duruflé, a modern composer. 12 points and two passes. Tony Barnes, The Manhattan Project, really doesn't do as well as he might. Four points and two passes. Andrew Whitworth, Life and Films of Stanley Kubrick, comes apart a little at the end of the round. 12 points and one pass.

After the general knowledge shootout:

Mr Barnes advances to 18 points with six passes. Mr N White has an attack of Pass Syndrome, with seven passes in that round alone, and a total of 17 points. Mr M White does decently: a total of six passes and 20 points. Mr Whitworth looks odds on to win the show, and does so. 24 points and two passes. Clearly the best player on the night, and perhaps a dark horse for the semis.


On Reality TV Weakest Link 2, Anne Robinson turned up wearing a binbag, or something the Grim Reaper might put on. Craig from BB1 was an early casualty, followed by Malachi from Star Academy. Anouska BBIV finished in fourth place, and that becomes a personal best. The final became a sudden-death shootout between Michelle Gayle of Reborn In The USA, and Lance Verylong-andsilliname of Mister Right, Contestants Wrong. The latter contestant is the one to scoop the £20,600 prize for his charity.

Plans for Granada to erect a 300ft poster of Mr Simon Cowell have been ixnayed by Lambeth Council. The media group hoped to sling the slightly-larger-than-ego poster down the LWT tower on London's south bank, to promote the first weekend of Pop Idle 2, but were told to keep their blowups inside. The media conglomerate will still run some billboard posters, and what's the betting that they've bought up all the good sites in the vicinity of Witanhurst Manor, where the BBC's Star Academy II begins tonight. (Incidentally, this column will watch Louise Griffiths with interest. She was once part of Louis Walsh project Orchid, who split in 2002 without releasing a track called "Sound Of The Underground," later a rather large hit for Girls Aloud on Popstars 2.)

With the cricket cancelled, hope you all enjoyed Friday's special nude edition of Countdown. Dictionary Corner guest Samantha from ISIHAC was a particular sight, and Richard will never forget how she solved the numbers game in thirty seconds, using only what came to hand.

Major changes afoot in the US, where JEOPARDY! will no longer have retiring champions. Since the show began in 1867, daily champions had to retire from the show after winning five consecutive editions. For this year's twentieth anniversary season, a player will be able to win as many shows as they can. The producers are clearly betting that there will be enough competition to prevent one player from sweeping the entire series from September to 2007.

US broadcaster ABC has decided not to make its own version of BOYS AND GIRLS. The Disney-owned corporation, struggling in the ratings since early 1995, will not exercise its option on Chris Evans' format. ABC also declined to make its own version of WANTED some years ago.

If you haven't had your fill of Big Brother formats, BB USA begins on E4 at 1600, and continues through into September. The BBC's autumn banker begins early, STAR ACADEMY II opens its doors at 1830 tonight, after the soap "stars" edition.

NOBODY LIKES A SMARTASS is the latest idea to fill the void on BBC2 shortly to be left by The Simpsons. Jo Brand asks awkward questions of some of those celebrities you love to hate (and Gyles Brandereth.) It's not Treasure Hunt, it might work better in the Monday evening comedy slots, but who can tell.

To have Weaver's Week emailed to you on publication day (usually Saturday), receive our exclusive TV roundup of the game shows in the week ahead, and chat to other ukgameshows.com readers sign up to our Yahoo! Group.

Back to Weaver's Week Index

A Labyrinth Games site.
Design by Thomas.
Printable version
Editors: Log in